•Zamfara pays N6, 000 as minimum wage
Do you believe that restructuring is the only path forward for Nigeria?
Since it is clear that the core will no longer hold, restructuring is unavoidable. Everybody is talking about their tribes, religions, and regions. Local government is discussed also within a single state.
Some people approached me last week and suggested that I come and lead the agitation for my Local Government to elect the next governor. Every frontline has been whittled down to the tiniest of details. So, those in control now don’t seem to mind that history is shining a spotlight on them, that if they don’t have the courage to solve these problems, there will be repercussions, whether we like it or not.
We have laws and regulations that are all dormant. What exactly are people looking for when it comes to true federalism? Please allow us some leeway to investigate our resources and rule our state to the best of our abilities.
Those against reform fear that when we structure, resource control will set in and those without oil will suffer…?
I can assure you that there is no condition on the face of the earth that God has not provided with natural resources. Some countries which lack natural resources or oil, but they do have human resources. That’s impressive.
Consider the Suez Canal: there was no water there, so they built canals, which allow you to see the size of the ship going through. It is time for us to sit down and face reality, forgetting about any imagined fears. It’s unavoidable.
For example, if the laws enable us to tap our resources, my state, Zamfara, has no business with poverty, illiteracy, or unemployment. We would be one of the wealthiest nations, but when we are incorporated into a structure that is not based on the principles of federalism, we are labelled as the most backward.
Why are we all going on like this and doing nothing about it? How can Zamfara State join other states in opposing restructuring that would have allowed us to access our wealth, including gold, which is one of the most valuable. What business do we have refusing to accept resource management or real federalism?
Our state can’t afford to pay even the N18, 000 minimum wage; instead, they pay N6,000. The governor has yet to put the N18, 000, let alone the N30,000, 000, into action. How do you expect us to communicate with Kaduna, Lagos, and the rest on the same frequency?
No matter how hard the governor tries, he will never be able to collect money from within the state. There’s nothing he can do about it. Would he levy a tax on unemployed people who are hungry? What kind of companies are you able to tax? There isn’t any business, and there isn’t any nothing. As a result, when they wake up, they change their clothes and proceed to Government House or the Commissioners’ Office to loiter and cause a nuisance.
We really do not want to confront facts. There is a lot that needs to be restructured. We need a leader, who will make us forget where we come from, what religion we practise. Rather than stressing faith, race, or country, we need leaders who are searching for the next economic opportunity that they can come up with, and we all need to rush for it and leverage it.
So, how has that aided us? It’s fortunate that we’re as diverse as we are. Sharing cultural differences is a thing of beauty in and of itself. When you move from one region to the next, you can see how God has made us love one another and then use that to be our brothers’ keepers in order to create a viable country. That is my opinion.
As far as I can tell, we are living in a democracy with an overburdened government, and the high cost of governance must be tackled. Both of these things make me admire what the President is doing, even though I am not pleased about what he is doing. That is the harsh truth.
What advice do you have for proponents of a part-time legislature and calls for a Government of National Unity?
Of course, do you have any idea how much money you would save from there? A tonne, and if the money spent on them on a yearly basis is allocated to primary health centres, every local government or village could have a comprehensive medical centre in ten years. We have a lot of important work ahead of us.
Let me tell you something: I’ve studied this democracy, this multi-party presidential form of government, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pessimist; I’m just stating facts as I see them. That democracy will remain unstable as long as we claim to practise multi-party democracy in name, that we have separate parties with the same characteristics, and as long as we continue to practise this presidential form of government that emphasises party patronage and leads to an overburdened cabinet.
The presidential form of government isn’t bad in and of itself. Given its tenets or values, it is beneficial to our country, but we failed to establish proper boundaries at the outset. We began with fanfare, focus was not on governance, but on appointments and you know what, appointments come with money.
The cost of government must be reduced. Our albatross is the cost of governance. In reality, the cost of governance and corruption are inextricably linked, and they are on an equal footing. Corruption will rob you of your wealth. Although the cost of governance seems to be reasonable, the government can do without certain roles.
So, based on what I’ve seen, I believe we should take advantage of this restructuring call.
Since so many things are wrong, we should take this call for true federalism seriously. If we don’t sit down and answer them frankly and genuinely for the next generation, they will, because it is unavoidable.
Do you believe, as some say, that state governors are strangling local governments?
Let’s begin with local government. If given the chance, I would lead a movement to argue that local governments should have more control and money. Let us start by transferring the weight of the federal and state governments to local governments. Let us devolve control to the local level, and trust me, when we do, you can see local governments take over education and health care.
Do you know that most of these governors don’t have even N200, 000, 000 left at the end of the month to do some job, and they can’t come out and tell anybody that they don’t have any money?
They believe that doing so would lower their rank because they are not engaging with the people they control honestly. As a result, they’re searching for ways to scrounge money from all corners and enter into shady deals with the local government. They’ll sign their checks and say all kinds of projects on their behalf. It’s a big mess, and we’re not doing a good job of dealing with it.
President Buhari is working hard to ensure that this occurs. I believe it will happen the day Buhari says it will. Because there is no governance at that level, all of the problems we’ve discussed can be solved. So, let’s give local governments more influence. That is something for which I am an advocate.