‘True Federalism’ has over the years and decades become the swan song of every ‘progressive’ politician, activists and revolutionaries alike! But what is true federalism? Does true federalism mean the same thing to each of these categories of social forces and social formations? What does it mean to so-called progressive politicians? What does it mean to activists and active citizens? And what does it mean to revolutionaries?
Let us illustrate with two of the most recent, but also recurring examples. On Local Government governance; progressive politicians have been united with their conservative counterparts on rejection of what is referred to in popular discourse as ‘Local Government autonomy’. So in this particular instance they insist that everything that has to with the running of local governments should be left exclusively to the states to manage. On the surface of it, this makes sense, and sounds commonsensical. But we also know that in practical terms, in reality, common sense is not always that common, and what sounds commonsensical, is not always factual.
What do we mean? In our own context, we operate a Federation, and Federal constitution, where the component federating units are created by the Federal center; where they do not have their own constitutions, and where, they actually do not enjoy fiscal autonomy and have to go cap in hand every month to Abuja to beg for their share [and the LGA’s as well] of the revenue allocation! This is therefore at best a dysfunctional federation and federal system.
In a proper Federation, [and the nature and character of polities, including federal systems, is an evolving one, and keeps changing with practice], where the federal union was the result of consenting constituent units, the articles of federation would have laid down some very minimum standards that every citizen or resident of the federal entity, and every administrative unit of the entity would have to meet, and enjoy. And one would also then expect that the constituent units would then have their own articles of existence or constitutions, which cannot provide less than the minimum standards agreed by the federation. In such an instance, coupled with the fiscal autonomy of the federating units, we can then speak of administrative units under the states of federating components being the exclusive preserve of the federating units, once they meet the minimums agreed in the article of federation.
But here we have a situation where the federal constitution recognizes states as the federating units, but equally recognize three tiers of government, with the LGAs as the third tier; and accords to each tier a share to be agreed to by all, of the total federal revenue. In such an instance, and given the history of the muscling of Local autonomy by states, with respect to taking over their share of the revenue allocation, and running them not as democratic entities but as appendages of the state chief executive’s office; it behoves on those of us whose allegiance is to the working, toiling and impoverished majority of Nigerians, those of us who owe allegiance to the content of processes and not just to their forms, to insist on fiscal as well as administrative autonomy of the LGAs within their states! It is important that we insist that they have direct access to their share of the revenue allocation; and that their properly and popularly elected governments are allowed to run the affairs of the LGAs within the bounds of the laws of the state and the federation.
Now let us move on to the second instance to illustrate the issue being discussed. This relates to the minimum wage for workers. Again, progressive as well as conservative politicians and governors are united in their assertion that the question of minimum wage should be left to states to decide, again because this is a federation! Yet, these politicians, as governors, deputy governors, commissioners, speakers, deputy speakers, lawmakers, and aides to politicians all receive identical wages and allowances; even if in some instances there may be additional allowances which may differ from state to state! So whereas a minimum and uniform baseline of wages for politicians is appropriate in a federation, but a minimum and uniform baseline of wages for workers and working people is not appropriate for a federation! What self serving hollowness! Again, those whose allegiance is to ordinary citizens, the majority who are toiling, exploited, but impoverished; those whose allegiance is to social justice and equity, for those people, the question of the minimum wages and uniform baseline standards for workers and working people cuts across the entire federation!
As activists and even as revolutionaries, there can be no difference between our attitude to a national minimum wage regime for working people, and fiscal and governance autonomy for local governments! We cannot have the luxury of saying No to one, and Yes to the other!
There are no such things in reality as ‘Value free Federation or federalism’; ‘value free democracy’ etc. We are interested not just in the end, but also in the means; not only in form, but in content, not only in appearances but also in essence!
The most important thing is that a system and process can only work for a people if their active participation and involvement is not only encouraged, but ensured.
These two examples show us how truly nonexistent is the difference between the so-called progressive politicians and their conservative counterparts. They are one and the same; it does not matter if they are APC or PDP [regardless of its many incarnations].
This is why We must take our destinies into our own hands, retrieve our country from the death and vice grip of the swarm of locusts and Take Back Nigeria.
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