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ENTITLED: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION

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Page 1 of 12
Text of the Keynote Address by
His Excellency
Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON
Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria
ENTITLED:...
Page 2 of 12
in fact, have been, “ManyVoices, One Nigeria”becauseof therichnessof its
content, demography of contributors,...
Page 3 of 12
marginalisation, whichismutualanyway!Ithereforetend toassumethatthe
idea of “remaking Nigeria” itself stems f...
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Text of the Keynote Address by His Excellency, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON, Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria titled ENTITLED: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION Presented at the TOWARDS A VIABLE UNION: NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON REMAKING NIGERIA, ABUJA

Text of the Keynote Address by His Excellency, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON, Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria titled ENTITLED: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION Presented at the TOWARDS A VIABLE UNION: NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON REMAKING NIGERIA, ABUJA

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ENTITLED: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION

  1. 1. Page 1 of 12 Text of the Keynote Address by His Excellency Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria ENTITLED: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION Presented at the TOWARDS A VIABLE UNION: NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON REMAKING NIGERIA ABUJA August 19, 2021 Protocols It is my pleasure to give the keynote address at this National Dialogue on Remaking Nigeria. Iam reallyimpressed bythegreat effort which Chidoand his team haveput intothiswork. Thisdialogue itself is a fall out of the book: Remaking Nigeria: Sixty Years, Sixty Voices which is like a hansard of a public square parliament of some of the brightest and soundest minds in Nigeria today. I like toextend mysincereappreciationtoeverymember oftheteamthathas put this beautiful, insightful and incisive work together. I have had the privilege of a complimentary copy and I have gone through, I deeply appreciate the depth, diversity and quality of the intellect and industry therein. I am not surprised about the output becausethe authorship istruly star-studded, and oneshould not expect anything but excellent thinking and elegant style. Thisbook has, in several ways, a lot of attributessimilar tothefinalreport of InternationalCommissionfor theStudyofCommunicationProblems, which wasempanelled in1976 byUnited NationsScientific, Educationand Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) headed by Sean McBride. The outcome of that commissionwasthebookentitled: Many Voices, One World; thisbookcould
  2. 2. Page 2 of 12 in fact, have been, “ManyVoices, One Nigeria”becauseof therichnessof its content, demography of contributors, plurality of opinions, diversity in cultural and geographical spread as well as engaging perspectives shared in the book. Remaking Nigeria: Sixty Years, Sixty Voices is historic in that it was published to mark the epochal 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s nationhood. It also coincided with a timeof internationaldistressasa result of the COVID- 19 pandemic when the whole world was thrown into one of the most trying socioeconomic challenges in history. I am particularly glad that the theme of today’s dialogue is consistent with the title of the paper I delivered at Arewa House in 2020 where I spoke on the topic: Unfinished Greatness- Towards a more perfect union in Nigeria. And when I wasasked towritetheforeword tothisbook, I thought it was niceI wrotefrom theperspectiveof my idea of nationalbuilding asan unfinished business. I am therefore glad that the theme of this dialogue is very much insync with mypreviousopinion. Mycontributioninthisaddress will therefore be a reiteration of what I had previously voiced out on the futureof Nigeriaand what Ithinkweneed to dofor us tohave a moreperfect union that gives her citizens a future that is inspiring and prosperous. Ladiesand gentlemen, Isometimesaskthequestionastohow best weshould approach the challenge of nation building that ails Nigeria. There are those who think the problem with Nigeria is her size, some others think it is the manyethnic interestsconflating oneanother for domination. Othersthinkit is all about bad leadership, while some others believe it is the constitution. There are those who blamepoverty as the issue, while some pan-Africanists believe colonialism, foreign religions and intellectual imperialism are the reasons we are still lagging behind. The thirst for excuses and culprits to blame for our obvious challenges is an insatiable one. In the midst of these epistemological melee, there have even been more disillusioned solutionstohow toend theproblem –theloudest ofthesetoday are the clamours for secession and unending complaints about
  3. 3. Page 3 of 12 marginalisation, whichismutualanyway!Ithereforetend toassumethatthe idea of “remaking Nigeria” itself stems from the mind-set that sees the country as a fallen or collapsing edifice rather than a country still in the hands of architects and builders. For me, the idea of remaking the nation should not suggest a strategic demolitionfor us to erect a totally new structure. Thequestionthat we must however be willing to answer is where the inhabitants of a nation as big as Nigeria take shelter if we must collapse it, because for many, the idea of remaking Nigeria includes unmaking? And if the problem with the current structureisless of the competenceof the architectsand structuralengineers as much as it is with the estate managers and occupants, how will the new erection or the “remade” structure fare in the hands of the same occupants who are unwilling to change until every other person has changed? For me, whatever defects that currently ails our country can be corrected without having to collapse the whole structure. This is very logical if we understand that nation building is an endless endeavour and that no generationisever satisfied with theworkit hasdone, it isthegenerationthat comes after that can truly appreciate the progress that has made when they begin to take for granted what was scarcely available for the generation before them. Nation building is an unfinished business. Every generation, Frantz Fanon said, “Must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it”. It is therefore illusory for us to believe that Nigeria can actually reach perfection from her foundation. To start with, thereisno nationtodaythat iswholly satisfied with itspresent status. Every nation at all times strives to better its best and reach new heights. For us as a people our focus should be about how we can reinvent our nation, work for the prosperityof our people and ensure their peaceand prosperity.
  4. 4. Page 4 of 12 Indeed, few people would disagree with the view that there is a significant gap betweenour potentialfor greatnessasa country, and therealityofwhere we arenow. It isthereforea sacred dutyfor all of us tocontinue toseek every opportunitytomakethedreamofa great nationcometopast. It isevenmore important toknow that for aslong asmancontinuestosleep, hewillcontinue to dream. There is no end to dreaming. Imperatives for a more Perfect Union Therefore, tospeakof building a moreperfect unionistobesuperfluous. But embedded in that deliberate superfluity is a fundamental notion of eternal work in progress, a perpetual commitment to, and improvement no matter how satisfying or dissatisfying thepresent conditionis. Thesecond stanza of our national anthem ends with an infinitive that underlines that nation building is an unending search for perfection. It says: “To build a nation, where peace and justice shall reign.” For the next one thousand years, no matter the progress we would have made, as long as this country continues to exist, generations after generations, willcontinue to seek "tobuild a nation, wherepeaceand justice shall reign. It is credit to the genius of whoever invented that line that both the mission and the means to achievethe missionis captured inone simple phrase. Thepath tonation-buildingispeace, thepath topeaceisjustice, andthepath tojusticeisequityandinclusion. Evenfor Americanswhocoinedthemantra, of a more perfect union, it was done out of the understandingthat the work of nation building is never done. If a country like the United States, forged out of a commonpurposeand commonconsent, perpetually seeks to makea more perfect union, we have no excuse to give up on the task of nation- building in Nigeria. This truth is what the celebrated novelist, Ben Okri makes the center-piece of his magicalrealitynovel: The Famished Road. He metaphorisestheroad
  5. 5. Page 5 of 12 as the unending journey of manand the unfinished work of nation building. For him, in the road "each new generation begins with nothing and with everything. They know all the earlier mistakes. Theymaynot know that they know, but they do. They know the early plans, the original intentions sand the earliest dreams. Each generation has to reconnect the dreams for themselves. They tend to become a little wiser, but don't go very far. It is possible that they now travel slower, and will make bigger mistakes. That is how they are, as a people. They have an infinity of hope and an eternity of struggles. Nothing can destroy them except themselves and they will never finish the road that is their soul and they do not know it" Okri tells us that the work of nationbuilding is for all generations. And how far each generation is able to go on the journey to nation-building and the attainment of greatness depends on the aggregate character and predilectionsof that generation. Perhaps, as productsof a specific period of our history and national experience, we are distrustful of change, even if changeis what our situationrecommends. Wemust however take note that the generation that wants to take over from us are products of a different historical experience. A great number of young Nigerians today did not experience colonialism or military dictatorship. They are akin to the post-apartheid South Africans which are referred to as the "born free generation”. Because they can take the fact of democracy for granted, it is difficult for them to see democracy as an end in itself. What really matters to them is what democracy can do for them, how it can work for them and how it canhelp to facilitatetheir dreams. Nurtured inthecusp of some of the most rapid transformation in human history, they are less fearful of changeand experimentation. Ifit is not working, they want it fixed urgently, sometimes, with little thought about the costs and benefits. The#EndSARS protest of2020 and itsimplicationsareanattestationtothis proclivity. What started as an innocuousonline protest over police brutality soon snowballed before our very eyes into a movement that assumed
  6. 6. Page 6 of 12 destructivedimensions. But the core demandsof #EndSARS, should not be lost today or tomorrow, not even in the ashes of the ruins that followed the protest. In theprotest wasa genuinedesirefor accountability, inclusion, and respect for human dignity, responsive and responsible leadership and liberalisation of democratic gains in terms of economic opportunity, equity and fairness. For over a decade, several analysts have noted that our massive youth population could be a major demographic advantage to our country if it is properly harnessed. Years of neglect and failure to make the right investments to support this population is now, quite predictably, turning it to a major disruptive force and a time bomb. Restructuring, Devolution, Fiscal Federalism and Greatness In our quest towards a more perfect union therefore, the main challenge is one of remodeling the union and the basis of its fundamental national association. Unfortunately, this is one issue that we have allowed to be implicated in our instinctive mutual suspicion and unnecessary brickbats. Caught in our politics of difference and otherness, devolution, decentralisation, restructuring and such other concepts have come to mean different things to different people, depending on the ethnic and regional toga they wear. Our age-long distrust and suspicionofone another arenow being tested and contested on the basis of this issue that should be the pivot of our nation- building effort. However, stripped of all opportunism and dysfunctional baggage, these concepts should simply refer to a way to re-imagine and remake our countryto make it work well for everyone. I associatefully with the views of respected scholar and former Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega whenhe said that "sooner than later, these mattershave to be addressed squarely but dispassionately. The challenge is how to addressthe issue of restructuring the Nigerian federal system without upsetting the
  7. 7. Page 7 of 12 apple-cart; that is, how to add value to the structureand systemic efficacyof the federal arrangement, without unleashing instability occasioned by the mobilisation of ethnic, regional and religious sentiments and identities. "(Jega: 2017) I will argue therefore, that our idea of restructuring must bemotivated only by our generationalresponsibilitytoperfect our union and to build a nation where peaceand justiceshall reignbased on an operativeprinciplethat true greatnessliesinbuilding a countrythat worksfor everyone, regardlessof the language they speak, or how they understand and worship God. The evolution of Nigeria'sfederalism hasnot served our best interestsand it is not surprising that we have witnessed protests at every attempt at constitutional reengineering. Two prominent examples were the 2005 Constitutional Reform Conference convened by President Obasanjo's administration and the 2014 National Conference at the instance of President Jonathan. In the two conferences, the delicate issue remains that of restructuring (often dubbed Devolution of Power, Decentralisation, True Federalism, etc.). But for how long can we continue to run away from this issueand continue topretend that somehow it would resolve itselfsomeday? In my view, structuralchanges(likestatecreationand merger) would appear to me, unrealistic in a democratic dispensation. I also do not think we can easily go backto the pre-1966 regionalstructureor adopt the 54 federating- unitsproposalof the2014 conference, which Ifind unrealistic, nomatter the appealor attraction. Rather, our preoccupationsshould be, how canwemake the current structure work better for us in terms of, first our governance system; second, our economy and national productivity; and third citizenship and inclusion. Theremaybeother issuesthat should betheobject of our restructuring, but I consider these to be paramount. Therefore, in my view, restructuring should be less about redrawing the map of Nigeria, but about building a more efficient governance system that is capable of delivering the greater good to the greatest number of our people.
  8. 8. Page 8 of 12 In essence, our desire to build a more perfect union should be anchored on the principle of devolution of powers - that is, re-allocation of powers and resources to the country's federating units. The reasons for this are not far- fetched. First, long yearsofmilitaryrulehasproduced anover-concentration of powers and resourcesat thecentreto thedetriment ofthe states. Two, the 1999 constitution, ashasbeenargued byseveralobservers, washurriedlyput together by the departing military authority and was not a product of sufficient inclusiveness. Part of thefocus of such an exerciseshould be: what items should remain on the exclusive legislative list and which ones should be transferred tothe concurrent list? Other topicalissuesinclude derivation principle; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; land tenure, local government creation and autonomy; etc. All points considered, the fiscal burden of maintaining a largely inefficient and over-bloated bureaucracy is a metaphor for shooting oneself on the foot. Again, in arriving at a position on what ought to be in the quest for a more perfect union, I wish to further say that my sentiments are more associated with strengthening thesub-nationalunitsinthe re-allocationof powers and resources. The assignment of functions that would be consistent with a devolved but strengthened federal system would have a short, exclusive federal list focusing on national defence and security, macro-economy, foreign affairs, customs and excise; joint responsibility in respect of certain functions that are currently assigned exclusively to the federal government (tor example, internal security and policing) and primary responsibility of the sub-national governments in respect to other functions in the second schedule of the 1999 constitution whilst the remaining powers devolve to states. On revenue collection and sharing, the position of the Nigeria Governors' Forum to which I subscribe is that the sharing formula should be reviewed in favour of the states, especially given the argument of devolved responsibilities to the sub-nationals. In the context of the-proposed new
  9. 9. Page 9 of 12 federalstructure, Governorshaveargued for a formulaalong thelinesof42% to states, 35% to the Federal and 2.3% to Local Governments. 37. Remaking Nigeria through devolution of powers and re-organisation of the federating unitsis an idea whose timehas come. To quoteAttahiru Jega again, by working hard and rationally, scientifically, to remove all the distortions in our federal system, we would have a better functioning federation with only states as federating units with conscious commitment to zonal cooperation among contiguous states, with local governments subsumed under states... with substantial devolution of power, responsibilitiesand resourcesfrom thefederalgovernment tothestates, and with mechanisms of ensuring greater equality of opportunity for all and affirmative action for inclusion of the marginalised, minorities and groups discriminated against in the country. (Jega 2017) Greatness beckons-The Power of Leadership While we set out as a country on a somewhat progressive footing under the Founding Fathers', the reversals that we experienced mainly from the implosions that arose within the polity and the incursion of authoritarian rule, alongsideits'civilian' inflections, enthroned a paradigmofgovernment and public governance that coalesced around waste, bureaucratic inefficiency, red-tapism and certainly, corrosive corruption. Thereafter, wewitnessed how theStatebecamemoreand more unitary, and how the contest for the privileges of the centre took on an increasingly desperatetenor among thedifferent groupsand stakeholdersinthe country. While corruptionand state exclusionthrived, several groupsbegan to feel a sense of alienation, leading to their desertion of a sense of national citizenship and affiliation to the State, which they subsequently considered asbeing contraptiontobeexploitedfor individualgain-a 'cake' thateveryone needed to grab a share of. Thus, whatever could be taken out of the centre-
  10. 10. Page 10 of 12 more illegally- was considered acceptable and just within the perception of local interest. From the foregoing what is evident is that most prominentlyat the national level the Nigerian post-colonial state has not behaved in a fundamentally different wayfrom thecolonialstate. Eventhough operatedbyNigerians, the post-colonial state has been as alien and as predatory as its colonial predecessor. As late Professor Claude Ake argued in the early 1990s, this legacy has its roots in the colonial era when politicaldiscourseexcluded not only democracy but even the idea of good government, and politics was reduced to the clash of one exclusive claim to power against another. The questiontherefore is: How canthe business of statebe serious business in a context in which public governance is largely a predatory exercise in which power is captured from citizensand not freely given by citizens; a context in which the consent of the people is not integral to the constitution of legitimacy? Against thebackdrop ofthe post-colonialstatein Africa, it isstill possible to argue that political leadership remains a major determinant of good public governance. The African experience, among others, has shown that the quality, vision, patriotism and competence of the political leadership is critical to the transformation of African states and the possibilities of good governance. In our specific experience in Nigeria, we also have instances of how the quality of the leadership has produced good system of public governance, even if few and far between. Yet, importantas the power of leadership is, until and unless we recompose the Nigerian State and make it derive her original consent and legitimacy from the people, then we labour in vain. Contraryto the pretensionsof neo- liberal economists, without a modern state there cannot be an economy or society: therefore, beforepublic governance, theremust bea modernstatein the real sense. A predatory state cannot give birth to proper public governance and a sense of justice and fairness.
  11. 11. Page 11 of 12 Thoseof us inpublic officemaydeludeourselves, but theevents of therecent times have brought the contradictions of the Nigerian state into a sharper focus. Whether your immediate concern is police brutality and the need for police reform or you reflect upon the rationale and the challenges of those who insist that until Nigeria becomes a theocracy, there shall be blood and tearsunlimited; whether you looktowardstheNigerDelta where, despitethe amnestyand the industryof graft and greed that it has re-produced, thereis a continuousand bloody demand for justiceand equity; or you examinethe endless pretexts for ethnic strife and blood-letting between the indigenous people and thesettlersin theMiddleBelt; whether you scrutinisetheregular apocalyptic predictions of many Nigerians about the fate of the country, or you contemplatewhat would happen if measuresare not takento arrest the drift, you cannot escapethe conclusionthat Nigerianeedsto be re-imagined and re-created. Theseareissuesthat need tobetackled frontallyand courageouslytoo. Ihave no doubt that Nigeria is a viable country and that her place in the comity of great nationsis well assured. With all handson deck, we will makethis land a place of pride. Myfinalword inour journeyto a moreperfect unionwould bethat weshould deemphasise negative energy, deactivate fault-finding but concentrate on building consensus and generating pragmatic solutions. Petty antagonism, ethnic profiling, religiousclashesand hatemongering cannot build a nation. With a hopeful and positively minded people, there is no mountain we cannot surmount and that's why I commend the essays in this book to all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. 45. I thank you for listening. Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria
  12. 12. Page 12 of 12 Chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum

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