Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, has said that Nigeria must devolve powers and return to regional autonomy to overcome the crisis hampering its development.
According to him, regional autonomy would resolve the country’s diversity challenge.
“More importantly, it allows subsidiarity to deliver public service at the base of the nation. I was intrigued by the extent of devolved power in the western region under self-rule in 1951. According to the author of a lecture on regional autonomy, devolution of powers in western Nigeria was substantial and devolved from the regional government to the provisional, divisional, district and native authority.
“Public service was taken to the roots of the region. To resolve the challenges of our diversity, it is clear that we must adopt regional autonomy and massively devolve power from centre to the grassroots,” he wrote in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday.
The term regional autonomy, he explained, refers to the governance and administration of a federating unit in the interest of the local people, according to their aspirations. Nigeria, he stressed, has been engaged in the federalism question.
“It is clear that our diverse nature and large size means that the political system best suited for Nigeria is a federal system. But the challenge has been, what type of federalism? I believe that this must be devolution of powers and regional autonomy.
“In my opinion, the process of regional autonomy and devolved powers can be achieved by virtue of an enactment styled Constitution Alteration (Regional Autonomy and Devolution of Powers) Bill. This is the only way to stabilise Nigeria,” he insisted.
Lamenting that Nigeria had been unable to manage its diversity challenges, the Senior Advocate of Niger (SAN) said the founding fathers of the country understood the need to manage unity in diversity by devolved political authority, which they did until the military halted it in 1966, with the unification and centralisation of political processes.
He noted that Yugoslavia mismanaged its diversity, which resulted in the emergence of six distinct countries: Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
“The same fate befell Czechoslovakia, now the nations of Czechs and Slovaks. The same is true of the centralised Russian Federation that has splintered into more than 15 nations,” he stated.
Agbakoba declared that the United Kingdom that made up of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish provided a perfect example of managing unity in diversity.
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