BY MUSA SIMON REEF, ABUJA – Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Thursday in Abuja lampooned Northerners for the crass poverty plaguing their region, adding that they should blame themselves and not others.
Speaking as Guest Speaker at the public presentation of Daily Stream Newspaper on the theme, ‘The Challenge Of Unity, Diversity And National Development: Nigeria At Cross Roads,’ the former vice president observed that the North, despite its development potentials, is the worst in terms of development.
“The North should blame itself and not other zones. The three zones in the North are the most backward in terms of development. We must seek to remain as one nation, as it is the best option. It is far better to face the challenges together than live in pieces. We have to find a means of working together and moving ahead as one united country,” said the Turakin Adamawa.
On why Nigeria’s diversity has not worked for the nation’s progress and development, Atiku lamented the skewed nature of the federal structure which, according to him, has always been responsible for underdevelopment.
“There is no ideal federalism, so to speak. It is the people who decide the nature of federalism based on their peculiar needs. Over the years, the structure of our federal structure has been skewed in favour of the central government. Reverting to the regional government may pose a great threat to our continued existence, as minorities who had been emancipated from the claws of bigger and dominant ethnic groups may rebel against such a move. We may consider the idea of adopting the present geo-political zone system to allay fears of domination,” the former Customs officer said.
He identified the concept of sharing as an obstacle to national development, adding that states should focus on generating revenue and not sharing of revenue as it is presently being done.
“This sharing concept in Nigeria is stalling development, and the earlier we do away with that, the better for all of us. As Vice President, I tried to ensure the states did not temper with monthly allocation to local government areas. As soon as I started that, the governors met with the president behind me and resolved to discontinue direct remittance of allocation to local councils. The states soon formed the State/Local Government Joint Account. Everyone here can agree with me that the states are no longer engaged in any joint venture with local councils but involved in clear confiscation of funds meant for local councils,” Atiku said.
Governance, according to him, is now run as a serious business, adding that the continued concentration of power in the centre to the detriment of the federating units does harm than good for the development of the country.
“I do not see the need for Federal Ministry of Health and Agriculture. Does the Federal Government have any land? What I think should be ideal is for the Federal Government to come up with standards for health institutions operated by the states. Let every state be involved in generating revenue and running the affairs of their various citizens. There should be devolution of power to the units. That is the only way out,” Atiku declared.
The former vice president faulted the uniformed salaries received by Governors and other elected officials in states. He said salaries to governors and elected officers should be based on their revenue generation capacity and not by fiat. “Go to the United States, the governors there do not receive uniformed salaries. Each state pay their elected officers based on what they can generate,” Atiku said.