What is your view on the suggested referendum for the outcome of the confab?
If you read my book the way forward for Nigeria in 2005, if you had read the lecture I gave at the Obafemi Awolowo University last year as a guest lecturer, you would have found in both documents my advocacy.
For this national conference, my advocacy is that every ethnic nationality, all of the more than 400 nationalities must be enabled to participate in this conference. You would also find in those documents my insistence that it is only the people in a referendum who can give legitimacy to any constitution. I think it is a display of ignorance for one to say that we can’t have two sovereignties’: the National Assembly and the Sovereign National Conference.
Now, how did they come about? The people elected the members of the national assembly meaning that they are superior to those they elected. The creator is always superior to what he creates. So by definition therefore, the people are superior to the National Assembly, to the president, governors, to everybody elected into public office.
And so once the people endorsed what have been decided through referendum you don’t go back to the assembly- an inferior authority to legitimize on what the superior authority has already done. So that is the position and whatever has been done becomes the constitution of Nigeria. And there is nothing beyond that.
Will you advocate for a fiscal federalism?
It is part and parcel of every true federation. It is not an option. But in our peculiar situation since oil has become the most important single source of revenue for all of us, the immediate fiscal federalism in other words people taking the revenue accruing from their state 100 percent would cause a lot of hardship and in fact it is just about three or four states that will be fairly comfortable.
If you are rich in the midst of poverty, your poor neighbours will not let you sleep when they are hungry, all the unemployed in the neighbouring states will rush into the few comfortable states and make life impossible for them: criminals, insurgents etc.
So since we are members of the same country, fiscal federalism in my opinion must be achieved over a period so that people can adjust by looking for alternative source of revenue over time, 10 years or whatever. But it is inevitable that it must happen, but let it be gradual so that nobody feels completely left out.
The federal government has created a situation: schools, health facilities, how do you fund them? How do you pay salaries, buy drugs, service the situation already established. That’s why is important to as a concession to our common citizenship that fiscal federalism should be pursued through negotiation with the owners of revenue not by decree, shouting at them but through conscious negotiation that it be spread over a reasonable period so that the others can adjust an find alternative revenue resources.
I have heard people in my part say that they want fiscal federalism achieved immediately and that doing so will the other states to go and look for new sources of revenue and that the present situation has made most states courtier, going to Abuja to collect oil money and that we must be forced to go and look for sources of revenue. That is a very extreme view which I don’t subscribe to but what I believe we need to do is to accept the principle of fiscal federalism to be implemented and achieved over a negotiable period of time.