By Chioma Ndife
A journalist and public affairs analyst, Mr. Polycarp Onwubiko, has enjoined ASUU to add what he described as their formidable voice to the nationwide calls for the restructuring of the lopsided Nigerian Federation to reinvent true fiscal federalism.
Onwubiko who spoke to newsmen in Awka noted that ASUU had failed to face the stark reality of the resultant and deleterious effects of the abandonment of the principles of the federal system of government in the 1963 Republican Constitution by the military regimes to foist pseudo federalism principles, which, he said, had retarded the socioeconomic and political growth and development of the country.
He said, ‘In the First Republic under the Republican Constitution, the then regional governments were leveraging agriculture which made them to establish industries and universities without the financial input of the federal government.
‘For instance, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was built singlehandedly by the Eastern Region headed by the Right Hon. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe as the Governor.
‘In the Western Region, the University of Ife was built by Chief Obafemi Awolowo; and same for the Northern Region by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello.’
Mr. Onwubiko noted that the issue of the Federal Government taking over the funding of institutions of higher learning came after the civil war which ‘was subtly in line with the Federal-Unitary military contraption in the name of Federation’.
He said that in sane and sanitized federations, the central or federal government did not control the educational institutions, least of all, of taking what he called the gargantuan financial burden of funding institutions of higher learning because it was a herculean task.
‘The ill-advised measure has hit the rocks since you can not violate the inexorable principles of the federal system of government and get things right,’ Onwubiko said.
He therefore urged ASUU to redirect their pressure on the federal government to take immediate action on restructuring what he called the lopsided Nigerian Federation with the six geopolitical zones as the new Federating Units.
‘The new Federating Units will be named Regional Governments as each of them will take cognizance of the educational aspirations of their people and meticulously plan the education sector along with other sectors, including decentralized security architecture which remains the only panacea to the pervasive and intractable insecurities throughout the country.
‘In a true fiscal federalism, the federal government operates only three ministries, viz defense, immigration and customs, while the Federating Units operate other ministries viz: education, agriculture, health, etc., and of course it was what was obtained in the First Republic under the 1963 Republican Constitution,’ Onwubiko said.
He said if the federal government additionally resorted to borrow to meet the demands of ASUU, it would be in the short run because in the long run, the same problem of poor funding of institutions of higher learning would be reoccurring.
‘In other words, it is a virtual impossibility for the federal government to fund the institutions of higher learning because the undertaking is at variance with the inexorable principles of the federal system of government as practiced the world over,’ he said.