Spreading MDAs across geopolitical zones

By Carl Umegboro


RECENTLY, the country was enmeshed in uproars over the move of some federal agencies and departments back to Lagos by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led federal government, with allusions in some quarters perceiving it as a scheme to limit economic growth in Abuja but upturn Lagos. In fact, it was punctured as a plot to marginalize the North and its people by a President from the southern part of the country. The Presidency, on the other hand, refuted the claims of alleged plot to diminish economic importance in the north, however, did not profoundly give stout reasons for the action under the administration of President Tinubu, a hitherto governor of the state. Some of the critics believe the action is to energize the state using presidential might as “my Lagos”.

Therefore, there is a need for caution when taking some actions in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria to avert misinterpretation. More worrisome was the fact that the presidency negligently didn’t carry the National Assembly that constitutes representatives of all constituencies and ethnic groups in the country along for deliberation prior to the action. Without a doubt, such fears, misgivings and murmurs are expected in any society that nepotism has eaten deep and continues to take dominance. Any society where merit is always forced aside while nepotism is enthroned animatedly will always meet such incongruous uproar.

Admittedly, such an action may have targeted Lagos State and the South-West geopolitical zone but the bitter truth is that concentrating all the federal ministries, departments and agencies in the federal capital territory is ill-thought. Suffice that the existing federal infrastructures domiciled all over Lagos could justify the choice of Lagos. Beyond the choice of Lagos, spreading MDAs outside the FCT with at least a federal agency or key department in each of the six geopolitical zones in the country will be a stimulus towards rapid economic growth across the entire country simultaneously.

The lawmakers, policymakers have to cogitate it as a model, afar being a prerogative, to circumvent a discontent in future as witnessed from a quarter over moving some agencies and departments by Tinubu who has indisputable interest in Lagos. I am sure if Tinubu had picked any state from other five geopolitical zones, instead of South-West, or got parliamentary consent, the action would receive crystal green light as public interest-oriented, and that should be a model for a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria. Of course, this is worth a sober parliamentary reflection.

Nonetheless, the antagonism certainly results from narrow-mindedness, bias and ethnic bigotry which have been impeding economic growth in the nation. There is no possible way all MDAs could be concentrated in an area without resulting in population surge with its associated outcomes particularly economic or societal imbalance. And certainly, it must propel rapid migration of people to the area and ultimately lead to congestion with high cost in vital living needs, particularly land and houses. This is a hard lesson the leaders failed to grasp over the years that made Lagos uncontrollably overpopulated. The leaders shouldn’t continue to repeat the same oversight after escaping to Abuja, otherwise, the same outcome is inevitable.

Ideally, apart from Presidential Villa which comprises the offices and residences of the president and vice president, and then office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the FCT Minister, all other ministries, departments and agencies of the government can prudently operate from any side of the federation, and not mandatorily in Abuja. Take the population of the federal civil service of the nation, for instance, all being resident in Abuja with families. Thus, concerted spread of agencies and departments should be deeply considered beyond Lagos alone. Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), a German-born theoretical physicist held to be one of the greatest and most influential scientists said, “If you keep doing the same things, you’ll end up getting the same results”.

The dirge over the action is a total bunkum. It must be emphasized that there’s no region or part of the country that has a monopoly or preference of hosting federal institutions. A national establishment can be located anywhere in the north as well as the south. Abuja and Lagos are not exclusively anointed to be the federal capital territory but by mere time and chance. So, criticism must necessarily be constructive. Imagine the volume of economic activities that will spread across the six geopolitical zones in the country having at least a ministry, agency or department of federal government in each of them instead of having everything stocked in Abuja. This would certainly develop the zones simultaneously.

With a spread, the rapid development witnessed in Lagos and now in Abuja as a result of the FCT status could replicate, spread across other states.  Just give Abuja a few years from now, it would become another ‘Lagos’ both as an economic hub and in terms of population explosion at the detriment of other states. This is a way of restructuring. As Einstein thundered, you cannot repeat the same errors in Lagos that led to relocating the federal capital territory to Abuja and get a different result. The then military junta only saw a suitable large expanse of land in the Abuja axis and concluded on relocation as a remedy without addressing the core factors that led to congestion in Lagos. But the error can be corrected by equitably empowering every geopolitical zone with equal opportunity. The existing structure of the nation where almost all national assets are domiciled in only two locations; Lagos and Abuja at the detriment of others is imbalanced and ill-advised.

•Barrister Umegboro writes from Abuja via umegborocarl@gmail.com

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