PREBENDALSIM IN NIGERIA

By Obinna Osuagwu

In the beginning there were four regions desgined in relation to the Federation to anchor the prosperity of locals and their wealth was what translated to the wealth of the country. They were run on their people’s enterprises–and social good was sponsored by the people’s contributions from the rewards of their activities–and so governance could be said to be theirs.

After the war, all that changed. The northern soldiers who were the winners of the war went straight for the fiscal ordering of the federation, dismantling it. They centralized local people’s resource wealth, annulled the principles of derivation and balkanized the regions into weak states that had become mere units for central administration.

These states and their associated LGAs were created as compensation to quell locals from revolting against the unilateral centralization of their wealth and enterprises without consultation. This is why the post-1970 Nigerian state and its elements of governance do not necessarily serve as structures owned and operated by the locals for the harnessing of their local environment and for the realization of their aspirations, but serve as estranged avenues by which the central government continually seeks to settle its disenfranchised peoples. That is why the Federal Government allocates revenue monthly, seeks to govern locals directly by special commissions and establishment of its Federal parastatals for each of its states, whereas the people posture to get more and more of these to fleece an FG which in their thought certainly has much having stolen much from them. This condition is called prebendalism–which as defined by Richard A. Joseph is “The sense of entitlement which many people in Nigeria feel they have to the revenues of Nigerian state.” According to him “Elected officials, government workers, and members of the ethnic and religious groups to which they belong feel they have a right to a share of government revenues”

In addition, the local communities which ought to be microcosms of the Nigerian state rather relate with the Nigerian state antagonistically as they vie for autonomy, space and influence with the state and its elements of governance. There is a clear cut disconnect between the state and the people. The people separate what they could do for themselves from what could be done for them through formal governance. They try hard to evade taxes even though they yet willingly make informal but inadequate community-based contributions to tend to community needs of theirs. In fact, they see the Nigerian state and all its paraphernalia of governance as nothing else but their own share of the huge cake called Nigeria–which was illegitimately stolen from them and which must be fleeced upon the slightest opportunity. Our people lie and posture to the state and profiteer from it. In Nigeria, the government is not the people’s. This largely defines the corruption and waste that readily greets us of today’s Nigeria.

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