Once Again Itse Sagay Breaks Rank, Advocates True Federalism

Itse Sagay

The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Itse Sagay, on Friday said states, and not the federal government, should determine the minimum wage payable to their workers.

Mr. Sagay stated this in his paper at the 20th Wole Soyinka Annual Public Lecture in Benin.

Speaking on the theme, “Nigerian State in the Aftermath of the Centenary: Prospects for its Indivisibility,” Mr. Sagay opposed the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) position that the issue of minimum wage should remain on the exclusive list.

The professor said true federalism should replace the present “suffocating unitary constitution.”

“For the NLC, the federal government should continue to determine for states what minimum wage they should pay to their employees.

“And yet, it is a basic and fundamental aspect of federalism that no federating unit should dictate to or interfere in areas of governance of others.

“A state, no matter how meagre its resources, has to accept the dictates of the federal government on this critical issue of its own internal governance.

“This trade union opposition to federalism is the most shocking of all those resisting the re-introduction of true federalism in accordance with our pre-independence concord.

“The fathers of Nigerian trade unionism were great nationalists and progressives.

‘The latter-day successors are ready to sacrifice the interest of this country for their own narrow and short-term selfish interests.

“Chief Michael Imoudu would disown this anti-federalism position if he were still alive,” he said

Mr. Sagay described the 1999 constitution as essentially the same as a unitary constitution masquerading as a federal constitution.

“This has created the present stagnant, crisis-ridden and dysfunctional geographical entity called modern Nigeria,” he said.

He said the present constitution had made the federal government become the “centre of a titanic and destructive struggle for control.”

He said under such an arrangement, states’ indolence and parasitic tendencies had followed, resulting in an unproductive and under-developed country.

“In our present condition of tight unitarism, any act of misgovernance in Abuja reverberates throughout the country.

‘‘In order words, if Abuja sneezes, the whole country catches cold.

“In a real federation, federal government’s colds begin and end in that government.

“Nigeria’s federating units, whether states or zones, need breathing space from an overbearing federal government.

“The current unitary system is suffocating and preventing the states from enjoying individual autonomy and development. There is stifling uniformity, without unity.

“States are stunted in growth and are perpetually dependent on the Federal Government’s feeding bottle. This has to stop if Nigeria is to ever develop.

“In order words, it is imperative that we return to the 1963 Constitution modified to suit our present circumstance, if we are to co-exist in a stable, crisis free and fast developing Nigeria.

“Nigeria is a country of many nations which had existed independently long before the arrival of the all-conquering colonial power,” he further stated.