The Value Added Tax (VAT) war that is being spearheaded by the Governors of Rivers and Lagos States is a wake-up call for the remaining states that make up the Nigerian nation.
It is a wake-up call because it is a sign that the long abandoned fiscal federalism is beginning to manifest and probably reinvent itself.
This, for me, is a sign of great things to expect and a test for the political class that sought after power each political season.
This and other agitations that are found all over the place are a positive and good sign for the growth and development of our society. Positive because our politics would take a different form and shape.
Everyone looking for a political office must be able to convince the voting public that he has capacity and is bringing a basket full of ideas to the table that would help grow the economy of the state he intends to govern.
A situation where some persons would ride to the position of authority on rhetoric is near its end.
Politicians must show that they would be able to provide leadership.
The era where handouts are collected from Abuja and spent without hardwork is almost here.
Clearly watching Governor Wike argue that he does not support laziness brings to questions the call for some governors on the endowed states to be their brothers keepers.
He made it clear that he would not support his brother who steals from him when he is not showing willingness to work and sustain himself.
For me, I think the states must start preparing for the worse now. They must start to look at their areas of strength and advantages.
They must commission studies that would help them reach their full potentials.
They cannot continue to be leeches suckling the blood of others who show drive and hard work.
The example that is often referred to at all times in the VAT argument is the destruction of beer by some states yet they share from VAT earnings gotten from those states that allow the sales of liquor.
For any State to survive this era, they must explore their areas of comparative advantage.
If it is agriculture and agribusiness that their strengths lies in, then they must pursue that and ensure they make the most of it.
They should and must put in place policies that would encourage agriculture. By creating an enabling environment, citizens would be encouraged to pursue a career in it and make a living out of agribusiness.
To do this would mean putting in place the needed infrastructure and ensuring that modernization is pursued to boost production and make agribusiness attractive and competitive.
If a state’s strength lays in tourism, the necessary and needed infrastructure must be put in place to make for the exploitation of this potential to the fullest.
We have seen countries whose major sources of survival is just tourism and they have been able to maximally exploit it to serve them.
In the past, the various regions had contributed to the centre by paying the required tax to enable the centre carry out its responsibilities until the military brought about the confusion that has led to our stunted growth as a country.
The component parts had developed at their pace and like it is being argued, all parts of the country can not develop at the same pace.
This wake up call should not be seen as some disparaging others. It is for me a call to co-operation.
The States must take this opportunity to fight together for a change in the Constitution of the country.
Some of those things that are in the exclusive list must be taken to the concurrent list where states would be able to have some measures of control.
States should be the ones handling mining and paying royalties to the centre instead of what is obtained at the moment.
And in carrying out this, value would be added to the minerals before it is taken out of the state other wise the states from where such a venture is undertaken would lose a great deal of revenue.
With co-operation the states would be able to get their acts together and flourish for the benefit of their citizenry. This too is an opportunity to bury for good our sticking points.
Ethnicity, religion and regionalism which have served as major drawbacks must be consigned to the dustbin of history.
As a people who seek progress and growth we must begin to see ourselves as one whose destinies are tied together and we must take advantage of our numbers which should serve as our strength. The example of Rwanda suffices here.
Rwanda today is the fastest growing African country because after the 1994 genocide it came to the realisation that it had no option but to be united.
It had over reached itself when as a people it allowed base sentiments to push the country and its people to the brink.
Mass murder became the order because of the seething hate that was preached by the various divides.
But when the country realised that it had nothing to gain if it continued on that path, it retreated and determine never again to tow that path.
It has been able to sort itself and has become an example of how a country can be run efficiently. It has been able to fashion its own form of democracy which is working for it.
The calls for true federalism therefore, must be pursued by all well meaning people and this should be done as a preparatory to what is sure to happen in the future.
This is because it is often said that he who fails to plan, has set himself on the path to fail.
Let us all prepare by investing our energies in those things that unite us.
Doing this might open new vistas for growth and development.
Paul Jatau writes from Jos, the Plateau State Capital.0803 592 9564