Before the new American nation emerged in 1789, Philadelphia had always been the capital of the United States.
But the decision to move the capital away was informed by the rioting nature of Philadelphia where frequent riots were seen as hindrance and distraction to legislative work by the United States Congress.
Indeed, New York was the temporary capital.
While the capital was in Philadelphia, Congress depended on the goodwill of state Congress and local government police to perform their legislative duties.
In deciding on the choice of Washington District of Columbia, they put a clause in the constitution that there would be a federal district, not more than ten miles by ten miles where Congress would have exclusive jurisdiction to deliberate.
Hence, the choice of Washington was agreed as a compromise between North and South as it was close to the Potomac River which divides Maryland from Virginia.
George Washington was given the choice of where it would be and he chose the spot closest to his home in Mount Vermon.
The temporary capital was New York until a new United States government was formed as they agreed it would be disruptive and expensive to bring it to New York.
But in spite of this, New York remains the financial capital of the United States nay the whole world.
In Nigeria, when the Murtala Muhammed /Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Justice Akinola Aguda panel to locate a new Federal capital for Nigeria, it was informed by the need to create a new federal capital which will accommodate the federal bureaucracy and create an ease of doing legislative and government business because of the increasing population of Lagos, the traffic nightmare brought about by its increasing metropolitan nature.
It will be recalled that before the decision, it normally took even the President or Head of State as it may be hours to travel from Dodan Barracks, then seat of government to the international airport.
The decision to set up the Akinola Aguda panel where late Tai Solarin was a member was never politicized or seen by the average Southerner as a plot to rob the South of any advantage but seen purely as a national duty.
Indeed, the panel was able to travel far and wide to locate Abuja, then dubbed as Federal Capital Territory, FCT, as centrally placed to create a sense of belonging for all Nigerians.
As a mark of honour, the Federal Government indeed named the residence and office of the President as the Akinola Aguda House.
When the announcement of the choice of Abuja by a committee headed by two Southerners was made, no whimper of protest came from the Northern parts of the country.
In spite of this relocation which was officially effected by a former military President Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, Lagos by creation still remains the commercial and financial hub of Nigeria.
This is not only as a result of its metropolitan nature and cosmopolitan attitude of its residents but its closeness to the Sea and Airports which still remains the busiest in West Africa.
It follows that Lagos remains the financial powerhouse till date with an internally generated revenue of N651.15 billion in 2022 which accounts for 34 percent of Nigeria’s total Internally Generated revenue of N1.9trillion in 2022.
This means that in spite of the nation’s political capital being moved to Abuja, 31 years earlier, Lagos remains the business soul of Nigeria.
Abuja, as the Federal seat of government, came third after Rivers-N172.8 billion. Ogun with N120.6 billion came fourth while Delta trails behind with N85.9 billion. Lagos also accounts for 72 percent of VAT generated in the entire South West. This was in a year Nigeria recorded N600 billion from Value Added Tax in.
Out of this amount, Lagos rakes in N429.20 billion in eight months, Rivers N90.293 billion, Oyo N64.646 billion.
In terms of sharing of the VAT among states, Lagos got only N139.587 billion out of its N429.2 billion while Kano that generated N24.492 billion got second highest VAT allocation of N47 billion followed by Rivers which came third with N46.270 billion.
It will be recalled that same year, Kano Hisbah destroyed over 200,000 bottles of alcoholic drinks in the state for violating the Islamic tenets while the state government still shared from the alcohol VAT which sale it disallowed in the state for religious reasons.
Zamfara State like Kano also stood out as the state with lowest VAT with less than a billion in eight months but got N35.716 billion (about N4.5 billion) per month in spite of its enforcement of sharia law which banned sale and consumption of alcohol.
This brings into discourse the recent rage over the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to relocate some of its core departments to Lagos for operational efficiency.
In relocating some of the departments like Banking Supervision, DBS, other Financial institutions supervision, Consumer Protection Department, Payment System Management – PSMD and Financial Policy Regulations (FPRD) department, as unavoidable as they are vital components which operations are better done in Lagos since the financial institutions are all based there.
Also in the same vein, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, also through the directive of Aviation Minister, Festus Keyamo, announced its decision to relocate its headquarters to Lagos for same reason advanced by the CBN as most if not all of its operational facilities are based in the former capital.
The FAAN management in a statement by Managing Director, Olubunmi Kuku, said this is to prevent wastage of public resources. He contended that relocation to Abuja in the first instance was ill advised, when there was no single FAAN building in Abuja to accommodate its staff.
He added that the relocation will prevent rot of the FAAN abandoned Lagos building saying it will continue to act in the best interest of the public.
It is clear to all and sundry in Nigeria that one of the drawbacks of the presidential system of government has been the high cost of operation.
Besides, during the regime of former President Muhammadu Buhari, practically all institutions were transferred to Abuja without giving consideration to logistics and administrative cost all to satisfy his clannish attitude.
Indeed, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office, in 1999, he had to invoke his powers to order the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to transfer its operations back to Lagos from Abuja, a city with no seaport to operate. The transfer of NPA to Abuja was done by the late General Sani Abacha’s military regime.
However, it was not surprising that barely few days after the CBN and FAAN’s decisions were announced, the Northern Elders Forum made up of the political elite from the region most of who has never won an election, expressed deep concern by the decision of CBN to relocate some of its departments to Lagos.
While Abdul Azeez Sulaiman, its spokesman, said it recognised the importance of the departments in question, yet for purely political reasons said the relocation would widen,”economic disparity between the North and South.”
He has forgotten that the financial capital of the US and indeed whole world remains New York.
Sulaiman citing BOFIA Act said relocating the departments will only serve to further strengthen the already dominant position of Lagos while making Abuja weak.
He forgot to admit that the money being used to run Abuja -a purely administrative capital is derived from the IGR from Oil producing areas in the South and Lagos which by creation is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria.
Like most Northern irredentists, he simply looked at the politics of governance and not the efficiency of the institutions which proceeds are used to run Nigeria.
Sulaiman also claimed removing the two institutions from Abuja will impair economic development in the Northern region and creased investors confidence.
Also speaking in the same vein, Lagos-born, Yerima Shettima, self-acclaimed leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, described the move to relocate the two institutions as a decision that could undermine national unity, disrupt operations, inflict economic setbacks and perpetual regional imbalance- he has forgotten that Abuja which was built when he was probably an infant, was built with revenue from other regions in the country.
Shettima threatened that the move by the two institutions will be resisted adding that “Abuja selection as capital was intentional to foster national unity”.
He also forgot to mention that the votes from North or Abuja alone does not make Nigeria or ensure its economic liability.
He believes that the move will affect the economy of Northern Nigeria, forgetting that many states in the Northern are illegally minding solid Minerals which proceeds were never remitted to the Federation account but enjoyed by the political elite from the region.
The NEF and AYCF also did not raise a voice when states in the North adopted Sharia as state religion and using the money from other parts of the country as contained in federal allocations to fund it; neither did they raise eyebrow that the establishment of Hisbah by states like Kano, Zamfara and others is a replacement of Nigeria Police Force in a secular state like Nigeria and declaration of their states which is a sub-set of Nigeria.
It is very important for interest groups to allow the institutions in the country to run profitably without allowing pure ethnic and religious sentiments to draw them back.
With the expensive nature of our Presidential system of government which itself is a drain on the nation’s lean purse, any measure that is taken to reduce overhead cost should be seen as a patriotic move.
In this context, it wouldn’t be too much to also ask our National Assembly to borrow a leaf from Senegal which some years ago merged their two legislative chamber into one for cost efficiency.
At this perilous time in Nigeria, brave and bold leaders who can’t take drastic decision is what is required to pull the country out of the economic doldrum we are in due purely to mismanagement of our resources by the ruling elite.