Federalism and the Quest for National Integration and Development in Nigeria                                      J. ‘Kayo...
attain the time-honoured affirmation of our political progenitor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, on thenecessity of transforming N...
However, it must be noted, at this point, that political realities determine the nature of the sharing ofpower across the ...
Azikiwe, who later became the country’s first President between 1960 and 1966, when hecanvassed for a ‘federal commonwealt...
From the foregoing, it can be deduced that federalism in Nigeria could only have stemmed from anintersection of the variou...
However, with the collapse of the First Republic and the advent of the military into governance,these regions were dissolv...
Further to this, the regime appropriated assets of States/groups of States, including print andelectronic media, etc, and ...
with the creation of a central legislature by the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, in which of the136 representatives that...
In addition, the manipulation of the census figures can be gleaned when the statistics of contiguousterritories to the Nor...
origin in that State. This problematic character of citizenship negates an essential tenet offederalism. And, as mentioned...
down to 5 percent under the Shehu Shagari administration, and reduced to 1.5 % during the Buhariregime, before rising to 3...
and the primacy of force had become state policy. Nigeria needs a return of the culture of dialogue.This may not necessari...
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Federalism And The Quest For National Integration And Development In Nigeria

  1. 1. Federalism and the Quest for National Integration and Development in Nigeria J. ‘Kayode FayemiPROTOCOLSDistinguished members of the Learned profession, I am highly honoured to address your presentgathering, and I am of the conviction that there is no better theme that affords one the opportunity tospeak to some of the critical issues that have shaped and are affecting the nature of the union thatwe have forged in our country, Nigeria, at the moment, than the notion of Federalism and how thisrelates to our collective quest and determination for national integration and development. Whileour country is essentially a plural one, with an aggregation of over 250 ethno-linguistic groups thathave been put at different figures (Kirk Green, 1964; Atta, 1987; Otite 1990; Suberu, 1993) within asingle space, it is certainly one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world, and the challengeof the past five decades of our corporate co-existence within a political, social, and economic rubricdefined as ‘Nigeria’ has been how to find and promote accommodation for these diverse groups ornationalities in a manner that is just, equitable, and enhances peace in a sustainable way.Certainly, nowhere are the limits of the democratic project in Nigeria more apparent than in thequestion of appropriate institutional arrangement for the political accommodation and managementof social diversities and religious difference. By its very nature, the working of democratic politicsradically alters the existing social boundaries and divisions, often accentuating hitherto dormantidentities and conflicts in a supposedly united entity. The consequences of the relationship betweenthe two have not only posed a challenge to those who seek to understand these dynamics, it has alsoplaced a question mark on the very viability of Nigeria’s democratic enterprise.As you are aware, the institutional arrangement that has been adopted by our precursors formanaging the plurality and diversity of the Nigerian experience has been through the federal option,which though has the conceptual potentials and capacity to hold the different groups and interests inthe country together in a fashion that could be deemed as acceptable, its expression in Nigeria in thepast couple of decades has evolved a distorted political architecture that many groups have risen inwar against. Hence, several groups and actors across sections of the country no longer claim to beseeking accommodation within ‘Federalism’ as an arrangement, but within ‘True Federalism’(Akinyemi, 2011), considered as a quintessential form. And, what this trusses up relates to how to www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  2. 2. attain the time-honoured affirmation of our political progenitor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, on thenecessity of transforming Nigeria from being a “mere geographical expression” into a “culturalexpression.”The Notion of FederalismA plethora of pundits have engaged with the notion of federalism, and what binds their numerousefforts at delineating it is the recognition that federalism constitutes a framework for managingdiversity and ensuring harmony within essentially plural and heterogeneous societies. It isfundamentally about acknowledging a multiplicity of differences in ethnic, sociological, economic,religious, and educational outlook and manifestation, etc, within a system, in a mode that guaranteescoherence and equilibrium. As a system of government, it is predicated upon the appropriatesharing of power between a central authority and constituent political units; and as K.C Wheareobserved, it signifies a situation in which, constitutionally, central and regional governments “arenot subordinate to one another, but coordinate with each other.” Thus, in its classical formulation,federalism signals a separation of powers anchored on the Constitution, which negates the existenceof a Master-Slave relationship, as the composition of association is anticipated to be voluntary andenabling of mutual respect among the constituent units.Due to its fundamental purpose of facilitating the apportioning of power across diverse groups,federalism strives to accommodate and manage diversity, and is considered an ‘institutionalsolution to the disruptive tendencies of intra-societal ethnic pluralism’ (Long, 1991) that is capableof mediating potential and actual conflicts evolving from heterogeneity within a defined space(Akpata, 2000). It is regarded as enhancing unity, while preserving diversity, and allowing theconstituent units in a country to develop according to their own pace, within the purview of theirmaterial and human resources. More so, it is described as a process of seeking unity, withoutresorting to uniformity; hence federalism is conceived of as the antithesis of a unitary system, whichwould ensure the prevalence of harmony across sundry groups and interests. It is within thispurview that one can also relate to formulation of a ‘federal republic’ by Baron de Montesquieu,who considered this as “a society of societies”, which would guarantee collective security,coexisting with the decentralisation of power. www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  3. 3. However, it must be noted, at this point, that political realities determine the nature of the sharing ofpower across the spheres of government, and this shapes the nature and character of the variant offederalism that is adopted in a particular country, making it fairly difficult to have a universaldefinition of federalism. And, this tendency has made a host of thinkers on the subject to considerfederalism as a political ideology (Burgess, 1993a and 1993b; Chapman, 1993; Smith, 1995), andthe expression of this is what leads to the materialization of a federation. As such, when federalismis considered as the articulation of a group of interests, the federation is the means by which this isaccomplished.Federalism in NigeriaFederalism can be said to have come to Nigeria through the act of the colonial Governor-General,Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon in 1939, who created a federation of three provinces out of the formerBritish colony of the Northern and Southern Protectorates (as formed in 1901), and put together aConstitution that was handed over to his predecessor, Sir Arthur Richards, which became theRichards Constitution of 1946. The provinces were administered by native-born Chiefs and clerksthrough the policy of indirect rule, although these spheres of influence were made to depend on thecolonial authorities for martial law, manpower, and the management of resources. The operation ofthis system was made formal with the adoption of Oliver Lyttleton’s Constitution in 1954, whichgranted substantial autonomy to the existing territories, and upheld them as regions, through theestablishment of regional civil service and judicial systems.The three regions had separate constitutions that were attached as a schedule to the FederalConstitution (Alapiki and Odondiri, 1992), and they were consolidated at the dawn of Independencein 1960 as a federation hinged upon the tripod of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria – theYoruba, Igbo and Hausa. With the power over these regions being transferred to Nigerians andregional legislatures created, the post of the Governor-General was replaced with that of aPresident, and a national bicameral parliament was formed. Further to these, a Mid-Western Regionwas created out of the Western Region in 1966, and the federal capital, Lagos, was governed as anunofficial fourth region.The argument for a federal system as a way of managing the diversity of Nigeria and forestallingthe potentials for conflict was equally advocated by prominent nationalists such as Dr. Nnamdi www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  4. 4. Azikiwe, who later became the country’s first President between 1960 and 1966, when hecanvassed for a ‘federal commonwealth of Nigeria’ in 1945, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo in hisbooks Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947) and Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution (1966). Also,Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa observed that: I am pleased to see that we are all agreed that the federal system is, under the present conditions, the only sure basis on which Nigeria can remain United. We must recognize our diversity and the peculiar conditions under which the different tribal communities live… therefore… we must do all in our power to see that this federal system is strengthened and sustained (quoted in Elaigwu, 2000: 41-42).The factors that led to the adoption of federalism in Nigeria are generally traced to two mainhistorical tendencies, with the first describing it as emanating from the confluence of internalpolitical forces that clamoured for a federal system as a result of the differences and diversity ofvarious groups, leading to the fear of the possibility of inter-group domination. This tendency that isascribed to the nationalist leaders is described to have been conceded to by the British colonialmasters in the effort to maintain harmony in heterogeneity. The other vein relates to the tendencythat considers federalism as an imposition by the British in order to preserve the interests andadministrative convenience of the colonial state (Alapiki and Odondiri, 1992), as the various groupsand nationalities being ‘merged’ were initially administered unitarily, hence the foisting of a federalsystem was no more than a divide-and-rule strategy that was basically disruptive and divisive(Awolowo, 1968). While another tendency regarded the British introduction of federalism as a‘strategy for decolonisation’, serving as a means of whittling down internal divisiveness andreducing the cost of colonial administration in the country (Ojo, 1998), it was equally considered byothers as a neo-colonial method of maintaining control of the country after Independence. However,the intervention of time has revealed this framework as evolving and deepening “structuralimperfections ... (that have) bedevil(ed) inter-ethnic relations after independence’ (Okhaide, 1992:544 – 545). www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  5. 5. From the foregoing, it can be deduced that federalism in Nigeria could only have stemmed from anintersection of the various tendencies as the frothy cauldron of difference and heterogeneity couldonly have made the nationalist leaders to seek recourse to the federal option in order to guaranteeself rule, while conceding to shared rule within a process of conclusive amalgamation. And, theBritish would have been ingenuous enough to know that the more enduring administrative recipefor such a heterogeneous mix of people would be a federal system, even though their own pecuniarymotivations could never be discounted at the decisive moment. As such, it can be observed that theemergence of federalism in Nigeria was consequent upon the interplay of the desires of thenationalist leaders and the British, whose interests created the basis for the shaping of the Nigerianunion.Yet, as A. Muhammad succinctly put it: “if mutual fears and suspicion of domination amonggroups, (the) quest for self determination, economic prosperity, desire for unity in diversity amongother compelling factors, propelled a federation of Nigeria, to what extent then have theseimperatives been transcended many years after adopting the system? (200 )”With the materialisation of federalism in Nigeria in the closing decades of colonial rule, thedifferent political tendencies that coalesced around the struggle of the people for Independence(NCNC, NPC, AG) organised on the basis of a parliamentary system that operated through the threemain regions – the North, the West, and the East. And, powers were largely devolved around theseregions, which functioned as loosely held centres of power and decision-making, yet with a formalentity regarded as the central government in place. The regions had control over the nature andforms of their development and how they could explore latent and evident potentials in theirenvironment to maximise on the most effective ways to deliver the goods of governance to theirpeople.While these administrative units had total control over and regulated issues relating to education,agriculture, healthcare, taxation, and other significant aspects of their existence, they still subscribedto a central Nigerian authority that held the exclusive right to make decisions pertaining to defenceand a few other select issues. The regions were in charge of the resources that they generated, coulddevelop at their own pace and according to the manner that they deemed fit, while contributing apercentage of their revenue towards the keeping of the centre afloat. www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  6. 6. However, with the collapse of the First Republic and the advent of the military into governance,these regions were dissolved into a federal structure that created States and local levels ofgovernment in the effort to make administration easy through its command approach to the systemof control of the country. Subsequently, all the regional economies were displaced, giving rise to abogus central purse, from which subventions were then granted to States and the local level ofgovernment.While the Nigerian system under the military purportedly laid claims to being a Federal system (asin its professed description of being the Federal Republic of Nigeria), it was essentially unitary inform, with its version of federalism revealing a central system in which the assumed federatingunits had surrendered almost all their authority to the federal government, and lifelines were grantedfrom the centre resulting in the constituent units abandoning their entrepreneurial acumen andeconomic enterprise in favour of ‘free’ allocations from the centre, particularly consequent upon thediscovery of oil. The further creation of States – even though some have argued that it broughtgovernance closer to people and reduced inter-group conflicts – can be observed as a significantfactor that weakened the federal experience in Nigeria, and led to the larger concentration of powerat the centre.The Rise of Centralisation and UnitarismAs alluded to above, federalism was formally inaugurated in Nigeria through the LyttletonConstitution of 1954, making the country a decentralised polity comprising three regions that werethe federating units, and which operated unique regional constitutions, civil service, police and thejudiciary. The regions had coats-of-arms and mottos that were distinct from that of the centralgovernment, and whilst they developed according to their own logic, resources and programmes,they equally had foreign representation and High Commissioners in the United Kingdom, etc.However, with the incursion of the military into power, the regional police forces were proscribedand twelve created out of the regions on the eve of the civil war in 1967, and the Murtala/Obasanjomilitary regime subsequently abrogated the coats-of-arms and mottos of States, and mandated themto take on that of the federal government. www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  7. 7. Further to this, the regime appropriated assets of States/groups of States, including print andelectronic media, etc, and strengthened the federal government at the expense of the States, therebylaying the foundation for the intense contest of power at the federal level, and its attendant crisesover the next couple of decades.The gradual erosion of the powers of the federating units of the country and the overt centralisationof power at the federal level is highly evident at the present time when one considers that betweenthe first military intervention (1966-1979) and its second incarnation (1983-1999), Nigeria has hadthree constitutions, and when the 1959 Constitution is compared with the 1999 Constitution, theextent of the pruning down of the powers of the federating units in relation to the legislative listbecomes glaring. As Akinyemi noted: only one item “Archives” was transferred from the 1959 exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list of 1999. No item was transferred from the 1959 exclusive list to the 1999 reserved list. Out of the twenty-eight items on the 1959 concurrent list, sixteen items - which translates to roughly 57% - were lost to the 1999 exclusive list (2001:11).More so, the States as the newer federating units lost seven items from the reserved list of the 1959Constitution to the exclusive legislative list of the 1999 Constitution, thus revealing how much the“Nigerian federation has become massively centralized”, and the States have become mere satellitesof the central government (Muhammad, 200 *).Structural Imbalances in Nigerian FederalismOne of the critical issues bedevilling the Nigerian federation pertains to its architecture, whichmakes it assume the description of an ‘asymmetrical federalism’, both in terms of its unevenness insize and access to national resources. While several federal systems across the world maintaincertain levels of evenness in size, population, economic resources, administrative capabilities, etc,the initial division of Nigeria into three regions, in which the Northern Region alone constituted thesize of the Western and Eastern Regions put together set off a train of imbalance that has notchanged much since. And, an instance of the disparities that this spawned in the past was evident www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  8. 8. with the creation of a central legislature by the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, in which of the136 representatives that were elected, the Northern Region alone had 68 members (the total sum ofthe two other Regions), making it possible for the Region to dominate what should ordinarily becollective decisions or put the decisions of the parliament on hold.In terms of territorial expanse at that point, the Northern Region was claimed to be having 77% ofthe total land mass, while the Western Region had 18.4%; the Eastern Region, 8.3%; and the Mid-Western Region, 4.2%. And, the figures given by the 1963/64 census stated that the Northern regionhad 53.5% of the total population of the country; the Western Region, 18.4%; the Eastern Region,22.3%; and the Mid-Western Region, 4.6%. Hence, from those figures, it was impossible for thethree regions in the south to control political power at the centre, leading to the fears of dominationby the North due to its purported population and land mass. Issuing from the 1963/64 censusfigures, the North controlled the central parliament with 54% of the total number of electedrepresentatives, which was more than the combined total number of representatives from the East,21%; the West, 19%; and the Mid-West, 4.5%.Further down, while one of the reasons adduced for the counter-coup of July 1967 was the need todismantle the thickening unitarism of the Ironsi regime, the new military rulers subsequently wentagainst the grains of the Aburi Agreement by breaking the country into twelve states, with the Northhaving six of the states, and the three other regions ending up with the remaining 6 states. Inaddition, the Gowon administration proceeded on a head-count in 1973 and out of the over 79million people who were enumerated in the Census, the six states of the North accounted for over51 million people, whilst the other six southern states had some 21 million people, indicating thatbetween the 1963/64 census figures and that of 1973, there had been a staggering rise in thepopulation of the North from 53.6% to 63.8%. And conversely, the population of the South haddwindled from 46.4% to 36.2%. If the figure from the 1973 census, which gave the North apopulation of 51 million is juxtaposed with the 1990 census figure of over 47 million, then the factof the manipulation of these figures is thrown into bolder relief, as the population of the Northseems to have diminished in about 20 years! www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  9. 9. In addition, the manipulation of the census figures can be gleaned when the statistics of contiguousterritories to the North are examined. In 1973, Niger Republic that was stated as land mass of1,266,700 sq. kilometres had a population of over 5 million people and Chad with 1,259,200 sqkilometres had over 4 million people, how could the North of Nigeria that shares boundaries withNiger and Chad, with a territorial expanse of 679,534 then have over 51 million people? Yet, wemight all be familiar with the politics of territorial expanse as a determinant of the number of statesand local governments that are created in the country, and hence the volume of resources that aremade available to them. It is equally a known fact that out of 774 local governments listed in ourconstitution, the North has 419, which is 64 local governments more than the total number of 355listed local governments in the South. The foregoing, coupled with the fact that statistics haveshown that the North has had the advantage of having more of its people appointed into federaloffices depict some of the structural imbalances in the Nigerian federation that still survives.Constraints to Nigerian FederalismAlthough laudable in intent, the operation of federalism in Nigeria over the past six decades hasrevealed deep weaknesses in the system, from the history of the composition of the federation, inwhich its different units ought to have come into a union through the voluntary submission of theirsovereignty in order to attain an expanded and stronger sovereignty. This would have enhanced thebargaining powers of the federating units as they formed an alliance, and given them a sense ofindependence; however, the British yoked the divergent units and territories together for their ownadministrative convenience and hardly did anything to facilitate their integration.Equally, the character of the leadership that Nigeria has experienced since the advent of a federalsystem in the country has constituted a very significant challenge that has been remarkablyformulated into the notion of “Two Publics” by Peter Ekeh, which make ethnic affiliations andaffirmation privileged over the national good. As such, some of Nigeria’s leaders/rulers have beendescribed as ‘nationalists by day and tribalists by night’, as they only advocated federalism in name,but actually worked towards the accruement of advantage to their ethnic units.This overlaps with the question of citizenship in Nigeria, as people cannot seem to operateeffectively outside their states of birth, and this primordial sense of identity in relation to a spaceprecludes a person from being granted equal status like another who was born or locates his/her www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  10. 10. origin in that State. This problematic character of citizenship negates an essential tenet offederalism. And, as mentioned above, the over centralisation of power at the central level leavesmuch to be desired, and it has been observed that even if all the state and local governments inNigeria are pulled together, they are still much weaker than federal government.With federalism operating in both political/structural and fiscal contexts, the most critical weaknessthat is evident in Nigeria’s federal arrangement pertains to concerns issuing from fiscal federalismor ‘resource control’, which deals with the mode of expropriation and allocation of resources acrossdiverse groups in the country. And, this has been a core trigger of conflict in Nigeria, and one offundamental factors for the overwhelming agitation for the renegotiation of our union in thecountry.The Politics of Fiscal FederalismWithin the Nigerian experience, the access to political power is vital in determining the allocationand distribution of resources, and it provides the opportunity for those who control power toexpropriate a large percentage of the wealth from the resources to their own advantage, even at theexpense of those who possess the resources. And, while this control and mode of distribution inNigeria have been highly contentious, they have also been underscored by numerous revenuesharing formulas or allocation principles, which have sought to de-emphasis ‘derivation’ – invarying degrees – as the most significant factor in resource allocation.Over the decades, a host of governmental commissions have grappled with the task of fashioningout a proper revenue sharing formula for Nigeria – from the Phillipson Commission of 1946, to theHicks-Phillipson Commission of 1951, the Chicks Commission of 1953, Raisman Commission in1957, the Binns Commission of 1964, and the Dina Commission of 1969. Also, there have been theAboyade Technical Committee of 1977, the Okigbo Committee of 1980 and the DanjumaCommission in 1988.The vicissitudes of the derivation principle of resource allocation has pointed out by Ofeimun(2005), who shows how it moved from 100% accruing to the resource hosts and producers in 1946,to its reduction to 50% between 1951 and 1960, and to 45% during the Gowon regime. It fluctuatedbetween 20% and 25% during the Muritala Muhammed/Obasanjo administration, and went further www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  11. 11. down to 5 percent under the Shehu Shagari administration, and reduced to 1.5 % during the Buhariregime, before rising to 3% during the time of Babangida, from where it appreciated to the present13%. It is without doubt that access to power is the primary driver of the politics of the fiscalfederalism and the nature of the derivation principle that is adopted. Presently, one of the sorestpoints of Nigeria’s federalism is the agitation of resource-bearing communities for the derivationprinciple to be increased to at least 50%.The Quest for Integration and DevelopmentAs panacea to the ground-swell of agitations and recurrent outbreak of conflict in the country, thereis the need for a National Conference, in which the various constituencies and groups in the countrywould come together to renegotiate the terms of the Nigerian union, and deal decisively with all thenagging and contentious issues that have been animating the country in a negative manner. Issuingfrom this is the necessity of instituting a comprehensive constitutional reform process, in which theresponsibilities and preserves of the various levels and tiers of government will be fundamentallyreviewed. And, questions pertaining to the Federation Account, the Federal Character Principle,State police, fiscal federalism, etc would be ultimately sorted out.What has compounded the recent crisis and underplayed the need for dialogue has been theinfluence of years of military rule in Nigeria and the exclusive, personality driven projects ofcurrent civilian rulers. The militarisation of the national psyche also affects individuals in their dailylives. Nigeria witnessed, especially under the last military dictatorship, intense communal conflictsthat disrupted peaceful relations in several communities. Some of the conflicts have antecedents inold animosities, but many were resource-driven, spurred by perceptions of unequal distribution ofgovernment resources. Incidents of aggression, impatience, and competition arise in domesticviolence and other family disputes, over petrol queues, in the conduct of motorists, and in thebehaviour of the armed forces and police in dealing with ordinary people.The immediate causes of increased violence and crime include the high unemployment and povertylevels. At root however is the loss of a culture of compromise and accommodation. This pointcannot be overemphasised: Nigerians lost their culture of dialogue in a period when militarisation www.ekitistate.gov.ng
  12. 12. and the primacy of force had become state policy. Nigeria needs a return of the culture of dialogue.This may not necessarily culminate in a sovereign national conference, although some perceive thisas the only solution to the crisis of governance in the State. Any indication that government iswilling to create the conditions for dialogue in the country is bound to reduce the increasing level oftension since many within deprived communities now believe the only language that governmentunderstands is violence. The need therefore for a national conference as a means of lesseningtension in the country is not only desirable but necessary. www.ekitistate.gov.ng