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THE IMPERATIVE OF TRUE FEDERALISM IN NIGERIA






By: Egbuna Amuta 


Irrespective of the fact that a very powerful cabal is vehemently opposed to the ongoing agitations by majority of Nigerian citizens for the restructuring of the country's political system, it is an idea which time has really come. Apart from the truism that virtually all delegates to the 2014 National Conference led by retired Justice Lagbo Idris Kutigi threw their weight behind the quest for the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation, many ethnic nationalities in the country have given their nods to the demand.

Sociocultural groups representing ethnic nationalities such as Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Middle Belt and Niger Delta fora as well as some prominent leaders of the Arewa Consultative forum are equally in support of the Restructuring or return to true federalism in Nigeria.
This is because the present arrangement whereby the federal system of government has been incongruously synthesized with the unitary system has left much to be desired in the country. Simply put, the prevailing government structure in Nigeria has obviously proved to be retrogressive. This is contrary to true federalism bequeathed to Nigeria by Britain, her colonial Master and the nation's founding fathers such as late Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo among others. The decision of these perceptive men was predicated on the fact that despite the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by Lord Fredrick Lugard, Nigeria is made up of several ethnic nationalities with different cultural backgrounds.

Before, her independence, and six years after, Nigeria successfully practiced the final federal system of government. During those golden era of the country, the three original regions of the country namely; the Northern, Eastern and Western were autonomous of each other and the central or federal government, which was at that period operated from Lagos Island. The Midwest region which was carved out from the Western region in 1963, also enjoyed the same previlages with the three pioneer regions.

In those days, they were in total control of their human and mineral resources. They had their own police authorities and independently established diplomatic relationships with foreign countries. For instance, the Eastern and Western regions had diplomatic ties with Israel. The three regions equally had Agents General in London despite the presence of Nigeria's High Commissioner in the British capital. While the North was largely sustained economically by its proceeds from Hides and Skin, Cotton and Groundnut, the East made a lot of money from Palm produce. For their part, the West and Midwest seperately relied heavily on profits from Cocoa, Rubber and Timber to run their economies. There was healthy competition amongst the regions, and they built enduring infrastructures with monies accruable from natural resources.

It is on record that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Ife, now known as Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria among other legacy projects were built by regional governments with their Internally Generated Revenues before the intervention of the military in Nigeria's politics in 1966. The overthrow of the country's First Republic and very long period of military interregnum in the country's affairs distorted the federal system of government.

This is explained by the fact that the military naturally runs a command structure of administration. With the ouster of democratically elected governments, Military Heads of State of the country appointed military governors and administrators who were solely accountable to them. By fiat, the army created many states in Nigeria and finally brought them to a total of thirty six in number, plus the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. 

Even though exploitation of crude oil in the Niger Delta commenced before the interference of the military in the country's affairs, its massive production and profitable sale in international open market actually began during the military era. They unfortunately made crude oil the main earner of hard currency for the country and invariably abandoned other lucrative sources of foreign exchange for the Nigeria, after balkanising the four regions of the country into many states. Consequently, state governments began to rely heavily on allocations from the federation accounts for their capital and recurrent expenditures.

Notwithstanding that Nigeria have had the Second Republic, the aborted Third Republic and the prevailing Fourth Republic, the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions of Nigeria, implemented and still being implemented by democratically elected governments were written under the superintendence  of former  military regimes of the country. Little wonder overwhelming powers are concentrated in the central or federal government and the Presidency. The distorted federal system of government in Nigeria today has been blamed for the massive official corruption, political instability and crises now rocking our society.

It is for these reasons that restructuring and return to true federalism has become most imperative. With the re-enactment of the federal system of government in Nigeria, states or the six geopolitical zones of the country would regain their autonomy. Most of the ethnic nationalities in  Nigeria would once again begin to have sense of belonging, without feeling oppressed or dominated by their contemporaries. This is because they would again begin run their affairs on their own with little or no interference by the federal government. States and geopolitical zones can freely make and implement laws conducive to them. For instance, true federalism would go a long way to contain or checkmate the raging herdsmen-farmer bloody clashes in parts of the country.

True federalism would undoubtedly douse tension and promote mutual respect and harmonious socioeconomic and political relationship among the disparate peoples of the country. It would ultimately enhance Nigeria's national unity for the overall good and happiness of the various ethnic nationalities and cultural groups in the country#


EGBUNA AMUTA is the Senior Special Assistant on Grassroots Media Mobilisation to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State.

Sunday, July 15, 2018.

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