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This is the text of a paper entitled TRUE FEDERALISM: A CATALYST FOR NATIONAL UNITY, delivered by HON. EGBUNA AMUTA, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano, on Grassroots Media Mobilisation, during a week-long annual enlightenment programme organised by Justice Development and Peace Carita (JDPC), billed to educate and inspire the people on topical issues of the moment at Saint Mary's Catholic Parish, Inland Town, Onitsha, Anambra State, on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. ________________________________________


In a multi cultural society such as ours ( I mean Nigeria ), the best option for unity, peace, stability and progress is the practice of the federal system of government. Federalism, unlike the unitary system of government, gives reasonable autonomy to the disparate groups in the country to develop at their own pace socially, economically and politically.

Conscious of the fact that the "Niger Area" (as Nigeria was referred to by the British Royal Niger Company, which later changed its name to United African Company, UAC), was made up of more than two hundred and fifty ethnic nationalities before the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorate, our  colonial Master, Great Britain, and the founding fathers of Nigeria, such as Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo among others realised the imperative of federalism as a system of government in the country ahead of our independence, and agreed that she would be made a "Federal Republic." It is worthy of note that the pioneer Governor General of Nigeria, Lord Fredrick Lugard, actually amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates for administrative convenience and crass economic considerations, totally bereft of altruism.  

Many Constitutional Conferences such as Clifford, Richard, Lyttelton,  Macpherson and Independent Constitutions arose before 1960, when Nigeria gained self determination from the United Kingdom. The Federal System of government was in vogue even before independence. The three original regions namely; Northern, Eastern and Western regions practiced it successfully and happily. The Midwest region created in early sixties also practiced federalism. They all succeeded economically, and otherwise, on their own.  While the Northern region depended on hides and skin, cotton and groundnut to survive ( remember the famous groundnut pyramids of Kano), the Eastern region relied so much on Palm Produce. It is on record that Malaysia which is today the largest producer of Palm oil collected their seeds from the defunct Eastern region of Nigeria. For their part,  the Western region specialised in Cocoa production while the Midwest region produced rubber and timber in very large quantities. Universities, roads,public utilities and many other monuments were built by these regions from proceeds derived from cash crops. The regions also had their respective constitutions and police. They equally had their ambassadors called Agents General in London in addition to direct diplomatic relationships  with other countries of their choices. For instance,  the Eastern and Western regions had diplomatic ties with Israel. 


However, the apple cart was upturned,  when the military rudely intervened in the country's political affairs in January 1966, and overthrew Nigeria's First Republic. Due to the command structure of military, Nigeria, to a very large extent began to practice a distorted Federal System of government, which in essence was unitary system of government. Military governors were appointed by their Commanders-in- Chief. They were not elected by the people. There were no parliaments representing the people and aggregating their opinions. By fiat the military created states, from twelve to the present thirty-six, plus the federal capital territory, Abuja. 


The military wrote constitutions for our so-called democratic governments in the Second Republic which lasted from1979 to 1983 and the present Fourth Republics which began in 1999. The aborted Third Republic was a Diarchy during which power was shared between soldiers and civilians under the General Ibrahim Babangida regime. In all these Republics political power was/is largely centralised. Too much power is given to the central government which in actual fact is not near to the masses. There are a lot of things in exclusive lists than in concurrent lists. Many powers are not devolved to states. 
With huge amount of money from crude oil sales, regions and states abandoned or paid little attention to agriculture and Internal Revenue Generation. They more often than not, now go cap in hands to obtain handouts from federation account. Corruption overtook hard work. Everybody looks up to central government to get money for capital and recurrent expenditures. 

Before independence, regions generate money and paid certain percentage to central purse. The centre was not so strong or powerful. Little wonder the pioneer Premier of Northern Nigeria, late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, declined to become Nigeria's First Prime Minister. Rather, he sent his deputy leader (of Northern Peoples Congress, NPC), Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to Lagos to become the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Politics at that period was really grassroots oriented unlike nowadays. 

Notwithstanding that we are in the Fourth Republic (a seeming democracy), but in essence a mere civilian government, it is a truism that we still have very strong or an overwhelming military influence in our present democratic practice. Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo,  was more or less imposed on Nigeria by the military junta of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and retired Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Theophilus Danjuma and Mohammed Gusau among others, albiet in a discreet manner. Late Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan were foisted on us as our Presidents by Obasanjo, while the incumbent President of Nigeria, Alhaji Mohammadu Buhari, is a retired army general. 
Therefore, these men with military background, indoctrination or orientation and influence over dose have not been able to practice true democratic federalism. 


Due to the fact that a lot of states and individuals had benefitted and are still benefiting from distorted or what I call unitary federalism, especially, the elite from the far North, that is, Northwest and Northeast geopolitical zones, they want the prevailing anachronistic arrangement imposed by the military to endure forever. Their resistance is in spite of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The 2014 Confab actually wants Nigeria to return to the practice of true federal system of government. If the truth must be told, distortion of true federalism and massive official corruption are at the roots of the criminalities and social vices bedevilling Nigeria today. The Boko Haram insurgency, terrorism by suspected Fulani herdsmen, Niger Delta militancy, the IPOB and OPC threats are indeed negative by-products of bad governance, k-legged federalism and corruption in the country. 

Despite the pretences of the country's ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, the real leader of the Party, President Buhari had only recently publicly said that agitators for the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation, have what he calls "Selfish and Parochial Agenda ." This means that he is not in support of the strident agitation for the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation, contrary to the grandstanding of his political party, the APC, which recently announced that it is in full support of the quest for Nigeria's Restructuring. The opposition of the Buhari led federal government to the anti-grazing laws of some states in the country is a clear indication that the Presidency is averse to practice of true federalism in Nigeria. This is because the federal system of government permits the federating units to be autonomous. Even though state governors in Nigeria are regarded as the chief security officers of their domains, it is not true in reality because state commissioners of police are more accountable to the Inspector general of Police than the governors. The Inspectors general are appointed and sacked by the President. Wither federalism?


Notwithstanding the insincerity or hypocrisy of the country's ruling party, most people in the Southeast, Southwest, South South and North Central or Middle Belt as well as some prominent personalities in the Northwest and Northeast such as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and ex-Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,  Professor Ango Abdulahi, want Nigeria to be restructured in order to allow justice, equity and fairness to prevail. As a matter of fact they want the country to return to  practice of true federalism as was the case in Nigeria's First Republic when the country enjoyed unity in diversity. 

This is a fact recognised by our former colonial Masters and founding fathers of Nigeria,  hence they adopted the federal system of government for the country. If the truth must be told this is the only way genuine peace and stability can be enthroned in Nigeria. Truly, unity in diversity is the in-thing in Federal System of Government. This is what is obtainable in the United States of America and many other successful federations throughout the world.
Federalism is all about resource control, and not necessarily devolution of power etcetera. Nonetheless, the federal or central government should be in-charge of our external defence, foreign policy, immigration, currency and monetary policy. States should be allowed to have their own police authorities, education,  local governments etc.

True federalism would undoubtedly  douse the herdsmen-farmers clashes in many parts of the country. Despite opposition for selfish reasons, true federalism is inevitable. This is because continued foisting of admixture of Unitary and Federal Systems of government on a multi ethnic and cultural groups in Nigeria might unfortunately lead to what in International Studies as "Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD." God forbid. I am however hopeful and optimistic that it would not come to that.  This is because the ruling class in Nigeria have common interests in our economy. We have co-habited for more than 100 years. We have inter married and jointly run businesses for good or bad of our country. 

Secession is not an option. We need each other. But true federalism is the answer. True Federalism would go a long way to drastically reduce official corruption in the country. Unlike is the case presently, a situation where by every federating unit is saddled with the responsibility of generating it's own revenue, the people would react very angrily to misappropriation or siphoning of their hard earned money by unscrupulous government officials. Inflation of population figures would also be minimised contrary to the present situation where states make deliberate and conscious efforts to inflate census figure in order to gain undue advantages on revenue allocations and political representations.


Be that as it may be, the Nigerian political elite must evolved an enduring formula that must make us our brothers keeper. This is because all sections of the country are not equally endowed in human and natural resources. The "Onye aghana nwanne ya" philosophy is therefore imperative in a United Federal Republic of Nigeria.

HON. EGBUNA AMUTA is the Senior Special Assistant 
to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on Grassroots Media Mobilisation. 
Tuesday, July 17, 2018.   

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