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- Federalism, Political Restructuring, and the Lingering National Question
- Federalism, Political Restructuring, and the Lingering National Question
- 6. Nigeria: A Federation in Search of ‘True Federalism’
Federalism in Nigeria refers to the devolution of self-governance by the West African nation of Nigeria to its federated states , who share sovereignty with the Federal Government.
Federalism, Political Restructuring, and the Lingering National Question
Scientific Research An Academic Publisher. Federalism is a system of governmental organization whereby two or more independent states agreed to form a common government while retaining their distinctive autonomy. It is a concept that attempts to give meaning to a form of government in which, rather than being concentrated in one body, is decentralized between the central authority and the component units that come together out of one or more significant reasons, and to which there exist a constitutional stipulation of the nature and period of exercising the specific power to avoid clashes and a provision for a means of compromise when clashes are inevitable.
A federalism or federal principles, denote the division of law making authorities in a federal set up between the central authority of the federation and the authority of the components or units of government and the vesting of autonomy to each of these different governmental authority in such a way that none can interfere with the legislative authority of the other.
Federalism as a concept is traceable to the ancient twelve tribes of Israel and the league of Greek City States 2. Federalism as a political arrangement has faced serious crises of conceptualization.
This is because in the words of Elazar 3 , There have been several varieties of political arrangement to which the term has been applied. Among the inherent challenges of conceptualization of federalism according to Rickar is that 4 :. The meaning of the word has been thoroughly confused by dramatic changes in the institutions to which it refers.
Hence, a word that originally referred to institutions with emphasis on self-government has come to connote also domination by a gigantic impersonal concentration of force. This governmental division must be exercised by means of a rigid and written constitution that provides for an independent arbiter as well as financial autonomy for the respective governments.
Federalism is a reflection of the inherent diversities in a society 7. It is a system fashioned to hold different nations together in a state, while allowing each of them a degree of autonomy in certain areas. There are two major theoretical conceptions of federalism; one conception regards federalism to be a uniting force or bond which results to the joining of different nationalities into a single statehood through the sharing of governmental administrative offices among them.
This conception wherever adopted results to a virile and stable federal polity. The other conception regards federalism as a way of joining different nations with visible dissimilarities to form a single statehood with a much reduced objectives while granting the individual nations ample rooms to exist independent of the rest and exercising uninterrupted autonomy within their respective territorial jurisdiction while sharing together the reduced, concentrated and specified objectives.
This particular conception may be more appropriately applied to the Nigerian federalism. However, this envisages the development of a limited central government. The most fundamental thing about federalism is that there must be a constitutional division of powers between levels of government.
The main essence of the principle of federalism is to maintain unity in spite of the cleavages among the diverse nations that have agreed to come together 8. This is based on the recognition of the need of national unity and a centralized system of governance, while acknowledging the differences, diversities and unique interests of the various federating units. This is because federalism as a system of government emanates from the desire of the people to form a union without necessarily losing their various identities.
It is an attempt to reflect the various, diverse, social political, cultural and economic interests within the framework of a broader functional unity 9. The essential nature of federalism is a pragmatic distribution of power and resources by means of a Legal Document a federal constitution with a provision ensuring the impossibility of a unilateral abrogation of same by a member party without recourse to other members Other basic characteristics of a federal arrangement are fiscal autonomy, division of powers, a supreme constitution, and rule of law, democracy, and absence of marked inequality in population between regions.
Before that however, we shall briefly consider the historical origin of federalism in Nigeria. It is well known fact that the contemporary limitations and contradictions inherent with the Nigerian federation have been heavily and directly molded by her colonial antecedents and further reinforced by her successive exposure to the negative impact of military dictatorship.
The negative impact of colonialism was comparable to military autocracy It is therefore, logical to conclude that Nigerian federalism was created and nurtured under the influence of dictatorship and autocratic government.
These therefore, perfectly explain the stunted and regressive nature of her federal cultures and practices. Federalism was introduced in Nigeria to forcibly unite the diverse ethnicities and nationalities that were previously arbitrarily amalgamated into a unitary colony and protectorates of the British Empire.
The Nigerian Federation has always had peculiar features; the most evident being that it was not created by the coming together of separate states but was the result of the subdivision of a country which had in theory been ruled as a single unit Earlier in the committee on the review of the Nigerian Constitution, had observed the unique nature of Nigerian federal concept and the peculiarities of her federal framework This form of federation is usually susceptible to the divisive influence of centripetal forces which tend to draw unhealthy loyalty to the components parts rather than loyalty to the national compact.
Devolutionary federations like Nigeria tend to lack the integrative identities and values of civic reciprocity and mutual respect associated with a voluntary compact or bargain to join a federal union The aftermath is the involuntary movement toward centralization as the state battles with dis-integrative forces.
The resultant effect is a development toward over centralization or conversely toward secession. This is because the centrifugal forces are compulsive rather than voluntary. The British colonial legacy in Nigeria is said to be that of promotion of statehood and yet that of nation-destroying The British policy of divide-and-rule system introduced in Nigeria operated to inflame division, suspicion, chaos and recrimination among the diverse ethnic nationalities that were flagrantly assembled into an unsuitably and superficial single, artifice called Nigerian federation.
It is of wide knowledge that the British colonial government through its system of divide and rule orchestrated by her indirect rule policy promoted and encouraged ethnic loyalty and consciousness.
Regionalism as introduced by the colonial government heightens tribal sentiment, exacerbated minorities exploitation and domination and nurtured mutual suspicion and unhealthy battle and fight over federal power on ethnic and tribal and religious basis. The Littleton Constitution 16 , constitutionalized regionalism by establishing for Nigeria a three-region federation. This capricious creation was in total disregard of the multi ethnic nature of the country.
The three regional structures further institutionalized the political hegemony and demographic preeminence of the North over the two southern regions combined with total disregard of the minorities situated in this region.
Amidst serious and furious protest of these minorities, the British colonial government adamantly resisted all calls for a further subdivision of the country so as to carter for the minority ethnic groups.
This is in spite of the loud warning that a federal system in which one region had a population majority could be a potential cause of instability As a result of these flawed and disjointed federal structure the federation could not endure long as immediately the British government left the political scene and relinquished control of the federation to the nationalists the federation could not withstand the tensions and quakes that culminated into the demise of the first republic and the eventual military takeover of government.
The aftermath was the genocidal civil war of to The intervention of the Nigerian military though applauded at the inception rather escalated overtime the existing inter-regional tensions into large-scale inter-ethnic violence and civil war and the following in balance associated with the federation. While state creation as a system of assuaging the demands of the minorities ethnic nations was a welcome development the resultant effect of state creation in Nigeria has produced negative consequences as it has benefited the majority ethnic groups more than the minorities and therefore could not assuaged the demands of the minorities scattered all over the federation.
The first phase of military rule between and is said to have been largely one of hegemonic exchange Thus, during this period the ruling military class acquired some degree of consent from the Nigeria populace as military rule was seen as a necessary intervention to right the wrongs of the supposedly irresponsible political class. At this period in which the central military government gave free hand to the military administrations-in the states to exercise most of these functions constitutionally apportioned to the regional governments as well as appointed credible and influential civilian political elites on ethnic and religious considerations into various ministerial positions, and initiated and implemented a fairly successful programme of re-democratization which culminated in the inauguration of the Second Republic in October In contrast to the first phase of military rule, the second phase of military rule featured excessive abuse of power, personalization and concentration of machinery of government in the military head of state; an increasing domination and repression of ethnic minorities and promotion of northern hegemony, total and flagrant disregard of re-democratization movements, and the manipulative and repulsive concentration of government at the centre with no regard to federal ideal, principles and practices.
There was therefore total collapse of federal structure and governance as fiscal federalism was a pariah doctrine. Military incursion in Nigeria unarguably left Nigerian federalism traumatized, violated and stunted. Federal Institutions, structures and framework suitable for a multi ethnic pluralist polity like Nigeria were weakened if not entirely destroyed. Opposition which is part of the pillar of good governance in the civilized world was silenced.
Rather than promote local autonomy and diversity military rule sought to weaken dissent in the belief that only in so doing can the state be strengthened It is these weak institutions that the present State of Nigeria inherited.
Without doubt, federalism holds the key to a stable and stronger Nigeria. True federalism has not been practiced in Nigeria and this explains her onerous challenges till date. It seems obvious that much of the agitation for the dissolution or confederalisation of Nigeria is often inspired not by a lack of faith in a virile federal state of Nigeria per se, but because of the dissatisfaction or frustration with the inequities and abnormalities that characterized the current practices of federalism in Nigeria.
Before we proffer solution let us further consider the federal features contained in her Constitution and the seeming flaws that have hindered her inability to practice true federalism.
Following the provisions of section 2 1 , 3 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Nigeria is a federation consisting of thirty six states and a Federal Capital Territory. This involves the sharing of powers between the federal government and the state governments to foster easy administrations, cooperation and promote the principles of separation of power. It therefore appears that the basic goal of federalism in Nigeria is to promote the unity of the country while creating space for political autonomy of the different sections of Nigeria This goal has not been realized, as most of these states are incapable of standing for themselves financially.
While creation of states could be a means of securing self-determination of the minority ethnic groups in Nigeria in practice the majority ethnic groups have benefited much more from state creation to the disadvantage of the minority groups.
As a result, agitations for creation of states have not abated as many ethnic groups have continued to demand for their own states. Creation of states has not solved the problems of Nigerian federation as it has rather created more problems owing to none viability of these states in terms of resources. We shall hereunder consider other challenges associated with her federal Constitution and practices.
Federal constitutions are usually rigid in nature. In another sense its amendment requires a special procedure enshrined into it. The reason is to prevent any level of government from abusing the provision of the constitution. The Nigerian constitution contained a special procedure for its amendment as contained in Section 9.
Thus, to amend any provision of the Nigerian Constitution, it is not only that votes of at least two-thirds majority of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate National Assembly 22 must support such proposal, the amendment must be approved by resolution of not less than twenty-four 24 State Houses of Assembly out of the present thirty-six 36 States of the Federation. Where the amendment touches on Section 9 dealing with amendments procedure or Section 8 touching on creation of States or Chapter 4 dealing with fundamental human rights , stricter condition of four- fifths majority of the State Houses of Assembly nationwide is required.
The rigidity of the constitutional amendment procedure arises from diverse reasons e. While rigidity in an amendment process could check arbitrariness and ensure minority right protection, undue rigidity may as well be a means of shutting out opposition and fostering majority domination in a pluralistic federal society. An amendment procedure such as in the case of state or additional local government creation, which requires input from the affected states or local government councils as the case may be will surely deny legitimate demand from a group for additional states or local government councils.
This fact is demonstrated by the absolute difficulty that has followed every attempt to create additional local government councils or states in Nigeria under a democratic government. Further referendum should be incorporated to form part of the constitutional amendment process. The absence of provision for referendum in the constitutional amendment has deprived Nigerians of the opportunity of effecting constitutional changes by popular votes.
Modern government and advanced democracies thrives on the employment of referendum, a form of direct democracy which gives the people the opportunity of deciding political and national issues on the basis of voting in favor or against specific matters The constitutional sharing or division of the governmental powers between different levels of government and amongst component units markedly differentiates federalism from other forms of governmental organizations.
The existence of different levels of government therefore, demands that power is shared among them to prevent one level from encroaching on the powers of the others thereby checking undue rivalry Some scholars favoured reposing predominant powers and functions on the central governments while others advocated granting equal powers and function to all the member components of the federal union Constitutional division of powers and functions is aimed at preventing abuse of governmental powers.
The rationale behind the idea of division of powers in a federal state is that matters of common interest and concern to the country as a whole should be allocated to the Central Government while matters that are local in nature should be allocated to component states government The constitution in this manner is to make provision for some degree of autonomy among the different components members of the federation, without though ignoring the need for interdependence, coordination and harmonious existence.
Under the Constitution, powers are classified as Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative Powers The Exclusive Legislative List has 68 items 29 ; such as aviation, banks, bills of exchange, census, citizenship, copyrights, currency, custom and excise, defence, diplomatic relations, foreign affairs, immigration and emigration, incorporation of business associations, insurance, labour, shipping, armed forces, communication, prisons, railways, taxation, trade and commerce, weight and measures, wireless broadcasting and so forth, while, the Concurrent Legislative List has 12 items The authority to legislate on the Exclusive Legislative List is exclusively vested in the Federal Government and the States may legislate on the items specified in the list only to the extent expressly authorized by a Federal Law.
It is however to be observed that the Exclusive legislative list is unnecessarily numerous and contained matters which ordinarily should be placed under the jurisdiction of the federating units.
Example of these items is land. Land is under the exclusive legislative list even though by virtue of the Land Use Act 31 land is vested on the state government. Others include: Drugs and poison, fishing and fisheries, labour and minimum wage, mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining geological survey and natural gas.
Federalism, Political Restructuring, and the Lingering National Question
The basic minimal structures required for a country to lay claims to the practice of federalism include a political system in which there is power sharing under a written constitution with a government consisting of at least two orders: a central or federal government and the governments of the constituent units. Each order of government receives an allocation of financial resources tailored to their specific requirements. Nigeria has been a federal state since , yet even this basic requirement of federalism has not been attained in the Nigerian federalism. This paper discusses the attributes of federalism and the practice of federalism in Nigeria in comparison with the practice in other federal states. It is observed that there are a lot of issues in the practice of federalism in Nigeria, which make the practice far removed from the practice of true federalism. Constitutional amendment as the need arises is part of the typical dynamism of constitutional order to meet the aspirations of a federation.
coniwasghana.org © University of Florida Board Keywords: federalism; restructuring; governance; Nigeria; elite politics. Introduction.
6. Nigeria: A Federation in Search of ‘True Federalism’
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This piece offers a radical perspective to the debate and politics of restructuring in Nigeria. The authors argue that the calls for restructuring have increasingly become a strategy in elite politics for power and its associated material opportunities. The authors analyze the ethno-regional politics surrounding the restructuring debate and identify the contradictions in the demands of regional elites and their groupings. Given that the issue of political restructuring, as advocated, is elite-driven and has the tendency to lead to endless agitations for change, the authors conclude that restructuring is not the solution to the problems of the country. Rather, the paramount concern should be with the practice of good governance to address the myriad of problems affecting the masses.
Springer Professional. Back to the search result list. Table of Contents. Hint Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book Close hint. Abstract This chapter focuses on issues related to increasing agitations since the democratic transition in for a more functional federal system that fairly distributes the oil wealth. Indeed, there seems to be a consensus that the practice of federalism in Nigeria does not conform to the fundamental principles of federalism because of the many conflicts within the system. In other words, Nigeria epitomises a federation without federalism.
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