Problems and prospects of Federalism in Nigeria

Before we start discussing federalism in Nigeria, it is pertinent to know what federalism really is. Federalism can be seen as a system of government in which governmental powers that exist in a country are shared between central government and other component unit’s i.e. state and local government. Federalism in Nigeria is incomplete without its origin. Federalism can be traced to K.C Wheare. The history of federalism in Nigeria dates back to 1939, where the country was divided into three provinces (northern, western, and eastern province) by Governor Bernard Bourdillion. Governor Bourdillion suggested the replacement of the provinces by regions which Arthur Richard later introduced in 1946. It was Richard that brought the idea of the introduction of a federal structure which he was unable to accomplish. In 1951, Governor McPherson constitution improved on that of Richard’s by creating House of Representatives with power to make laws for the country, and he also created regional houses of assembly to make laws for the regions.

Later in 1954, the Lyttleton constitution came in with a federal system of government. This was however as a result of the constitutional conference that took place in London in 1953. That is where it was decided that Nigeria should become a federal state. The following were the major reasons for the introduction of federalism in Nigeria:

(i)Cultural diversity,

(ii) fear of domination by minorities,

(iii). Geographical factor,

(iv) Economic factor

(v) effective administration, and

(vi) bringing government nearer to the people.

The fear of domination by minorities was the major reason why the Nigerian government included federal character principle into the  constitution.

Introduction of the federal character principle

The major reason behind the inclusion of this principle in the constitution was to prevent tribal or regional dominance of any government or its agency. Federal character ordinarily protects the minorities but, it’s inappropriate application in Nigeria has lead to inequality, tribal dominance, lack of transparency and corruption.

Problems of federalism in Nigeria

1. Inter-ethnic rivalry: Nigeria, we all know is made up of diverse group of people with different ethnic groups, and the rivalry among hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and igbo has become a serious issue overtime. In Nigeria, We see different set of people from different geo-political regions agitating for power which sometimes lead to disagreements and ethnic conflicts among the parties involved. The major reason for ethnic rivalry in Nigeria is lack of cohesion and the inability of the parties involved to concede the defeat in order to promote national peace and unity. A good example of a leader and a patriotic Nigerian was former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who conceded defeat by congratulating the president elect Mohammadu Buhari via a phone call after election results were announced. This I believe he did in order to promote unity, harmony, and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.

2. Power sharing formula: Power sharing has been one of the major issue militating against federalism in Nigeria. This basically ensure that certain elective offices such as the office of the president, governors, and chairman are rotated among several geo-political divisions in the country.

3. Revenue allocation: The issue of revenue allocation is another issue confronting federalism in Nigeria. Revenue allocation refers to the sharing formula of the country’s financial resources among the different tiers of government in the country, with the main objective of enhancing economic growth and development, reducing inter-governmental tensions and promoting national unity. Some of the elites at the helms of affairs, especially at the federal level has seen revenue allocation as a tool to satisfy their un-quenching taste for money.

4. Minority issue and the creation of states: As a result of the nature of the multi-ethnicity of Nigeria, it has brought about the issue of minorities which has constituted to one of the major problems militating against the development of the nation.

5. The issue of secession: The inter-ethnic rivalry in Nigeria has constantly disrupt development in the country. The issue of secession is a major factor disrupting the federalism in Nigeria, and it also have a way of affecting the growth and development of the country. A good example of this is the current issue of the NDA (Niger-delta avengers) who are clamouring to secede from Nigeria and form their own republic. And as a result of this they resolve in using violent measures which includes the bombing of pipelines and vandalising government properties just to prove a point.

Way forward……

After highlighting some of the major problems of federalism in Nigeria, it is important to proffer solutions that will address these issues.

6. Promotion of national integration and stability: The federal government should ensure that there’s cohesion among the people; which will in turn foster stability and unity among her citizens. Integration is very important in nation building, as it examines the problem of diversity and inter-ethnic rivalry and bring about peace and unity among the people.

7. Fairness among ethnic groups: Government should apply less stringent measures among ethnic groups and embrace fairness in order to eliminate the issue of favoritism in Nigeria. A good example of this is the government of the late president Umaru Musa Yar’adua, who was able to solve the problem of killings and pipeline vandalism by proposing amnesty programmes for militants in the Niger-delta. What this has to teach us day is that; government should not always result to the use of violence to settle conflicts, instead they should embrace dialogue.

8. Removal of indigene and non-indigene dichotomy:  In 2012, Governor Aliyu Babangida of Niger state called for the removal of indigene and non-indigene dichotomy from the constitution in order to foster unity and national integration. He however stated that ‘’ the indigene and non-indigene dichotomy has cause the nation more problem than what it was initially planned to achieve’’. The federal government should remove the indigene and non-indigene dichotomy from the Nigerian constitution in order to foster peace and unity.


Prospects of federalism in Nigeria

1. Economic stability: Federalism if properly practiced will bring about economic stability in Nigeria. The idea behind the creation of federalism in Nigeria was to bring about economic development and establish an effective administration. Federalism will bring about stability in the economy, and would eliminate any form of crisis which could emanate from ethnic rivalry.

2. Political stability: The motive behind federalism was to promote unity and to bring the government closer to the people. Federalism was born out of the idea of a peaceful coexistence among citizens where government is brought closer to the people, stability and cohesion in order to promote national integration.

3. National integration: The significance of national integration in the development of the economy cannot be underestimated. However, federalism promotes national integration, and bring about cohesion, peace, and unity among citizens of a country. National integration would eliminate the issue of secession, ethnic rivalry, and the fear of domination by minorities.

4. Eliminate the problem of uneven distribution of government allocations: Federalism will address the problem of uneven distribution of budgetary allocation by the federal government by ensuring that allocation of revenues to different regions are not politicized.

Finally, it is a known fact that the issues highlighted above constitute the travails of federalism in Nigeria, which highly bear centrifugal tendencies. However, to promote peace, and stability in this country, we must all see ourselves as one; irrespective of our backgrounds, ethnicity, languages, religion and work together in peaceful coexistence to create the Nigeria of our dreams.

Image Credit: ThisDayLive

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Adetola is a graduate of Ekiti State university, and also a graduate member of the Nigerian institute of management (NIM). He constantly seeks knowledge and understanding because he believes there's no limitations to the mind 'except the once we acknowledge'. His passion for writing cannot be quantified. Email: Tel: 07067205881

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