The Nigerian Nation: How Truly United?


This paper, last published April 28, was presented by Chief David Dafinone, a public affairs analyst, at a Post-amnesty Summit.


The sole aim of globalisation and liberalisation as well as privatisation is to put in place the following:

(iSustainable economic development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

(ii)        A process of change in which the expansion of resources and direction of investments, the orientation of technical development and institutional change are all in harmony.

For globalisation and liberalisation as well as privatisation to succeed in Nigeria, we must put in place the following pre-conditions:

·           Peace, security and social cohesion – pragmatism;

·           Rules-based polity – no discretion, no corruption;

·           Protection of physical and intellectual property – rule of law;

·           Freedom of speech and association – creativity;

·           Legitimate, democratic government – power of elections;

·           Educated population – human capital;

·           Free access to global information and markets – internet;

·           Affordable and accessible healthcare

The above factors are the social framework necessary for globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation to flourish.  There are, however, some economic success factors, and these are as follows:

·           Private sector as engine of growth;

·           Macroeconomic stability and fiscal discipline;

·           Investment promotion and enabling environment for investment;

·           Deregulation and democratisation of financial markets;

·           Aggressive fight against corruption in public life;

·           Sensible and responsible trade regime that encourage domestic production and international competitiveness;

·           Opening up the economy and creating incentives in the environment to attract foreign direct investment;

·           It would be necessary to add that economic success is not enough.

There is urgent need to put in place:

·           Law and Order – security, peace and inculcation of democratic values;

·           Judicial – judicial reform – affordable, transparent and predictable legal system;

·           Legal – enforceability of intellectual and physical property rights – as important as human rights;

·           Civil Service – abolition of ridiculous “toll gate” rules in public services – which everyone circumvents by paying bribes;

·           Lower the arrogance and insensibility of state apparatus to the needs of the private sector;

·           Independent regulators to oversee market conduct and protect public interest.

Equally important, Government should put in place the philosophical basis for reforms as follows:

·           Government should legislate, regulate and tax businesses; Government should not be an operator, competing with its citizens.  It is fundamentally wrong for the Federal Government to shed its monopoly and return it to the States.

·           Government should forge partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders in policy formulation, reform and implementation.

Key economic sectors requiring focused reform, investment and competition are:

·           Electricity Power – the lowest per capital consumption on earth.

·           Telecommunications

·           Oil and Gas – 9th largest producer faces queues often.

·           Transportation – rail, ports and aviation – virtually all facilities are grounded.

·           Agriculture – employs 70 percent of our poor, but declining fast.

·           Minerals – virtually non-existent as a sector in spite of great potentials.

Nigeria cannot operate as an island. We need to embrace the principles of globalisation, liberalisation, information technology and the consequent privatisation.  We must put in place the necessary structures to attract Foreign Direct Investment, so that we are not left behind in the race for corporate supremacy.

In putting these structures in place, we must recognise that the theory of market forces espoused by Adam Smith ensures that only the fittest survives.  We also need to embrace with caution the principles of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation if we are to protect and nurture our young economy.  The wholesale reduction of our lives to market economics under the dogma of privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation will damage the web of family attachments and values that make up the Nigerian society.


The unresolved constitutional issues affecting our institutional framework are as follows:

(a)        The inconsistencies and contradictions in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the need to redress the issues contained therein by allowing the people to make their constitution.  In particular, certain provisions of the 1999 Constitution should be expunged as follows:

(i)         Deletion of certain areas on the Fundamental objectives and Directive principles of state policy as contained in Chapter II of the Constitution.  This has become necessary in view of the inter play of market forces typified by Globalisation and Liberalisation.

(ii)        Abolition of the Land Use Act.  This Act is contrary to the Law of Property Act, which is still in our statute books in accordance with Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution.  Land today has ceased to be a factor of production following the enactment of the Land Use Decree 1978.

(iii)       The repeal and abolition of the Petroleum Decree of 1969 and the deletion of Section 44 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.  Equally, Section 44 (1) of the Constitution in which the National Debts of the Federation and the States are included as part of the Constitution.  Equally, the United Nations Charter on colonisation has since abolished the rights associated in the mineral ordinance.

The above are issues, which must be tackled by any administration.

(b)        The urgent need to reduce the cost of governments of the Federation by adopting a zonal structure based on six zones as follows:

·           North-West

·           North-East

·           North-Central

·           South-West

·           South-East

·           South-South

This recommendation was made by Major Temple who was Lieutenant Governor of Northern Nigeria as far back as 1912.  These proposals have equally been adopted by subsequent administrations commencing from that of Shehu Shagari in 1979 in the distribution of political offices throughout the Federation.  Besides, most of the States are not economically viable within the spirit of true Federalism.

·           The reform of the Electoral Laws by allowing free    association through the formation of political             parties.

·           The further reform of the civil service in order to      ensure greater transparency, probity and             accountability in the    system.

·           The amendment of the Electoral Act as proposed   in the Uwais’ Report, particularly the removal of the powers of State Governments to appoint their Electoral Commissioners should be adopted.

·           To ensure the immediate implementation of the National I.D. Card project before the conduct of any elections, including the local governments.

·           The reform of the Institution of Traditional Rulers    in order to safeguard their removal and tenure of             office from the clutches of state governors.

·           The devolution of functions such as health, forestry, fisheries, agriculture and primary education to the States and Local Governments. There is no wisdom in the Federal Government undertaking the building of primary schools in the states and local government areas.

·           The two controversial issues arising from the             foregoing         relate to:

·           Federalism; and

·           Resources Control.


Nigeria must return to fiscal federalism as envisaged by our founders and forbears, beginning with our colonial masters and our highly respected torch bearers such as Herbert Macaulay, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Anthony Enahoro and very many of our patriots who fought for our independence.  This is imperative in view of the diverse nature of our polity.  Our “strength in diversity” can only be realised under a system of government in which the constituents are reasonably happy.  I have no doubt in my mind that a federal structure offers Nigeria the best option.

Before the advent of colonial rule, most of the ethnic nationalities that inhabited the geographical area now called Nigeria were autonomous independent kingdoms and peoples with different languages, religions and cultures, equal in status and in no way subordinate to another.  Each unit had its unique system of administration.  It was this structure of about 250 autonomous or semi-autonomous ethnic groups plus the vast nature of Nigeria, both in terms of land mass and population that made the colonialist to administer Nigeria as a federation.

At the constitutional conference for the independence of our great country, Awolowo, Balewa and Azikiwe left no one in doubt that what Nigeria needed was a federation with significant autonomy for the regions.  This was what Nigeria practiced until successive military regimes, who only knew how to operate regimented systems, foisted on Nigeria a near unitary form of government which now leaves Nigeria as a federal republic much more in name than in deed.  There is  need for us to return to true federalism with devolution of powers to the states and better-managed local governments. 

This will resolve several conflicts and contradictions in our constitution, such as:

·           The problems of resource control and derivation;

·           Fiscal federalism;

·           Greater state participation in security management.

Nigeria does not have to reinvent the wheel with regard to best practices in true federalism.  The United State of America, Canada and Switzerland have operated federal systems successfully and can therefore provide appropriate lessons from their experience.  We can draw upon our past before the 1964 Constitution.  The Patriots have consistently defined the content of a true federal structure for Nigeria consisting of a zonal structure based on six regions.


Resource control is a basic political theory grounded on the fact that land, labour; capital and entrepreneurship are factors of production owned by the individuals, and should therefore be controlled by them.  To this end, the rewards derived from such factors of production should be passed to those who own them.  Adam Smith, an early economist, analysed this in his “Wealth of Nations, 1776”.

Rent is a return for the use of the original and indestructible properties of the soil.  Whoever owns land expects some form of compensation from those hiring this very important factor of production.  The clamour for resource control is a clamour for adequate compensation, a cry for redistribution of the revenue allocation formula, and nothing more.  The only thing a government should do is to impose tax, which should be used for the welfare of the community.

Resources of production are of two types:

·           Renewable Resources

·           Non-Renewable Resources

The renewable resources consist of Groundnuts, Cocoa, Rubber, Palm Oil and Kernels and Timber.  The non-renewable resources consist of Petroleum, Gas, Bitumen and Solid Minerals.

The control of the non-renewable resources in Nigeria is in the hands of the multi-national Oil Companies who own the capital and the entrepreneurship while the Traditional Rulers and the local communities own the land on which the people live.

There is need to control the level of exploitation and exploration of the mineral resources of this country and employ the benefits derived there from in the rehabilitation and education of the human capital that inhabit the areas.

This country must learn from the mistakes of the past, for the failure to do so have led to the devastating effect of the exploitation and exploration of tin and columbite in Plateau State and of oil and gas in Niger Delta.

Again, the absence of any statutory distribution of revenue from the Federation Account to these communities has been controversial as well as contentious in Nigeria’s political history.  The Political Bureau Report of 1987 observed that the issue is so contentious that “none of the formula evolved at various times by a commission or by decree under different regimes since 1964 has gained general acceptability among the component units of the country”.  Even then, the lessons learnt from the Minefields of the Plateau and from oil and gas exploitation and production in the Niger Delta have never been assimilated by Nigerians.

The Report also observed that the issue of revenue allocation and to be specific, derivation, had been essentially a political rather that an economic tool. Whoever is in charge introduces a formula that best serves his interest. 

The British administered the country initially mainly from the proceeds from oil palm trade, derived largely from the then Eastern Region.  Derivation was not given any prominence.  But when groundnuts and tin from the North and cocoa and rubber from the West became major earners of revenue, derivation, to use the words of Dr. J. S. Cookey in his report was catapulted into a major criteria for the allocation, thus underscoring the linkage between regional control of the political process and the dominant criteria for revenue allocation at any given time. 

This linkage was further underscored when, following the increasing importance of petroleum derived mainly from the South-South States (the Niger Delta) as a revenue yielding source, derivation was again de-emphasised.  Today it is instructive to note that the exclusive federal jurisdiction over natural resources applies only to oil and gas, and not to cocoa, palm oil, hides and skin, bitumen, marble, etc. 

This is not Justice defined by John Rawls of Harvard University. Hear him, “Each person (or community) possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.  For this reason, justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few (mineral-producing areas) are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many (nationally and internationally).  Therefore, in a just society, the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled, the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interest….truth and justice are uncompromising”.

To be sure, the practice of federalism has been traumatic, making some to blame the union on the “mistake of 1914”. 

Even so, our nationalists who negotiated the form of our existence made some efforts to stimulate healthy competition among the regions.  The 1958, 1960 and 1963 Constitutions allowed for competition among the various segments of the society. 

The 1963 Republican Constitutions was not a perfect document but its stance was clear on issues that were central to federalism.  It directed that revenue derived from imports be paid 100 percent to the state in proportion to the consumption of the product.  The same goes for Excise Duty: 100 percent payment to the state according to the proportion of the duty collected.  For minerals, the constitution shares the revenue in the proportion of 50: 20: 30: i.e. 50 percent for derivation, 20 percent to the Federal Government and the remaining 30 percent paid into the distributable pool to be shared among the states, including the Donor State.  It was not perfect, but it made up somehow for past mistakes.

It is necessary to recall the environmental degradation of the land and the absence of any long- term benefits to the people of Plateau State and Niger Delta to drive home the misconception in some quarters as to the vesting of the ownership of Land in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Land Use Act of 1978 does not vest the land on the Federal, State and indeed the Local Governments.  Section 3 of the 1999 Constitution recognised 36 States and the Federal Territory.  There is nowhere the Federal Government is said to own the land.  In States, land is vested in Governors to hold in trust for the people and in Local Governments, to the Chairman and the Traditional Rulers, also to hold in trust for the people.  But when the land is occupied before the Decree came into effect, the land is vested on the owners because they have the statutory right of occupancy.  The case of Ojema Vs. Momodu was an eye opener.  This is the structure before the Constitution.  The citizens of these communities were in existence before the coming into being of the country called Nigeria.

It is also necessary to state that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was ill-advised to pay 13 percent of the Derivation Account to the States as this was never authorised in Section 162 (2) of the Constitution. 

The intention of the framers of the Constitutions is that these funds should go to the communities, which sustain losses through the evils of oil extraction and exploration in order to make good the losses sustained by them.  It is common knowledge that many oil-bearing communities complain of diversion of funds meant for projects in their areas to some other areas. 

The 13 percent Derivation is rent on Land leased by the Federal Government of Nigeria from the communities to the oil companies.  They need the money derived from their pains and their sufferings as the result of the destruction of their means of livelihood, and their environment through ecological degradation.  The money ought to be deposited in a Trust Fund, which should be a quango for the education and economic development of their area, each according to its value and contribution.

It is also necessary that whatever funds emanating from derivation, which is ipso facto “royalty” should be administered by the representatives of all the stakeholders as Trustees under a bank for reconstruction and development; that is, the communities, the Federal, States and Local Governments and the multinationals.  Such a Board of Trustees should control the implementation of projects.  That is resource control and no meaningful social, political and economic progress would be made unless we restructure and administer these funds in the manner hereby prescribed.

To conclude this analysis, let me draw some inspiration from the works of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto:

“No nation should sacrifice its valuable resources for the sake of short-term monetary benefits. By extracting oil without regard to the side effects or the quality of citizens’ health and longevity, the nation does not improve either its social or its economic sectors; instead, a declining trend will be onset.  Those who may feel that the problems of oil producing areas are not in their backyard, and who may feel a safe distance from the oil communities, should be reminded that Nigeria is an entity within one environment; a decay in part will ultimately affect the rest of the nation.  The fate of the mineral producing communities should be a concern for us all.  When ordinary people and their environment become victims of disruptive economic expansion without adequate protection or provision of alternative means to improve their social and economic circumstances, they will remain vulnerable.  Therefore, the need to broaden the social responsibility and performance of the oil industry in order to maintain economic progress with environmental balance should be a matter of compulsion.


Attempts have been made to expatiate on the state of the nation, the future of democracy, the need for freedom and the moral code under which we should live together as one indivisible, strong, united and prosperous nation committed to the goals of democracy and the rule of law, transparency, probity, accountability, equity and justice.

I have been comparing and contrasting events, leading  to the pogrom of the 15th January, 1966 and the 33 years of military rule that followed this eventful period of our history.

These years have left behind inconsistencies in policy formulation and implementation such that we as a nation now find we are not able to:

·           Feed ourselves;

·           Provide adequate housing for our people;

·           Educate our citizens both quantitatively and qualitatively;

·           Cater fully for the health of our citizens;

·           Provide full employment

We may have arrived here as an unruly mass but from the deliberations of this meeting, we should depart from here as a united people, and true elders committed to the survival of Nigeria.

Today marks our birth, as the beacon of hope for the Black race and a nation whose written constitution could be in the making as a result of some of our deliberations at this meeting.

This meeting should be regarded as the birth of the idea of a free society based on justice, equality and the inalienable right to the dignity of every person who is a citizen of this great country.

As I was taking my flight from Lagos to this venue, I envisioned that the hour for freedom has come. But do not think freedom will be easy.

Freedom needs careful, sustained disciplines of restraint and habits of the heart.  Without these qualities, freedom will be for the strong, and not the weak, the powerful and not the vulnerable.

A free society is one in which everyone is empowered to do as he or she wishes.  It is rather one where my freedom respects yours.  If we hear the cries of the people, be it at the mosque, the church, or even at party rallies, we should bring them to the centre of our concerns.

A free society is a responsible society, be it in the practice of Sharia or in the worship of other religions.  It is, and always will be an inalienable right of freedom and a moral right ordained by God and Allah for the purification of our soul.

Somewhere along the line, those in authority forget this truth, and begin to believe that freedom is just the absence of restraint.

Do what you like, so long as it does not harm others.  Do we therefore condone

·The practice of advance fee fraud?

·           Plundering the state remorselessly through white-collar        crime?

·           The usage of illegal drugs?

·           Illegal bunkering?

·           Pipeline vandalism?

·           Kidnapping and hostage taking?

·           Relationship without commitments?

·           Entitlements without obligations?

Is a free society one of several million people doing their own thing?  The answer is no.

No man is an island.  Nigerian cannot l move forward on this basis.  The time has come when we must cease seeking self-fulfilment at the expense of our great nation.

We have discovered over the last thirty years that the end of the road is neigh.  Our children now know that they have never had or will ever know what it takes to make a stable family.

·           Men and women even though married have never known how to create a covenant of love.

·           Adults have gone through life without ever having risked commitment,

·           A culture in which words like discretion, honour, fidelity and trust are hollowed of all meaning.

·           An environment, which encourages us to buy something rather than create something.

A country in the words of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto, “that has no time for losers”.

These are not elements that contribute to lasting freedom.  On the contrary, they are the recognisable symptoms of a culture at the beginning of its decline.  We must learn from this conference to speak of matters larger than ourselves. 

We must foster relationships of love and trust.  Those in politics must teach people to be voters, not consumers.  The leaders must promote a vision of a united and gracious society and must build together, if we are to build at all.

We must remind ourselves that liberty comes with responsibilities to others, to the past and future and to the common good. 

Without this moral code, we shall soon find that our freedom is too fragile to survive as a Nation.

Let me end this short address by calling on every citizen of Nigeria to recognise that it serves no useful purpose to destroy the Institutions left by our forefathers for which we are proud.  For when:

“A Nation stoops to folly and find too late that the leaders betray

What Charm can sooth their melancholy

What Act can wash their guilt away?”

–          Adapted from Oliver Goldsmith in his book Letter to Vicar of Wakefield.