The Problem With Nigerian Federalism


During the visit of the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi to Germany last year, he declared equivocally in a press interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at Berlin, the German capital, that the Nigerian federal system of government was an aberration and therefore carried loads of problem. This was an astonishing revelation from a State Governor.

In his comparison of the German’s system of  federalism and Nigeria’s, he said, “here (in Germany), Federal Government supports States to grow, fund the State to grow, Federal Government is less visible and the Federal Government is not everything,”  while in Nigeria, everything is at the caprices and disposal of the Federal Government. “So you have a heavily burdened federal establishment that cannot relate with the States to develop the country,” he said.

Much as I agree with Governor Amaechi in some respects, I disagree with him in some areas. This is because the problem of underdevelopment and stagnated growth in many States is as a result of unworkable federal system. It is pertinent to state that Nigeria is different from every other country in the world in terms of governance.  It is not an understatement to say that no matter the system of government  we practice, no matter how it works and works well in other parts of the world, it may not work well in this country. This can only be possible when our ideas and beliefs toward corruption has changed. Until we have completely changed our notions and perceptions towards the offices and position we occupy and seeing them as a public trust, things would continue as usual.

Corruption in high and low places is the ultimate reason why every workable system of government will continue to be an illusion in Nigeria. The problem is not with the system but with the operators of the system. It is neither the lack of federal implementation of laws to support development in the States nor the capability of the law to enforce compliance that accounts for this inequity, it is rather the shore of insincerity, unpatriotic tendency, greed, ethnicity and above all the much talked about hydra-headed monster in our midst called corruption! It is surprising that Nigeria is the only country where laws do not work and certain people are sacred cows who are above the laws and are protected by certain supersonic immunity that makes them commit crimes.

If I may ask, how many German citizens in public offices take away monies that belong to the State or  stash away the wealth of the citizens  in foreign countries? Again, how many public office holders in Germany own properties worthy billions of dollars abroad? It is a fundamental phenomenon that no public office holder in the Western World can amass such volume of wealth that our leaders cart away to foreign accounts. Instead of being prosecuted, ostracized, stigmatized as an outcast and jailed, such people in Nigeria are being accorded high profile honour and award. They  find pleasure in establishing  and investing their loots in other parts of the world than their own country. Instead of ploughing back state resources into development,  we rob ourselves of the little we have for the continued growth of those who are  already developed. How  then do we think we can develop and grow vis-à-vis Germany and other western nations even in an atmosphere of the true federalism?

It is philosophically and mystically believed that every foundation developed and built on the principle of constant and random formula of social sharing always end up in the brick wall of multiple adversary or waterloo. This is what goes on in our system. When little is given, there is visually nothing on ground to show for it. How would it be when much is given? Upon the magnitude of allocations that accrue to the States every month and the ever-increasing internally generated revenue, why should some States still be crying for social amenities?

So, for us to go to war with the system, let us first put our house in order. Let us really and sincerely show absolute proof of the so called “little” we are receiving now. If the Federal Government decides to fund the States and virtually every area of our parastatals and institutions while statutory allocation is still been shared, then we will continue to swim in an apparent joy of laziness and absolute dependence. This is a red alert for doom and economic time bomb. Our total dependence on federal allocations has blinded our eyes from looking at other areas of exploiting and harnessing our potentials for possible growth and diversion from a mono-economy.


Tordee, a public affairs analyst, resides in Port Harcourt.


Manson B. Tordee