There are different forms of government practised all over the world. Some of them include federal, confederal and parliamentary systems to mention just a few. Taking a close look at Nigeria, one is confused on the system of government we are currently practising. Is it federalism or unitary system?
There are so many factors that necessitate people to choose federalism as a form of government. These include landmass, ethnic diversity, language heterogeneity, natural endowments and population.
With due respect to the principle of federalism, Nigeria meets all the above requirements. But the question is, why is Nigeria’s federalism not a success?
Compared to some other countries of the world that practise federalism, which include Brazil, Australia, Germany and United States of America, Nigeria has not recorded a success story in its practice of federalism.
Well, some people say we are operating on a political spectrum of federalism in which we are now at a point aspiring to get to our destination. I totally disagree with them. Federalism is not developmental, it is not like economy, politics or perhaps a living thing. It is not a product of gradual growth. It is a form of government, a system or an ideology.
Federalism, as K. C. Wheare authoritatively puts it, is a situation where the central and constituent units constitutionally “are not subordinate to one another, but coordinate with each other.” Therefore, in a typical federal state, there is no master-servant relationship. Since both the central and constituent units derive their powers to exist or operate directly from the Constitution, no government in such a union arrogates undue powers to itself or act as leader.
However, in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Nigeria is a federation of an excessively strong central government, accompanied by a ridiculously weak 36 states and 774 local governments. In Nigeria, Abuja calls the shots and dictates the pace for the “servant” to follow.
Furthermore, in a true federal state, the constituent units do not surrender all. They retain some degree of independence economically and politically. This will make the federating units viable and develop at their own pace. In Nigeria, since the central government is the supervisor to other governments, it distributes national resources to others at its own whims and caprices.
Again, the states are over-dependent on the Federal Government for their resources, even when some of them contribute nothing to the national treasury. It is heartbreaking that the situation has degenerated to an extent where some states depend on the centre for about 95% of their monthly revenue. The Federal Government had to give bail-out to about 27 states before they could pay their workers.
In truth, the fiscal policy of Nigeria’s federalism does not regard the principle of fairness, equity, justice and obligation. Moreso, federalism is a framework for the coexistence of unity in diversity. It bridges the differences in ethnicity, economy, religion, education and other factors. Sadly, this is not the case in Nigeria. The concept of unity in diversity is a mirage to our federalism. In other federalism, it is “united we stand, divided we fall”. But in Nigeria, it is the other way round, “united we fall, divided we stand”.
Nigeria is the most divided federalism I have ever seen, where regionalism, statism, ethnicity and religious sentiments are exalted at the expense of national interest and consciousness.
True federalism does not over emphasise diversities but strives to identify, accommodate and manage them. Indeed, a state is federal to the extent that it is managing its diversities. A federal formular is therefore geared toward translating diversity into unity. But in Nigeria, we have failed woefully to harness the potentials of our pluralism as a nation.
Another peculiar issue with Nigerian federalism is the inequality of the federating units or states. A true federalism should be predicated upon some degree of equality among the federating states. For example, right from when Nigeria was divided into regions, the northern region is made to feel superior. Any federalism that is predicated on dichotomy of superiority and inferiority or whose factors of inequality is irrationally over-pronounced cannot endure.
Though Nigeria meets the necessary conditions to operate as a federal state, the manner with which Nigeria was amalgamated by the British remains questionable. It forms the basis for the argument that “Nigeria is not a nation, but a mere geographical expression”. Consequently, the very foundation on which Nigeria’s federalism is built on is shaky.
In conclusion, the experiment with the Nigerian state and the lip service to federalism must stop. This is because the experiment has made it impossible for Nigeria to harness the political, economic and other numerous benefits attached to federalism.
Benjamin wrote from Nsukka.
Nigeria, Not Ripe For Democracy
The word ‘democracy’ which has been mostly used, misused, confused and abused by many people for centuries and, in recent times, also badly maimed by most Nigerians in their understanding and application of it, especially since our return to it in 1999, is a concept whose understanding, as universally accepted, should ordinarily not herald any controversy.
Most people, particularly our leaders in Nigeria, and I dare say in Africa, use it in some ways only to fit their idiosyncracies, selfish, parochial end, they imagined it can be achieved through its practice. They push it down the throats of their people as if to say ‘you asked for it and here it is’ discountenancing the fact that it takes preparation and information massaged by quality institutions to make democracy and its practice possible and seamless in any country.
Democracy is not an orphaned child or a toddler that was born yesterday. As with most other concepts and human reality, it has its own history and parentage etched in known and universally acceptable minimum standards. Even though still evolving, some of these standards are sacrosanct and characteristic of what constitutes a democracy.
Democracy originated over 2,400 years ago in ancient Greece. The word “democracy” comes from two separate Greek words (‘Demos’: people and ‘Kratia’: rule); meaning ‘Rule by the people’, leadership that takes authority and legitimacy from the people.
Citizens of a democracy govern their nations through a proxy selected or chosen by them in the presence of information and working institutions to lead them.
Democracy is simply people’s power to make a choice and determine who should lead or govern them for the attainment of certain fundamentals like the protection and promotion of their rights, as well as the protection of their interests and provision of welfare for them.
Democracy is about the people and for democracy to function properly in any country, it must ask and answer the following questions in the affirmative. The proper answering of these questions would determine whether indeed such country can or should practice democracy or choose other forms of government that would best suit their peculiarities:
Are the people ‘educated’ enough to make informed decisions without prevarications that are devoid of sentiments and biases such as religion, ethnicity, colour, tribe, sex and other intangibles not necessary for making informed decisions?
Are the institutions through which choices are made calibrated to be free, fair and incorruptible enough to only reflect the choices of the people at all times in Nigeria? Ask INEC and the process of nominating its chairman.
Are the people equally motivated to come out in their number to make their choices about who would govern them without being driven by unnecessary enticements provided them to so do? Reflect on what happened in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun States and even in the 2019 general election.
Are the people able to make choices without poverty as the chief consideration that influences such choices?
Are the people able to collectively share or have expectations from the candidates they wish to choose or have others choose from or simply have expectations of the process? Reflect on the standard of education in Nigeria and the unwillingness of people from where majority of the votes came from to go to school.
Is there a guarantee that the process of the people making their choices would not be thwarted by the activities of state actors like the military, the police and other law enforcement agencies, and even cult groups and gangs whose only interest is to sabotage the will of the people? This we have continuously seen in the various and several elections that we have had in Nigeria since our return to democracy.
Does everyone who is ‘qualified’ to make this choice of who should govern them have similar or near similar levels of information, intelligence, exposures and awareness that would enable him/her rationally assess the candidates for competency to lead and administer our common wealth?
Should the court as an institution be used to usurp the people’s choice and will by always deciding for the people who to govern them through their very suspicious, frivolous and, in most cases, anti-people rulings that are based on technicalities to determine leadership for the people? It should be the people’s choice and not the choice of the court as it were in democracy. Judges must not be allowed to, as a result of political recklessness and rascality, always determine who should lead the people. Today in Nigeria, politicians no longer care about the people’s choice but bother most about judges’ choice and do all what is necessary and possible, including but not limited to giving of bribes, to secure judgements in their favour to become the people’s choice.
What really is the importance of ‘structure’ and ‘godfatherism’ in how the will and choice of the people are allowed to be?
Do all the candidates have similar levels of playing field that make it possible for them to be heard and seen so that choices can be said to be truly rational?
When you most rationally and critically answer these questions in Nigeria and in most African countries, placing them side-by-side our recent statistics in the world as poverty capital, a country with the highest illiteracy rate and out-of-school children, uneducated youths and adults, etc, you would, just like me, come to the conclusion that democracy cannot work in Nigeria today and that we should immediately seek an alternative form of government that would appeal to our peculiarities until, maybe, we mature and evolve enough for democracy tomorrow. But again, tomorrow is far yet near. Therefore, leadership now has a huge responsibility to bring the tomorrow that would make for the conditions precedent to good democratic practices guaranteeing good democracy, even closer today.
Akpotive is a Port Harcourt-based social reformer and activist.
Quota System And Rise In Mediocrity
Each time the thought of restructuring the country is conceived, people are usually quick to think along the lines of regional divide, vis-a-vis enthroning true federalism where resource control is prioritized. An advocate of restructuring once said that Nigeria fared better when we operated as Northern, Eastern and Western regions than now.
They have refused to dig for reasons why this same federal system, which some have nicknamed dysfunctional unitary system, benefits countries like Ethiopia, USA and India, and yet it is considered counter-productive in Nigeria.
Luckily, the likes of Bayo Okunade, a professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, would always think differently. For such, unless some fundamental issues are addressed, the problems would persist with or without regionalisation.
And what could be more fundamental than education for all, women’s right, child begging, parental irresponsibility, demographic growth, managing a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and bringing them into one community where they are all first and foremost, citizens before anything else.
From the speech of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, on the occasion of Governor El-Rufai’s birthday, held in Kaduna on Monday, one needs no interpreter to help figure out a diagnosis of Nigeria’s problem, using the north as his sample population.
Without mincing words, the former central bank boss exploited the platform provided by the Kaduna State governor’s birthday to highlight the indices for restructuring Nigeria, using the mathematical formula of substituting the north for Nigeria as a whole.
Although his emphasis was glaringly on the north, Sanusi was unequivocal on the eminence of destruction, should leaders fail to address the myriad challenges facing their subjects, which solution he insists neither rests on regionalization nor on quota provision, but hinges on education.
His position on the quota system and federal character policies as catalysts for the upsurge of mediocrity in the system as well as the relapsing into outright illiteracy by the citizens today, could not be hidden. He blamed the north for resting on their oarsis because of the quota system in place by which they hope to gain placement in the scheme of things
In his words, “we need to get northern youths to a point where they don’t need to come from a part of the country to get a job. The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating its children, producing graduates and then they watch us, they can’t get jobs because they come from the wrong state, when we have not invested in the future of our own children”.
While the quota system came into being prior to Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the federal character principle became officially recognised in the 1979 constitution. The implication of these was that issues of admission, recruitment, promotion and appointment became based on these principles.
Bearing in mind that the entity called Nigeria is an output of an amalgamated process, whose constituents can hardly jettison in a hurry, their individual differences vis-a-vis; culture, tongue, belief, etc, the federal character and quota system as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria was designed to ensure equitable distributions of bureaucratic and political roles in the public service at federal, states and local government levels with pre-determined and inflexible result.
By design, the “federal character” principle seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country. It is purely to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.
The main idea is to create conditions where no tribe is favoured above another, thus cementing in concrete terms, the unity of the entity so there would be no room for greed, avarice and jealousy. For this reason, Section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution provided for a commission (Federal Character Commission), charged with the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of rules and principles proclaimed in federal character.
Regrettably, the federal character has become a euphemism for recruiting unqualified people into the public service. Perhaps, proponents of this policy did not put into consideration, what becomes of the slots of a particular locality or region in the event of no capable hand to fill in the blank spaces.
This I believe is the reason why Sanusi berated the north over continuous reliance on quota system and federal character to get jobs for its children at the expense of the other parts of the country who, he said, are “ busy educating their own children and turning out graduates”.
Like every derailed course that is tantamount to review, Sanusi believes that an expiry date awaites this well- intended but abused privilege. And for him, “a day is coming when there would be a constitutional amendment that addresses these issues of quota system and federal character. “The country is moving on, the quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause”. He therefore, advocates emphasis on merit against religion or tribe.
“You don’t need to rise on being from Kaduna State or being from the North or being a Muslim to get a job, you come with your credentials, you go with your competence, you can compete with any Nigerian from anywhere. He maintained.
If I would read the lips of the traditional ruler, I would summerize his thought by stating that the days of potential did not help us so now is the era of credential. To hell with quota system, away with federal character. For efficiency and maximum productivity, let us revert to meritocracy.
Arrogance In Leadership
In his book, I Paid Hitler, Fritz Thyssen, the German industrialist, points out the chief reasons for Hitler’s failure to conquer Europe.
“Hitler had an unprecedented opportunity, such that no man will ever again be offered so easily, to create something entirely new. He knew absolutely nothing about economic matters, he could not fully understand his economic advisers. Hence, he believed that he alone was a great man, and all others were nonentity. He believed only in himself,” he wrote.
This self-absorption of Hitler accounted in large measure for his defeat, like all those who believe only in themselves. Hitler shut himself off from the enrichment of spirit and intellect. That comes when we are not willing to receive what others have to give.
According to Chinua Achebe, “The problem with Nigeria is purely and squarely that of lack of leadership”.
The three most important personal qualities are; imagination, courage and selflessness . A leader should have some core philosophy and belief against which he can judge important issues as they arise. Unless he has that bedrock to fall back on, the unexpected storms that blow up will toss him about like a cork. Leaders are people who do the right things; managers are people who do things right. Both roles are crucial but they differ profoundly.
Ralph Stogdill made it clear that an adequate analysis of leadership involves not only a study of leaders but also of situations. Oftentimes, due to arrogance in our leadership style, we portray disconnection instead of connection, discontact rather than contact and disaffection or disunity in place of affection and unity.
A Latin adage says, Nemo dat quod non habet (No one gives what he hasn’t).
It is imperative to observe that there were lots of celebration in Colombia because government and Fare-Rebels struck a deal after 52 years of civil war. This peace deal was a reality since government swallowed its pride and sought for peace deal.
Even Britain, in order to sort out some of their differences under Prime Minister, David Cameron, voted for Brexit which made the Minister to resign. Prior to that, in 2014, Scotland had a referendum in which they decided to stay in Britain.
Similarly, America, on several occasions, has broken rules of engagement in order to free Americans held hostage in different countries. In some, they swapped prisoners, in others, ransom was paid. In the case of Iran, America returned up to $400,000,000 Iranian money seized in US.
In Yugoslavia, wars sprang up from ethnic skirmishes and engulfed the whole country which led to disintegration that resulted in seven republics.
Therefore, a sane leader must do everything within his power not only to maintain peace and harmony but also to protect his people even if it comes to negotiation. There is no time we need negotiation better than this moment. Afterall, it is not possible to win the war without winning the people.
Furthermore, whether we cherish it or not, Nigeria needs restructuring in all its ramifications. The structure as it stands now favours some parts of the country to the detriment of others.
In addition, government should examine its policies critically because some of them are not working. Can you imagine the cost of kerosene per litre now? This is a product used mainly by the impoverished. It is unfortunate that the less privileged are going through this harrowing experience.
Our federal lawmakers are the worst culprits. Rather than initiating bills that will solve the nation’s myriad problems, they are engaging the executive arm of government in a superiority war. If they do not pad budget, they allocate huge budgets to themselves in the name of constituency projects.
One of the important lessons our politicians need to learn from leaders like late Nelson Mandela of South Africa is the need for team work. Some of the African leaders are often paranoid, that is, they suffer from siege mentality which makes them see every person as an enemy. Our politicians must imbibe the spirit of team work, even with their opponents in order to create synergy. Nigeria is bigger than APC, PDP, APGA, LP etc.
Mark Zuckerberg , the founder of Facebook, worth over $54 billion, recently came to Nigeria and was seen jogging on the street of Lagos without escorts. We learnt white man’s language, table etiquette, dressing and means of transport. There is also an urgent need for us to learn their humility, simplicity and leadership.
Okoye writes from Port Harcourt.
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