Time to end Nigeria’s pseudo “federalism”

October 10, 2011


While most Nigerian state governors have not earned the respect or trust of the people they govern because of the massive looting that most have become known for, they are at the short end of the so-called “federation” Nigeria runs.  Since the return to civil rule, they’ve been no more – to a great extent – than an extension of the executive arm of government at “federal” level.  Presidents summon them at will while they, on their parts, act beholden to presidents, including asking a president “to call[another governor or somebody from the ruling party whose actions stand in their ways] to order”.

It is apparent that at the root of Nigeria’s numerous problems is the unitary government it runs while pretending at being a federation.  In the last several years, I must have written on this anomaly or mentioned it dozens of times.  Many others have agitated for Nigeria to revert to the type of true federalism as obtained when the three regions managed their own affairs to a great extent but each successive government since the return to Nigeria’s brand of democracy has been run along the line of the military when a Head of Government – a Lieutenant-General or whatever – would summon state military governors as he liked.  In an essay lamenting this kind of situation several years ago, I’ve cited the United States that Nigeria claims to copy her government form and stated that the president of the U.S.A. cannot order the governor of tiny Nevada or any tiny state to come see him in Washington just as the colossal sums being wasted on state offices at Abuja are unpardonable.

Now, two state governors are crying out on the stifling central government that gets so much allocation that it uses to the disadvantages of the states – to the interest of the Nigerian masses. 

It is this faulty “federalism” that gave birth to “mainstream politics” under General Obasanjo:  that a state, and by extension, an ethnic group, can get more largesse from the center by choosing the ruling political party.  Mainstreamed Yoruba gathered last week for a “national” conference at Awo’s home and its communique has been reported as containing a fact that this group of people is sending a delegation to President Jonathan about Yoruba being sidelined in “federal” appointment.  Aso Rock perennial pilgrims like the Ooni of Ife  who was at the meeting should lead the delegation.

In a true federation, no state should need to crawl to a president for its entitlement.  Nigeria’s “federalism” is a joke, but not the funny variety.

Nigeria once thrived and held great promise under strong regional governments led by Awo (Chief Awolowo) in the West; Zik (Dr. Azikiwe in the East and Sardauna in the North.  Each region mapped its course and put priority in areas it considered important.  Not any more with those to whom education is very important held back by a confused “federal” system that wants those among whom was a minister of EDUCATION who lashed out at the “mad quest for education …” during Abacha era – to wait for those in the slow lane.

Nigerians CAN co-exist peacefully but the kind of “unity” that becomes unitary as far as a government form is concerned, a “federation” with an all-knowing president whose omniscience is rooted in controlling vast sums of money to deploy for whipping states, etcetera into complacency, is NOT acceptable and the “unity” the system fosters is a unity of the graveyard, pardon the cliché.

Below is a news report of Ondo’s Mimiko and Anambra’s Obi using the forum of a book presentation to add their voices to a long list of those who have been speaking out for years on the need to re-visit the Nigerian interpretation of a “federation” made up of many ethnic nationalities with different cultures, different social ways of lives and even different value systems.


Mimiko, Obi to Presidency: let Nigerians discuss true federalism

By Yusuf Ali & Austen Ehikioya, The Sun


Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko and his Anambra State counterpart Mr. Peter Obi, yesterday asked the Federal Government to allow Nigerians to discuss whether they want true federalism or not.

The governors spoke at the presentation of the ‘Nigeria Golden Book’ by The Sun Publishing Ltd. in Abuja.

In his keynote address, Mimiko said the present scenario of overbearing centre and weak federating units cannot augur well for democracy in Nigeria.

To correct the imbalances, he asked  President Goodluck Jonathan to rise up to the occasion and go beyond the ‘lukewarm’ attitudes of past leaders and tackle squarely  true federalism.

According to him, the starting point is a genuine review of the 1999 Constitution and putting in place a mechanism that will ensure genuine participation of all stakeholders in the process.

He said: “Today there is an overbearing centre, with beggarly and weak federating units. We agree that this can never augur well for comprehensive and sustainable good governance and enduring democracy.

“We require purposeful leadership to reverse this situation and President Goodluck Jonathan should brace up to this challenge as a departure from the lukewarm attitude of previous leaders to the issue of true federalism. History beckons.”

On security, he said: “Today, we run a centralised security system that impedes the gathering of intelligence and control of crime. It is a known fact that each society has a way of handling its deviants and miscreants.”

“It is through the institutionalisation of local, community and communal means of apprehending and managing such that true security could be guaranteed. Only the review of the Constitution to allow the establishment of state police can move us at the right speed in combating crimes.

Obi said Nigerians must be allowed to discuss whether they want true federalism or not.

He also explained why governors are opposed to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

The governor said the governors have fears that the funds might either be mismanaged or it might disappear one day.

Obi said: “Nobody can build this country for us except we do it. I agree entirely that we need to talk. That is the only way we can build a nation.

We never sat anywhere to make this Constitution, it was foisted on us. Not that we, the people, drafted the Constitution, somebody handed it over to us and we are just doing amendments.

“When we talk about true federalism, it is critical. We are either a Federation or not. Let us state where we are and once we state it, people will have respect for us.

“I believe there is need to discuss. This country has been abused enough. And the society we abuse today will take its revenge tomorrow. So, let us talk.

“You say we are a Federation. While I sit in Anambra State, somebody will give an order to me on what to do. Take the issue of the N18, 000 minimum wage; it is not linked to productivity or GDP.



Nigerian newspapers and online news sources
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