Restructuring The Federation Of Nigeria

The debate is still going on, as to whether Nigeria, should restructure or not.

The mention of the word “restructure”, conjures different meanings to different people. Some see the demand as positively intended, while some, see it negatively, while, yet, others are indifferent.
To the proponents of restructuring ( a group to which I belong),the restructuring being advocated, has to do with our federal system.
Nigeria is a country with people of diverse tendencies. From the later parts of the 1950s, it adopted a Federal structure, which was to be run on the principles of federalism. But there is no where we have one kind of federation, as they differ, from one end that tends towards unitary, down the spectrum to the other, that tends towards a loose federation, or confederation. Some where, along the spectrum, from one extreme end, to the other extreme end, lay many federations, each dictated by its circumstances. Therefore, the word “true federation”, is an anomaly. However, in Nigeria’s case, when that word is used, it does not mean that there is a “standard federation” . What some of us mean, by that, is that, our definition of “federation “, as pertaining to a “center”, and the “federating units”, has not been agreed to, by all the people that make up Nigeria; but that what we have is a product of “elite concensus “. Concensus of the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria is superior, to what a class of Nigerians may decide, usually based on their enlightened-self- interest.Therefore, resort is made to the use of the word, “true federation”.
The Nigerian ethnic nationalities are many and diverse, in terms of geographical location, historical backgrounds and experience, language, culture, attitudes, natural and human resources. Nigerians came together, as a country, as a result of its colonial experience, and so, prior to that, has had no experience of living together, as one political unit, although some have had prior contacts and interactions, with each other.
In view of these diversities, our independence fathers adopted, the Federal structure and federalism ,as a system of government.
A federal system provides a mechanism for uniting the people into one,over-arching,
political unit, which forms a system. This over-arching system, enables it to maintain its fundamental political integrity.
In a federal system, there are two sets of governments, viz: the center and the units ( the federal center on the one hand, and the federating units, on the other).
The two governments, share power between themselves, in such a way as to protect the existence of each, and the areas of authority of each. When they do this, they are considered as CO-ORDINATE governments. That is why a federation is seen as the existence and operation of a double-set of government.
Therefore, their basic policies require UNDERSTANDING and NEGOTIATION. This ensures that both the center and the units, participate in making and executing decisions.
Therefore, when federalism is chosen, as a system, it provides a CONVENIENT and WORKABLE arrangement, to unite, all the political forces, with those that were not political. These forces, are usually ideological,sociological, psychological, etc. If these divisive, and contradictory forces, are not managed, but are allowed, to get to the extreme, they could lead to dissatisfaction, desperation, and eventually, lead to anarchy.
When the above happens, it will need solution that would translate these diversities into UNITY and STRENGTH.
In Nigeria, during the military rule, these diversities were not negotiated. Instead, force , or the threat of the use of force,, had always been the language of the military..
There were crises, in the forms of religious , cultural, sociological, political, economic and attitudinal crises etc .
Power was concentrated at the center; it produced a rentier-economy. The center
depended on oil money, and so depended on it. There was a tight grip on the units by the center. Attitudes of dependence, on the center, by every one, was formed. These attitudes needed re-orientation.
But we had neither justice, nor fairness for the diversities. We needed a system that will assure each group justice and fairness.
We therefore,
needed a kind of federalism , which says, ” hey look, I am different from you; stay in your little corner, and develope yourself, according to your world view, while we have a central body, that will not be too meddlesome, but will allow you enough air, to be yourself ,and is only there to conduct foreign relations, provide internal and external security”.
The result of this would be the release of the potentials of each unit, while they interact with each other as a matter of convenience and perceived relative advantage, while remaining together as one.
It means,
” go back home, produce for yourself, and live the way you want, in accordance with your worldview. We shall, from far away, protect the unity of this country. ”
We want a restructure ,to a system whereby decision- making, and decision-executing processes are influenced, and determined by, not only, the mutual participation of the center,and the units, but also by means of power and skills of negotiation, in the midst of the supreme center, vis a vis the units. This should be a kind of COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM, by virtue of the indices of diversities we have talked about above.
Having said this, we would go on to say, that the core north’s initial opposition to this, and its hesitancy, on restructuring, is misinformed. This is so ,due to the suspicions of the true intentions of the proponents of restructuring. The core north is also misinformed, as to the potential powers, they will weild ,vis a vis the other federating units. If they were aware, they would have been at the fore-front of the agitation for restructuring within a federation. The core north has the bargaining skills, capacity, geographical size, population, natural and human resources, and strategic situation. etc.

J.D.EPHRAIM .

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