I write to bring to your attention the need and urgency to adopt a new instrument of governance for our country to create a Nigeria that works; A happier Nigeria. As you may be aware that the system of governance we are currently practicing in reality is called the unitary system of government.
This model of governance has continually fuelled the disunity, disharmony, disparity, lop-sidedness and instability we have around in this country. Oftentimes, people have said bad leadership and corruption are the cause of the chaos in Nigeria but guess what, the duo are the effects and manifestation of the Nigeria Problem.
Whilst attempting to state the cause of the Nigeria problem, I denounce any attempt to incite conflict amongst groups but it has been said that when people don’t know the cause of a problem; solutions often become an illusion.
The problem sprang from the forced marriage of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 that resulted in Nigeria. This marriage lacked mutual consent, unity, love, cohesion and most other good ingredients that would ensure a loving and peaceful marriage.
Even the country’s patriarch and founding leaders at that time attested to this fact. Lord Lugard: “The North and the South are like oil and water, they will never mix.”
Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa: “The Southern people who are swamping into this region daily in such large numbers are really intruders; we don’t want them and they are not welcome here in the North.
Since 1914, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country. But the people are different in every way, including religion, custom, language and aspirations, we in the North take it that Nigeria unity is only a British intention for the country they created.
It is not for us.” Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo: “Nigeria is only a geographical expression to which life was given by the diabolical amalgamation of 1914, that amalgamation will EVER remain the most painful injury a British Government inflicted on Southern Nigeria.”
Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello: “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate from our great grandfather, Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities in the North as willing tools, and the south as conquered territories and never allow them to have control of their future.”
General Yakubu Gowon: “Suffice it to say that putting all considerations to the test, political, economic as well as social, the basis of unity is not there.”
Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe: “If this embryo republic of ours must disintegrate, then in the name of God, let the operation be a short and painless one.” Chief Awolowo: “It is incontestable that British not only made Nigeria but also handed it to us whole on their surrender of power. But the Nigeria which they handed over to us had in it forces of its own disintegration. It is up to contemporary Nigeria leaders to neutralize these forces, preserve the Nigeria inheritance and make all our people free forward–looking and prosperous.”
But painstakingly, these men were able to discover a workable solution to make the marriage and all parties live in peace and fulfilment of their aspirations, and the solution was to change from the unitary system of government handed over to them by the colonial masters to the federal system of government (federalism).
Balewa: I am pleased to see that we are now all agreed that the Federal system is under present conditions the only sure bans on which Nigeria will remain united.
We must recognize our diversity and the peculiar conditions under which the different tribal communities live in this country.
Awolowo: “If rapid political progress is to be made in Nigeria It is high time we were realistic in tackling its constitutional problems. Nigeria is not a nation; it is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English’ ‘Welsh’ or ‘French’. The word Nigeria is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.” Chief Awolowo: “I predict that every multi-lingual or multi-national country with a unitary constitution must either eventually have a Federal constitution based on the principles I have enunciated or disintegrate or be perennially afflicted with disharmony and instability.
This was the system they practiced until the military took over and the military instituted an unsuitable unitary system of government, which is what we are still using today.
Many researches and studies have shown that large countries of the world with diverse language, culture and religion like Nigeria thrive better under the federal system of government (federalism).
Empirical studies have also shown that large countries of the World only with China’s exception practice Federalism. It was noted that about 28 countries of the world practice federalism and 21 of these 28 countries were initially under the colonial era, hence such countries post-colonial era function better under Federalism.
In fact, the research came to a conclusion that Federalism is almost an obligatory choice for countries in post-colonial era. Federalism is a sophisticated method for bringing together the members of a diverse community.
Federalism is a system that offers an unusual ability to deal with complex societies and internal diversity. A country can only enjoy dividends of democracy when it consolidates on the diversity of its population. Federalism brings unity in diversity.
Some benefits of federalism amongst so many others include: Separations of power and prevention of tyranny/Despotic tendencies i.e. ensures decentralization of power; Autonomy of the state/regional/province in matters of security, economy, resource control, education, infrastructures, utilities etc; increases citizens’ participation as state/regional/province government can be more responsible to citizens’ needs; more efficient/leads to political stability; governance become easier/conflict management; respect for state/regional/province differences; brings peace and combines the merit of unity with diversity; it brings strength, progress and prosperity to the small state/minorities; better for large, diverse/ heterogeneous nations.
If we adopt the federal system of government, all the agitations in the six geopolitical regions of the country will be wiped out or at worst reduced to the barest minimum and regions/state will develop faster at its own pace. Federalism can be a very useful solution to the issue of governing a large country like Nigeria.
It is a way of meeting each state/region’s needs without those states/regions losing touch with the central government.
Leaders of a country are largely responsible for solving the country’s problems and we have observed that quite a handful of leaders in the past and present government of Nigeria are aware of this required change.
They have consistently displayed the lack of will power to correct this anomaly and Nigeria has been moving around the circle all these years, hence, the problems in the country today.
Olaniyi writes from Lagos