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Restructure Nigeria; True Federalism; all you need to know How We Can Acheive It

The fundamental and distinguishing characteristic of a federal
system is that neither the central nor the regional governments are
subordinate to each other, but rather, the two are co-ordinate and
independent. In short, in a federal system, there is no hierarchy of
authorities, with the central government sitting on top of the others.
All governments have a horizontal relationship with each other.
Kenneth C. Wheare
Kenneth C. Wheare

NIGERIA after Independence was on the right path of economic
growth and development. Industries were springing up in every region of
the country. In the North, Ahmedu Bello who held sway was occupied by
setting up farm settlements, textile industries. It was the same story
in the East where Michael Opera set up farm settlements and a number of
manufacturing companies. In the West, Chief Awolowo, apart from the
popular free education, set up a number of industrial estates which
attracted several companies from abroad. It is this simple reason that
the West is the most industrialized part of the country. At this time,
the Nigeria economy was in top shape and at take off stage in economic
development. The Nigerian economy was rated along the same indices with
Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and the rest of the now talked about BRICKS
countries. Then Nigeria had development plans that guided the nation.
The various regions were autonomous entities and there was competition
among the regions on internally generated revenue. The military
intervention and the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity
seemed to have radically altered the course of Nigeria’s economic
development. While the military discarded the fiscal federalism
structure of the country and made the states to become federal
allocation collector, the discovery of oil made Nigerian leaders to
sleep walk and refuse to plan believing that the money flowing from the
ground will solve all the nation’s problems. As the military leaders
were sleep walking and basking in the euphoria of petro dollar earnings,
Nigeria’s population was growing faster than the resources
Omoh Gabriel
Omoh Gabriel

General Ironsi, emerged as the head of state after the first
coup. Against all advice, Ironsi promulgated Decree Number 34 of 1966,
which abrogated the federal system of government and substituted a
unitary system; he argued that the military could only govern in this
way. Given the already charged atmosphere, this action reinforced
northern fears. As the north was less developed than the south, a
unitary system could easily lead to southerners “taking over control of
everything,” as a northern spokesperson put it. It was at the height of
northern opposition to unitarism that the countercoup of July 1966 took
place. The North wanted a return of federalism as the only way to
guarantee their autonomy. The military government of Ironsi insisted on
maintaining the unitary military system! Lieutenant Colonel (later
General) Yakubu Gowon, became the head of state after the second coup.
His first act was to reinstate the federal system, along with the four
regions and their allotted functions. But relations between the federal
government and the Eastern Region, led by military governor Colonel
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, were very strained. In September Colonel
Gowon summoned an ad hoc constitutional conference to deliberate on the
country’s political future. Most regional delegates to the conference,
with the exception of those from the midwest, recommended a confederal
system to replace the federal system. The delegates from the Eastern
Region insisted that any region wishing to secede from the federation
should be allowed to do so. The conference was ended abruptly by
increased killings of Igbos in the north and the heightening of tensions
between the federal government and the Eastern Region. A summit of
military leaders at Aburi, Ghana, in January 1967 attempted to resolve
the disagreements and recommended the establishment of a base
confederation of regions. The Aburi Agreement became a source of
contention, however. In anticipation of eastern secession, Gowon moved
quickly to weaken the support base of the region by decreeing the
creation of twelve new states to replace the four regions. Six of these
states contained minority groups that had demanded state creation since
the 1950s. Gowon rightly calculated that the eastern minorities would
not actively support the Igbos, given the prospect of having their own
states if the secession effort were defeated. The Gowon years also saw
the oil boom and a buoyant economy. The federal government was
encouraged to take on some responsibilities formally allocated to the
states, especially in the area of education. The structure of government
under Gowon was basically unitarian. At the apex of government was the
all-military Supreme Military Council (SMC), which was the lawmaking
body for the entire federation. Its decrees could not be challenged in
any law court. Most members of the SMC under Gowon were state governors.
There was also a Federal Executive Council composed of military and
civilian commissioners. The states also had commissioners appointed by
the governor. The states were practically reduced to administrative
units of the federal government, which in several domains made uniform
laws for the country. This basic structure of military federalism has,
with amendments, remained the same during all military governments in
the country and was transferred to the civilian government with its 1999
constitution. Nigeria has remained so till date; a unitary system.
U.S. Library of Congress (edited)
U.S. Library of Congress (edited)

There are basically three revolutionary movements in Nigeria
today and each of them have a different perspective on how to solve the
Nigerian problem. The first group, lets call them the Unitarians. They
believe that there is nothing wrong with the present unitary system of
Nigeria. What is wrong with Nigeria is Nigerians. There is a moral
decadence that must be tackled, there is need for reorientation and
values. Nigerians have become corrupt and have equally corrupted the
political system. In summary, the Unitarians believe that it is
Nigerians that needs to be restructured and not Nigeria’s political
system.

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The second movement; lets call them the secessionists. This group of
Nigerians believe that Nigeria is in fact a lie and that a lie cannot be
restructured! They admit that Nigeria is badly structured and they
doubt that it can ever be restructured. So far, they have opted for a
complete dismemberment of he union as the only way to save themselves,
their tribe, communities and region. They want Nigeria dissolved because
they fear Nigeria has never worked and will never work. The last group
is where we belong here; the Federalists. The federalist movement
believes that something is obviously and fundamentally wrong with
Nigeria. After an interesting research, the federalist has reached the
conclusion that what is wrong with Nigeria is the structure of its
defective federal system and that the solution will be to restructure
the country and entrench true federalism.

Tony Osborg
Tony Osborg

Politically, the era of centralization seems to have come to an
end, and this is as it should be. A multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and
multi-religious society such as ours cannot and should not be
administered in a highly centralized manner. That people in their
respective localities have the right to administer themselves, exercise a
degree of command over their own resources, and develop their own
cultures and languages must be taken as axiomatic…But there must also be
unity within diversity. In the past we emphasized unity at the expense
of diversity, and we have paid dearly for it. Let us hope that now we
will not move to the other extreme and emphasize diversity at the
expense of unity.
 Eshetu Chole, Ethiopia At the Crossroads…
Eshetu Chole, Ethiopia At the Crossroads…

There should be two tiers of government recognized by the
federal constitution; a federal and state government. Each of them
should have a separate constitution. The state government should have
the exclusive right to create another tier of government as it wishes.
We suggest that a community/city based government be recognized and
established by the state as the last tier of government. Community/City
based government should therefore replace the existing local government
style tier of government. The constitutions must guarantee the autonomy
of each tier of government. The community based government should have
full control over the most basic things that affect the community.
Issues like basic education (management and funding of basic schools),
security, water, maintenance, health care, etc should be done by the
community based governments. It should also have the right to raise its
own taxes to fund its needs. The community based government should be
the most empowered tier of government.
The Federalists
The Federalists

In truth, the people who oppose restructuring are stronger than
those who propose restructuring.  This implies that (for now),
restructuring is a minority call. To restructure Nigeria and entrench
federalism, this pattern must change. The Federalists must become the
majority!

Certain steps must be taken to achieve this. These steps are in fact
what makes up  our philosophy as a movement. The steps are contained in
our three cardinal objectives towards restructuring Nigeria which are
as follows;

  1. We must begin to sensitize and educate Nigerians on the defects of
    the present system and the need for them to support the campaign for a
    restructured system.

  2. We must proceed to mobilize the now enlightened Nigerians to get
    involved in the demand for a restructured system. This demand will
    include persuading the legislature and executives through overwhelming
    grassroots mobilizations.

  3. And finally, we must participate in the restructuring process. We
    cannot allow the restructuring process to be hijacked by the same
    marauding political class who have held the country hostage for the past
    decades. We the ordinary people must participate in the restructuring
    process.

Legally, it is the duty of the legislature to begin the
restructuring process. Unfortunately, the legislature has become one of
the biggest beneficiaries of the present skewed unitary system, they
will therefore be opposed to any structural change which will likely
threaten their existence.

It is on this basis that Nigerians must unite to overwhelm the
legislature with their demand for federalism. We cannot depend on and
expect the beneficiaries of the present system to change the system,
certainly, not without a fight! The kind of restructuring Nigeria needs
is not cosmetic. For a fact, we do not need a constitutional amendment
but an entirely new constitution.  At the end of the day, what we desire
is a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). To get this, we must unite.
Every tribe, every community, every state and every ethnic nationality
must unite to demand for a system that works.

 

 

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