2023 Presidential election: Issues and concerns
It is axiomatic first that the system of governance in Nigeria since 1966 has not worked to mark the country out in the comity of nations. Second, that the ethnic diversities comprising 374 distinct linguistic groups have been poorly managed to leverage on their latent energies and talents for the overall development of Nigeria. This is against the backdrop of many policies of government over the years to foster national understanding, cohesion and integration.
Specifically, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) established by decree 24 of May 22, 1973 sought to promote reconciliation, reconstruction and rebuilding of the country after the civil war. Amongst the objectives is, “to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.” Further, “to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities amongst Nigerians of all ethnic groups” ( Decree 51, June 16, 1993). There is also the quota system for admission into unity schools and tertiary institutions. For the former it has allowed for disparities in cut-off marks for admission of students from different states into unity schools in order “to foster peace, unity and amicable co-existence among Nigerians” (Federal Ministry of Education).
Whatever the merit of the quota system, it is evident that the policy has failed to mitigate national educational imbalance in the country, amongst other objectives it was intended to achieve. But as pertaining to promotion of national unity, the verdict of the late Professor T. M. Yesufu is instructive, inter alia: “A child who is deprived of an educational opportunity after scoring highly in an examination, only because he comes from a so-called educationally advanced state, has had the tenets and principles of a united Nigeria, demonstrably transformed into a mockery, if not totally and irrevocably destroyed within him. No amount of singing of the National Anthem, nor voluble recitations of the pledge, would ever again make him a complete Nigerian. Henceforth, he is native of his state first and being a Nigerian becomes secondary. The practice would have the same resultant effect on the student who because he came from a disadvantaged state benefited from the admission exercise. His loyalty would be to the state which apparently gave him the rare opportunity, not the Federal government.” (Yesufu, 13th Annual Seminar, CVC, Ilorin, 1990).
As an instrument to ensure inclusion of all Nigerians in the affairs of state, there is the Federal Character provision in the 1979/1999 Constitutions, which inter alia states, “the composition of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies (S.14(3), 1999 Constitution).
But despite these constitutional instruments, Federal Character, Quota System and NYSC amongst others, there is no national cohesion, integration and unity, and Nigeria is still a geographical expression nurtured and sustained by a governance system imbued with centrifugal forces. The APC-led government has rendered the wholesome principle of Federal Character nugatory by its nepotistic disposition and predominance of an ethnic group in core positions of the Federal Government. This has deepened the ethnic divide in the Nigeria’s body politic and accentuated the jostle for power at the centre.
In this season preceding the 2023 presidential election the principle of north-south power rotation is at the verge of being jettisoned by the two leading political parties, APC and PDP, in their strategies to secure victory at the polls. The premise of the strategies clearly runs counter to the need for inclusiveness. If the premise for the strategies is on merit and competence, it is at once in congruence with the call for true federalism as a mode of governance best suited for Nigeria, a multi-nationality state. But if not, it amounts to a square peg in a round hole in a vain attempt to manage the current unitary system of governance.
To be continued tomorrow.
Prof. Ighodalo Clement Eromosele is former deputy vice Chancellor (Academic), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.