Thursday, 8th June 2023

Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 17

By Editorial Board
18 February 2021   |   3:55 am
The clamour to right the anomaly in the Nigeria’s state system seems not to rankle the governing elite yet. They continue to procrastinate on the urgency of restructuring.


The clamour to right the anomaly in the Nigeria’s state system seems not to rankle the governing elite yet. They continue to procrastinate on the urgency of restructuring. Two recent state actions underscore the point being made. The first is the recent extension of the tenure of the Inspector General of Police by three months. The IGP, Mr. Mohammed Adamu has spent the mandatory 35 years in service and by rule ought to pave way to order in the Nigerian police to succeed him, but rather than allow for a routinised transition among the top hierarchy of the force, the president whose right it is constitutionally to nominate the IGP preferred to elongate the tenure of the incumbent IG to the dismay of a confounded public.   

And as always a justification is supplied by his subalterns. The extension the country is told is based on some succession niceties, which in any case is a breach of the Police (Amendment) Act 2020 the same president signed into law barely four months ago. According to the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammad Dingyadi, the extension is to allow for an appropriate and painstaking process of appointing a new IGP. In his words, “This is not unconnected to the desire of Mr. President to, not only have a smooth handover but to also ensure the right officer is appointed into that position. Mr. President is extending by three months to allow him to get into the process of appointing a new one.”

Second, in the appointment of a new head for the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), the president in his ‘wisdom’ nominated to the sensitive position a cousin of the Attorney General of the Federation, a Muslim and Fulani from Kebbi, Abdulrasheed Bawa as the agency’s substantive Chairman. The supervising minister of the EFCC is the same Attorney General, Abubakar Malami. It would be recalled that Mr. Ibrahim Magu who was never confirmed by the legislature as substantive chairman of the EFCC had served in acting capacity since November 2015 and was suspended in July last year over allegations of ethical misconduct verging on the sale of seized assets unaccounted for. For a president who prioritised anti-corruption as a main goal of his seeking office, circumspection is expected in the choice of a head of such an important ethical agency of the state ought to based on principles of nation-building and sensitivity to the federal character principle as enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Already, most of the anti-graft agencies including the Code of Conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal, the EFCC and even the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) are already in the hands of the president’s tribe and religion.  Again, the president ostensibly acted in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of Part 1, CAP E1 of EFCC Act 2004 but the act lends credence to the uninspiring epithet of his administration as endogamic. However, it is to be noted that the top anti-graft body has never been immune from politicization since its establishment in 2003 at the promptings of agencies of global governance. It has taken swipe from the public as political tool for hounding political enemies. The fearful question now is: how else will this president’s insensitivity strengthen this federation without true federalism? 

The above actions raise some questions. Why is there no reflection of federal character to balance the federation and enhance federalism? Are we to conclude that all the president’s men who are in power with him now do not provoke questions about federalism and the restoration of its content in theory and practice? Also, is the president inured to ignore the simmering agitation for the rightfulness of the federating units of the Nigerian state? Why does the Nigeria’s president approving appointments of mostly candidates of northern extraction who are also mostly Muslims in a complex federation of distinct six geopolitical zones not dominated by Muslims? Why does the president set up structures that will continue to cause disaffection in this convoluted federation? Why would the president be insensitive to the damage control measures some governors of northern extraction have been going round to organise in the southwest region where some Fulani herdsmen have been stoking fire that can impair unity? Why can’t the president use federal appointments to strengthen federalism at this perilous time?  

As we have repeatedly argued in this serial, responsivity principle that panders to diversity particularly in a multinational formation like Nigeria is the federal genius. This is precisely what the incumbent administration in the country is undermining and recalcitrant to appreciate. Given the tension in the country underlined by separatist impulses, one would have expected that the president should have instrumentalised appointments as brinkmanship by adhering to the federal character principle in the 1999 Constitution as amended to allay fear of components nationalities that the unity of the country is priced over nepotistic inclinations of the president.

The continuation of the skewed policies of the present administration will deepen the fault lines in the country and nudge it towards disintegration. Even countries that are theoretically unitary have devolved powers for governability. For example, the United Kingdom has devolved powers to its component units, namely, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island in ways that invest in them a great deal of autonomy in many affairs of the state. The quest for genuine federalism is to grant autonomy to the components units of this country to grow by unleashing their productive capacity without the encumbrances of a unitary behemoth pretending to be federal. Therefore, when states can take care of their policing and other institutions of governance including anti-corruption agencies, there will be no concern when such appointments are made at the federal level. That is why the only commitment that will make the international community to believe that Nigeria is ready to take up leadership of the black race and indeed Africa is restructuring that will dismantle the evil unitary system of government Nigeria’s ‘soldiers of fortune’ foisted on the nation in 1966.

The time to dismantle that retrogressive unitary system and embrace federalism is now!