Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 61
Incidentally, Nigeria clocked 61 as an independent country this year.
As though fated to be so, this 61st edition of our editorial advocacy to return the country to a federal state structure concludes the remarkable serial on ‘Federalism is the answer, after all.’
Last year, we began with the knowledge that Nigeria was suffering from a “crisis of the state” and the conviction that it could be cured with a federal recipe. Our conviction has not changed. Truly the “sick man of Africa” can be saved given the political will to do so by duty bearers.
In its absence, the sick man could die. Our wish is that it should live and be an entity with abundant life and a bastion of peace and justice. But the ruling elite, who by their omission and commission have brought the country to its knees, should not take the country for granted.
In the 2003 maiden annual democracy lecture of the Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation, titled, “Remapping the Nation: National Boundaries and Normative Bounds,” Professor Adebayo Williams then of the University of Incarnate Word, San Antonio, USA, addressed the question: ‘When is a nation’? The erudite scholar argued then that nations are not permanent entities.
As historical constructs; they change over time, in other words, due to irreconcilable contradictions, they may fade into history. In his words: “The history of the modem nation-state is replete with nations that have disappeared, nations without accompanying states and states pretending to rule over non-existent nations.”
Since the beginning of this serial, we have dissected the federal essentialities of the Nigerian state and stressed the point that they make a federal constitutional arrangement not only attractive but good for our country. It is a veritable basis to unleash the creativity of our people and drive the country’s development.
Throughout the serial, we have noted clearly that the country has been suffering from a crisis of state and the battle for Nigeria is about “restoring freedom to the component units to chart the course of development in their respective enclaves. Those who plant yam should harvest yam, and those who plant rice should harvest rice and should not be made poor despite their natural resources.”
We have addressed the misunderstanding surrounding the restructuring proposal however it is framed. It means a return of the country to federal status before the promulgation of Decree No. 34 of 1966 and allays the fear that restructuring would balkanise the country and instead it would strengthen democracy and launch the country on the path of economic development. We have acknowledged the growing clamour for a return to federalism and the need to seize the moment to return the country to a federal state structure without further delay, urging the standpatters that there is everything to gain but on the contrary, everything to lose.
We have emphasised the need to respect the heterogeneity of the country and foreground the point that the country is not working and that the incumbent administration should resort to the 2014 national conference reports including the El-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress Committee on restructuring to reconfigure the country and make history. Equally, we address the merits of federalism, the counterproductive arguments of the protagonists of a unitary state system and the continuing contradictions of governance in the country.
Besides, we have underlined the federal characteristics of our country that make the call for federalism reasonable. We have noted the call for restructuring from elements from within the state notably the south-south governors and in support argued that we could address much of our problem with devolution of power within a federal constitutional framework. Repeatedly, we have reminded the ruling party of reneging on the content of its manifesto, which promised to restructure and note that constitution making is a well-known path that should not be a problem to social change in our county.
In the serial, we have drawn the attention of the Buhari administration to the growing insecurity in the country and the failure of governance, all of which could be mitigated if the country had been re-configured along the path of federalism. We pointed out the merits of the 1963 republican constitution which was federal and which could be emulated in charting a federal constitutional path for the country. We have pointed to the growing contradictions of the state and the corresponding consequences, namely, unabated killings, kidnappings, corruption, impoverishment of the population, and the failing health of the country, pathologies that Financial Times has also focused on and suggested a lean state structure. Nevertheless, we have expressed the hope that despite all the contradictions our country is redeemable. We have focused on the layers of state security architecture, especially the efforts of incumbent state actors to bastardise the call for state police with a central structure, so-called community policing. Subverting the genuine call for re-federalisation of the state is not the answer but federalism.
Besides internal contradictions, we have adverted to externalities to drive home our case for federalism. In this regard, we have reflected on the workability of the American federal constitution order despite the January 6, 2021 assault on Capitol Hill, which is still being probed by the Congress. The Ethiopian civil war over Tigrayan autonomy is focused upon to draw our attention to the consequences of mismanagement of diversity.
We have also spoken to the ambivalence in the Nigerian presidency on the federalism question and addressed the standoff between the Ondo State and the Federal Government over responsibility for security following the proactive action of the Ondo State government to bush back Fulani herdsmen who invaded the state perceived by the people of that state as a land grab and warned the Buhari administration against tardiness over security matters, particularly when his kinsmen are central to it. We have argued that leadership is not solely the problem with Nigeria rather that it lies in the politics of domination that undermines the country’s diversity. The non-inclusivity in the change of service chiefs has also been touched and we have argued that the president has missed an opportunity to mainstream the federal character of the Nigerian state as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended. The extension of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) tenure by the president breaches the Police Act of 2020 signed into law by him. We have noted that the mode of appointment of the presidency borders on nepotism and undermines the drive for true federalism in the country.
We have also noted that the abduction of secondary school children in Kiagara, Niger State has spoken to the failing of the overcentralised and ethnically skewed security architecture in the country and have called for the transfer of some security responsibility to the state. We have drawn attention to how the over centralisation of the state undermines the cultural expression of the component nationalities of the Nigerian state. Above all, we have evaluated the resource endowment of the 36 states of the federation and argued that given a genuine federal order each state could perhaps survive and prosper. In the same vein, we have averred that the need to re-engineer revenue allocation in the country in ways that truly reflect fiscal federalism is addressed among other issues.
Everything we have done in this serial is a march of empiricism with idealism hoping that the ruling elite will be well advised to act to preserve the country’s unity based on inclusivity and respect for diversity, based on democratic principles. As the renowned American Scholar, Samuel Huntington puts it in his 1968 work, Political Order in Changing Societies, “The truly helpless society is not one threatened by revolution but one incapable of.” Today, our society is threatened by disorder and failure of governmentality, and in a Huntington sense, “Violence is democratised, politics demoralised, society at odds with itself.” Nevertheless, we have once again put on the table like our forbears the recipe to save a tottering country, the onus is on the incumbent state actors to seize the moment and return the country to the path of federalism. As we have appositely titled this serial, federalism is the answer, after all. This is an edition to say ‘61 Hearty Cheers to The Guardian’s 61 Federalist Texts.’