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Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 8

By Editorial Board
17 December 2020   |   3:05 am
There seems to be no end to the deepening contradiction of the Nigerian state. Nigeria has become truly lawless verging on a dystopia. In a well-choreographed action, students of the Government secondary school


There seems to be no end to the deepening contradiction of the Nigerian state. Nigeria has become truly lawless verging on a dystopia. In a well-choreographed action, students of the Government secondary school, Kankara were kidnapped by the Boko Haram insurgents in Katsina State.

Curiously, this happened when the President is ostensibly on a visit to his home town of Daura, Katsina State. He is still there till tomorrow.

The level of insecurity in the country has been so high that no one is safe. Killings, kidnapping, armed robbery, and sundry other vices have been routinised. What is puzzling is the fact that the incumbent government of Buhari before ascension to power had campaigned based on reversing the insurgency and general insecurity in the country. Not a few believed that as a retired General of the Nigerian army, tackling insecurity would be mincemeat for the former head of state. Evidently, the government has failed woefully. Only those who live a lie would deny this fact. The country has never been this bad and boxed into a corner where the state vested with the security of lives and property has proven incapable of that function.
It should be emphasised here that the “reason of state” is the protection of lives and property. This question remains weighty that it deserved the attention of the enlightenment philosophers of yore, such as John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). John Locke unlike Thomas Hobbes, who saw the state of nature as a state of war where life was not only nasty but was brutish and short, saw it differently. Locke had noted that the state of nature was one of perfect freedom governed by reason and the desire for the perpetuation of humanity. The quest for decisive power to appeal warranted the transition to civil society, that is the state. So for Locke civil society is the flipside of the state of nature, and the former is: “…a common established law and judicature to appeal to, with authority to decide controversies between them and punish offenders, are in civil society one with another; but those who have no such common appeal, I mean on earth, are still in the state of nature…”. According to Rousseau who was seized of the matter also saw the state of nature as one of freedom. In his case, the weight of nature in its precariousness requires that man transits into civil society.

According to him: “ We might also add that man acquires with civil society, moral freedom, which alone makes man the master of himself; for to be governed by appetite alone is slavery, while obedience to a law one prescribes to oneself is freedom.” The 1999 Constitution which flows generously from the waters of western philosophy, states in Section 14 (2) (b) that the protection of lives and property is the primary purpose of government, and logically the reason of state.

The incumbent state actors have failed in their duty concerning governmentality engrossed in the constitution given the general insecurity that now governs social relations in the country. We are obliged to draw attention to the aspects of the many contradictions of the tottering Nigerian state which Soronnadi Njoku, the former Imo State Attorney-General lucidly enumerated in an interview with this medium. The contradictions are domiciled in the judiciary and the security sector, and he wished they should be the subject of an amendment – to the constitution.  

We would like to address the palpable contradictions in rhetoric questions. One, why for example, should matter about the headship of a village get to the only Supreme Court (in the federation)? While should such a matter that arises from local government by-laws go to the Supreme Court? Is that the case elsewhere? Is this an aberration? Why should issues over which the state House of Assembly can legislate find their way to the Supreme Court? Is this not a derogation from the classical definition of federalism, that is, a state system where power is shared between the federal and subordinate parts so that each is supreme in its area a la Kenneth Where? In the area of security, why for example, should matter within the legislative competence of local government such as bicycle license or local markets require federal police to enforce? Does it resonate with the federal logic? In which federal practice elsewhere is this possible? Is it not ridiculous? Why are governors at the levels of states, units, of the federation be chief security officers of the state, yet they lack the constitutional competence, either to appoint the security chiefs within their states or instruct the security formations?
In an ideal federal structure, are matters that are within the local government system not expected to terminate at the local government level within the exclusive power of the customary court of the local government? Are State matters not supposed to begin and terminate at the state court of appeal but if they must continue, they can now go from the state court of appeal to the federal court of appeal and end at that level? Is the Supreme Court not supposed to concentrate on more important constitutional matters? If the state government has the three organs of government, namely, legislature, executive, and judiciary, why should the federal judiciary appoint judges for state governments? Why should it be the National Judicial Council (NJC) that appoints judges for states, in violation of the federal principles?
The contradictions of the Nigerian state are by no means vitiated but rather aggravated by many illogicalities. Why for example, should primary education that ought to fall within the competence of the local government, and secondary education within the competence of the state be the concern of the central government? Why not restrict itself to tertiary education where both the states and the Federal Government can exercise competence for tertiary education? Again, is this not an aberration?
Given the above contradictions and many others we have outlined in this serial on federalism, it cannot be over-emphasised that the country needs to restructure along with the principles of federalism. The urgency of the moment should not be undermined on the altar of political correctness, which has done no one any good. So, this is a time for Nigeria’s President to pay attention to the growing clamour for federalism, which will enable states to take control of the security and welfare of their people without undue recourse to the centre that has always appeared so near but yet so far away from the solution.