Nigeria: Federalism or unitary system quandary
Sir: Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960, as autonomous and federated regions of Northern, Western and Eastern Nigeria, 46 years after the amalgamation of British Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard in 1914. The 1979 Constitution did not restore the autonomy of the federated states, such that the rights, limits and control of the Federal Government over regional affairs, in accordance with the 1963 Constitution was not well defined. This was a recipe for trouble and prolonged conflicts between the states and the Federal Government.
The military government wrote the 1999 Constitution, which in most part was a replicate of the 1979 unitary constitution. The consequences of not restoring autonomy to the federated states at that point in time, would lead to increased ethnic conflicts in the country.
• The government must face the reality, that the unitary system, camouflaged, as a federation is contraindicated in a country of multiple ethnic groups like Nigeria.
• The states (former regions) must be granted autonomy, within a federated Nigeria in accordance with the 1963 Constitution.
• State Police must be created immediately to stop insecurity in rural communities and sectarian conflicts.
• The allocation of the Federal Government from national revenue should not be more than 20 per cent. This may seem difficult, but must be done in the interest of peace.
• A new constitution to replace the 1999 Constitution should be written in line with the principle of federalism, the basis of which Nigeria was created from multiple ethnic groups, and as affirmed in the 1954, 1960 and 1963 constitutions.
Nigeria can be great again, and come out of its present predicaments, if the political leaders will emulate the United Kingdom of Great Britain, which is a federation of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; four distinct nations, so independent of each other, that they have different football teams and go to the World Cup, as individual nations. They have separate constitutions, parliaments and are not subjected to the rule of the United Kingdom except for the Armed Forces, Foreign Affairs, Common Currency and acceptance of King Charles as monarch and constitutional Head of State. The nations are ruled by First Ministers, who relate with the Prime Minister (PM) of the United Kingdom, as Primus inter Pares, but do not take orders from the PM. These nations have the right to secede from the United Kingdom, but would not do so because of the overwhelming benefits of being part of a powerful country.
The present administration can make history and save the country by taking the bold decision of restoring state autonomy, along the lines earlier stated, without which the prediction that Nigeria will ultimately break up, may come to pass earlier than expected.
• Ambassador Rasheed Akinkuolie was Nigeria’s Consul in Cameroun and former director of Trade and Investment in Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.
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