Federalist Manifesto

By Adebayo Adeneye-Adejuwon

I have Karl Max and Friedrich Engels to thank for the title of this essay. But unlike their Communist Manifesto which focused on the problems of capitalism and class warfare, I am proposing and defending the thesis that Nigeria will not experience political stability until it reworks and redesigns its federal architecture.

Britain formed Nigeria in 1914 to promote her overseas economic interest. Prior to 1914, there was no country called Nigeria. The people that came to be known and addressed as Nigerians were indigenous people of diverse ethnic nationalities who had lived independently of one another in their ancestral homesteads centuries before the advent of the British on their land. Conceived as an economic entity, Britain administered Nigeria as a unitary state after amalgamation.

Not long after, the indigenous people, dissatisfied with the conceptualization of Nigeria as mere economic entity, decided to negotiate Nigeria’s political status. They sought for a definition of the relationship between the different ethnic nationalities in the governance of Nigeria. This quest and the sustained agitations that followed brought about Clifford constitution of 1922, Richard constitution of 1946, Macpherson constitution of 1951, and Lyttleton constitution of 1954. In 1954, in accordance with the universally acknowledged political science principle that in a multilingual and multinational country, federalism is the best form of government, Nigeria adopted federalism.

Nigerians have their founding fathers to thank for federalism, and for midwifing the four pre-independence constitutions, the 1960 Independence constitution, and the 1963 Republican constitution. Regrettably, the military, in 1966, suspended the Independence and Republican constitutions, and replaced them with The Unification Decree No. 34 of 1966, thus taking Nigeria back to unitarianism.

It is within this historical context that the agitation for a restructured Nigeria should be situated. Nigeria was formed by Britain as an economic outpost and administered as a unitary entity until Nigeria’s founding fathers negotiated Nigeria and achieved federalism. Not long after, the military took Nigeria back to unitarianism. In other words, Nigeria has had three midwives since amalgamation. Britain midwifed the birth of Nigeria and the motive was malevolent. The founding fathers midwifed federalism, independence, and republicanism and their motive was benevolent. The military took Nigeria back to unitarianism, and with hindsight, the motive was malevolent

It was Professor K. C Wheare who described federalism as a form of government in which functions are divided between two levels of authorities in a co-ordinate relationship. I share Professor Wheare’s description. The import of this is that federalism is a governmental process in which functions are divided between two authorities in such way that one authority is not subordinated to the other in the extent and exercise of their constitutionally assigned functions. It is in this respect that I posit that federalism is about cooperation, separation, and constitutional supremacy.

Federalism is appropriate in a polity where federating units desire regulatory cooperation on certain matters, and where they also desire separation and regulatory supremacy over certain matters. For federalism to work in a polity, it must be anchored on four critical pillars. First, there must be a written and supreme constitution. Secondly, there must be a process for amending the power division and this process must be independent of the two governing authorities. Thirdly, there must be an independent dispute resolution institution such as Supreme Court to adjudicate between the two authorities on constitutional litigations. And lastly, there must be a constitutionally guaranteed financial independence for the two levels of government.

While the restructuring of Nigeria’s federal architecture is an imperative and a necessary condition to achieve political stability, it is not a sufficient condition to guarantee political stability. It was Chief Obafemi Awolowo who opined that three factors must be present in a polity to guarantee stability. Chief Awolowo listed these factors as: the type of constitution, the form of government, and the caliber and character of political leaders in and outside of government. I share Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s postulations. My only addition will be that for Nigeria to achieve political stability, citizens, especially non-state actors must be actively engaged. It is in this context that I will discuss: (1) Template for Nigeria’s Federalism, (2) Political Leadership Recruitment Model for Nigeria, and (3) Agency Role of Citizens.

1.  Federalism Template

I propose that Nigeria should remain one indivisible political entity and not mere economic entity as conceived by Britain. I also propose that Nigeria remains a federation and a republic. In other words, I oppose secessionism and I support negotiation of Nigeria. As it is, Nigeria’s present federal architecture is inefficient and underperforming. This dysfunctional federal architecture needs to be negotiated and it must be negotiated in order to address people’s discontent and frustration. It is in this respect that I propose as follows:

• That Nigeria adopts a two level governmental authority consisting of one national government and either (a)  6 subnational governments as federating units following the six geopolitical zones delineation or (b) 12 subnational governments as federating units by splitting each of the six geopolitical zones into two subnational governments. I prefer the 12 subnational government arrangement and I will provide a framework using the Southwest geopolitical zone as a template later in this essay.

• That the 12 subnational governments be formed using a combination of criteria including the six geopolitical zones, geographical contiguity, efficiency of administration, landmass and population density, and people’s preference to be determined through plebiscites.

• That the national government exercises jurisdiction over the entire country as a single political constituency and that the national government  also exercises authority over defence, internal security, currency and banking, foreign affairs, aerial navigation, external trade, national economy, citizenship and naturalisation, copyright, environment, and other matters that are not local in nature.

• That each of the 12 subnational governments exercises jurisdiction over the territory allotted to it in the constitution and that each subnational government also exercises authority over education, health and wellness, local government, infrastructure, policing, social welfare, mineral resources, agriculture, environment, and all other matters that are local in nature.

• That both levels of government maintain coordinate relationship and not a superior/subordinate relationship in governmental process.

• That each level of government be financially independent and must have constitutionally guaranteed taxing and revenue generating power.

• That Nigeria should adopt parliamentary system of government and dispense with presidential system of government.

• That the national government should continue to operate bicameral legislature while the subnational governments should continue to operate unicameral legislature.

• That Nigeria remains a Republic and not a Monarchy, and that the people of Nigeria remain citizens of The Federal Republic and not subjects of any citizen.

• That Nigerians must be free to live anywhere within the Nigeria State as citizens without being subjected to any form of discrimination on account of faith, religious orientation, gender, ethnicity, and social status. In other words, Nigeria must constitutionally prohibit any form of discrimination arising from residency and indigeneship dichotomy which may put citizens at a disadvantage in accessing government programs and services.

• That the Nigerian State and any of the subnational governments must not adopt any religion as state religion. In other words, Nigeria must constitutionally prohibit duality of political ideology in the running of the Nigerian State or any of the federating units.

• That Nigeria must adopt multiparty politics at the national level and that the subnational governments must also adopt multiparty politics, and that political parties at the two levels of government must be independent of one another.

• That while local government should be created by subnational governments according to need and purpose, type, functions, and financial capability, local government should be autonomous of subnational government in terms of election of officials, tenure of office, financing, and administration. In this respect, I propose that the role of the subnational government should be restricted ONLY to creation of local government and not the administration and running of local governments. In other words, the role of subnational government should be strictly the enactment of Local Government or Municipal Act for the sole purpose of creating local governments, and not the removal of elected local government office holders from office or the constitution of caretaker committees to run local governments.

To ensure true autonomy for local governments and to ensure that local governments are not mere administrative units of subnational governments, I further propose that elections into all offices in local governments be conducted on  ZERO PARTY basis where candidates run for offices as independents. I also propose that this proviso must be clearly spelt out in the Local Government and Municipal Act.

In addition, Local Government Act must further provide that local political government office holders have secured tenure and that they can only be removed from office in accordance to the provisions of The Local Government Act or by a court of competent jurisdiction when criminal misconduct is established.

• That as determined above, the 12 subnational governments should be created subject to the approval of the people through plebiscite as appropriate. In this respect, I hereby propose that two subnational governments be created from the Southwest geopolitical zone as follows by:(a) merging the present Lagos and Ogun States into one, and (b) merging the present Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti States, and the landmass inhabited by the Yoruba speaking people of Kwara and Kogi states, subject to a plebiscite to determine whether or not the Yoruba people of Kogi and Kwara states desire to merge with their kit and kin in the Southwest geopolitical zone. I further propose that Lagos and Ibadan be named as capitals for the two subnational governments.

I further propose that a similar delineation exercise and boundary adjustments be carried out in the South East, Niger Delta, North Central, North East, and North West geopolitical zones to create 2 subnational governments using the Southwest template.

• That dividing Nigeria into 54 states as proposed by the 2014 National Conference should be disregarded. In the light of the current reality that Nigeria has been grossly inefficient in a 36 state arrangement, it is certain that Nigeria will, be even more inefficient under a 54 state arrangement. In this respect, I propose that the present 36 states structure be replaced with a 12 state federal structure.

• That traditional institution should neither be constitutionalized nor be accorded civil authority. In this regard, I propose that each subnational government should, through appropriate laws, exercise authority over traditional institution within their jurisdictions.

• That Nigeria should revisit the pre-independence and immediate post-independence principle of derivation to arrive at an acceptable revenue-sharing formula between the national and subnational governments in the post-restructured era.

2. Political Leadership Recruitment Model

I do not subscribe to the notion that a new constitution and a restructured federal architecture will guarantee political stability in Nigeria. Instead, I hold the view that in addition to having a new constitution and a new federal architecture, Nigeria must ensure that the right people are elected into public offices to run the system. In this regard, I propose that Nigeria overhauls its current political leadership recruitment model and replace it with one that will ensure that only people of good character and high mental capacity gets into public offices. Without any iota of doubt, this is a daunting task in the Nigerian environment where corruption has become endemic and where poverty is prevalent. Nevertheless, this concern must be confronted headlong to achieve political stability in the post-restructuring era.

While it is true that politics is not all about elections, it is also true that credible electoral process, transparency in voting and election outcomes are necessary to achieve political stability. It is in this respect that I also recommend that Nigeria must further reform its electoral law with special focus on party financing, election dispute resolutions, party membership, party administration, and on the sanctioning of electoral rule violators.

3. Citizenship and Political Agency

I will be very brief and direct here by submitting that not until every adult Nigerian citizen accept responsibility for rebuilding the Nigerian state by not voting incompetent people into public offices, and by also ensuring that leaders are held accountable for their actions, Nigeria will not achieve political stability let alone make predictable and sustainable progress.

This is my call. This is my manifesto for a restructured Nigeria as a committed federalist.

●Adebayo Adeneye-Adejuwon, a communication professional and public policy analyst writes from Calgary , Canada.