Why the Adoption of Federal System in Nigeria

Many of the reasons why the adoption of federal system in Nigeria are required necessary may be due to some of the political loopholes that the country was begging to be covered; hence the creation of the federal system in Nigeria. It is form of government that divides the powers of government between the national (federal) government, state and local government.

Federalism is a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. Generally, an overarching national government is responsible for broader governance of larger territorial areas, while the smaller subdivisions, states, and cities govern the issues of local concern. Modern federalism is a political system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments.

One can rightly say that the constitution of Nigeria and United States of America are federal constitutions while the constitution of France and the Republic of Ireland are Unitary constitutions. Federalism therefore involves the linkage of individuals, groups and policies in lasting but limited union in such a way as to provide for the energetic pursuit of common goals while maintaining the respective integrities of all parties.

Why the Adoption of Federal System in Nigeria

The federal system is defined by democrats using different perspectives and political theories; however, the question of why the adoption of federal system in Nigeria is imperative is based on some of its many advantages and benefits which it promises to the development of the nation, Nigeria.

  • Historical experience

The major reason for the adoption of federal system of government in Nigeria is borne out of the historical experience that brought all the ethical groups together under one Nigeria. It has severally been emphasized by both the Northern and Western politicians that God did not create Nigeria but the British.

The British in their quest for economic wealth and geo-political edges over other Europeans in Africa made Nigeria the largest British colony in Africa. The Emergence of Nigeria as a political entity under colonial rule was not an easy affair. It came about following the necessity for administrative convenience and managerial expenses.

Moreover, it is important to note that most of the ethnic groups in Nigeria had strong political inter-group relationship before colonial rule. The history of Ijaw, Edo, Igala, Yoruba, Igbo, Nupe and Hausa Kingdoms are enriched with social-political relationships that existed before the emergence of the white man. Political institutions, Kinship ties, Origin of towns and their cultural antecedents are enriched with similar history. All these strengthen political bonds and gave Rice to unity in diversity.

  • Unity of the country

This is also one of the reasons for federal system of government in Nigeria. Federalism was basically introduced to bring about peace and unity in the different regions of the country. In many countries of the world, federalism has emerged as a means of accommodating the growing desire of people to preserve or revive the intimacy of small societies and the growing necessity for larger combinations to mobilize the utilization of common resources.

The unity here is brought about by the desire of the component units of the federation to form union in respect of some matters. Mere desire to unite is not enough but there must be the desire to remain separate in respect to other matters. If the desire to remain separate does not exist, the the association will not be federal but unitary with some delegation of powers to local government.

  • Political culture of Nigeria

Another important factor that necessitated federalism in Nigeria was the political culture of the country. Evidently, Nigeria’s political culture was federalism friendly and that gave rise to easy adoption of federalism. As I have already explained, Nigeria is an amalgamation of three different regions with beliefs and customs. Federalism was the only solution to ensure peace and unity amongst the leaders and the citizens and that was why federalism was adopted into the Nigerian political system.

In the same way, the political culture of the United States is civic, republican and participatory. It represents a synthetic between two perceptiveness; one is that politics of the United States should produce the good commonwealth and the other is that the principal task of politics is to create an open political market.

  • Ethnic, Religious and Geographical Factor

No doubt, the Ethnic, Religious and Geographical nature of Nigeria also contributed to the reason why federalism was adopted. This is so because where federal principles apply, the various ethnic groups that cannot or don’t form majority to produce large part may have the opportunity of governing themselves within their federating unit controlled by them.

Common national, racial, religious, cultural linguistic or social ties have often contributed to the unification of political unit. In some areas where major communal or other social antagonism cuts across territorial boundaries, ranging through all the federating units, communities or classes have been driven to seek to protect or strengthen their position by inter-territorial union.

The fear of ethnic groups overlapping regional boundaries and the loyalties of castes cutting of some extent across provincial political boundaries also encourage some groups to support wider federal unions. There is no doubt that geographical factored are one of the influential reasons for federalism in Nigeria. The effectiveness of linking communications has been a vital factor in geographical unit.

  • Minority Marginalization

Another cogent reason for federalism in Nigeria is the fear of marginalization. In other not to control only some parts of the big country, Nigeria, the colonial masters thought it wise to divide the country into different component units that will be represented in the government. This helped to solve the problem of marginalization in the leadership.

The fear of marginalization by the minority in a unitary system of government has, to a great extent, influenced the majority state support for federating states. In a Unitary system, the minority states cannot govern the entire region which is controlled by majority. Thus, federalism seemed to be the only option left for Nigeria because it allows for popular participation in government. Here, both the majority and minority are represented in the government.

  • Resource Control

The availability of resources in a particular region and the need for that area to control the resources has also been seen as a reason for a federal system in Nigeria. This has nexus with the particular sharing formula adopted. In a unitary constitution which opposes federal principles, everything belongs to the central government; the federating unit does not exist, let alone agitating for resource control. However, that is not so in a federal government system.

Take for example, in the Nigerian case of Attorney General of Federation v Attorney General of Abia and others (2002) 3 NCLR 1ar p 54, the issue of resource control in a true federalism was the bone of contention in that matter. Here, the Attorney General of the Federation Instituted the case to test the true position so that the federal government would be guided on the varying issues of derivation formula.

The Attorney General sought to know whether the 13% sharing formula of the oil producing states should include revenue from oil producing states should include revenue from oil production activities off shore. It should be noted that the Federal Military Government had earlier by fiat taken proceeds from offshore prospecting and drilling activities directly under federal eminent domain.

In his judgment, Ogundare JSC agreed that the provisions to Sections 162(2) of the constitution re-stabilized the principle of derivation. This particular corroborated federalism in Nigeria. It established that the resources of a particular state is not totally owned by the federal government.

  • Fear of Insecurity and the Desire for a Union

Another factor that prompted the adoption of federalism in Nigeria is the fear of insecurity and the desire for union. The United States, Canada, India, France and Australia adopted federalism because of the desire for security by the various ethnic units.

In Nigeria, it could be argued that our federal system of government is the creation of British colonialism. However, it is also fact that since independence Nigeria has promulgated several constitutions and that if Nigeria wanted an alternative system of government, she could have opted for it. It is also an undisputed fact that the Hausas and Yorubas fought Biafra to keep the unity of Nigeria.

Insecurity and the desire for union are the main reasons for the shift from unitary system of government to federal system of government in 1954. The Hausa Fulani and the Minorities feared the domination of political powers by the Igbos and Yorubas.

It is important to also reason that small states are prone to domination and sometimes control by the big ones. To avert this domination, states unite to form a strong, virile and stable union capable of withstanding external attacks. The USA and Canada were formed with the above interest at heart.

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