Article written

  • on 02.04.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Nigeria: Federalism Works 0

100 years after British colonialists unified two protectorates to create Nigeria, the problems inherent in lumping together myriad different peoples and regions continue to provoke debate and controversy. This is often directed at Nigeria’s federal system.

State authorities frequently clash with the federal government, political battle lines and alliances are often made with regional and ethnic divides in mind, and accusations of inequalities in the country’s federal structure rarely die down. The issue can even get so controversial that in his opening speech at Nigeria’s on-going National Conference, convened to discuss the state of the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan explicitly barred any discussion about dissolving the federation.

He may have done this to silence those circles which have been clamouring for the dismantling of Nigeria’s federal union, but this sanction also prohibits delegates from raising many of the reasons that the federal system ought to be kept. And the case for the federal structure can and should be made strongly. It may not work perfectly in its current incarnation, but history suggests that it is the best option for Nigeria.

Unfolding federalism

Nigeria’s federal experience began in 1954 under the tutelage of the British colonial authorities. The founding fathers of the country opted for federalism because of their belief that federal states have the intrinsic structural and institutional capacity to accommodate diversity. The multifaceted differences that exist among the peoples of Nigeria, as well as the gargantuan size of the country made the choice of federalism a necessity. Nigeria’s founding fathers desired a political framework that would be able to ‘hold together’ the diverse interests in the country.

The initial three-region federation that emerged in 1954 reflected the cultural, political and economic differences among the three largest ethnic groups in the country – the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo – which dominated the then Northern, Western and Eastern Regions respectively.

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By Dele BabalolaThink Africa Press 

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