Confederalism: The Panacea To Nigeria’s Political Crises – Part 1

By Anyanwu Chinedu K

Nigeria is contending with so many challenges and is in crisis situation. There is no doubt that the violent crises rearing its ugly head in different parts of the country today is a manifestation of impending political crises. The challenges are multifaceted encompassing corruption, dwindling revenue due to drop in oil production and crude oil price, small arms proliferation, abduction, terrorism in the North-East, criminal destruction of pipelines and oil installations in the South-South, civil agitation and consistent clamour for independence or sovereignty of South-East and South-South by various groups, violent usurpation of farm lands and coordinated destruction of lives and properties by “Fulani herdsmen” amongst others. The weight of the crises is stupendous and risky. Careful analysis is required as well as suggestions on what is required to move the nation forward.

The Purpose Of Governance
Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations enunciated objective principles of governance recognizing: firstly, the duty of protecting the society from violence and invasion, secondly, the duty of protecting citizens from injustice and high handedness of the high and mighty and thirdly, provision of public goods that ordinarily will not be profitably provided by individuals.

Under the rule of law, the rights of citizens are important to the state. Governance is the mechanism through which the state guarantees the preservation, expansion and perfection of rights of all. Through the instrumentality of governance, greatest number of people experience and benefit from social good provided on the largest possible scale which culminate in enabling individuals realize their potentials and life aspiration. There is usually a lot of work to be done to create that enabling environment where most people find the opportunity to realize the best that is in them. Though this derives from the hedonistic calculus of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, it remains most valuable, as all actions must be judged by their definite results.
Rights of citizens are obligations of government for without governance and observance of the law rights are not rights. They are rather privileges. The simplest way the government can earn full and undivided allegiance of citizens is to give their rights increasing substance and priority.

Let us consider the following instances:
• Mrs. Bridget Patience Agbeheme – A Christian and trader of Imo State origin was brutally murdered and beheaded in Kano on 2nd June 2016 by Muslim worshippers. The fanatics who carried out this heinous act claimed she was blasphemous. Herein, an individual’s right to life has been called to question. Is the recognition of right to life debatable?

• Over a million Nigerians are living in IDP Camps in Adamawa, Yobe, and Bornu states. These internally displaced persons have right to protection against aggression. If their right to protection was duly and timely catered for, they wouldn’t have been driven out by extremists or lose their loved ones to insurgents.

• Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in the Northeast due to Boko Haram extremism.

• Farmlands and entire natural habitat destroyed in the Niger Delta oil producing areas due to oil spillage without requisite effort to clean up the hazardous hydrocarbons. People of this region affected by this disaster have right to property. Right to property conduces to right to means of livelihood. For the people dwelling in this region, who are predominantly farmers and fishermen, how has their rights to means of livelihood and property been preserved? What alternatives have they been given?

• Lives repeatedly taken in the Southeast to silence peaceful demonstrations and clamour for self-determination.

• The Chibok girls. These girls have right to personal liberty and freedom from abduction. As individuals, they have right to education to any level that will make them fit for the task of citizenship.
The recognition and protection of individual and collective rights of the people are inalienable function of governance. Protection of rights entails enforcement of obligations. Hence, the government is endowed with force and coercive power to carry out its functions.

Federation Vis A Vis Confederation
A federation is an association of states bound by a constitution whereby both the federal and state governments can exercise powers allotted to them by the constitution. In a federal state, the constitution is supreme. The federating units and the central authority have powers of legislation in areas clearly recognized by the constitution. The exclusive list enunciates areas of legislation absolutely reserved for the federal authority. Concurrent list prescribes the areas where both the central authority and federating units can legislate. In the sequel, residual list highlights areas that can only be legislated upon by the constituent units. The existence of legislative authority in a certain area conduces existence of administrative authority in that respect. The foregoing means that any law made by any of the authorities that is contrary to the constitutional provisions will be declared ultra vires, hence, null and void.

A confederation is a union of states where legislative power and authority reside in the constituent units and the central authority takes charge of international diplomacy and any other area of control as may be assigned to it by the confederating units. Two major features of confederalism are sovereignty and individual citizen’s allegiance. In a confederation, sovereignty resides in the component states. Moreover, the central authority in a confederation relates only with the government of the constituent units. Individual citizen’s allegiance is to government of the state to which the individual belongs. This is contrary to the situation in a federation where the individual citizen must face the reality of dual allegiance to state and federal government notwithstanding whether policy directives or legislations from the two are at variance.

Confederalism addresses the issue of power devolution and succinctly assigns resource control right to the component states. Federalism, obviously, is characterized by duplication of administrative machinery and the concomitant economic wastages.

How We Got To Where We Are
It all started with the use of force and compulsion as an instrument of national policy when the Northern and Sothern protectorates were amalgamated in 1914 by the colonial masters. The amalgamation was not by mutual consent neither was it for developmental purposes. It was based on convenience and political aggrandizement of the British administrators. The colonial masters knew that there was nothing in common between the two separate protectorates prior to amalgamation either in religious worship, culture, language, trade or political-administrative formations. It was therefore sheer domineering force of British command, that consumed any resistance as it were, that the polity called Nigeria was formed.

In the 1940s to 1950s, there came the gargantuan wind of nationalism promoted by Nigerian elites of then. The nationalist struggle centered on constitutional amendments to include Nigerians in consultative and parliamentary bodies and as well recognize freedom of press and association. The spirit of nationalism became the unifying factor, which paved the way for the relegation of ethnic differences and subordination of individual gains towards emergence of a united Nigeria. Consequently, independence was achieved in 1960 and parliamentary system of government was bequeathed to Nigeria.

Adoption of republican constitution in 1963 is considered the only major decision Nigerians have taken on their own; neither imposed by colonial masters nor military junta.

There are two ways people that are fundamentally heterogeneous may be unified. One is by common authority and the second is by national sentiment. In a situation where unification is by national sentiment, laws are better obeyed and there is usually greater stability in the polity than where it is by common authority. Disequilibrium easily affects a system based on common authority.

The promulgation of decree 34 following military incursion in 1966 ushered in unitary system of government that lasted barely six months. The second coup d’état in Nigeria, which took place in July 1966, instituted military federal system of government. This is federalism as practiced in the context of military dictatorship. This system of government was practiced in Nigeria for a total period of thirty years out of first forty years of our national existence. Military federal system of government is an anachronistic form of government whereby a single individual in military wields absolute power upon assuming office as head of state and head of government and rules the nation with such decrees and policies that usurp sovereignty that belongs to the state and ascribes same to his person.

Absolutism is a prominent feature of this system. The military federal system is a false federalism.

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