By Anyanwu Chinedu K
The false federal system of government is what was handed over to the democratic regime that assumed office in 1999. As at 1999, Nigerians have gotten used to the false impression of federalism and its practice thereof. The wrong trends have eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian nation. The early stage of an individual or a nation is the formation stage. This stage in the life of Nigerian Nation was moulded by military recklessness and extravagance. Lawlessness and impunity became the norm upon which corruption bred.
What Nigeria is practicing today is a version of federalism as imposed by the military. Military takeover and prolonged misrule by successive dictators stifled development of constitutional democracy and by fiat pulverized enthronement of true federalism in Nigeria. Since Nigeria got independence in 1960, five constitutions have been used to govern the polity. The independence constitution was enacted by British order and came into force effective October 1, 1960 and recognized Queen Elizabeth II as de jure Head of State. The 1963 constitution established the country as a Federal Republic and installed Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as Head of State. This constitution remained in force until democracy was overthrown in 1966. Both the 1960 and 1963 constitutions retained the British inherited, parliamentary system of government.
Presidential system of Government fashioned after American presidential system was introduced in 1979. The 1979 constitution introduced federal character but was written and given to Nigerians by a military regime having been passed into law by a decree, only for it to be overthrown by military incursion of 1983. 1993 constitution was partly implemented as the 3rd republic for which it was enacted was truncated in June 1993 by the singular act of annulling the presidential election. The 1993 constitution was written by military and passed into law by a decree. It was destroyed by the same military regime that drafted it.
The 1999 constitution is the constitution (as amended) that is in force today. It restored democratic rule to Nigeria. The 1999 constitution, similar to the preceding two constitutions were drafted and decreed into law by the military to take effect on May 29, 1999.
The foregoing review brings to our consciousness the fact that Nigerians have never had adequate opportunity to choose the political structure that suits their diverse nature. It has either been as inherited from colonial masters or as compelled by military despotism. Nigeria is made up of 36 federating states and a Federal Capital Territory. The entire 36 states and FCT were created and established by military decrees.
Situating The Problem
The problem with Nigeria is structural. Our political structure is as defective as it is deceptive. Our federalism is a misnomer. It illustrates modified Unitarism. Our presidential system is sarcastically superlative; wrongly copied from United States, ascribing phenomenal powers to the president. Our Civil Service is bloated. Our political system is corrupt and ineptitude threatens our legal system. Our religious leaders distance themselves from the national issues and discourage the religious from participating in politics, describing it as “dirty game” that should be left for the conscienceless individuals. Consequently, the less religious go into leadership positions and go about conducting the affairs of the nation with utmost impunity.
From economic point of view, functioning as a 36 state structure has not proved effective. The 36 states have become totally dependent on federal allocations for their economic activities. It has got critical to the extent that state governments, with a combination of federal allocation and internally generated revenue, can no longer pay salaries of Civil Servants unless special intervention funds are received from the Federal Government. We can infer that, apart from Lagos, no other state is currently economically viable. How can the current situation be sustained?
Every state has many ministries, departments and agencies, many of which are redundant and practically moribund. It is noted that the ministries are the machineries of government and public service. These numerous ministries bearing the same nomenclature, operating from 36 different locations called states, apparently non-viable, are mere, unnecessary duplications. The nation will save more and become more productive by changing the structure and reducing number of states. The states are currently operating as extension of the government at the Centre. The attributes of a unitary system are glaring. We are not practicing true federalism. It may as well be asked: the purpose for which states exist, are we realizing them in the current structure?
Nigeria is experiencing developmental deficiency as a result of fragmentation into 36 states and FCT. Each state is too small to independently pursue technological growth in isolation. This is worsened by over dependence on federal allocation for capital projects. Industrialization can be achieved through long term planning, funding and commitment. Due to the enormity of work and resource requirements no state government is actively pursuing industrial transformation of its state. All the states are looking forward to the federal to pursue industrialization policies. This elucidates the point that the state governments are administrative units for the federal government incapable of standing alone. The federal government owns Ajeokuta steel company. The cement industry is 100% controlled by a single individual. The telecommunication industry is private sector driven. What has the states contributed in the economy since we attained the 36 states structure? In terms of creating enabling environment; to what extent has the states created the enabling environment for private sector driven industrialization to thrive? It is common knowledge that during Biafran era, Biafrans manufactured anything they needed including military equipment for warfare. The foundation for industrial growth was laid in the Southeast only for it to be halted by political fragmentation called state creation.
A significant flaw in our political structure, precipitating the call for restructuring, is over concentration of power at the centre. Having too much power at the centre negates the principle of power devolution characteristic of federalism. Constitutional power ascribed to office of the president is rather overwhelming. In the constitution, the exclusive list, itemizes matters over which only the federal government can legislate. Some of such items include electricity generation, transmission and distribution, exploitation of natural resources, Police, census, railways, etc. This arrangement is an impediment to local participation and balanced development.
Resource control and resource allocation formula are issues of unending controversy in our federal structure. The current arrangement places too much resource in the hands of the federal government leaving out the federating units as dependents. That there are 3 tiers of government in Nigeria, namely, federal, state and local government is only a constitutional perspective. In reality and in practice, Nigeria has only 2 tiers of government: the federal and the state governments. Elections that should be conducted into all offices in the 3 tiers are done only for the federal and state. Resources that should be shared to the 3 tiers directly are shared to only federal and state. This exemplifies our constitutional flaws and structural defects. Too much power at the centre translates to overbearing influence on our electoral processes and in choosing who emerges as governors, representatives and political office holders. If an individual’s opinion differs from that of a member of the forces in Abuja, EFCC will pay him a visit and his career will suffer a major summersault.