Restructuring Nigerian Federalism, Strength to Functional Union Part 2

Spread the love

By Prof. Nathan Uzorma

A perfect example of this is the lopsided nature of the federalism of the First Republic. It has a heavy structural imbalance, in terms of geographical and numeric size of the regions, which electorally and politically favoured the northern region. Ever since then, the shifts to political systems, innumerable economic policies and transition programmes subsequently show that previous institutionalisation patterns, which are adopted, were mere ‘systemic failures.’ This is heightened by the fact that in 1979, Nigeria was imposed another institutional pattern: The American presidential democracy, which like other shifts of government systems implied a rejection of the last democratic institutional pattern- Parliamentary system.

Nonetheless, the administrators could not realise that functional democratic system is premised upon the existence of a sound economy, which is capable of meeting the needs and the rising expectations of an increasingly socially mobilised society like Nigeria.

Administratively, the American presidential system of government is capital intensive and Nigeria has not attained reliable developed economy for system of government, and these are major causes of socio-economic and political instability in the country. And as Oche puts it, any attempt “at imposing a democratic political structure on a depressed economic base, which is incapable of meeting the basic economic needs of the plurality of the society, has the possibility of leading to political instability.

The contention here is that the American presidential democracy as an institutional pattern was imposed on an infirm economy and consequently within its life-span the dangerous nature of the Nigerian economy got worsened. These structural changes in the nation’s political institutions according to Augustus Gbosi “will have important implications for policy formulation and implementation in the country. The structural changes in our political institutions will also affect the overall performance of the national economy. This is true because we cannot separate politics from economics.”

These desired structural changes are the basis for the call of restructuring the country. Nigeria from discussions above, evolved different types of political system without first of all considering what the useful the criteria for the evaluation of the nature of the political system or operational polity of a State. According to him there are four useful criteria for measuring such, and they are: The political culture of the State, the nation’s economic state, the institutionalisation pattern, and its pattern of rule making.The political culture of the heterogeneous composition of Nigeria is neglected in the federalism the country is operating.

According to Gabriel Almond and Sydney Verba, political culture specifically refers to the people’s knowledge, orientation, attitudes and feelings about their political system. Nigeria as a nation is a conglomerate of ethnic nationalities that have different political cultures, and these were not taken cognisance of in the rampart cut and create features of statism in Nigerian federalism; thus the emergence of more problems than the proffering of solutions in the country.

It is on this backdrop that P.U. Nneji recalls that “an examination of power structures in Nigeria shows the dichotomy between the inscriptive power centres to the North and the limited constitutional monarchical structure to the West and the aggressive republican democratic power centres of the South-East zones of Nigeria. The ways each of these power structures perceives power make it mandatory to try to understand some of the unique and complex features of inscriptive authoritarian rule in Northern Nigeria for whom democracy means nothing short of one may say what everyone else do.”

Evidently, these sorts of attitudinal dispositions or mentalities of prevalent and relative political cultures in the country, affect the ideologies of the political parties, politicians and statesmen, as well as emergent national leaders from them. In the Pre-Independence government, Nigeria had parliamentary system of government. This system favoured the limited constitutional and authoritarian monarchical structures of the Northern and Western regions and their governments, and thus the majority of the country to the extent that up till now, many are still clamouring for the return to the system.

This most favouring system of government was abandoned in 1963 when Nigeria adopted federalism (as a solution to ethnic rivalry), a political arrangement preferred by the Awolowo-led Western government and Action Group party. This was short lived as the July 1966 inaugural coup in the country truncated it. In assuming office as the new Head of State, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi promulgated a decree that abolished federalism and introduced unitary system of government, which is a political system that favoured the Azikiwe-led Eastern Nigerian political party- National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC).

Circumstances that led to Ironsi’s emergence, the abolition of federal parliamentary system for unitary system, and many more reasons led to the pogroms that started with the July 27, 1966 countercoup led by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon as a revenge of “the lope-sided” January 15, 1966 coup of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu that killed mostly the northerners and failed in the Eastern Region. Gowon’s coup killed Major General Ironsi and Lt Col Fajuyi (the Military Governor of the Western Region) and hundreds of Eastern Region’s military officers. “A programme against the Igbos in the North was organized in which about 30,000 Easterners mainly Igbos were killed and about a million had to flee down to the East with stories of horror and extreme brutality” Uwalaka noted.

These societal horrors caused panic and many attempts to quail the situation proved abortive, as Gowon and northern leaders were bent to a deeply plotted ethnic politics at the expense of national unity. He enunciated some policies that targeted the Eastern Region and manifested the unsaid in the 12 States creation, which not only undermined the Eastern Region, but inaugurated the official auto-route of oppression and marginalisation that the former Eastern Region, especially the Igbos (East Central State) suffer today.

Alexander Madiebo considered this State creation as being born of unannounced Machiavellian scheme, wherein Gowon broke up the Eastern region into 3 States, the West into 2 and the North into 6 and with Lagos as Capital and separate State. The essence of the states creation did not preview the problems Nigeria suffers today, but was merely to punish and undermine the emergent strong resources in the hands of the East-Central State. For Achebe, Gowon’s “new states would coincide, to a large extent, with natural ethnic divisions. Notably, the East would be divided in such a way that the oil reserves would be located in States without an Igbo majority.”

For Chinua Achebe, “Gowon, understanding inter-ethnic rivalry, suspected that dividing the East Central State and isolating the oil-producing areas of Nigeria outside Igboland, would weaken secessionist sentiments in the region and empower minority groups that lived in oil-producing regions to stand up to what they had already dreaded for years- The prospects of Igbo domination.

The former Eastern region had four major-ethnic/linguistic groups: The Igbo, Efik, Ijaw and Ogoja, and through the State creation Gowon and the consulted Northern leaders tried to serve the Efik, Ibibio, and the Rivers people from the Igbos and hence destabilise their common resolve, to face the danger confronting them. Thus, this clever move was to undermine and destroy the solidarity of the non-Igbos in Biafra.

Thus, the abolition of the Parliamentary Federalism for a Unitary System of government was interpreted by the Northern Nigerian elites and military then as the Igbos used the military to get what they could not in politics.