By: Egbuna Amuta
Ahead of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, most ethnic nationalities in the country clamoured for true federalism. And this informed the decision of the country’s colonial masters and the nationalists to formulate a federal constitution for the country, which was then made up of three regions namely; Northern, Eastern and Western dominated by the Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba respectively. Other minority  tribal groups within the three regions also agitated stridently for their own regions or states. Only the peoples of the defunct Midwest (made up of the present Edo and Delta states), were lucky to be carved out from the defunct Western region. Agitators for COR state ( Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers), Middle Belt, Kano and Bornu states failed to realise their dreams until the intervention of the military in Nigeria’s politics in 1966.
Howbeit, the plain truth is that virtually all homogeneous sociocultural groups want reasonable degree of autonomy from the central government. It is on record that before it was reneged upon, the federal military government of Nigeria under the watch of retired General Yakubu Gowon, agreed to a Confederation with the Eastern regional government led by late Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in an agreement popularly known as the “Aburi Accord” which was signed in Ghana in 1967.
As a matter of fact, it was the repudiation of the Aburi Accord that triggered off the Nigerian Civil War. Confederal system of government would have given greater autonomy to the existing regions in the country and made the central government less overbearing. But the command structure of the military would not truly permit Conferalism in any government run by the Army. The fact that there was a very long period of military interregnum in Nigeria distorted the federal system of government enshrined in the various post military  constitutions of the country, including the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).  However, this aberration has over the years been to the chagrin of most ethnic nationalities in the country who are sincerely clamouring for autonomy in the running of their homogeneous enclaves. Due to the fact that the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group is dominant or more influential in the military and other security agencies of Nigeria, they are reluctant to allow the country return to the practice of true federalism as was the case before the overthrow of the First Republic in 1966.
Notwithstanding inclusion of the principle of federal character in the Nigerian constitution it is, more often than not, gross violated by the powers that be in the country. This is actually the main reason why most ethnic nationalities in Nigeria are presently agitating for the restructuring of the country’s political system. In fact, they are calling for a return to practice of true or fiscal federalism. To most Nigerians true federalism is more important and preferable than the parochial quest for the office of the president or vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In true federalism, central government are not overbearing to the federating units. Meaningful powers are devolved to state governments which are allowed to fully source for their revenues internally and remit certain agreed percentage to the central government. Under a federal system of government as was the case in Nigeria’s First Republic, states or regions are permitted to have their own constitutions and police. They are equally free to have certain degree of diplomatic relationship with other countries or states in foreign nations. Indeed, federating units enjoy reasonable degree of autonomy to the extent that none of them feel dominated or marginalised by their contemporaries.
The central or federal government is merely saddled with the task and responsibilities of external defence, foreign policy and relations, currency and monetary policy et al.
This arrangement is actually what Ndigbo and many other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria sincerely want. Occupation of Aso Rock Presidential Villa is fundamentally secondary to many of them. This is not to say that they would not be happy if one of their own becomes president or vice president of the country. But the present distorted federal system of government being practiced in Nigeria would hardly produce a President whose performance would be satisfactory to majority of the country’s numerous ethnic nationalities. The anachronistic federalism being practiced today in our country encourages official corruption, and this is part of the reasons why we have hardly ever had a president who did anything wonderful and enduring for his ethnic group or the country, in terms of human development and provision of quality social amenities. Most of our political leaders under the prevailing political structure of the country are rather more interested in enriching their relatives, close associates and members of their social class across the nation. Practice of true federalism would undoubtedly curtailing these vices and make Nigeria more united, progressive and a happier place to dwell. This is the plain truth#
EGBUNA AMUTA, a Political Historian writes from Onitsha.


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