Federalism and political development in Nigeria’s fourth republic issues and challenges
In the beginning, there was no Nigeria. There were Ijaws, Igbos, Urhobos, Itsekiris, Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis, Nupes, Kanuris, Ogonis, Gwanis, Katafs, and so on. There were Kingdoms like Oyo, Lagos, Calabar, Brass, Itsekiri, Benin, Tiv, Borno, Sokoto Caliphate (with loose control over Kano, Ilorin, Zaria etc) Bonny, Opobo etc (Sagay, 2001). Prior to the British conquest of the different nations making up the present day Nigeria, these nations were independent nations and communities independent of each other and of Britain. Seventy years of British exploitative sojourn did not, in any significant way, obliterate the fundamental identities (e.g. language and myths of origin) of the numerous communities. One of the techniques employed in British imperial practice was to leave undisturbed everything which could not hinder the economic exploitation and introduce only those things which were directly complementary to the imperial purposes. The British creation of the country Nigeria and the amalgamation of Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914 gave birth to social problems and lack of unity in Nigeria. The concept of Federalism is the main problem of unity in the political and social system in Nigeria. The McPherson constitution of 1951 actually marked the first formal introduction of federalism into Nigeria. Thus the conference noted that: “We have no doubt at all that the process already given constitutional sanction, and fully justified by experience, of devolution of authority from the centre to the regions should be carried much further so that a Federal system of government can be developed” (Sagay, Op.cit). Generally, federalism connotes the existence of two levels of government, each constitutionally or jurisdictionally empowered to make decisions independent of each other within the legislative sphere assigned to it. K.C. wheare argue that “The fundamental and distinguishing characteristic of a federal system is that neither the central nor the regional governments are subordinate to each other, the two are coordinate and independent” (ibid). In short, in a Federal System, there is no hierarchy of authorities, with the central government sitting on top of the others. All governments have a horizontal relationship with each other. Thus, there can be no federation under military rule.
Paradoxically, the most important problems of integration facing the nation seem to result from the imposition of economic intercourse with each other upon the various groups of people who just happened to fall within the borders of Nigeria, and who would otherwise have remained separated for much longer. Danjibo (2009) corroborated that “the absence of equal rights of citizens, due to the inability to bridge the gap between indigenes and setters, is the absence of democracy”. To further buttress the challenge of integration for political development in Nigeria, Apadorai (1968) asserts that: The normal method of establishing a federation has been the coming together of a number of states, formerly separate and sovereign, to establish a common government for better security. This however is not the case with Nigeria and the dividing lines even seem to be getting more pronounced by the day. “Whereas Nigerians find it very convenient to accept, tolerate and accommodate non-Nigerians, they find it extremely difficult to extend the noble gesture to Nigerians from other places and works of life” (Danjabo, Op. cit)