THE CHARACTER PRINCIPLE IN NIGERIA PROBLEM AND PROSPECT

THE CHARACTER PRINCIPLE IN NIGERIA PROBLEM AND PROSPECT

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Abstract

The paper examined and analyzed the problems and prospects of the Nigerian federal character since colonial days till the present time. It discovered that the public service in Nigeria has been hounded by colonial legacy, the prolonged military rule, unstable political environment, economic crisis, social menace, constitutional lapses, unfavorable public policies such as the federal character, bureaucratic bottlenecks (such as red-tapism, rigidity, centralization, excessive bureaucratic layers), poor conditions of service etc. All of these factors have impeded the effective performance of the Nigerian bureaucracy in several ways. The association of bureaucracy with pejorative expression cannot be totally isolated from the factors enumerated above. The paper concluded that except these problems are addressed (some of which, suggestions are made in the paper), the prospect for its survival is dicey. I

CHAPTER ONE

THE CHARACTER PRINCIPLE IN NIGERIA PROBLEM AND PROSPECT

1.0 Background of the study

introduction

Federalism as a political system in Nigeria is a product of colonialism (Osifeso 2011 and Arowolo 2011). There is no gainsaying anymore that what is known as Nigeria today existed as many independent heterogeneous societies or nations before the amalgamation of 1914 by Sir Frederick Lugard (Asaju et al 2014). Amalgamation need to be well understood beyond the peripheral joining together of the northern and southern protectorates to become one country named Nigeria. In Nigerian context, amalgamation is a fusion of people of different ethnic/tribal origin, geographical, religious and cultural background to bear one name under a foreign/alien colonial government. This so called union has been described by a very prominent Nigerian Political Scientist as a forced brotherhood and sisterhood (Ayoade in Okolo, 2014). As a result, the country has since been faced with the challenges of “accommodating diversities, fostering inclusiveness and promoting national unity amongst its diverse ethnic groups that makes up the Nigeria’s nation – state” (Okolo, 2014).  Interestingly, federal character and national integration are related. The former is applied to achieve the latter. The application of federal character in revenue sharing, education, employment and location of industries and other development programmes will guarantee national integration, stability and development. Then what is federal character?

Federalism emerge either through coerced authority of a foreign power hence institutive federalism or through voluntary agreement of the constituent units hence constitutive federalism. Nigeria federalism conforms to the former type as the Nigerian federal constitution was imposed by the British colonial power. Meanwhile, the US federalism was an example of the latter type of federalism as constituting states wilfully joined the confederation and subsequently federation. Federal character suggest an attempt to build a nation where equal opportunities abound and where every individual must feel that he has equal chance to participate without bias of ethnic affiliations (Talih, 1987:2-3). Federal character is both a reaction as well as a system. It is a positive reaction to correct those practices of the past, especially in the conduct of public management which tended to exploit the diversities of the nation and by so doing cause ill will.  Also it is a reaction to those practices which tended to reflect selfish and parochial consideration, especially those negative forces which placed the self interests above national interest. The federal character principles involve a deliberate plan to construct means of ensuring the proper distribution of amenities and government projects in the country.

Afigbo (1987:21) identified some stages of evolution of federal character which is originally a colonial heritage. The stages include: The period of informal Federation 1900-1946; The period of formal federation, first phase, 1946-1966, and The period of formal Federation second phase: 1967- present. Afigbo noted that the principle arose out of a compromise among the protagonists of the 1976 CDC. It was seen as an oily formula to silence the troubled waters in Nigeria and the panacea to the issue of political economic instability which obstructs the balancing of the North and South on the one hand and the various ethnic groups mainly the three dominant ethnic groups (Igbo, Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulami) and also other minority ethnic groups on the other hand.  Olagunju (1987:33) also defined Federal Character as a deliberate design to accommodate less dominant but often forcibly expressed interest… Essentially, it is a design which is aimed at depoliticizing new demand through an institutional arrangement hence this principle should be modified and gradually applied even to the private sector.

This shows that the union was against the wishes of the forerunners of the various independent societies we referred to as nationalists. This, they demonstrated through the loyalty and solidarity to their primordial ethnic origins than the newlyborn nation-state called Nigeria. No wonder, one of the prominent nationalist in Nigeria, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo described Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression” (Chukwuma, 2014) However, for easy administration, as some writers argued, the colonial administrators began a journey to federalism as a political mechanism to manage the system, and this culminated with the Lytton Constitution of 1954 that gave rise to true structure of federalism in Nigeria (Konga.com, 2015, Okolo, 2014:122). Osifeso (2011) argues that the British by 1914 merged the geographic north and south together but failed to unite its people. Hence the British policies of indirect rule cum divide-and-rule further polarize the people along not only tribal lines but also spilled into social life with Christianity and western educationally disposed south, while the north was “quarantined against possible contamination by the south” (Osifeso, 2011). A historical excursion into the distant past reveals that at the terminal period of colonialism, Nigeria saw a relative self-government in the three administrative provinces - Northern, Eastern and Western provinces and the colony of Lagos. The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 stipulated the sharing of powers between the central and provincial (regional) government and at independence; these provinces became regions and formed the basic federal administrative structure of the country, because the Independent Constitution of 1960 inherited the federal structure of the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 (konga.com 2014). History shows that the federating units continued to increase after independent. In fact, in 1963 when Nigeria became a Federal Republic one additional region was created increasing the regions to four. The federating units increased to 12 states in 1967; 19 states in 1976; 21 states in 1987; 30 states in 1991 and 36 in 1996 (Elaigwu, 2002; Edingin, 2010; Konga.com, 2015). Presently 18 more states were recommended in the last national conference due to unending agitation for state to balance the lopsided and unequal geopolitical zones. Since independence, in 1960 federalism has remained Nigerian’s form of government except for a brief period (between May-September 1966) under the first military regime that attempted a unitary state; with some minor modifications. However, federalism in Nigeria was a conflict regulating mechanism. Osaghae (2002:79) supporting this view, asserts that “the management of Nigeria’s ethnic, language and religious diversity, which necessitated the adoption of federal system of government has been rendered less effective by intense politicization of these Review of Public Administration and Management, July 2015 34 cleavages” hence, the rise of “affirmative action policies to consolidate elite domination by ethnically-based fractions of the country’s political class. Jinadu (1985) submits that this ineffectiveness is due partly to the character of competition to control the Nigeria state taking advantage of some inherent cleavages of inequalities, hence the introduction of the federal character principle. The effectiveness of these policies in fostering national integration as well as promoting national development in Nigeria has been one of the most controversial issues in any political, social and economic discourse. The problem is that despite the adoption of the federal character principles since 1979, achieving national integration has been very difficult. Meritocracy and equality which are fundamental ideals of federalism has eluded the country. The reoccurrences of ethno religious crisis, group insurgencies and other related agitations in various parts of the country indicates the failure of the system.  Federal Character Principle was the product of Gowon Administration when after the Civil War when it was believed that Igbos occupied major ministries. But that should not border any body because Igbos did not occupy every ministry before the war. Remark that Tafawa Balewa was in Power and Ahmadu Bello made sure that Hausa-Fulani held the Nigerian Military even without formal education. So, where is Federal Character Principle in the Nigerian Military? Hausa should not monopolize everything; Igbo should not monopolize every thing; Yoruba should not monopolize every thing; Efik, Ijaw, Tiv, Fulani, and others should not monopolize every thing; I think that is what Federal Character Principle stands for.

1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic state, like many sub- sharan African States. The Northern part of the country is populated by the Hausa’s, the Fulani’s, Kanuri’s, Igala’s, Igbira’s and many others. The Southern part of the country on the other hand is occupied by the Yoruba’s, the Ibo’s or Igbo, the Ijaws, the Edos, the Ibibio’s, the Urhobo’s and many other small ethnic groupings. Now each of these groups not only inhabits a particular territory or area but also has a distinct language indigenous to them. It was against this background that, when the colonialists came into the country, they met and saw that there was no common language, particularly between and amongst the major ethnic groups and groupings. Another truism about Nigeria is the fact that, she is also a multi – religious state with a substantial population being adherents of Islam (Muslims) Christianity (Christians) and a host of indigenous religions. In spite of these glaring and obvious differences, the British government unified the various people under a common administration in 1914, one hundred years ago (century). This so called union has been described by a very prominent Nigerian Political Scientist as a “forced brotherhood and sisterhood” Ayoade, (1998:101) thus, the country has since been confronted with the challenges of accommodating diversities, fostering inclusiveness and promoting national unity amongst its diverse ethnic groups that make up the Nigeria’s nation – state. A fundamental and striking feature of Nigeria politics is the intense elites struggle for power among the different ethnic groups in the country. These struggles have been between the elites from the North and other Southern counterpart. Often, the reasons advanced behind the tension are the fears in the North that the more educated South would pre-dominate state institutions as well as the concerns in the southern part of the country that the contentious more populated North would have an edge in the electoral contests. The zero – sum nature of political competition amongst the elites precipitated a very bloody civil war between 1967 and 1970 Adeosun, (2011: 2); Okolo, (2010 pp. 1 – 61). For Orji (2008:125) the soul - searching that followed the civil war reflected in the quest for elite’s consensus on how Nigeria should be governed to ensure political stability and fairness in the distribution of resources among the various ethnic groups that inhabit, or makes up the country. See Adeosun, 2011:2. It is against this background that this research examines the influence of Federal Character Principle (FCP) in Nigeria and how it has occasioned National Integration (NI) problem and prospect.

1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

The main objective of this study is to examine Nigeria federal character problems and prospect. This study specifically seeks to:

1)   the challenges of Nigeria federal character

2)   does federal character enhance national integration

3)   to evaluate the benefit of federal character

4)   to ascertain the benefit of true federalism

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION

For the successful completion of this studies the following research question is generated,

1)   What is the cause of faulty implementation of the federal character principle?

2)   Are these two basic political ideals complementary or a dilution?

3)   Is federalism is synonymous with federal character?

4)   does Federal character constitute one of the features of federalism?

1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

It is conceived that at the completion of this study, the findings will be useful to

        The federal executive council in policy formulation in respect of federalism

        The legislature in their law making process and amendment, the judiciary who adjudicate the laws.

And the general public for educational purposes.

1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDIES

The scope of this studies is on the Nigeria’s federal character problems and prospect, however the studies has some limitation which include

Time: time is a major limitation to the studies as the academic calendar has a stipulated time frame for this research work in which it has to be completed on and before the time allocated.

Finance: finance is the life wire of every research work, and it scarce nature is a constrain.

Availability of research material is a major limitation to this research work.

1.7 DEFINATION OF TERMS

FEDERAL CHARACTER

Federalism emerge either through coerced authority of a foreign power hence institutive federalism or through voluntary agreement of the constituent units hence constitutive federalism. Nigeria federalism conforms to the former type as the Nigerian federal constitution was imposed by the British colonial power. Meanwhile, the US federalism was an example of the latter type of federalism as constituting states wilfully joined the confederation and subsequently federation. Federal character suggest an attempt to build a nation where equal opportunities abound and where every individual must feel that he has equal chance to participate without bias of ethnic affiliations (Talih, 1987:2-3). Federal character is both a reaction as well as a system. It is a positive reaction to correct those practices of the past, especially in the conduct of public management which tended to exploit the diversities of the nation and by so doing cause ill will.  Also it is a reaction to those practices which tended to reflect selfish and parochial consideration, especially those negative forces which placed the self interests above national interest. The federal character principles involve a deliberate plan to construct means of ensuring the proper distribution of amenities and government projects in the country.

PUBLIC SERVICE

The term public service is broader and more inclusive.  The first definition is that public service refers to government parastatals, which are the operational arm of government ministries as well as the ministries, departments and agencies (MDA).  The Public Service on the other hand, in addition to the Civil Service, encompasses the Armed Forces, the Judiciary, the Police, Government Institutions, Parastatals; Government owned Companies and Statutory Agencies. 

 The second definition refers to service(s) provided by government to its citizens, either directly or by financing private provision of the services.  

Challenges of Federal Character Principle in Nigeria

Lack of adequate representation by the federating states in Nigeria constitutes the greatest threat to national integration and economic development. Remarkably the choking socio-economic competition among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria manifest in ethno-regional conflict and tension that characterize Nigeria since 1960. Thus the relationship between these groups is characterized by fear and suspicion of domination of one state or ethnic group by another. This leads to national disintegration and consequent canonical underdevelopment.

 Meanwhile, this suspicion and fear between groups is historical. However, it became pronounced when Sir Fredrick Lord Lugard began the process of subjecting ethnic groups with a history of mutual distrust and hatred together as one Nigeria. Remarkably, these ethnic groups are not of equal population and hence some tend to dominate others thus exploit others. Today we talk about the Igbos , the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba as the major ethnic groups and the Urobo, Itshekiri, Ijaw, Igala,  Kanuri, Nupe,  Tiv  and more than 200 others are referred to as the  minority. These inherent competitions for control of the limited resources has the tendency to destabilize hence disintegrate the polity and stifle economic development. This explain, why Dudly (1973) argued that political stability is the inevitable consequence of the failure of constitutional and institutional rules to find firm roots in the society and in the wind of the political actors. This political instability is a consequence of the nature and character of the post colonial states. The Nigeria state could not perform the primary role of state, rather, it become part of the struggle which it ought to moderate. This tends to discourage national integration which is a prerequisite for economic development.

HISTORY OF FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE SHARING TILL DATE

Federal Character Principle was the product of Gowon Administration when after the Civil War when it was believed that Igbos occupied major ministries. But that should not border any body because Igbos did not occupy every ministry before the war. Remark that Tafawa Balewa was in Power and Ahmadu Bello made sure that Hausa-Fulani held the Nigerian Military even without formal education. So, where is Federal Character Principle in the Nigerian Military? Hausa should not monopolize everything; Igbo should not monopolize everything; Yoruba should not monopolize every thing; Efik, Ijaw, Tiv, Fulani, and others should not monopolize everything; I think that is what Federal Character Principle stands for.

 1.8 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDIES

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), statement of problem, objectives of the study, research question, significance or the study, research methodology, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlight the theoretical framework on which the study its based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.  Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.


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