Through the 1963 Republican Constitution, the British, our colonial master bequeathed to Nigeria true federalism. It worked so well, but those itching to dominate overthrew the government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in a military coup in 1966. That coup and attempts to befuddle the Nigerian people brought us to the banditry, Boko Haram and the kidnapping of today. It is therefore pertinent to know how and where Nigeria derailed from the sincere and true federalism bequeathed to us by the British.
At the time of the first military coup, hatched with the intention of domination by a group in 1966, Nigeria had four viable regions.
The intention to dominate was revealed by the pattern of the execution of the coup, that is to say, the pattern of the killing of military officers of particular ethnic groups as against the others. The viable regions were the North, Western region, Eastern region and Midwestern Nigeria. Sadly, by the time Nigeria returned to civilian rule, ethnic groups had been balkanized into unviable 36 states, albeit with the intention of one ethnic group to dominate the others. The weak 36 federating states are the cause of the current insecurity in the country.
Since we are aping the United States system of the federation, my examples will chiefly come from there. Thus, a Nigeria state should have its own security apparatus: its police force, intelligence, bank and election commission. As in the US, each region controls its own resources in Nigeria’s Republican Constitution of 1963. Therefore, our first set of mistakes or malfeasance are weak, economically unviable federating states, the takeover of the resources belonging to the regions by the federal government. The states have no resources to provide security for themselves. The states don’t need the large array of civil servants they have created that stultify their own progress and development.
Now starting from where we derailed from true federalism which the next set of amendments to the Constitution can rectify: for the legislature. The unicameral system from the local and state should be extended to the regional assembly and federal Parliament. It means that since the states are unviable, we should create regions by turning the six geopolitical zones into regions that are viable entities.
The present House of Representatives becomes the legislative arm of the region when we adopt unicameral system at the federal level. The Senate becomes the unicameral Parliament of the federation. But as the anchor of federal authority, each region should be represented by 21 senators. This must be so because the North-Western zone is at present represented by 21 senators at the National Assembly. It is the largest number of senators representing any Zone while South East is the least represented with 15 senators.
Then to reduce the cost of governance, each legislative house from local government, through the Area council, state assembly, regional assembly and the senate will be part-time like in Great Britain. Only the seven principal officers of each house shall be on full-time payment. That will reduce the cost of governance considerably. Because there will be no legislative aides, constituency projects and constituency allowance, issues smuggled into our democracy through ignorance, profligacy and President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda.
For the executive at the regional level, the appointment of commissioners should be two per state, making 14 in the Northwestern, 10 in South East and 12 in other regions.
At the federal level, it should be three ministers per region reducing the current 40 ministers to 18.
The region as the federating unit shall have its own petroleum corporation when it has petroleum and solid minerals company when it has solid minerals. It was the desire to steal oil money that made the federal government create the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
It isn’t their duty so to do in a federal republic. Nigerians have allowed this to continue for so long due to avarice, ignorance and timidity. Like in other federations such as Germany, India, Australia and Canada, revenue sharing is 50 percent for the regional and 50 percent for the central government. And it is the region, the federating unit that collects revenue, not the federal government.
On our federal judicial system, the only snag is that each region should have an equal number of justices at the Supreme Court, three per region and with an equal regional representative at each committee of Court. Specifically, I want every justice to sit in judgment at every court ruling like each of the nine justices sit in judgment at every court sitting of the Supreme Court of the United States.
On elections: each tier of government should conduct its own election. It should be like in the USA where the states elect their own governors and state legislators. In a true Nigerian federation, the Independent National Electoral Commission can conduct only Presidential and Senatorial elections. The regions and states will conduct their own governorship and legislative elections.
The state electoral commission will conduct governorship, state house of assembly and local government elections. In a federation, states and regions have their own police, they conduct their own elections. Federal Government should have no power to conduct governorship elections; she is doing it now because of ignorance of the meaning of federalism.
For the president to win an election in a federation, he must win the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, not the largest number of votes. France isn’t a federation so her system of government isn’t applicable to Nigeria. We could only look to the United States and some Latin American nations. Winning a presidential election in a federation isn’t winning a majority of votes, it is winning the majority of ethnic groups. Altering our constitution to achieve these goals isn’t difficult at all.
The present National Assembly and state legislatures can do it before 2023. All these suggestions have been submitted to the Constitution amendment committee of the National Assembly. Those agitating for restructuring are grandstanding for personal gain. We need neither a Constitutional conference nor a referendum. The present legislative houses in Nigeria can achieve true federalism if we pursue it with sincerity. Ignorance, insincerity and unconscionable greed for financial gain are the causes of insecurity in Nigeria.