Federal Character as a Recipe for National Integration: the Nigerian Paradox

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FEDERAL CHARACTER AS A RECIPE FOR NATIONAL INTEGRATION:
THE NIGERIAN PARADOX.

BY

M.L. BELLO
E-mail: ariyo2009@gmail.com

DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE,
UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN

ABSTRACT

The problem of representational equity in Nigeria started with the problem of an unequal North-South duality. As if that was not problematic enough, the smaller southern component was split into two to crate a deleterious Southern duality and an equally debilitating national trinity. The attempt to redress North-South regional imbalance resulted in the creation of states but it resulted in weakening the South against the North. This then became the justification for other methods albeit the Federal Character Principle for the promotion of a sense of belonging in the country by eliminating or at least minimizing domination resulting from imbalance in appointments. The purpose of the principle of federal character is laudable, unfortunately the application and operation of the principle tended to differentiate rather than integrate Nigeria.

INTRODUCTION

The assertion that Nigeria is a creation of British colonialism is no longer incontrovertible. Motivated by economic considerations, the colonialists had wanted to limit their exploitative tendencies to the coasts. However, a combination of factors which were largely internal threaten the realization of their economic motive, this encouraged the British to move into the hinterlands. That crucial decision with time thus annulled the sovereignty and independence of the hitherto disparate autonomous socio-political entities which had inhabited Nigeria. The conquest of the country by the British inevitably led to the establishment of a system of administration alien to the people. Two types of administration direct and indirect were tried out. The consequence of this resort is that the various nationalities inhabiting Nigeria have not been wielded into a nation in which all of them would have a stake (Ubah, in Saliu 1999). The immense concern of the British with exploitation and the ruthlessness that characterized its pursuit made them to be contented with keeping the nationalities as farther apart as possible, the so-called amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 notwithstanding (Usman, in Saliu 1999). Thus providing an unfortunate but conducive environment for mutual suspicion and distrust among the disparate groups in Nigeria.

On October 1st 1960, Nigeria attained clientele sovereignty with lopsided Federation. The Political tripod was dominated by the “majors” to the exclusion of the “minority groups”. This brought to limelight the knotty issue of domination which evoked morbid fears of marginalization ( Leadership 2008).

Nigeria’s population is estimated at 140 millions (Bello 2006). The country has between 250 and 400 ethnic groups depending on the criteria used. A total of 374 ethnic groups were identified by Otite. These ethnic groups are broadly divided into ethnic “majorities” and ethnic “minorities” (Otite, 1990).

The numerically and politically majorities ethnic groups are the composite Hausa-Fulani of the North with moslem majority, the Yorubas of the South-West and the Igbos of the South-East with christian majority. Against the backdrop of this ethno-religious composition, political issues in Nigeria are seen from their ethnio-religious perspectives, thereby giving credence to ethnic and religious jingoists and war lords. Political offices and appointments are seen as battle fields among the various ethnic groups, where the battles must be fought with all the available weapons a group can muster (see Obi and Obiekeze, 2004; Suberu, and Diamond, 2004).

The problem of acrimonious existence among the diverse groups and interests in the federation of Nigeria leading to mutual distrust, suspicion and inter-communal conflicts has become Perennial and endemic in the nation’s body Politic and has militated against...
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