Federalism as it were, originated during the colonial epoch beginning with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. It was introduced into Nigeria precisely by the 1946 Richardson constitution. The constitution introduced regionalism into Nigeria for the first time, establishing regional assemblies in addition to the already existing central legislature. However, the regional houses remained only as deliberative and advisory bodies having no real legislative competence.' They also served as electoral colleges for the central legislature. The Macpherson constitution of 1951 brought greater federalism to the country. It increased regional autonomy within a united Nigeria. It created larger and more representative regional legislatures with increased powers. It also created a concurrent list with 19 subjects on which both the regional and central legislatures' could legislate and in the event of conflict the regional law was to prevail. 'The Lyttleton constitution of 1954 further promoted federalism in the country. The constitution saw the full, romance of Nigeria with federalism, thus making Nigeria a full- fledged federation. This was imperative because of the 'Eight point programme passed in May, 1953 by the legislative council of northern region which would have brought about a virtual succession of the northern region if it had not been implemented. Under the constitution, legislative powers were divided between the federal and regional legislature. It was provided that if a regional law is inconsistent with the provisions of the federal law, the provisions of the regional law in question would be rendered void to the extent of such inconsistency. The 1960 independence constitution retained the federal structure with the three legislative lists, to wit: (Exclusive, concurrent and residual). However, in order to safeguard the unity of the country it was provided that the executive authority of the regions should not be exercised in such a way that it would impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the federation or endanger the continuance of the federal government in the country. The 1963 republication constitution retained the same federal structure and provisions protecting federalism as contained in the 1960 constitution. Then 1979 presidential constitution expressly guaranteed federalism in-section 2(1) and (2). These states;
(1) "Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2) Nigeria shall be a federation consisting of states and a federal capital territory". In me spirit of federalism, the constitution guaranteed three levels of government viz: federal, State and local governments. While the constitution recognised the need for separateness or some degree of autonomy amongst' the various levels of government, it also recognised the need for interdependence and harmonious and effective government for the Nigerian federalism to be a worthy one. The 1995 Draft constitution extensively tackled once again the question of federalism in Nigeria, drawing its lessons from past experiences.
The fact that a country with such a vast land mass and consisting of ethnic nationalities with diverse backgrounds, could not live under a unitary government for too long was not lost on the British colonial administration, especially from the time of Governor Arthur Richards.
At the various consultative forums, especially the Ibadan General Conference of January 1950, preparatory to the promulgation of the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, the question on the structure of Nigeria was pointedly asked and discussed: “Do we wish to see a fully centralised system with all legislative and executive powers concentrated at the center, or do we wish to develop a federal system under which each region of the country would exercise a measure of internal autonomy?”
But it was not...