Man is really in an ambiguous position in nature. Nature presents to him (gender neutral) series of paradoxes and puzzles he is expected to solve. His consciousness reminds him of his individuality because he has his own name, ambitions, destiny and in some cases fate; yet to optimise his individuality in nature, he must act as a group. Man’s search for “good life” that can help him achieve his lofty aspirations in this seemingly ambiguous position in nature is endless. This explains why political and social systems are always evolving as man’s consciousness changes to suit his circumstances per time.
I have listened to several commentators, both experts and pedestrian, speak on the “ills” of the Nigerian situation and RESTRUCTURING as the best “user friendly manual” to solve these problems or to “make Nigeria better”. Understandably, all these “solutions” are emotional-laden, value-filled, subjective in orientations, and in some cases, arrogant in approach.
On my part, I have told those who cared to listen that the nebulous concept, RESTRUCTURING will need to be properly analysed in the context of the Nigerian situation. Of all the positions I have heard or read on the RESTRUCTURING debate is an article written by Solomon Ukhuegbe under the title, FACTS AND FALLACIES IN THE “RESTRUCTURING” CONVERSATION published in The Guardian of the 16th of October, 2017.
Inasmuch as I do not agree with all the “fallacies” he raised in his article, I feel the need to expand the scope of the discussion a bit. I will restrict myself only to the central theme of the article which is the nebulous nature of what is known in Nigeria as “True Federalism” if such ever exit!
Before I proceed, let me make some important clarifications. First, the concept “Federalism” in itself should not be taken as given. It must be taken for what it is- a concept. A concept, to be properly understood, must be properly operationalised by the user. For instance, is Spain a federation simply because it fits Professor Kenneth C. Wheare’s criteria of a “Federal Principle”? Also, can we classify the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as a federation even though its Constitution gave her “Republics” the right to secede but not unilaterally?
Second, as a federalist myself, I do not share Professor Wheare’s highly legalistic conception of federal principle in his Federal Government published in 1946. Rather, I prefer William Riker’s “Federal Bargain” in his Federalism: Origin, Operation, Significance published in 1964which makes the adoption of federalism a political solution and just not a legal jingoism contained in some long, prosaic documents to complicate issues for mortals.
Riker, in criticising Wheare’s “highly legalistic in tone” conception of federalism, restated politics as the role of the political elites in the formation of federations.
Again, federalism is not the same as devolution of power. There are in varying degrees, power devolutions, in all countries, but that does not make all countries federations. Spain operates a Unitary Constitution with a high degree of devolution of power to the regions which can be withdrawn by the central government under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.
Having said these, I have observed that when many Nigerians use the concept “True Federalism”, as Ukhuegbe noted, in most cases they mean the system or political structure as adopted in the United States of America (USA) where many countries “borrowed the concept from” as one pro-“True Federalist” (I couldn’t find a better way to describe him) noted. If we must borrow a concept, as some commentators maintain, we must “borrow it fully”. On the surface, this looks good as an argument.
Also, when told to define federalism, the chances are higher that many will simply regurgitate Wheare’s “Federal Principle”. Unfortunately, many of people who hold advanced degrees in political science and law have done little or nothing to disabuse the minds of our people over this misconception.
Comparing US federal experience with Nigeria and passing the former as “True Federalism” is at best dubious. The US federation is a product of the 13 colonies who came together to form, initially, a United Colonies, and later the United States. Over time, to show the dynamic nature and changing powers in the domestic and global arena, since the American Civil War (1861-1865), the First and Second World Wars, the federation have moved from Competitive, Fiscal, or Cooperative Federalism.
Also, the United States has not been as unfortunate as many African countries, especially Nigeria to have experienced military incursion into politics. This alone affected the character and psyche of the political elite since the drafting of the famous Decree 34 (Unification Decree) of 1966 which abolished the once-powerful 3 (later 4) regions of the First Republic.
I have also heard the argument that Nigeria needs a “perfect” Constitution or “people’s Constitution” as though there is anywhere in the world where the people have gathered to frame a Constitution for themselves. Japanese Constitution was written by US general, McAuthor, after the defeat of the former during the World War II in 1945. I am not sure the Japanese complain of their Constitution being written by a General from an occupational army the way some Nigerians complain about the so-called “Military Constitution”.
Since the framing of the Japanese Constitution, Nigerian have operated about ten different ConstitutionS. Yet, the search is on in Nigeria for a “people’s Constitution”. Isn’t that wonderful? Some agitators are today advocating for us to go back and dust the 1963 Constitution and use to solve the numerous political problems in the country today. This is another reductionist fallacy.
I will not end this piece without mentioning that the whole argument of RESTRUCTURING is today a political issue. That itself is fine. The major political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are set to take positions on the issue. It will be too early to know which party will officially make it its campaign slogan during the 2019 and see what becomes of it. By then, we will know what it means better. For now, it remains ambiguous needing more clarifications. Therein lies the heart of the fallacies in the RESTRUCTURING conversation!
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