THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OUR DEMOCRACY (2): The Imperative of Running a Truly Federal Republic (a)
“The essential nature of federalism is to be sought not in the shading of legal and constitutional terminology, but in the forces- economic, social, political, cultural- that have made the outward forms of federalism necessary… The essence of federalism lies not in the constitutional or institutional structure, but in the society itself…”– William Livingstone in “Federalism and Constitutional Change.”
While Part 1 of this article successfully established the fact that the interplay that exists among the tripod of human civilization is best demonstrated in a democracy, as a form of government; Part 2 sets out to show that Federalism-when practised in its true and utilitarian sense- is the structure of government best suited for making democracy a vehicle for Nigeria’s all-round development.
The concept of Federalism is a much discussed one; and there are as many definitions of it as there are authorities. This is indicative of its fluid and nebulous nature, easily yielding to the perspective or background of the commentator at the particular time.
But to be spared the labour of sifting through pages of definitions, we refer to the informed position of William Livingstone in his ‘Federalism and Constitutional Change’, as quoted above. He also maintained- and agreeably so- that, “…The essence of federalism lies not in the constitutional or institutional structure, but in the society itself…”
It is these essential elements that necessitate the operation of federalism, which are visibly present in the Nigerian society today, that form the core of this present discourse.
At this juncture, two questions are apposite:
- What is Federalism?
- What is the nature of the Nigerian Society?
Simply defined, Federalism refers to the structure of government that shares powers between a national government and other state or regional governments in such a manner that both levels of government are each within a sphere co-ordinate and independent.
Two features stand out for consideration in any discourse on the subject of federalism: (1). The careful and sensible configuration of political power; and (2). Resource control/ Revenue sharing arrangement
Another important feature of the concept of Federalism is that it presupposes a voluntary act, on the part of the federating states, to form a compact unit, agreeing to submit their sovereignty to the Central Government and to live by common rules of the game, represented by a written supreme Constitution, the content of which is to be adjudicated upon by a Supreme Court, whenever conflicts arising from the terms of the union arise.
What then is the nature of the Nigerian society that makes federalism a sine qua non for its safe, secure, and prosperous existence?
Territory-wise, Nigeria has a total area of 923,768km2, making it the 32nd largest country in the world, almost 4 times the size of Ghana( 239,460km2) and over a thousand times the size of Singapore( 718.3km2).
Population-wise, going by the National Population Commission (NPC) figures, there are 140,431,790 Nigerians: 71,345,488 males and 69,086,302 females. And according to the CIA World Factbook, this number has risen to 174,407,539 by July 2013.
Nigeria has over 500 ethnic groups with over 500 different languages and cultures. Of these groups, the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba are the 3 largest with many others regarded as minorities.
Economically, Nigeria is the 20th largest economy in the world with a value of $500 billion, thanks to a 2014 re-basing exercise. It has also been listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become among the biggest in the world.
Significantly too, Nigeria is home to the two most prominent religions in the world, Christianity and Islam, adherents of which are found in all parts of the country.
All these are only a few highlights of the Nigerian society that make the practice of true fiscal and structural federalism an imperative for the Nigerian state, if it truly wants to fulfill its enormous potentials.
(To be continued…)