Over five years ago in April 2012, I wrote a widely published article titled “A Federation without Federalism”. The article reflected the broad consensus amongst Nigerians, then and now, that our federation has been dysfunctional, more unitary than federal, and not delivering public goods to the generality of our people.
Everyone knows that Nigeria was founded by British fiat in 1914, bringing together the diverse peoples and cultures of a vast land under one polity. As the winds of change unleashed by the outcome of the Second World War and the independence of India spurred agitations for self-government, Nigerians debated, under British tutelage, the political structure of a future, free Nigeria. Those who wanted federalism won the argument, at the cost of being derided as “Pakistanists” by a vocal minority that wanted a unitary Nigeria.
As observed earlier, in recent months, there has been a resurgence of the clamour for restructuring. Some of the advocates have not bothered to define what restructuring means to them: is it devolution of powers, resource-control, regionalism, or even self-determination, or all of these? Restructuring is the new buzz word, and some of its advocates demonize anyone not using the same registers as them, while many a politician espies in it opportunities for media attention, renewed relevance or career-enhancement. Perhaps I have only described the variety of motivations that tend to surround great questions!
In response to these developments and due to the need to clearly articulate our roadmap for political and constitutional reform, the APC set up a Committee on True Federalism to help to give structure to the debate, remove the bile and bitterness colouring the matter and transform the discourse into a nation-building event.
1. Examine the Party constitution, manifesto and other publications to ascertain the true intent and definition of the national structure promised by the Party during the Presidential campaign.
2. Review all various ideas being promoted in the current public debate on national restructuring
3. Take a studied look at the report of the various national conferences and in particular that of 2014, its recommendations to identify areas of concurrence with the Party’s promise in (1) above.
4. Liaise with APC caucus in the National Assembly to deliberate and recommend a legislative strategy for addressing the demand for political restructuring and how to use the report of National Conference in the best interest of the country.
5. Arising from (1-4) above, propose appropriate mechanism for implementing the Party position within the confines of current constitutional arrangement without prejudice to the continued unity and shared prosperity of the nation.
6. Make any other recommendation which in the opinion of the committee advances the unity national integration and collective wellbeing of the country.
• Balance in the federation – Devolution of powers to sub-nationals;
• Review of revenue allocation formula;
• Citizenship matters including federal character, and
• Review of key recommendations of the 2005 and 2014 national conferences.
After a careful review of history, literature and reports on the four broad areas identified above, the APC Committee on True Federalism has reduced the subject matter into the following twelve contentious issues that have consistently featured in virtually all previous debates on the issues around restructuring by whatever name or phrase:
1) Creation or merger of states and the framework and guidelines for achieving that;
2) Derivation principle, bordering on what percentage of federal collectible revenues from mining should be given back to the sub-nationals from which the commodities are extracted;
3) Devolution of powers: what items on the exclusive legislative list should be transferred to the recurrent list, especially state and community police, prisons, etc.;
4) Federating Units: Should Nigeria be based on regions or zones or retain the 36-state structure?
5) Fiscal federalism and revenue allocation;
6) Form of government – (parliamentary or presidential?);
7) Independent candidacy;
8) Land tenure system;
9) Local government autonomy;
10) Power sharing and rotation of political offices;
11) Resource control; and
12) Type of legislature – part-time or full-time, unicameral or bicameral?
We have since published calls for memoranda, created various social media platforms to tap into the opinions of the younger generation, and commenced public hearings in 12 locations across Nigeria. The final public hearing will take place in the nation’s capital Abuja, targeting National Assembly members and the general public living within the federal capital territory.
The Secretary of our Committee, Senator Bunmi Adetunmbi articulated our position very clearly recently:
As I have argued since 2012, there is no doubt that the Nigerian federation is unbalanced and in dire need of structural rebalancing. This I think we all agree as Nigerians, but the devil is in the details. While some advocates of wholesale abandonment of the existing political structure are probably unrealistic in their expectations, I believe most Nigerians appreciate and cherish our unity in diversity but seek the enthronement of a fairer, meritocratic system that puts social justice above everything else. It is not very hard to achieve this.
Governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria
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