Reasons for Federal System of Government

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Reasons for Federal System of Government: Why Countries Adopt Federal Government?

Federal System of Government

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Federal system exists where two or more Independent states come together by contract to form a united state with division of powers between the federal government and the component governments.

A federal system of government can therefore be described as a government with central authority representing the whole in external affairs and in such internal affairs as are held to be of common interest, and in which there are also provisional or state authorities with powers of legislation and administration within the sphere allotted to them by the constitution.

Federalism is a device for maintaining unity in the midst of diversity where the states are not ready to surrender all powers to the central government.

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Conditions That Give Rise To Federation

The conditions which lead to the formation of a federation, which may also be regarded as the reasons for the creation of a federation, include the following.

1. Desire to form a federal government

There must be a desire by the communities or nationalities to form a federal government. This desire, however, implies that the federating groups have to give up some of their original powers, and they must do it voluntarily.

2. Desire for local autonomy

The communities which desire to form a federal government must be prepared to retain some of the powers previously enjoyed by them. In practical terms, this means that there must be regional or state governments, which can handle local issues.

3. Leadership

It is one thing to have the desire to form a federal government; it is another thing to have the leaders or statesmen who can mobilize the people for that purpose. Leadership, as a factor involves skills in negotiation and propaganda.

4. Geographical Contiguity

The communities, which desire to form a federation, must be very large in size and population. Moreover, the commimities must also be geographically contiguous. It may be difficult to sustain a federation where the component units are physically separated from one another. The secession of Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) from Pakistan in 1971 was partly attributed to the physical separation of former West Pakistan from East Pakistan by India.

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5. Availability of Resources

It is very expensive to run a federal government. As such the communities which desire to form a federation must have abundant human and material resources.

6. Similarity of Social and Political Institutions

The political and social institutions of the groups which desire to form a federal government must be similar. For example, most of the pre-colonial political institutions in Nigeria were highly centralized.

7. Cultural Differences

The communities, which desire to form a federation, must be diverse in terms of language, religion and nationality. In short, a federal system of government is most suitable for a heterogeneous society.

8. Desire for Security

A federal government may be formed by weak states in order to protect themselves from their more powerful neighbours. In other words, the fear of external attack may compel the different groups to come together. Security and defence issues did not weigh much in the formation of the Nigerian federation, but the American colonies joined the American federation primarily because they needed a common action not only to win independence from Great Britain but to prevent their re-conquest.

9. Capacity to work for Federal Government

There must be a capacity to work for the survival of the federal system of government in a country. The system requires compromlse and sacrifice for it to survive and the people who desire it must be prepared to work for it.

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10. Force of Imitation

Many communities desire the federal system of government because of its success in the United States. The success of the American federation obviously makes federalism attractive to other countries.

11. Written Constitution

A written constitution is an essential requirement of a federal government. The government requires a written constitution, which specifies the relationship between the central government and state governments and describes the jurisdiction of each level of government.

12. Existence of a Supreme Court

A federal government requires a Supreme Court which is empowered to interpret the constitution and restrain the federal and state governments from encroaching on, or usurping the functions of the other.

13. Historical Factors

Communities which have been previous administered as one country may decide to form a federation.


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