Why Nigeria Adopted Federalism System of Government

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Why Nigeria Adopted Federalism System of Government?

A federalism system of government is a government in which there is division of powers between the Central Government and the governments of the component units and each level of government is independent within its own sphere.

That is, federalism connotes the sharing of power between the central and state governments and both levels of government are equal and coordinate in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Thus, in a federal state, the state governments are partly sovereign and partly non-sovereign.

The oldest federal government is that of the United States of America whose constitution came into effect in 1787. Other examples of federal states are Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Pakistan, India, Brazil and Germany.

The reasons for the adoption of federal system of government in Nigeria are;

  • Fear of Domination

In multi-ethnic states there is always fear that larger or major ethnic groups will dominate the others, particularly as it relates to the allocation of state resources. Such fear can likely be reinforced by unitary system.

Thus various ethnic groups will engage one anothet in rivalry for control of government at the centre.

  • Cultural Differences

Diversity in the socio-cultural background of the people in Nigeria is enough reason to adopt federalism in the sense that people may decide to have a federalist state due to the differences in their languages, belief systems, norms, values, customs among others, resulting from their different cultural histories.

Thus, the heterogeneous nature of multi-ethnic society is likely to demand for federal system to be put in place, so that every people, in spite of their cultural diversity, can enjoy substantial autonomy to function effectively as a people.

This will detinitely create an opponunity for ‘unity in diversity“.

  • Administrative Efficiency

Decentralization of government powers among various levels of government is capable of promoting effective administration of the entire nation. This situation tends to allow development to reach every nook and cranny of the country.

Economic Reasons

In as much that. it should be the desire of every responsible government to ensure that all its component units are evenly developed. and knowing that these component units don’t enjoy the same amount of natural resources, efforts should be made by the central government to create conducive atmosphere for rapid development in all the component units (states or regions).

The government at the centre will need to assist those states or tegions, which have less resource to develop through a number of interventions like offer of grants, technical assistance, among others.

The government must also ensure that each of the component units enjoy considerable control of its resources. This can more be guaranteed under a federal system.

  • Geographical Contiguity

Federalism can be adopted where ethnic groups are geographically contiguous, having history of inter-ethnic integration or economic cooperations i.e. trade relations before colonialism. Such integration enables them to appreciate the inter-dependence in their relations.

  • Historical Reasons

There is no way we can talk about the history of Nigeria as a nation without considering the colonial experience of its people. The colonial experience and Westem values that the local people inherited at independence are a source of the emergent culture of modern state in Africa.

But despite the common history of colonialism shared by the people, primordial sentiments and ethnic rivalry are still popular on the continent, making efforts at nation-building less fruitful. Therefore in such situation like this, federalism can be adopted to reduce inter-ethnic tension in the state and to foster peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups.

In this case, each region will be given its own power to administer its boundary, so that, each ethnic group, big or small, will have a deep sense of belonging particularly as it relates to the fiscal autonomy they will enjoy under a federal government.


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