Reasons for the Adoption of Federalism in Nigeria

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Why Nigeria Adopted Federalism System of Government?

Federalism in Nigeria

A federalism form 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.

Advantages of the Nigeria Federalism System of Government

The Nigerian federalism has certain benefits.

  • The large size of Nigeria and its huge population may deter a would be aggressor.
  • The military security which Nigeria currently enjoys may continue for a long time to come and in any case, defence is best assigned to a central authority as is done in Nigeria.
  • In international relations, there is a good relationship between the size, population and resources of a country on one hand, and the prestige and confidence which it enjoys in the comity of nations. For example, Nigeria is likely to be accorded more recognition and diplomatic courtesies in international affairs than a small country like Togo.
  • The division of powers between the central government and the regional or state governments means that each level of government can make laws on certain specified subjects. For instance, if each region as an independent state were to deal with important legislative subjects like defence or foreign affairs, there would be great confusion in the system and great hardship may be caused to the people.
  • The decision of the British government to transfer power to Nigeria as an indivisible federal state means that Nigerian nationalists and politicians have to marry their differences and make sacrifice in the, overall interest of the country.
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