National Security Summit: Can Nigeria have a different definition of federalism?

(By Polycarp Onwubiko)

Pervasive insecurity in contemporary Nigeria would not have attained the crisis proportion if the principles and components of federalism were continued as they were in the first republic. At independence, the Republican Constitution had provisions for decentralised security system, prisons service and justice delivery and administration. The then regional governments had their respective police, which were upbeat in security challenges that guaranteed peaceful co-existence, security of lives and property germane for economic and social activities, while foreign direct investments were creating employment opportunities and facilitated poverty alleviation.

IN its commendable striving to discharge its social responsibility, Vanguard Newspaper, in conjunction with the Nigeria Police, recently organised a National Summit on Security Challenges in Nigeria at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. In his comments at the forum, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Abubakar Mohammed, explained that the import of the summit was to harness ideas and strategies on how to combat the current security problem ravaging the country.

The importance of brainstorming at such a gathering to generate ideas cannot be underestimated. The searing fact, however, is that the panacea for containing the pervasive insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria is for the Presidency and National Assembly to return the country to the path of true federalism as it was in the first republic.

A critical and realistic evaluation of the comments and presentations at the National Security Summit revealed that the political leadership is wallowing in deceit because it is being remotely controlled by the ultra-conservative Northern establishment peopled by those bent on perpetuating their devious agenda to control the country directly and indirectly. The political leadership has to hearken to the clarion call for a national conference where accredited representatives of all ethnic groups will set the modality for true federalism.

The concept of true federalism came about because of the blatant violation of the principles and components of federal system of government (as practiced the world over) on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War, when regional police was unilaterally abolished without weighing the frightful implications for a federal set-up like Nigeria. Federal and unitary systems of government have abiding principles and components borne out of researches by political scientists in the universities.

Since the outcomes of the principles and components are predictable, a nation has to adopt a system that would suite its geographical landscape and societal peculiarities. In line with the principles of federalism, the founding fathers of Nigerian Independence chose a federal system of government and the federating regions were in a healthy competition in all the sectors, such as security, transport infrastructures, education, healthcare delivery, industrialisation, agriculture, urbanisation, integrated rural development, local council administration and parastatals.

Pervasive insecurity in contemporary Nigeria would not have attained the crisis proportion if the principles and components of federalism were continued as they were in the first republic. At independence, the Republican Constitution had provisions for decentralised security system, prisons service and justice delivery and administration. The then regional governments had their respective police, which were upbeat in security challenges that guaranteed peaceful co-existence, security of lives and property germane for economic and social activities, while foreign direct investments were creating employment opportunities and facilitated poverty alleviation.

It is quite instructive that the IGP alluded to the fact that the pervasive insecurity has its source; it springs from the violation of the realistic federal system of government as bequeathed by the founding fathers of the Nigerian at independence. He said: “Having taken this noble and courageous step, we must all endeavour to put our differences aside and focus on the voyage of championing the protection of the legacies bequeathed by our founding fathers.”

Ironically, this apt comment contradicted his further postulations. He seemed, despite his well known broad and enlightened horizon, to have aligned with the overt and covert agenda of the Northern establishment, which has been doing everything possible to prevent the country from reverting to the path of true federalism with its principles and components that include a decentralised security system.

Due to itself seeking agenda for political hegemony, the Northern political and religious leaders in the first republic abused their regional police by preventing Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s party from holding political rallies in the Northern part of the country. The revenge by the late political sage led to the shortsighted abolition of regional police in the country by Gen. Yakubu Gowon. The abolition of regional police was a faulty and unimaginative solution to the abuse of the decentralized security arrangement since a realistic solution would have been to enact laws to check the purported abuse.

This inconsiderate and unilateral action borne out of fear of the growing political influence of Chief Awolowo, especially in the then Middle Belt of the country, was a blatant violation of the principles and components of federalism as practiced all over the world. The military interregnum and the consequent decrees and faulty constitutions were crafted to favour the Northern part of the country, which led the country to this sorry state of insecurity.

It is naïve of some of the participants at the national security summit to posit that Nigeria was not yet ripe for a decentralised security, and prisons service, and that state governments cannot fund police. The Nigeria Police could have collapsed but for the illegal funding of police by state governors, which is a violation of their annual budgetary provisions for the welfare of their states. What they were saying in essence is that our founding fathers committed an egregious blunder by agitating for political sovereignty and the choice of federal system of government.

In such a summit, public servants such as the Police image-maker, Frank Mba, should have kept sealed lips because by saying that Nigeria was not ripe for a decentralised security system, he was merely currying the favour of his boss. By his education and exposure, he is expected to really know the principles and components of a federal system of government.

The fact remains that the principles and components of a federal system of government are sacrosanct, sacred and inviolate.

Nigeria cannot have a different definition of federalism distinct from the universal concept, and it is this blind attempt to do so that has placed the country on the path of self-destruct or a failed state. It is high time the political leadership of Nigeria stopped brazen deception encapsulated in supposed reforms in the police and manipulation of public opinions.

Modalities should be set in motion for outright federalism through a national conference. In the alternative, the presidency and the national assembly can restructure the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists with the former having only three ministries, namely: Aviation, defence and internal affairs. New revenue allocation formula should be put in place to reflect the new legislative list.

The enduring panacea for security of lives and prosperity in this beleaguered country is full implementation of the principles and components of federalism, which include decentralised security system, prison service and justice delivery system. Anything short of this is to pander to the dictates of the Northern establishment, which used centralised security system to control all Nigerians for their own vicious agenda.

• Mr. Onwubiko is an author and public affairs analyst.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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