In retrospect, the supposed visionaries of federalism in Nigeria might have been visionless or they might have been those who had wanted to use the long rope-to-rope Nigeria into perpetual servitude to the power outside, recoiling in the centrist circle of economic powers of Europe and United States of America.
Random reflections on the origin and practice of the concept of federalism in Europe and, in particular the U.S, especially its dramatic and premeditated exportation to Nigeria, indeed the recent cracks in its crevices in form unrestrained self determination feelings and agitations for independence have brought to the front burner its misconception, misplacement and fallacy.
It is an instrument of coercion, to get a diverse people to live together and therefore it is a form of imperialism.
The arrival of federalism in Nigeria is never a phenomenon but a scientific theory which most social scientists and philosophers would bring under the category of “critical rationalism” of post second World War American proselytizing of the pragmatism of James Peirce and John Dewey, and indeed before them, George Hegel, David Hume and Immanuel Kant, culminating in the 1945 speech of Winton Churchill.
It was meant to force diverse peoples to live together both within the world economic metropolis and in the due periphery with the due consent of the diversity of peoples, cultures, languages and races involved, even where this theory would be inapplicable, save the economic enslavement and benefit there from.
Federalism, according to Wikipedia is “a mixed or compound form of government combining a general government (provincial, state, cartonal, territories and other subunits) in a single political system”. Both classic and modern federalism is the United States of American under the constitution of 1787. Following the American model, it can be defined as “a government in which there is a division of powers between two levels of government of equal status” based upon democratic rules and institutions.
In the Russian Federation, U.S, Canada, India, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Mexico and Brazil where federalism is practiced, they all have their relative strengths and weaknesses which depend largely on their level of homogeneity, cultural integration, social, contract, infrastructional development, even development and greatest happiness of the greatest number of people.
Yet all are founded upon the foundation of coercion and critical rationalism, which remain a recipe for irredentism, insurrection, protest and separatist movements in all. This is because, federalism inchoatively is a reaction, against smoldering forces of nationalism and self-determination.
Historically, federalism evolved as an ideological reaction against some ideas. For instance United States was confronted with the confederationist and federalist war, which ended in favour of the federalists whose economic ambitions where beyond the immediate exploitation of forced members of their federation but also the economic enslavement of the third world including African nations and countries full of unexploited mineral, solid, oil and manpower resources.
Secondly, it was a colonizing and imperial vision to encumber the component unit where there were relatively high-developed infrastructures, for the benefit of the infrastructure deficit members subject to the control of the centre. A good example is the American war for federalism and the amalgamation of the North and Southern Nigeria. Thirdly, social contract were to underline all the federalist states under constitutions, but this was conspicuously absent in the Nigerian experiment because the colonial masters felt they were dealing with a less rational people. But the fallacy thereof is: how and why would you apply critical rationalism or instrumentalism, which though valuable to supposedly rational people, to supposedly irrational people? Our answer to this question is that Nigerians, North and South, are rational but were not allowed to decide their fate by themselves like the Americans in the dialogue between the confederationists and federalists.
The U.S modern constitution was a reaction against the article of confederation under which U.S was a loose confederation with a week central government and the Canadian constitution was in opposition to the sovereignist movement (Quebec Separatism). Nigeria, unfortunately was denied these healthy experiences but was correct into federalism following the military coup of 1966 whose unitary form of government became the foundation of a false federalism in Nigeria with nether social contract of the component units nor liberty to decide their own fate through a sovereign plebiscite.
The imperialism of federalism in Nigeria is that the country has always been subjected to European and American influences even during those trying periods like the cataclysm of 1963 elections and the civil war. The civil war, like the American civil war and the confederationist and federalist war, should have been historical opportunity for Nigerians to fashion out their own system of government. That opportunity was replaced with the unification military Decree 34 of 1966 which was a crude form of federalism.
Then the 1999 civilian constitution was predicated on this decree to usher in the federal constitution. What kind of federalism is this? It was not formed by the good people of the North and South but by some oligarchic authoritarian minority called the top military brass who by their peculiar brand of critical rationalism foisted a unitary government as federalism. This has made Nigeria a fledgling, epileptic federalism.
- Maduabuchi Dukor is a Professor of Philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University