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POLITICS OF REGIONALISM IN NIGERIA

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POLITICS OF REGIONALISM IN NIGERIA

 

                                                        ABSTRACT

        The concept of regionalism in Nigerian politics is as important in the political analyses of the Nigerian state as the nose on every ones face. One cannot shy away from the consciousness of the existence of regionalism in the polity of Nigeria . At this point it is imperative to answer the question. What is regionalism in the context of Nigerian politics, and what is its background in Nigerian politics. Regionalism as a concept in Nigerian politics describes the political sub-unit which differentiates other political units from another for the purpose of administration and beaurocratic consideration. It emphasizes what is know today as state, not in the sense of it as Nigeria, Ghana, or America but state as in Adamawa, Cross river, Ekiti and so on. The regions in Nigeria is to a great extent partitioned along geopolitical boundaries to express the idea of nationhood which is characterized by common language, common history, common objective, the desire to remain together even in the future, the spirit of nationalism. From the foregoing, it can be said that regionalism in Nigerian politics expresses the political sub-unit and nationhood with its geographical distribution for the purpose of administration convenience and beaurocratic considerations.

This paper examines the military, ethnicity and democracy within the  context of Nigeria’s historical and sociopolitical reality.. Nigeria’s  inability to foster a sustainable democratic tradition has negative  consequences for the country and at present, it is engaged in the  fourth attempt at democracy. The quest for democracy and therefore  development in Nigeria has been hindered by the disruptive influences  of ethnicity and militarism. This paper sees ethnicity as aploy used by  the military to perpetuate itself in power at the expense of national  development. The military’s love for power stems partially from a love  for wealth and partly from its self-image as the custodian of the  independent and corporate existence of the country. If the democratic  tradition is to be sustained in Nigeria, constitutional as well as policy

measures should be adopted to tackle the issues of ethnicity and  militarism.

        Federalism is often regarded as the appropriate governmental principle for countries with huge ethno-cultural diversities.  Nigeria, with over two hundred and fifty ethnic groups inherited a federal system from Britain in 1960 and successive governments have attempted, with varying degrees of sincerity and commitment, to operate federal institutions that can accommodate  the country’s ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic diversities and nurture a sense of national unity.  However, the leaders of these governments, at all levels, have failed to fulfil their obligations to offer good governance anchored on equitable political arrangements, transparent administrative practices and accountable public conduct. Indeed, failure to encourage genuine power sharing has triggered dangerous rivalries between the central government and the thirty six states governments over revenue from the country’s oil and other natural resources.    The defective federal  structure has also promoted bitter struggles between interests groups to capture the state and its attendant wealth; and facilitated the emergence of violent ethnic militias, while politicians exploit and exacerbate inter-communal tensions for selfish reasons.  Thus, communities throughout the country increasingly feel marginalized and alienated from the Nigerian state.  This writer contends that the deeply flawed federal system in Nigeria constitutes a grave threat to national integration, stability and development; and that unless the government properly engages the underlying issues of resource control, power sharing, equal rights and accountability, the country will face an internal crisis of increasing and dangerous proportions.  This paper seeks to examine the contentious issues in Nigeria’s federal arrangement, and the challenges they pose for nation-building and national stability.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

        The concept of regionalism in Nigerian politics is as important in the political analyses of the Nigerian state as the nose on every ones face. One cannot shy away from the consciousness of the existence of regionalism in the polity of Nigeria . At this point it is imperative to answer the question. What is regionalism in the context of Nigerian politics, and what is its background in Nigerian politics. Regionalism as a concept in Nigerian politics describes the political sub-unit which differentiates other political units from another for the purpose of administration and beaurocratic consideration. It emphasizes what is know today as state, not in the sense of it as Nigeria, Ghana, or America but state as in Adamawa, Cross river, Ekiti and so on. The regions in Nigeria is to a great extent partitioned along geopolitical boundaries to express the idea of nationhood which is characterized by common language, common history, common objective, the desire to remain together even in the future, the spirit of nationalism. From the foregoing, it can be said that regionalism in Nigerian politics expresses the political sub-unit and nationhood with its geographical distribution for the purpose of administration convenience and beaurocratic considerations.

        British influence and control over what would become Nigeria and Africa’s most populous country grew through the 19th century. A series of constitutions after World War II granted Nigeria greater autonomy; independence came in 1960. Following nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. The government continues to face the daunting task of reforming a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement, and institutionalizing democracy. In addition, Nigeria continues to experience longstanding ethnic and religious tensions. Although both the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections were marred by significant irregularities and violence, Nigeria is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since independence. The general elections of April 2007 marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country’s history.

Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960. The period between this date and January 15, 1966, when the first military coup d’état took place, is generally referred to as the First Republic, although the country only became a republic on October 1, 1963. After a plebiscite in February 1961, the Northern Cameroons, which before then was administered separately within Nigeria, voted to join Nigeria. At independence Nigeria had all the trappings of a democratic state and was indeed regarded as a beacon of hope for democracy. It had a federal constitution that guaranteed a large measure of autonomy to three (later four) regions; it operated a parliamentary democracy modeled along British lines that emphasized majority rule; the constitution included an elaborate bill of rights; and, unlike other African states that adopted one-party systems immediately after independence, the country had a functional, albeit regionally based, multiparty system.

These democratic trappings were not enough to guarantee the survival of the republic because of certain fundamental and structural weaknesses. Perhaps the most significant weakness was the disproportionate power of the north in the federation. The departing colonial authority had hoped that the development of national politics would forestall any sectional domination of power, but it underestimated the effects of a regionalized party system in a country where political power depended on population. The major political parties in the republic had emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s as regional parties whose main aim was to control power in their regions. The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the Action Group (AG), which controlled the Northern Region and the Western Region, respectively, clearly emerged in this way. The National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), which controlled the Eastern Region and the Midwestern Region (created in 1963), began as a nationalist party but was forced by the pressures of regionalism to become primarily an eastern party, albeit with strong pockets of support elsewhere in the federation. These regional parties were based upon, and derived their main support from, the major groups in their regions: NPC (Hausa/Fulani), AG (Yoruba), and NCNC (Igbo). A notable and more ideologically-based political party that never achieved significant power was Aminu Kano’s radical Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), which opposed the NPC in the north from its Kano base.

There were also several political movements formed by minority groups to press their demands for separate states. These minority parties also doubled as opposition parties in the regions and usually aligned themselves with the party in power in another region that supported their demands for a separate state. Ethnic minorities therefore enabled the regional parties to extend their influence beyond their regions.

In the general election of 1959 to determine which parties would rule in the immediate postcolonial period, the major ones won a majority of seats in their regions, but none emerged powerful enough to constitute a national government. A coalition government was formed by the NPC and NCNC, the former having been greatly favored by the departing colonial authority. The coalition provided a measure of north-south consensus that would not have been the case if the NCNC and AG had formed a coalition. Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC) became the governor general (and president after the country became a republic in 1963), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (NPC) was named prime minister, and Obafemi Awolowo (AG) had to settle for leader of the opposition. The regional premiers were Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region, NPC), Samuel Akintola (Western Region, AG), Michael Okpara (Eastern Region, NCNC), and Dennis Osadebey (Midwestern Region, NCNC).

Among the difficulties of the republic were efforts of the NPC, the senior partner in the coalition government, to use the federal government’s increasing power in favor of the Northern Region. The balance rested on the premise that the Northern Region had the political advantage deriving from its preponderant size and population, and the two southern regions (initially the Eastern Region and the Western Region) had the economic advantage as sources of most of the exported agricultural products, in addition to their control of the federal bureaucracy. The NPC sought to redress northern economic and bureaucratic disadvantages. Under the First National Development Plan, many of the federal government’s projects and military establishments were allocated to the north. There was an “affirmative action” program by the government to recruit and train northerners, resulting in the appointment of less qualified northerners to federal public service positions, many replacing more qualified southerners. Actions such as these served to estrange the NCNC from its coalition partner. The reactions to the fear of northern dominance, and especially the steps taken by the NCNC to counter the political dominance of the north, accelerated the collapse of the young republic.

The southern parties, especially the embittered NCNC, had hoped that the regional power balance could be shifted if the 1962 census favored the south. Population determined the allocation of parliamentary seats on which the power of every region was based. Because population figures were also used in allocating revenue to the regions and in determining the viability of any proposed new region, the 1962 census was approached by all regions as a key contest for control of the federation. This contest led to various illegalities: inflated figures, electoral violence, falsification of results, manipulation of population figures, and the like. Although the chief census officer found evidence of more inflated figures in the southern regions, the northern region retained its numerical superiority. As could be expected, southern leaders rejected the results, leading to a cancellation of the census and to the holding of a fresh census in 1963. This population count was finally accepted after a protracted legal battle by the NCNC and gave the Northern Region a population of 29,758,975 out of the total of 55,620,268. These figures eliminated whatever hope the southerners had of ruling the federation.

 

Since the 1962-63 exercise, the size and distribution of the population have remained volatile political issues (see Population , ch. 2). In fact, the importance and sensitivity of a census count have increased because of the expanded use of population figures for revenue allocations, constituency delineation, allocations under the quota system of admissions into schools and employment, and the siting of industries and social amenities such as schools, hospitals, and post offices. Another census in 1973 failed, even though it was conducted by a military government that was less politicized than its civilian predecessor. What made the 1973 census particularly volatile was the fact that it was part of a transition plan by the military to hand over power to civilians. The provisional figures showed an increase for the states that were carved out of the former Northern Region with a combined 51.4 million people out of a total 79.8 million people. Old fears of domination were resurrected, and the stability of the federation was again seriously threatened. The provisional results were finally canceled in 1975. As of late 1990, no other census had been undertaken, although one was scheduled for 1991 as part of the transition to civilian rule. In the interim, Nigeria has relied on population projections based on 1963 census figures.

Other events also contributed to the collapse of the First Republic. In 1962, after a split in the leadership of the AG that led to a crisis in the Western Region, a state of emergency was declared in the region, and the federal government invoked its emergency powers to administer the region directly. These actions resulted in removing the AG from regional power. Awolowo, its leader, along with other AG leaders, was convicted of treasonable felony. Awolowo’s former deputy and premier of the Western Region formed a new party–the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP)–that took over the government. The federal coalition government also supported agitation of minority groups for a separate state to be excised from the Western Region. In 1963 the Midwestern Region was created.

By the time of the 1964 general elections, the first to be conducted solely by Nigerians, the country’s politics had become polarized into a competition between two opposing alliances. One was the Nigerian National Alliance made up of the NPC and NNDC; the other was the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) composed of the NCNC, the AG, and their allies. Each of the regional parties openly intimidated its opponents in the campaigns. When it became clear that the neutrality of the Federal Electoral Commission could not be guaranteed, calls were made for the army to supervise the elections. The UPGA resolved to boycott the elections. When elections were finally held under conditions that were not free and were unfair to opponents of the regional parties, the NCNC was returned to power in the east and midwest, while the NPC kept control of the north and was also in a position to form a federal government on its own. The Western Region became the “theater of war” between the NNDP (and the NPC) and the AG-UPGA. The rescheduled regional elections late in 1965 were violent. The federal government refused to declare a state of emergency, and the military seized power on January 15, 1966. The First Republic had collapsed.

Scholars have made several attempts to explain the collapse. Some attribute it to the inappropriateness of the political institutions and processes and to their not being adequately entrenched under colonial rule, whereas others hold the elite responsible. Lacking a political culture to sustain democracy, politicians failed to play the political game according to established rules. The failure of the elite appears to have been a symptom rather than the cause of the problem. Because members of the elite lacked a material base for their aspirations, they resorted to control of state offices and resources. At the same time, the uneven rates of development among the various groups and regions invested the struggle for state power with a group character. These factors gave importance to group, ethnic, and regional conflicts that eventually contributed to the collapse of the republic.

The final explanation is closely related to all the foregoing. It holds that the regionalization of politics and, in particular, of party politics made the stability of the republic dependent on each party retaining control of its regional base. As long as this was so, there was a rough balance between the parties, as well as their respective regions. Once the federal government invoked its emergency powers in 1962 and removed the AG from power in the Western Region, the fragile balance on which the federation rested was disturbed. Attempts by the AG and NCNC to create a new equilibrium, or at least to return the status quo ante, only generated stronger opposition and hastened the collapse of the republic.

1.2 PROBLEMS OF THE STUDY

Political pundits have always opined that political developments in Nigeria have historical and colonial under pinning’. This statement is an incontrovertible fact. The issue of the politicization in Northern Nigeria in particular and the nation in general is one of them. From the colonial days although the formation of the Jamia Islamiya Mautaneen Arewa (JIMA) which was formed and led by Dr. R. A.B. Dikko a Christian) which later became Northern People’s Congress and was hijacked by the Northern oligarchy, religion has been politicized by politicians in Northern Nigeria to score political goals. This is because religion appeals to the emotion and psychology of the people and spurs various reactions usually violent reactions as seen in the various riots like the Sharia riot that had to do with religion in Northern part of the country.

 

Religious riots have often threatened the foundation of Nigerian unity such occasions have been followed by calls for the victims of such riots to come back to their home, where they can’t be assured of their protection and safety. This has implications national integration. There are clear indications that religion will in the near future play a dominant role in the election of appointment of political leaders from that part of the country.

 

What is the effect of politicized religion on the nation’s federalism in general and Northern Nigeria in particular? This is what this project tends to unravel.

The various challenges of nation – building, some of which have been detailed upon earlier on in this paper, have been compounded by the leadership crisis. Though, the leadership challenge, like the Sword of Damocles, hangs above all nations, the issue has however assumed a crisis dimension of monumental consequences particularly in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). Nigeria is a nation born in hope and optimism but has lived in anxiety for most of its fifty year – history due to the country’s failure to produce a nationally acceptable leadership that transcends ethnic, regional and religious boundaries, and that can unite its diverse peoples for mobilization towards national development. In the light of this, it is valid to support the argument that the basic problem with the Nigerian federation is the failure of leadership. All other factors of disunity, instability and under –development have been nurtured and given momentum by leadership failure. Criticisms against Nigerian leaders across Local, State and Federal government levels are many and justified. These include corruption, unpatriotism, selfishness, despotism, tribalism, and religious bigotry.

Corruption is a global phenomenon but it is more prevalent and destructive in the Third World countries. That corruption in Nigeria has become an endemic problem threatening the country’s socio – economic and political development is common knowledge. While acknowledging the threat of corruption to the Nigerian State, Hon. Ghali Umar Na’ Abba, former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives declared in 2003 that” While we cannot rule out the incidence of corruption and bribery in almost every facet of our society, it is particularly resident in the infrastructure areas in ministries or monopolistic parastals saddled with the task of making infrastructure available to the public – water, telecommunication, electricity (NEPA), roads and railways (NRC).24

 

In that same year, a Central Bank of Nigeria Director stated that “the avalanche of frauds and unprofessional / unethical practices in the industry in recent years is eroding public confidence in the system”25  In 2004, Transparency International (TI), the world – acclaimed anti – corruption watchdog, ranked Nigeria as the third most corrupt country in the world, after Haiti and Bangladesh. It also stated that billions of dollars are lost to bribery in public purchasing, particularly in the oil sector of the economy. Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) declared that Nigeria has maintained a seventy percent rise in poverty inspite of an income of over two hundred billion dollars in oil revenues since 1970, and her per capital income has hardly improved ever since.26

 

Corruption in Nigeria is, primarily, a political problem. The incidence of corruption in a nation is as a result of the lack of political will on the part of the political leadership and the inability of the state to maintain law and order. Thus, business corruption is a fall – out of the failure to tackle political corruption, which casts doubts upon the moral uprightness of the state as a whole and on the political will of the leadership to manage the affairs of the nation. It follows simple logic that where there is absence of political corruption is where the state operates under a high ethical order and upholds, protects and enforce the rule of law on itself and on its citizens. Under the rule of law and justice, the state machinery works for the good of all and there will be no stealing of public funds, inflation of contracts, forgeries, and mismanagement of money in banks, industries and government beaurocracies. In a nutshell, as it has played out in Nigeria, political corruption and business corruption are two sides of the same coin. In this regard, it is important to note that the seedy financial scandals exposed in the Fourth Republic involved several financial institutions. For example, former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tafa Balogun’s financial frauds involved the laundering of billions of Naira under different names in different banks. Similar method was also employed by government officials involved in “Ikoyigate”, a reference to the shameful fraud involving the sale of government properties in Ikoyi, Lagos, and other financial scandals that rocked the Fourth Republic across the Local, State and Federal Government units, including the Presidency itself.27

 

1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

  1. To evaluate the politics of regionalism in Nigeria.
  2. To know how regionalism culminated into federalism in Nigeria leading to development of National government and component regions or federating units.
  3. To evaluate the series of political and constitutional development in Nigeria since development of regionalism and federal structures.
  4. To assess the challenges posed to Nigeria today as a result of regionalism.
  5. To recommend solutions the problems of Nigeria as a result of regionalism.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION

  1. Can one evaluate the politics of regionalism in Nigeria?
  2. Does regionalism culminated into federalism in Nigeria leading to development of National government and component regions or federating units?
  3. What are the series of political and constitutional development in Nigeria since development of regionalism and federal structures?
  4. What are the challenges posed to Nigeria today as a result of regionalism?
  5. Can there be any recommended solutions the problems of Nigeria as a result of regionalism?

1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS

H0: One cannot evaluate the politics of regionalism in Nigeria.

H1: One can evaluate the politics of regionalism in Nigeria.

H0: Regionalism did not culminate into federalism in Nigeria leading to development of  National government and component regions or federating units.

H1: Regionalism  culminated into federalism in Nigeria leading to development of  National government and component regions or federating units.

H0: There are no  series of political and constitutional development in Nigeria since development of regionalism and federal structures.

H1: There are series of political and constitutional development in Nigeria since development of regionalism and federal structures.

H0: Regionalism posed little challenges today Nigeria politics.

H1: Regionalism posed great challenges today Nigeria politics.

1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The significance of the study cannot be over-emphasized, especially now that there is a nascent democracy and government is looking for ways to promoting things that unite the country and discontinue those that tend to divide it.

The significance of this study is as follow:

Firstly, it would provide an insight into the role that religious is playing in Nigeria politics.

Secondly, it is hoped that the study would provide the Nigerian leaders with enough information that will guide them in formulation that will guide them in formulating policies in the areas of religion and the state.

 

Thirdly, the study will go a long way in changing the orientation of the people with respect to the negative perception of religion in politics. Such understanding it is expected would help to engender the spirit of tolerance and accommodation among the people of diverse religion.

 1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

The study is concerned with the politics of religionism  in  Nigeria. Essentially, it will focus on the attendant effects that politicization of religion in the Northern studies have on the Nigerian federation. The limitation of this study is defined by the sensitive nature of the main subject matter which is religious, a subject that evokes a lot of emotion and sensitivities.

1.8  DEFINITION OF TERMS

Ethnic: Ethnic heterogeneity is a pervasive feature of the contemporary world. The problem it poses,especially in deeply divided or plural societies, is one of reconciling ethnic diversity withoverarching loyalty to the state. This is the more problematic because the state is not a neutralforce in mediating political conflict. It can be captured and used to further the interests of theleadership of an ethnic group or combination of such groups.

 

What is National unity?

National unity is about the acquisition of power and the use of such power. The Oxford

Dictionary of Words defines national unity as “matters concerned with acquiring or exercising

power, within a group or an organisation”. Nkem Onyekpe defines the term national unity as: The struggle for power which itself is the authority to determine or formulate

and execute decisions and policies, which must be accepted by the society… it is the struggle for power of governance, especially executive authority

(Onyekpe 1998:16). Onyekpe however gives a caveat to the first part of his definition. According to him, the struggle for or the acquisition of power and the reaction of the society to it,

depend greatly on the level of political development of the country. In an undemocratic society, it does not really matter whether the decisions and policies are accepted by the society. Thus the value of political power or national unity leaves little or no room for the people to have input, except where democracy has already been entrenched.

In a plutocratic system of government, like we have in Nigeria in recent past, political

Pluralism: Pluralism suggests divergent views. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as: the existence

in one society of a number of groups that belong to different race or have different political or religious beliefs… the principle that these different groups can live together in peace in one society.

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