Counterarguments: Devolution of Powers or Disintegration of Nigeria
The disintegration of Nigeria has never been a solution to the problems Nigeria, as a nation has faced over the years. As appealing as it may sound to many, when we take a closer look at its implication we begin to see the strength in unity, diversity and numbers. The terms that should occupy our attention in these perilous times are ‘devolution’ and ‘federalism’.
However, before delving into some solid reasons why Nigeria should discard the proposition of its disintegration and embrace devolution of powers, I will for the purpose of a better comprehension of the subject matter define the terms ‘devolution’ and ‘disintegration’. Devolution is the transfer of certain powers from the federal government to the states. It is an effort to reduce federal government powers by transferring some responsibilities to the state governments. Through devolution of powers, the federal government is prevented from having too much power over the people. Specifically, devolution of powers is based on the concept of new federalism. New federalism allows the states to reclaim some power while recognizing the federal government as the highest governmental power. It is a response to the argument that the federal government grew too powerful during years of operation under other federalism theories. Disintegration on the other hand is defined by the English dictionary as ‘to fall apart or break-up into parts’; ‘to dismember’.
To begin with, concentration of power at the federal level as currently exists in Nigeria is not the best way to achieve much needed rapid development. Decentralization of power from federal governments to state, local and municipal governments which may also be referred to as devolution of power is the way to go. Devolution of powers to local authorities by the federal government is very expedient as it is a major way Nigeria as a nation can break out from that cycle of national stagnation,inter-ethnic and socio-cultural violence and other negatives we see today. Nigeria has co-existed for many years successfully and aside for minor skirmishes,can continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Nigeria consists of diverse ethnic groups which have similar goals of moving the country to the next level but have different ideas on how to achieve it. At this juncture in our country’s democratic evolution and odyssey, the call for the creation of the state of Biafra is misconceived and misplaced. The circumstances in the 1960s which led to the declaration of Biafra by the late Col. Emeka Ojukwu are different from what obtains in today’s Nigeria. There is no guarantee that the proposed state of Biafra will enjoy political stability and good political leadership if it becomes a politically independent nation.
Nigeria is experiencing the most degrading conditions in her economic, social and political life. Most indices are negative and the worst possible divisions are all over the land. An in-depth analysis of current aspect of Nigeria’s political, social and economic index shows that the federal government has made limited impact in service delivery and infrastructural development. Evaluate federal government management of postal services, power, healthcare, education, security, natural resources and infrastructure and decide for yourself if they have performed above or below expectation since our independence. Rampant bombings and killings going on in Nigeria today is a clear indication that centralization of power at the federal level is not working.
Seeing as federalism has failed to provide the required positive outcome which we all want, we should take devolution of powers into consideration as it is a far better choice than the disintegration of our dear country. What would we gain from disintegration? We would only stand to lose all we have worked for and become a people without identity. Those clamoring for disintegration should carefully think about what would become the fate of the populace. If disintegration were to occur, Nigerians would be in a far worse situation than they are presently. It will be no easy split for dreamers of fragmented nations out of Nigeria as we know it now. The Islamists who are barely restrained by the need to continue to enjoy oil wealth from the non-Muslim south,will feel free to pursue their jihadist agenda for totalitarian islamization. With the collapse of the failed Nigerian state and its security agencies (police, army), extremist groups like the recently demolished Boko Haram will proliferate, as post Nigeria Arewa delegates into an islamist anarchy. The prospects are quite dire as a peaceful Soviet union type break up is unlikely. On the contrary a Yugoslavisa- type of violent disintegration is much more probable with Nigeria splintering up to a dozen parts. Old and subliminal ethno religious animosities will violently erupt as our disparate ethnic pseudo nationalities battle each other in a fratricidal scramble for territory and resources.
It may sound surprising to many Nigerians that it took almost ten years of serious minded and sincere negotiations by founding fathers of an independent Nigerian nation state to agree on federalism as the most suitable form of government. The 1960 constitution guaranteed self government for the regions and mutual respect among our ethnic nationalities. It provided for effective devolution of powers and responsibility over such sectors as agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, industry and international trade to the regions. The only shortcoming to this carefully arranged federalism was its failure to provide self government for the vast majority of ethnic nationalities that were distinct from the WAZOBIA oligopolies. A constitution enabling decentralization of power will be a step in the right direction for today’s Nigeria.
Finally, decentralization of power from the federal level will spur rapid development like we have never seen before. So far, we have seen cluster of development around localities where new states are created which boosts the argument that development happens faster when government is brought closer to the people. Rapid development will occur if decentralization is carried out provided the current level of corruption is brought to the barest minimum. Devolution of power will not result in disintegration of Nigeria. It will be a welcome development.
Egboisuba, M. (2017). Decentralization of federal power in Nigeria
Eduregard.com.ng (2017). Devolution of power or disintegration of Nigeria
Eghosa, O. (2017). Restructuring, devolution or disintegration; The choices before Nigeria in 2017
Eze, U. (2011). If Nigeria should disintegrate: The inevitable consequences; Lets unite.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Ogochukwu Juliet Ijah is an 18 year old student of the Sociology department of the University of Nigeria. She is also the winner of the 2017 Odenigbo Short Essay contest.