FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE IN NIGERIA PUBLIC SERVICE





ABSTRACT
Nigeria adopted the federal character principle to counteract the nationality question that has been bedevilling the polity. After about three decades of the introduction of the principle, this paper seeks to determine whether the application of the federal character principle in solving national question possesses the potentials for achieving national integration which is the prerequisite for economic development. We adopted the Marxist theory of the post-colonial state as our framework of analysis because of its relative proficiency in analysis of post colonial political economy and argued that like other colonial states Nigeria lacks the capacity to moderate the struggles which is pronounced between or among the various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria hence the political and economic imbalances that exist among and between different groups. These imbalances exist in almost every sector of the economy hence most people feel marginalized. This paper was discussed under the following headings: application of federal character principle in state creation; application of federal principle in revenue allocation; application of federal character principle in education sector; challenges of federal character principle in Nigeria and conclusion. This paper  recommended that while reasonable balance between states is necessary, at least 70% of merit should be considered for   appointment, admission, sitting industries and state creation to reduce the rising mediocrity in our national life.



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INTRODUCTION

Nigeria adopted the federal character principle to counteract the nationality question that has been bedevilling the polity. After about three decades of the introduction of the principle, this paper seeks to determine whether the application of the federal character principle in solving national question possesses the potentials for achieving national integration which is the prerequisite for economic development.

The paper examines the application of the federal character principle in the Nigerian public service for sustainable development. It observes that the implementation of the federal character principle in Nigerian public service tends to encourage unethical behaviour amongst public officials and circumscribe merit in the area of manpower procurement and promotion. It therefore concludes that for the Nigerian public service to achieve its mandate of facilitating sustainable development there is need for the government to reappraise the implementation of the federal character principle through the enforcement of merit anchored on public service reform initiatives that can galvanize human capacity and governmental institutions for sustainable development.

Federal character is enshrined in the constitution to prevent tribal or regional domination of any government or its agency. With due respect, its inappropriate application creates mediocrity, inequality, corruption, lack of transparency and/or competition and above all tribal dominance by the major ethnic groups. Federal character ordinarily protects minorities, but under the constitution it is operated to protect the majority ethnic groups lack of will of competitiveness and open-mindedness. The leading ethnic groups have exploited this constitutional provision to their benefits in the areas of contract award, infrastructural development and appointment into strategic government institutions. Such actions create a few rich and powerful individuals; increase poverty, ensures uneven regional development and high incidence of graft among civil servants.

Inequitable operation of federal character could be deciphered from the arrogant declaration of president Yar¢Adua¢s proposed Lagos mega city. Whereas the goal should be to empower each of the geographical regions in the provision of social amenities, such a proposal empowers a couple of states and continuously increase ceaseless drift of young and ambitious men to Lagos. What is wrong if a village in Benue or Delta state is developed as a mega city?


Even though, the goal of federal character is to prevent tribal domination, it is only limited to major administrative appointments. Federal character does not take into account ownership of federal companies and who gets what or who gets not in government contract awards. For example, if the minister of the federal capital territory, Abuja is from Ilesha in Oyo State, which is impossible, it means that more Ijeshan owned businesses would be economically empowered more than any other tribe, be they from Oyo state or other regions as the case may be. That is in a situation where the minister and director-general or permanent secretary and cronies and their phony companies are not awarding and performing all the contracts thereto themselves as it is customary in the ministries and parastals. Government officials positioned themselves as businessmen and award all contracts to their companies and cronies without executing these contracts.

Federal character has no limitation on the power of the executive in the allocation of resources or even in the privatization and sale of government properties. The 1999 constitution like a military decree has so empowered the various executive arms of government to the extent that the assemblies are mere rubber stamp political gathering institutions without any set mind of their own. We have all seen in the last 8 years of President Obasanjo¢s supremacy that whosoever heads the presidency, controls resource allocation and location of industries without due regard to common economic principles of localization of industries and consultation with the national assembly. Obasanjo in establishing the new gas plant at the boundary between Ondo and Ogun state ignored this principles by depriving the people of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers of economic development, taxation and job opportunities in spite of the environmental impact that gas exploration wreak on these communities. There is no way these communities would benefit from such policies. The end result could be an endless struggle of pipeline vandalization and hostage taking as it is now customary in that region. Even the sale of Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries was a subject of controversy until the present establishment of Yar'Adua rescinded the transaction. Let us call a spade a spade and stop the oppression of the Niger Deltas who lack responsible and selfless leadership to project their grievances. This lacuna was first reverberated by the past governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kure in the wake of 2006 south-south and south-east aspiration to acquire Aso rock ego, power and brutality, wherein he said that south-south had no credible leadership.

HISTORY OF FEDERAL CHARATER IN NIGERIA
Federal Character
 Federalism emerge either through coerced authority of a foreign power hence institutive federalism or through voluntary agreement of the constituent units hence constitutive federalism. Nigeria federalism conforms to the former type as the Nigerian federal constitution was imposed by the British colonial power. Meanwhile, the US federalism was an example of the latter type of federalism as constituting states wilfully joined the confederation and subsequently federation. Federal character suggest an attempt to build a nation where equal opportunities abound and where every individual must feel that he has equal chance to participate without bias of ethnic affiliations (Talih, 1987:2-3). Federal character is both a reaction as well as a system. It is a positive reaction to correct those practices of the past, especially in the conduct of public management which tended to exploit the diversities of the nation and by so doing cause ill will.  Also it is a reaction to those practices which tended to reflect selfish and parochial consideration, especially those negative forces which placed the self interests above national interest. The federal character principles involve a deliberate plan to construct means of ensuring the proper distribution of amenities and government projects in the country.
Afigbo (1987:21) identified some stages of evolution of federal character which is originally a colonial heritage. The stages include: The period of informal Federation 1900-1946; The period of formal federation, first phase, 1946-1966, and The period of formal Federation second phase: 1967- present. Afigbo noted that the principle arose out of a compromise among the protagonists of the 1976 CDC. It was seen as an oily formula to silence the troubled waters in Nigeria and the panacea to the issue of political economic instability which obstructs the balancing of the North and South on the one hand and the various ethnic groups mainly the three dominant ethnic groups (Igbo, Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulami) and also other minority ethnic groups on the other hand. 
Olagunju (1987:33) also defined Federal Character as a deliberate design to accommodate less dominant but often forcibly expressed interest… Essentially, it is a design which is aimed at depoliticizing new demand through an institutional arrangement hence this principle should be modified and gradually applied even to the private sector.
Similarly, Ezenwa (1987:87) noted that federal character arose out of the need to correct the anomalies that emanated from the random and uneven distribution of natural and economic resources and thus doubtful of whether such principle could correct such anomalies that have already been inculcated and imbibed by the various ethnic groupings in Nigeria. He however pointed out that this inequality which found succour in areas of revenue allocation and educational advancement worsened after independence.
Laudably, Ikejiani and Ikejiani (1986:7-8) noted that multi-ethnic and multi-racial affiliations in the country is the root cause of constant crises and blamed governments for not trying to arrest the ugly situation. They believed that the panacea to this problem lay in the adoption of federal character concept as it relates to the location, staffing and admission of student’s into tertiary institutions in the country, employment and appointments or elections.
Many scholars have equally called for the creation of more new states along ethnic lines such that no ethnic group shall be dominated by another. At this instance, one might begin to wonder whether Nigeria is the only multi ethnic country in the world. Notably, Canada and USA are also multi-ethnic countries yet they have not faced the kind of ethnic problem Nigeria faces. Thus the federal character principle is adopted in Nigeria to hold the federating units firm as  Nigeria.

EFFCTS OF FEDERAL CHARATER PRINICIPAL IN NIGERIA PUBLIC SERVICE
Application of Federal Character Principle in State Creation
                In Nigeria, federal character principle is not sidelined in State creation because the Federal Character Commission recognizes the division of Nigeria into North and South (East and West). In state creation, Nigeria has 18 States each between North and South. Since the origin of federalism and regionalism in Nigeria in 1946, the major regions have been the North and South. The further division of the South into East and West was for British administrative convenience and political consideration (weaken the South by further dividing them without doing same to the North). These three administrative units, Northern Province houses the Hausa-Fulani ethnic nationality, the Western province houses the Yoruba ethnic group while the Eastern province houses predominantly people of Igbo. Though these three groups were not the only existing ethnic groups in these regions, the dominance of these three overwhelmed the minority. No wonder only these three groups were considered when the 1946 constitution was imposed on Nigeria (Ugwu 1998:16).
                The emergence of this unholy trinity from the old duality of 1914, subsequently busted into 36 states and the minority groups continue to mount pressure for more states. The conflicts origination from request for creation of more state is so horrific that one might begin to question the rationale for Nigeria. No wonder Awolowo (1947) noted that:

It is only the accident of British suzerainty which had made Nigeria one country or one nation socially or even economically…. Socially and politically there are deep differences between the major tribal groups. They do not speak the same language and they have highly divergent customs and ways of life and they represent different stages of culture.

              Notably, colonial constitutions were concerned with only the major ethnic nationalities. It was not until July 1966 when Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon and team struck and took over government of Federal Republic of Nigeria in a counter military coup that the emphasis on this unholy trinity began to dwindle and the minority voice was heard. Gowon’s regime reversed some of the unjust decisions against the minorities in Nigerian. He gave people from minority ethnic groups political appointments and subsequently broke up the unholy trinity which gave the three major ethnic groups controls over the minorities in Nigeria. In May 1967 Gowon carved out 12 states in Nigeria, 6 for the South and 6 for the North from the unholy trinity plus the mid-West that was created in 1963.
After the General Murtala Mohammed blood free coup of 1976, he further carved out more 7 states to total 19 states in Nigeria favouring the North with 10 states and South with 9 states. In 1987 General Babangida created 2 more states 1 from North and 1 from South to give Nigerians a 21 states structure. In August 1991, he further created 9 states to give Nigeria a 30 states structure and balancing number of states between the North and South to 15 states each. In 1996, General Sani Abacha completed the creation of 6 new states to give to Nigerians the 36 states structure with 18 states from the North and South respectively in observance of the federal character principle. Today, Nigeria is loosely divided into six geo-political zones. While each of these geopolitical zones has between six and seven states as the case may be, the south –east zone has only five states. This tendency has warranted an intense call from the south east residents and representatives for the creation of one more state in the region in respect of the federal character principle.
               
Application of Federal Principle in Revenue Allocation
 Disparities in income, social and economic opportunities are traceable partly to natural endowment, partly to the formula for distribution of national resources and partly to historical legacies of colonial administration. The federal character is also applied in  allocation of revenue in Nigeria. This is because any heterogeneous society like Nigeria without a justifiable formula for sharing resources between groups is bound to experience wars and all sorts of socio-economic slouches.
                It is in recognition of the importance of fair and equitable distribution of national cake to ensure political and economic stability in Nigeria.
Nigerian constitution clearly stipulates some responsibilities to the central government and other power are reserved to the states or local governments while some others functions are shared by the three of them. The constitutions also make for a controlled distribution of the revenue and recourses of the nation to these levels of government. Federal character principle also guide the government expenditure in each region or state. This determines the spread of government services to the people (See Section 162 Sub-Section 1-10 and Section 163 Sub-Section a and b of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria).


Application of Federal Character Principles in Education Sector
                Notably, the different ethnic groups, regions and subsequently states that have existed and exist in Nigeria developed at varying pace in different sectors and the educational sector is not an exception. Since the British government stepped in to educate Nigerians as clerical staff to help in keeping the colony in a subordinate position for colonial continual exploration, Nigerians have continued to struggle for this limited chances for education. However, British government education style in Nigeria was alien and enslaving, hence, Lord Lugard noted that: 


The chief function of government primary and secondary schools among primitive communities is to train the more promising boys from village schools as teachers for those schools, as clerks for local native courts and as clerks for the administration (Ene, 1968).

                Meanwhile, the significance of education is outstanding as educational attainment has a correlation with occupation of top economic and political positions in both the public and private lives. In 1955 and 1957, both the Western and Eastern regions respectively introduced the Universal Primary Education while the North was entirely left out. By independence, education had become an issue for the federating units in Nigeria.
                In 1974, the National Policy on Education was formed. The main thrust of education in Nigeria was to achieve integration of the individual into a sound and effective citizenry and equal educational opportunities for all citizens at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Hence the aim of this outfit was to inculcate national consciousness and national unity, the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individual and the Nigerian society (Adamu, 1978).
                Again deliberate attempt has been made to institutionalize the federal character principle in Nigeria’s public affairs. In the educational sector where for instance, the Northern Nigeria is obviously disadvantaged while the South is advantaged, a policy is often recommended to right this wrong. Buggs (1987:142) argued that the panacea for this inequality lay in adoption of the federal character principle in staffing, locating schools and admission of students into schools. Thus he recommended one state one university in Nigeria.  Today, more students are admitted in Nigerian universities based on the logic of locality and educationally least developed states than those admitted on the basics of merit

 Challenges of Federal Character Principle in Nigeria
                Lack of adequate representation by the federating states in Nigeria constitutes the greatest threat to national integration and economic development. Remarkably the choking socio-economic competition among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria manifest in ethno-regional conflict and tension that characterize Nigeria since 1960. Thus the relationship between these groups is characterized by fear and suspicion of domination of one state or ethnic group by another. This leads to national disintegration and consequent canonical underdevelopment.
                Meanwhile, this suspicion and fear between groups is historical. However, it became pronounced when Sir Fredrick Lord Lugard began the process of subjecting ethnic groups with a history of mutual distrust and hatred together as one Nigeria. Remarkably, these ethnic groups are not of equal population and hence some tend to dominate others thus exploit others. Today we talk about the Igbos , the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba as the major ethnic groups and the Urobo, Itshekiri, Ijaw, Igala,  Kanuri, Nupe,  Tiv  and more than 200 others are referred to as the  minority. These inherent competitions for control of the limited resources has the tendency to destabilize hence disintegrate the polity and stifle economic development. This explain, why Dudly (1973) argued that political stability is the inevitable consequence of the failure of constitutional and institutional rules to find firm roots in the society and in the wind of the political actors. This political instability is a consequence of the nature and character of the post colonial states. The Nigeria state could not perform the primary role of state, rather, it become part of the struggle which it ought to moderate. This tends to discourage national integration which is a prerequisite for economic development.

Conclusion
                Notably, political and economic imbalances exist among and between the various states or ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. These imbalances arose from the nature and character of the post-colonial Nigerian state. These imbalances exist in almost every sector hence most people feel marginalized. The emergence of various militia groups in the Niger Delta is an indication of the existence of rivalries between groups over share of national cake. States of the majority ethnic groups seem to be so strong that they can hold the minorities to a standstill. This therefore denies the minority groups of their constitutional right of self-development and actualization. It is in view of correcting this abnormality that the Federal Character Commission was self-up to upheld federal character principles.  The Commission was set up to ensure that government decisions reflect federal character on sitting industries, building roads, awarding scholarships, appointment of public office holders, admission, employment and revenue allocation.
                The Nigerian state therefore to over-emphasizes, the federal character while deemphasizing merit and hard work and promote defend mediocrity and parochialism in running of the various sectors of the economy.  Based on the above discussion we recommends that while reasonable balance between states is necessary, 70% of merit should be considered for   appointment, admission, sitting industries and state creation. This balance should be struck such that unequal things should not be equalled or equal things unequalled to avoid intense contradiction which does not support national integration and economic development.

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