Federal Character Commission (FCC) was established in 1996, it was supposed “to enforce the federal character principles which aimed at ensuring fair and equitable distribution of posts; social-economic amenities; and infrastructural facilities among the federating units of the nation.” The intention was obviously for it to be the watchdog of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in ensuring an evenly distributed workforce that reflects ethnic diversity and the geopolitical divides of the country. Also, it was supposed to ensure that socio-economic amenities and development infrastructure are equitably distributed across the country.

However, the commission seems to have merely been struggling with the first mandate and just waking up to the business of the second mandate. The first mandate was to ensure equitable distribution of bureaucratic, civil and public posts, and working out the modalities at the three tiers of government. Different strata of the Nigerian society have different views of the Character Commission. While its activities or rather reasons for being are not clearly understood by some, most people do not subscribe to the tenets of its mandate as they alleged it only goes to divide us the more.

In addition, the execution of the first mandate has been criticized by some Nigerians who alleged nepotism and poor service delivery due to incompetence of those wrongfully employed based on federal character principle. They claimed the activities of previous managements of the commission led to gross abuse of employments into the civil service especially at the federal level as mediocre people are employed at the expense of well-qualified Nigerians who are denied the opportunity to contribute to national development through public service simply because of where they come from.

So it was not surprising that the commission’s announcement in Port Harcourt after a stakeholders’ retreat that it has concluded arrangements to kick-off implementation of its second mandate has generated so much interests from different strata of our society including civil society organizations. And this is why we must get right whatever the commission sets out to do in its second mandate. All sections of this country deserve fair treatment in the distribution of social amenities and development infrastructure as this will help correct the glaring development imbalances that currently exist across our nation.

The FCC said it had delineated the country into national, state and local government levels as channels of distribution among the federating units for ease of implementation. Allocations at the national level, it said, would be based on the 36 states and Abuja or the six geo-political zones or north and south, depending on available resources. At the state level, the federating units shall be the number of local governments in the state or the three senatorial districts within the state, while the federating units at the local government level shall be the electoral wards.

What the second mandate means to the citizens is that any section or community that has been neglected in terms of infrastructure provision could take their grievances before the commission and/or to the law courts and be listened to. And this is the most interesting aspect of the commission’s second mandate. An interesting question will be where the FCC is going to derive the enforcement muscle to actualize its second mandate. From facts on ground, the commission lacks statutory muscle to enforce the mandate of fair and even distribution of socio-economic amenities and infrastructure across the 36 federating units (states) since it has no direct control over the selection and funding of development projects in the three tiers of government.

The current issue of national unity will be seriously addressed if the Commission can be strongly empowered to do its job. This will include adequate funding and making it truly independent of the federal government along the lines of INEC. The constant cries of marginalisation by the federating units will be attenuated if the FCC is seen as a strong and impartial arbiter in the distribution of scarce socio-economic and infrastructural resources across the country. In this respect the FCC has a critical role to play in the nation-building process.

The law which established the FCC says that such mechanism for the execution of this mandate cannot come into operation until the guidelines which are being developed by commission have been approved by the President. On the modalities for the realization of the second mandate, Chairman of the Commission, Shuaibu Oba Abdulraheem reportedly said: “We have now got to a stage where we have gotten the framework of the guidelines. We have developed the parameter, the criteria for distribution of the socio-economic infrastructure. We are also currently developing the templates for capturing data on such deployment from MDA’s from time to time. But we are on the verge of commencing the major job from the budgeting stage.” This sounds very promising. The challenge however will at the level of implementation and the level of independence which the Commission will be given to do its work.

In developing the criteria and guidelines for the distribution of socio-economic amenities and infrastructure as stated in the second mandate, the commission should work with the directly- impacted stakeholders- community leaders, youth groups and representatives of the various sections of the country at the National Assembly and even the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). In Nigeria, we do not lack ideas but the often familiar gulf between concepts and their implementation is so wide that it always swallows whatever good intention any concept pushes to achieve. For FCC to succeed therefore, its chairman, Professor Abdulraheem, a former Vice Chancellor, must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to bridge the gulf between a good concept and its implementation.

And this is why the present situation where different officers of the Commission are at war with each other is an unnecessary distraction. It is unprecedented in any government agency that officers should go to rent funny protesters with all kinds of names and even civil society groups to march in support of their self-serving interests. This is not very good for an organization that should actually be enforcing tolerance, equity and fairness across the country.

It is obvious that the lapses in the operation of the Federal Character Commission especially its previous inability to ensure balanced employment in government are not the fault of one man as being insinuated by some vested interests in the Commission. While I am not defending Professor Raheem, I believe the key challenge in the Commission is the deliberate weakening of the enabling mandate that brought it into being. The poisonous office politics feeds into, and exacerbates this weakness.

(Notwithstanding any provision in any other law or enactment, the Commission shall ensure that every public company or corporation reflects the federal character in the appointments of its directors and senior management staff.

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.
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