Reviving Nigeria’s true federalism: advocating for a return to the 1960 constitution to overcome governance challenges

By Ojo Emmanuel Ademola

Nigeria’s federal system of governance, as it stands today, grapples with a myriad of challenges, which significantly impede the realization of the country’s true federalism and hinder effective governance. These obstacles have given rise to social, economic, and political disparities, leading to widespread disenchantment and unrest amongst the populace. However, one promising solution to these issues lies in advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution, a document that holds the potential to address these obstacles and lay the groundwork for a more equitable and efficient federal system. By embracing the principles outlined in the 1960 Constitution, Nigeria may be able to reclaim its commitment to true federalism, fostering a more cohesive and inclusive society while propelling the nation towards sustainable development and growth.

Lush Arena

The over-centralization of power in the Nigerian federal government creates a situation where decisions regarding key aspects of governance, such as resource allocation, economic policy, and social development, are predominantly determined at the federal level. This setup limits the autonomy and authority of the states and local governments, hindering their ability to tailor policies and initiatives to address specific local needs and challenges effectively. As a result, local communities are often left feeling disconnected from the decision-making processes that directly impact their lives.

Additionally, the lack of substantial decision-making power at the state and local levels undermines the effective implementation of development projects. When initiatives and projects are designed and enforced without a strong understanding of local conditions and priorities, their impact can be minimal and, at times, counterproductive. This exacerbates the already existing disparities between regions and communities, perpetuating inequalities and hindering the overall progress of the nation.

The consequences of over-centralization also extend to the delivery of public goods and services. Service delivery at the grassroots level, including infrastructure development, healthcare, and education, is often hindered by bureaucratic hurdles, delays, and inefficiencies. Local communities frequently struggle to have their voices heard or to secure the support needed for their development priorities, leading to a lack of equitable and efficient governance.

In light of these challenges, advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution can be seen as a solution to address the over-centralization of power, thereby promoting the equitable distribution of authority and resources. This move is believed to enhance the effective functioning of Nigeria’s federal system, allowing for better governance and development initiatives that can address the diverse and unique needs of the various regions within the country.

The unequal distribution of resources in Nigeria exacerbates economic disparities among the states and regions, often perpetuating feelings of marginalization and fueling agitations for resource control and restructuring. Historically, the over-centralization of revenue allocation has resulted in a situation where states and local governments have limited control over their resources, hindering their ability to harness and manage their economic potential.

One of the consequences of this unequal distribution and limited autonomy is the overreliance on oil revenues. The current constitutional framework gives the federal government a dominant role in revenue allocation, which, combined with the disproportionate distribution of oil reserves, has led to an economic landscape overly dependent on oil. This overreliance on one industry has hindered the diversification of the economy, leaving it vulnerable to fluctuations in global oil prices and hindering the development of other key sectors that could contribute to more balanced and sustainable economic growth.

The situation perpetuates a cycle where economic disparities persist, and states with limited access to oil reserves struggle to develop and thrive, further exacerbating regional inequalities. Consequently, the lack of equitable distribution and control of resources has not only hindered the economic potential of the nation as a whole but has also contributed to social and political tensions, underscoring the need for a shift in the constitutional framework to address these issues.

Advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution is one potential solution to address these challenges. This action could provide the opportunity to re-evaluate and rebalance the distribution of resources, empowering states and local governments with greater control over their economic destiny. By allowing for a more equitable and decentralized approach to resource allocation, it could support the diversification of the economy, promote local development, and address the persistent economic disparities among the states and regions of Nigeria.

Returning to the 1960 Constitution would address these challenges by promoting a more balanced distribution of power and resources among the federal, state, and local levels of government. The 1960 Constitution granted autonomy to the regions and allowed them to control their resources, which promoted healthy competition and development among the regions.

Advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution in Nigeria is a complex and multifaceted endeavour that demands the mobilization of a broad coalition of individuals, civil society organizations, and political leaders who share a common vision for a more equitable and efficient federal system. The first step in this process involves actively identifying and engaging with stakeholders who acknowledge the pressing need for constitutional reform to address the challenges faced by the existing federal structure.

Building the coalition entails establishing a network of support that transcends demographic, socio-economic, and political affiliations. This involves reaching out to influential individuals, community leaders, academics, religious figures, and representatives of marginalized groups to lay the foundation for a diverse and inclusive movement. By harnessing the collective voice and influence of these stakeholders, the coalition can articulate a compelling case for the restoration of the 1960 Constitution and the principles it embodies.

Moreover, the coalition’s efforts will extend to conducting advocacy campaigns aimed at raising public awareness about the benefits of constitutional reform and the potential impact on governance, resource allocation, and economic development. This may involve organizing public forums, town hall meetings, media engagements, and educational initiatives to foster an informed citizenry that actively participates in the discourse surrounding federalism and constitutional change.

In parallel, the coalition will engage in constructive dialogue with policymakers, lawmakers, and other decision-makers at local, state, and federal levels. This dialogue will aim at garnering support for constitutional reform by presenting evidence-based arguments, proposing viable alternatives, and articulating the potential positive outcomes of adopting a more equitable and efficient federal system.

Overall, the coalition’s advocacy efforts will be characterized by a multi-pronged approach that leverages public engagement, strategic communications, and constructive engagement with key stakeholders to create momentum for constitutional reform. Through these concerted efforts, the coalition can work toward fostering a conducive environment for meaningful dialogue, consensus-building, and ultimately, the realization of a reformed federal system that aligns with the aspirations of the Nigerian people.

It is crucial to underscore that advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution in Nigeria is not a regressive step aimed at reliving the past but rather a proactive endeavour that seeks to draw lessons from historical successes and modify them to address the current challenges facing the country. This advocacy needs to emphasize that the 1960 Constitution’s principles of true federalism offer valuable insights that can help address the contemporary complexities of governance, resource management, and national unity.

The advocacy for a return to the 1960 Constitution should highlight the numerous advantages of true federalism, with a focus on its potential to foster greater transparency, accountability, and effective governance. Emphasizing the benefits of true federalism, such as the better distribution and management of resources, can bolster economic development while providing opportunities for greater participation and representation at the local and state levels.

Moreover, the advocacy efforts should stress that embracing the principles of true federalism, as enshrined in the 1960 Constitution, can empower regions and states to harness their unique potential and contribute to the overall progress of the nation. By devolving power and resources to the subnational levels, it can promote local innovation, responsive governance, and a more equitable distribution of development opportunities and benefits.

Additionally, the advocacy needs to highlight how returning to the 1960 Constitution can pave the way for a more inclusive and participatory governance process, fostering a sense of ownership and involvement among citizens in decision-making processes. It can encourage a more robust engagement with grassroots communities, amplifying their voices and concerns in the policy-making arena, thus strengthening the democratic fabric of the nation.

By emphasizing these key points, the advocacy for a return to the 1960 Constitution can articulate a compelling case for true federalism, demonstrating its potential to address contemporary challenges and create a more responsive and inclusive system of governance capable of meeting the diverse needs of Nigeria’s populace.

In conclusion, it is imperative to recognize that advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution is essential to effectively address and overcome the challenges hindering the realization of true federalism in Nigeria. This undertaking demands a cohesive and collaborative approach, engaging all stakeholders, including policymakers, civil society organizations, and the populace, to work towards a united consensus for constitutional reform.

The process of advocating for a return to the 1960 Constitution would necessitate building broad-based support and mobilizing diverse constituencies to recognize the value of restructuring the constitutional framework. This effort requires a collective commitment to embrace a more equitable and efficient federal system of governance that can effectively address the prevailing disparities and promote national cohesion and development.

By collectively addressing these challenges and championing the cause for constitutional reform, Nigeria can pave the way for the realization of true federalism. Such a transformation has the potential to unlock the country’s full capacity for growth and progress, fostering an environment where the diverse needs and aspirations of its people are recognized and addressed. Ultimately, the pursuit of true federalism can create a platform for sustainable development, economic prosperity, and inclusive governance, contributing to Nigeria’s advancement and well-being as a nation.

Professor Ojo Emmanuel Ademola is the first Nigerian Professor of Cyber Security and Information Technology Management, and the first Professor of African descent to be awarded a Chartered Manager Status.

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