Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Anomalies of the Nigerian Federalism

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Anomalies of the Nigerian Federalism

Article excerpt


The focus of this paper is to highlight the irregularities inherent in the Nigerian Federalism right from the time of its formation that have made it extremely difficult to function properly. Nigeria's Federalism is a classic case of federalism from above. It was a direct British imposition. Unfortunately, some of the most outstanding political leaders involved in the independence struggle, representing their ethnic groups, were against it. Also the various ethnic groups in Nigeria represent different stages of culture and possess some deep rooted cultural differences as well as sentiments which make it an uphill task to perceive things from the same angle. In fact, there seems to be some kind of stiff competition among them. Resultantly, it will be natural to allow them or even encourage them to develop at their own pace and pattern. It is thus apposite that if the stability of Nigeria's Federalism is desired, then certain drastic measures must be taken so as to restructure it. The methodology of this paper is a critical analysis and conceptual clarification of the trends of political events in Nigeria from the amalgamation in 1914 to the contemporary period.

Key words: Federating units; Cultural differences; rivalry, National conference; Regional autonomy


At the evolution of Federalism in Nigeria, most of the political leaders did not hide their reservations. It was clear that to some of them the Nigerian state existed merely on paper. Although most of the ingredients required for a sound federation to come into existence were present, the desire to form a union was almost completely absent. Most certainly, if the colonial masters had administered the different regions separately, the Nigerian Federation would never have come into being. Also, most of the political leaders would have opted for separation of their areas of individual influence, if the British people had consulted them. The colonial masters further compounded the problem through the uneven manner they divided the federation. It is also note worthy that right from the amalgamation in 1914 up to 1954 the Nigerian state had a unitary' government. The provinces and later regions were created initially as mere administrative units. As a corollary, and contrary to what it ought to be, the impetus to federate derived from the desire to draw apart rather than to unite.


It has been stated that the entity called Nigeria has over 400 ethnic groups (Kirk-Green, 1967, p.4). These people operated different administrative systems before colonialism. For instance, the three largest linguistic groups - the Igbo, the Yoruba-Benin, and the HausaFulani operated divergent and completely incompatible modes of administration. While the Igbo people were predominantly republicans without kings, the YorubaBenin and the Hausa-Fulani had Obas and Emirs respectively. But, while the Yoruba-Benin Oba was a traditional derivation, the Hausa-Fulani Emir was a theocratic derivation. Comparatively, the Emir had more powers than the Oba and collected tax from his people. Tax was extremely rare in the entire South.


Nigeria came into being in 1914 with the amalgamation of the Southern protectorate and the Northern protectorate. The process of colonizing the entire area started in 1861 with the annexation of Lagos as a British Crown Colony and the subsequent formation of the Lagos Legislative Council. The amalgamation brought about the establishment of the Nigerian Council. Both Councils were, however, abolished with the introduction of the Clifford Constitution in 1922, which established a legislative council for the colony of Lagos and the Southern protectorate. However, the colonial Governor ruled the North through proclamation.

Prior to the time of amalgamation the two protectorates were administered separately by the colonial officers. During this period the development of colonial social and political institutions also diverged. …

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