FEDERAL CHARACTER: EFFECTIVE ECONOMIC TOOL OF ETHNIC DOMINATION
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. In any case, the National Assembly that ought to serve as a check on such executive vandalism has posited itself in the last 8 years as a robotic institution lacking in critical thinking, but efficient in its struggle for its salary increase and contract seeking as opposed to law making and ensuring that the well being of ordinary Nigerians is guaranteed by the executive. Therefore, this breeds an autocratic president who easily empowers individuals and tribes of his interests without due regard to good conscience, natural justice or equity. The presidency can effectively empower his cronies through various ministries by ensuring that only his cronies get the juicy contracts from all the ministries, the minister, and director general. So, where lies the federal character application for individuals in private businesses that have no godfather in high places or do not have political affiliation? They would wallow in poverty, misery and even death whether or not they result to the devil’s alternative of economic survival, which is armed robbery.
Federal character encourages occultism, as members who are in position of authority are more willing to assist fellow members. No wonder that there have not been any solution to secret cults violence and rape in higher institutions, increasing armed robbery, murder and incidents of 419. Majority of people in authority belong to various factions of these secret cults in their university days, hence their protection and domination of our society. Armed robbers, murderers, rapists and university cult vandals are the most powerful citizens in Nigeria, because they stand protected by faceless government officials as they go on punished. Therefore, Lesser minds are readily recruited and the legions of crime perpetrators just keep growing. Recruiters often swank with pride of crime they have committed without punishment, because of their members presence in high places of authority. Such members do not compete for positions, but are merely selected on the basis of secret cults affiliations. If most government officials, including the police are not members of cults, why can’t these problems be minimized or even arrest and prosecute suspected criminals?
In any case, it is shocking to note that federal government privatization and sale of companies and properties had never been done in line with federal character. This has deprived poor states like Niger, Kogi, Ekiti, Katsina just to mention a few, of the economic benefit that should accrue to their citizens. Sadly enough, none of their members in the national assembly could call for sales verification to determine the state of origin of various acquisitions of these properties. Legislative leaders are mute to prevent their dictatorial parties from failing to represent them as it happened in several elections. This is only possible because the 1999 constitution does not recognize independent candidacy. There can never be equitable distribution of Nigerian wealth if the federal character principle is not applied to the private sector
Nasiru Nash Haruna Esq.