Federal Character Principle And National Integration

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Federal Character Principle And National Integration


The Nigerian federation has been enmeshed in contradictions, paradoxes, controversies and crises. These are subsumed in the national question, and social groups of varying ideological leanings cohere on the central issues. The paper observes that the present application of the federal character principle as all bourgeois oriented and does very little to relieve the plight of the masses in Nigeria. The paper argues that the federal character principle has proved inadequate for effective national integration because it discriminates against one group and favours another. It recommends that the National Assembly should as a matter of urgency should amend the constitution and remove all references to indigeneity from the constitution. Also, there is need for all sections of the country to be consulted and be involved in the implementation of this policy. The paper concludes that it is a known fact that the principle has gone a long way to reduce various factors of mutual mistrust and rivalries among the different ethnic groups that make up the geographical entity called Nigeria.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Nigeria, a federation of many different nations, is the most populous country in Africa with approximately 160 million inhabitants. The country is divided into 36 states and 748 local government areas. The religious, ethnic and cultural diversity of the federative units is, without a doubt, an exception. Otite (1990) in Mustapha (2007) identifies 374 ethnic groups that are largely divided into “majorities” and “minorities.” The majority ethnic groups are Hausa-Fulani from the north, Yoruba from the southwest and Igbo from the southeast. However, relations between these groups are characterized by fear and suspicion of domination of one state or ethnic group by another. Meanwhile, this suspicion and fear among the groups is historical. However, this was manifested when Sir Fredrick Lord Lugard began to subject ethnic groups to a history of mutual distrust and hatred as a single Nigeria. Surprisingly, these ethnic groups are not part of the same population and, as a result, some tend to dominate others, which exploits them. In addition, there are political and economic imbalances between these different states or ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. These imbalances come from the nature and character of the postcolonial Nigerian state. In almost all sectors, states, ethnicities or regions, people feel marginalized.

These have brought about a choking socio-economic competition among the various ethnic groups which have resulted into ethno-regional conflict and tension that characterize Nigeria since 1960. The emergence of various militia groups in the Niger Delta, OPC in the South-West, MASSOB in the South East and of recent Boko Haram in the North, are all indications of the existence of rivalries between and among the various groups over the sharing of national cake. These ethnic, regional, and religious divides in the country have become so problematic with resultant patterns of inequalities. These inequalities are caused by a complex range of factors, including history, geography, cultural orientation, religious affiliation, natural resource endowments, current government policies, and past colonial policies. Akinola and Adesopo (2011) in Aderonke (2013) support this argument when they posit that, the problem of ethnic minority has been receiving attention of scholars and practitioners of governance and development. This is because ethnic minority is usually sidelined and ignored by the majority in decision making and resources distribution. The consequence of such politics of exclusion has been agitation and demand for social inclusion, which at times results to violent actions. Society is a system of human cooperation, the question of how society can mainstream the minority groups in decision making on welfare matters, requires adequate policy consideration.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Lack of adequate representation by the ethnic groups constitutes a great threat to national integration. In realization of some inherent cleavages of inequalities, the federal character principle was introduced. The effectiveness of this policy measure in fostering national integration as well as promoting national development in Nigeria has been one of the most controversial and problematic issues in any political, social and economic discourse. The problem is that despite the adoption of the federal character principles since 1979, achieving national integration has been very difficult. It was in view of correcting this abnormality that the Federal Character Commission was set up and inaugurated on July 2002 as an executive agency charged with the responsibility of implementing Federal Character provisions and to uphold its principles. The essence is to ensure that government decisions on citing industries, building roads, awarding scholarships, appointment of public office holders, admission, employment and revenue allocations etc reflect federal character. But the problem is that, there is still a high rate of lopsidedness in the above mention areas of government decisions. The high rate of social segregation inherent in the political and social reams of the country, ethnic and religion divides, agitations, and crises brought to the front burner the basis for the adoption of the federal character principle in Nigeria.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this study is to examine the Federal character and national integration in Nigeria.
With specific objectives as follows;

  1. To examine and have an overview of the Federal character and national integration in Nigeria.
  2. To determine the level of national integration in Nigeria.
  3. To determine if Federal character principle failed in bringing about the desired national integration in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Hypothesis

Hypothesis One
  • Hi: There is no level of national integration in Nigeria.
  • Ho: There is a significant level of national integration in Nigeria.
Hypothesis Two
  • Hi: The Federal character principle failed in bringing about the desired national integration in Nigeria.
  • Ho: The Federal character principle did not failed in bringing about the desired national integration in Nigeria.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The ability of the state to resolve or regulate the recurring crises and to create an enabling environment where the people’s respect and love for their nation is enhanced would definitely affect the tempo of the national integration positively. National integration a process, leading to political cohesion and sentiments of loyalty toward a central political authority and institutions by individuals belonging to different social groups or political units is an issue of great delight and importance in Nigeria. This study would be useful to government agencies, private individuals and researchers.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

The scope of this study is focused on the federal character and National Integration in Nigeria a case study of the Federal Ministry of agriculture.

The researcher encountered some constraints, which limited the scope of the study. These constraints include but are not limited to the following.

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

1.7 Definition of Terms

The following terms were used in the course of this study:

National Integration:

National integration is the awareness of a common identity amongst the citizens of a country. It means that though citizens belong to different castes, religions, regions and speak different languages, they still recognize themselves as one. This kind of integration is very important in the building of a strong and prosperous nation. National integration can also be seen as the process whereby several desperate groups within a given territorial are united together or cooperate under conditions which do not appear to permit satisfaction of their system needs in any other way.

Federal Character:

The Federal character is a principle which seeks to ensure that appointments into the public service fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious and geographical diversity of the country.

1.8 Literature and Theoretical Analysis

Theoretical Framework

Rather than basing our judgments on mere speculations, guess works or mere experiences, it is pertinent to lay a theoretical foundation which will “enable a chosen life of action to be anchored in and guided by evidence derived from scientific research…”Anazodo et al (2014), and the literature is replete relevance scientific explanations to the ‘epicentric’ politics as well as the basis for inclusive or participatory politic in Nigerian. This paper is anchored on the Group Theory

The theory has its intellectual roots in the doctrines of pluralism as developed by early twentieth century English writers, like John Figgis, Maithland and G. H. Cole (Verma, 1975). This theory stems from the limitations associated with the Elite Theory (Dahl, 1961, Varma, 1975). The focus of the social scientists was directed to pluralist model in which power, instead of being concentrated in the hands of a group of class, is treated as diffused among many interest groups competing with each other for power.

Group theory was propounded by Arthur F. Bentley (1908) to whom behaviourism was credited, While trying to highlight the importance of the group in politics, he observed that society consists of dynamic processes (actions) rather than specific institutions or substantive contents (values). He observed that society, nation and the government are all made up of “groups of men”, each group cutting across many others. These groups, according to him are in the state of perpetual interaction with each other, and politics consisted in the “shunting by some men of other men conduct along changed lines, the getting of forces to overcome resistance to such alterations or the dispersal of one grouping of forces by another grouping” (Bentley, 1940 cited in Varma, 1975).

Bentley conceived group as “a mass of activity, and not merely a collection of individuals”. He defines group as “a certain portion of men of a society, taken not as a physical mass cut off from the masses of men, but as a mass of activity, which do not preclude the men who participate in it from participating likewise in many other group activities”. He further argued that, group represented a pattern of process rather than a static form, and as such could emerge only when the interaction among its individual members were both relatively frequent and sufficiently patterned to produce directional activity. If an individual can belong to various groups, it means that the activity of a group is more important than its structural composition.

The theory is based on the doctrine of pluralism. The pluralist theory of interest groups states that “politics is mainly a competition among groups, where each interest group presses for its own policy preferences but where all interests are represented” Nowaczyk (2015). The fact remains that modern society has a large number of groups which remain engaged in a perpetual struggle for power and domination over each other. There is emphasis on the group as the basic unit in the study of politics. The theory view power as diffused among many interest groups which are competing against each other for power; and that groups is a mass of activity directed by interest and the social system. It is the interest which leads to the organization of groups. The theory also views the activity particular to a group as more important than its structural composition since the same individual can belong to various groups. Most demands and support for policy are manifest through organized group. The most influential group will be decided by the amount of competition and the quality of the competing groups.

Pluralism and group theory capture Nigerian politics well. Nowaczyk (2015) vividly depicts an apt description of how this theory works in a polity in his lesson note [ Political Science 102: American Government / Social Science Courses: Pluralist View of Interest Groups on American Politics Chapter 4 / Lesson 5] and his explanation is applicable to Nigerian politics as well.

According to Nowaczyk (2015), Pluralism paints a pretty rosy picture of how interest groups work in American politics. It assumes a couple of key things, namely that groups provide a key link between people and government. Once interests are organized, groups can turn to the government and get a hearing.

Secondly, that group competes. Labor, business, farmers, consumers, environmentalists, and other interests constantly make competing claims on the government. However, no one group is likely to become too dominant. If one group flexes their muscles, the other group will do the same. Because for every action there is a reaction, power remains balanced. It also assumes that groups usually play by the ‘rules of the game.’ Few groups rely on lying, stealing, cheating, or engaging in violence to get their way, and that group politics is usually a fair fight.

And lastly, groups weak in one resource can use another. For example, while big business may have money on their side, labor has large numbers on their side. All legitimate groups are able to affect policy by one mean or another.

It is undisputable that Nigeria is a pluralistic society. This view has been shared by many writers (Asaju et al, 2014:118, Arowolo, 2011, Amao, 2006 Okolo, 2014, & Osifeso 2011). The fact remains that the current expression called Nigeria today existed as Kingdoms, Empires, Caliphates and Autonomous societies before they were systematically “unified” under one administration in 1900 for administrative convenience, and subsequent amalgamation into ‘one country’ in 1914 (Asaju et al, 2014:118, Arowolo, 2011). Then, the British succeeded in merging the geographic north and South together but failed to unify its people…polarizing the people along tribal/regional as well as religious line (Osifeso, 2011).

This reflected in the kind of politics Nigerian leaders played in the First Republic where parties were formed along ethnic or tribal lines as the regions became the political base for those contending for power at the federal level and the politicians exploited tribal and ethnic sentiments to garner supports for their equally regional and ethnically based political parties (Obiozor, 1986). Hence, the Northern People Congress (NPC) limited itself by its title to the Northern Region and was dominated by and spoke for the Hausa/Fulani. Similarly, the Action group (AG) spoke for the Yorubas in the West, while the National Congress for Nigeria and the Cameroon’s (NCNC) spoke for Igbos in the East respectively. Just like the Pluralist posits that “groups compete”, Osifeso gave an apt description of Nigeria in the first Republic thus:
In the East, NCNC talked of a progressive government and individual liberty only to practice Iboism in the East. The philosophy of Iboism, in practice, simply means that the Ibos constitute one indivisible ethnic entity. In the West, any discussion about the unity of the Yorubas was centered on its party, AG – a response to Ibos control of NCNC. The AG backed the creation of autonomous state for minority groups within a federal structure if only comparable alteration would be made elsewhere

Today, different groups within the federating units of Nigeria are contending for their own share of the power at the center the ‘national cake’. This has brought to the fore the suitability and effectiveness of the various national policy interventions especially federal character principle aimed at ensuring national stability in the Nigerian body polity. According to Dahl (1976), “conflict and consensus are both important aspects of political systems. People who live together never agree about everything, but if they are to continue to live together, they cannot continue to wholly disagree in their aims”. The groups, as indispensible units of the Nigerian political system, devised some sort of political strategies that can help them achieve national integration. Therefore, an understanding of this interplay and group dynamism will lead to an understanding of the peculiarities, and realities of the practice or implementation of federalism and federal character principles in Nigeria. This actually accentuates the suitability of the group theory as the theoretical foundation for this study.

1.9 Research Methodology

This study is basically on the problem of corruption in Nigeria. The study therefore adopts one of the traditional methods of gathering information, i.e. the secondary sources. A sizeable percentage of secondary sources that is used came from published and unpublished works which include materials extracted from: Archives, Newspapers, discussions, Conference papers, Magazines, Internets, Books, and Articles in journals e.t.c.

1.10 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concerned with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Conclusions

The present Federal structure in the country is unitarist. Nigeria runs a system of government that grants near absolute power to the Federal Executive. We therefore recommend a Constitutional amendment and efforts that will ensure true Federalism, rather than creating unviable and dependent States. Again, the States should be allowed to control up to 50% of their resources.

The issue of federal balancing in Nigeria simply confirms the existence of imbalance. All the attempts made so far to change the status quo have not yielded satisfactory results since there are still allegations of marginalization from one section or the other. The idea of sharing power and revenue without cries of marginalization and neglect may not be possible because of the type federalism being practiced in Nigeria. The type of federal balancing that will lead to sustainable democracy has to be put in place. This type is the one that will give the states autonomy in everything, the centre will only be guiding and overlooking the states.

What is needed in Nigeria is the practice of federalism in a new form of federalism arising from some political restructuring in which each of the states should have a constitution which must be consistence with the national constitution and legal order. This will resolve the national question which still persists because federalism has been operated essentially as a unitary system where central government dominates.

The “Federal Character” provision as entrenched in the Federal Constitution should be applied at the national level, and this would ensure that no group would have a feeling of alienation and marginalisation. In addition, at other tiers of government, a deliberate effort should be made to be equitable in appointments and distribution of amenities. It is also imperative that national integrative policies, such as the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), federal character clause, in terms of admission into federal Unity Schools and universities should be consolidated and expanded, instead of the current retrogressive policy of reducing the “Catchment area” for Federal institutions. While some have tended to criticize the issue of “quota” in the body politic of Nigeria, the fact remains that the policy is akin to the US policy of “affirmative Action” which is targeted at addressing the imbalances among groups, especially those identified as marginalized in the society.

For federal character to approximate to the equal weighting that the framers of the constitution envisaged the problem of measurement must be addressed. This will be a tortuous process and Nigeria is not known for handling matters of delicate political details. The solution is the responsibility of the political class which, up till now, appears unprepared and unwilling (Ayoade, 2010). According to him, the application of the principle of federal character must be revised. It must give succour to the weak and marginalized, and limit the power of the strong. The principle should be applied such that 70% of appointments are on merit, 20% on the equality of State, and 10% on ecological grounds. Secondly, the quality of appointments must be weighted because quantity is not a sufficient guarantee of fairness. In a real sense, there is the possibility of a functionality of quantity. The present system creates widespread citizen alienation, and those who rob Peter to pay Paul can only rely on the support of Paul.

For Nigeria’s stability and the achievement of national unity and reconciliation, it is imperative for Nigerians to see themselves as belonging to one indivisible country, where “thou tribes and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. The reign of justice, equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law and the rights of all citizens will go a long way in guaranteeing true national reconciliation in Nigeria. Nigerians have shown for the most part that they can accommodate themselves and co-exist, what is therefore required is a conscious pursuit of the relevant policies and programmes that will foster the bonds of unity in the “country and help to bring down the barriers to reconciliation often created by ethnicity”.

The principle of federal character was introduced to ensure unity, national integration and loyalty in the Nigerian state. But alas rather than) fostering national unity; it has heightened mutual suspicions and acrimonies among Nigerians. Although, the federal character principle was designed in such a manner to contain the fear of ethnic marginalization. It has generated disagreement on the strategies and practice of the principle. One of the many ways to strengthen the country’s already watered-down federation of diverse ethnic groupings is to promote the discourse of extending federal character to manpower preparation. No doubt, the federal government has so far done a good job to increase opportunities for all regions of the federation in the area of universal basic education; however more needs to be done in the area of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence (Odeh, 2010). For the survival of Nigerian state and the integration of its diverse people, the practice of true federalism that gives autonomy to different states and a reduction in the powers of the central government become imperatives.

5.2 Recommendations

Options for Achieving Nation Building and National Integration in Nigeria are:

  1. Inclusion of FC into the 1979 and 1999 constitutions is a display of heinous attitude by the elite. Since its inclusion, Nigeria has known no peace. That Nigeria is still united is not unconnected to the elite tie that sacrifices popular agitation for personnel gains. The raising security challenges orchestrated by militia groups and insurgencies in the North-Eastern parts of the country are indications of disillusionment among different ethnic groups and sub-nationalities. Sanusi (2012), for example criticized the constitution as a document that hinders development. The mistake has been made and is unlikely that it will soon be deleted. Efforts should be done to thinker smart options for survival as a nation such as true federalism, patriotism, honesty and fairness.
  2. There is the vital and urgent need to replace quasi or centripetal federation with true federation. Federation purports that everybody can be satisfied (or nobody permanently disadvantaged) by nicely combining natural and regional/territorial interests within a complex web of checks and balances between a general, or federal government on the one hand, and a multiplicity of regional government, on the other Mclean and Mcmillian, (2003:194). Thus, emanating from the above assertion, true federalism could be seen as a system of government in which the individual states within a country have control over their own affairs, but are controlled by a central government for national decisions Kobojunkie (2012). True federalism will significantly grant constitutional autonomy to states as well as local governments. This will undoubtedly reduce tension at the centre because the different tiers will have shared responsibilities. For years Nigeria has been practicing quasi federalism meaning that a shift from the status quo would either require constitutional amendment or sovereign national conference which will permit autonomous and independent status in decision making for the continuation (or not) of Nigeria state. At present, we practice centripetal federalism in nature and practice. There is need for regional/sub-national autonomy in areas of resource control, policy making and implementation, fiscal relationship and so on.
  3. There is need for value re-orientation. In the past Nigerians are known for hard work, high moral standard which is the epitome of each sub-nationality. In recent times, corruption and immorality is celebrated thereby promoting evil. Value orientation will help re-shape the attitude of Nigerians particularly the elite who are the major actors and benefactors of FC. Good moral value will entrench national patriotism rather than ethnic patriotism/ primodialism, fairness rather than sentimentalism/bias.
  4. The National Assembly should as a matter of urgency amend the constitution and remove all references to indigeneity from the constitution. Specifically, the requirement in section 147(3) of the constitution that the president appoints at least one minister from each state who is an indigene should be changed so that residency, not indigene status, is the determining factor. It is also important to emphasize the fact that merit should not be completely sacrificed on the altar of the federal character Obasanjo, cited by Gboyega, (1989:113). The appointment of persons to various positions should be made from the best available in any part of the country. Besides, recruitment to posts which require specialist training such as medical practitioners, architects, engineers and pilots should be essentially based on merit Adamolekun, (1986:185). To do otherwise would expose the people to great peril.
  5. Furthermore, the application of the principle has been described as bourgeois oriented and does very little to relieve the plight of the down trodden of this country Agbodike, (1998:137). For example, the indigenisation and privatisation policies put the wealth of this country in the hands of a few Nigerian at the expense of majority of the people. The masses need to be given equal opportunities for employment, equitable share in the distribution of resources and benefits of the state in terms of provision of social amenities such as education, access to good roads, portable water, housing; etc, which will bring about improvement in their standard of living. To this end, the political system, should arrest the exploitation of the less privileged in the society and redress their feeling of insecurity. It is only when this welfare issue is address that the great majority of the people can “develop a sense of national identify….. transcending parochial loyalties of … ethnicity, religion, language and region” Agbodike, (1998:137)
  6. Finally, the FCP should be applied with less stringency but with fairness among ethnic groups, states and local government that are homogenous, to avoid creating division where none may have existed.

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