Federalism In Nigeria Problems And Prospect (A Case Study Of National Integration)

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Federalism In Nigeria Problems And Prospect (A Case Study Of National Integration)


The study examined Nigerian federalism problems in prospects. Nigerian as a nation was amalgamated in 1914. The unification of the two protectorates under one canopy has created a problem in power-sharing and resources allocation among the diverse ethnic groups. Certainly, the federal system operating in the Nigerian context has created a lot of problems and prospects because of the heterogeneity nature of the country that unites diverse people under one umbrella. This study is qualitative research, data were obtained through books, journals, newspapers, magazines, reports. These data were thoroughly reviewed to explain the topic under examination. To support this paper the researcher adopted Pluralism theory. This theory by tradition explains the complication and heterogeneity nature of the country. This is because of the diverse ethnic groups and ethnoreligious differences that were united under one federating units. The study found that federalism was born to unite people of different religion, ethnicity, culture, and traditions so as to enhance the national inity as well as the economy. But the major problem of Nigerian federalism is power sharing and resources allocation across the regions and states. It is found that under the federal system there are serious problems of majority domination over the minority. These have led to ethno-religious conflicts in the nation because of unequal access to national resources and power sharing among the citizens. To overcome these problems the study recommended that: Aall the citizens of the confederating units should be treated equally in term of power and resources allocations. To maintain equality and justice among the citizens. The government should adhere to the principles of federal character commission. To minimize the problems of federalism Nigeria should ensure equality and justice in power and resources allocation among its citizen in the federating units.

Chapter One


Federalism, according to K.C Wheare, is the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. He said that the characteristics of this Federal Principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division of powers and co-ordinate not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions (K.C Wheare, 1953: 10).The practice of federalism in Nigeria is one of the legacies the British colonial masters bequeathed to Nigeria. Local government is born out of federalism because federalism has to do with the division of power between the central and the component units local government is a component in a federal system, it is recognized as a third tier of government which is charged with the responsibility at the grass root. The local government performs certain functions assigned to it by the constitution and the local government is to be autonomous in its own to carry out all its responsibilities without interference from the central government.

The crises of national integration in Nigeria are very severing such that the Nigerian federation is at its collapsing point. The heterogeneous nature of the country combines with the improper mode of the country’s formation gave rise to antagonistic and integrative processes.

Nigeria as a country came into corporate existence in 1914, as a result of the fusion between the northern and southern protectorates by the British. National integration is the ultimate goal to be achieved in a multi ethnic country like Nigeria for there to be any reasonable development.

According to Chime, [1971.50], national integration is a process of cohesion between two or more social units, whereby these units come together to constitute a political whole which include among other things the joining of various parts of society into a functioning whole, the growth of obedience and loyalty to its pars and the emergence of shared national values. It follows, that Nigeria would have received national unity where obedience and loyalties to the Nigerian state, transcend loyalties to its parts. Thus conceptualization implies social equality of citizens.

Federation is a system of government adopted to enhance national integration in Nigeria; it is also a form of government that defines the relationship between component parts assumed to have the potential for integrating diverse cultural societies. The religions rather engage in ethnicity, political struggle by social classes, religious conflict etc, which culminate in the crises of national integration that reached climax during the period of the attempted succession and civil war.

1.1 Statement of Problem

Nigeria is essentially a plural society, its component groups are separated apart from each other by significant differences of language, ethnicity, and cultures of Nigeria created differences in attitude, outlook and character. Faced with these problems, Nigeria adopted federalism as a means of achieving its much needed goal of national integration. In essence the federalism so adopted is expected to reduce the immensely aggressive inter ethnic competition and tension, allay the usually alleged fear of domination, bringing government nearer to the people and give the different groups more opportunities, thereby integrating the country.

Federation requires decentralization of power among the component units. It also requires that no component unit should be as large in size as to eliminate others. The case of Nigeria shows that power is concentrated in the central government. On the other parts, there exist structural imbalance between the northern, the east and west of Nigeria. This situation therefore by majority, political power is proportionately in favour of the north above other religions. The issue of revenue allocation in Nigeria is not without its own problems. As if all these problems are not enough for Nigeria federalism, the issue of on shore offshore dichotomy and equally the alarm raised about the marginalization from all religion in Nigeria are by setting the unity of the country. We can summarily state the under following as our research questions.

  1. Is the method of revenue allocation the major factor responsible for the crises of national integration in the Nigerian federalism?
  2. Could the practice of true federalism in Nigeria alleviate the problem of national integration?
  3. Could religion and ethnic loyalties be a major challenge in national integration in Nigeria?

1.2 Objectives of the Study

The research is set out to among other things

  1. To find out the relationship between revenue allocation and national integration in Nigeria.
  2. To discover if the operation of true federalism in Nigeria could help in tackling the problems.
  3. To inquire into the impact of religions and ethnic loyalties and national integration in Nigeria.

1.3 Significance of the Study

It has become obvious that Nigeria cannot make any meaningful progress in the absence of unity. Some founding fathers of Nigeria adopted federalism as a pragmatic instrument for the achievement of the goal of national unity. The rationale was to see if there could be unity in diversity which means that there could be ways of bringing diverse ethnic groups into a modern nation. However, amidst all the efforts, the goals of national integration are not yet possible owing to the numerous problems inherent in Nigeria federalism.

It is therefore the task of this work to contribute in no little measure to the solution of the problem of national integration. Apart from thus, the work will equally add to the volumes of research materials available for further work on federalism and national integration in Nigeria.

1.4 Literature Review

Much work has been done on the subject matter federalism and its relation to national integration. Most of the scholarly works were unable to give a comprehensive analysis of Nigerian federalism and how it affects national integration. Though some of them made very relevant scholarly contributions to knowledge from which a number of conclusions can be drawn.

Federalism as has been adopted in Nigeria found its way into our political arena during the colonial era. The concept is closely related to the various social based on coordinative, rather than sub coordinative relationship. It emphasises partnership among parties of equal claims to legitimacy who seek a common social order.

Jinadu says that it is usually built as a form of government and constitutional structure deliberately designed by political architects to cope with the different task of maintaining unity, while preserving diversity, Jinadu, [1979:15].

Speaking about Nigeria federalism two schools of thought emerged on its evaluation. The first school comprising of the nationalist believed that British imposed federalism on Nigeria in order to maintain the neo colonial control of the country after the lowering of the mantle. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a convinced federalist described the British imposed federal structure as an abominable destructive and divisive British heritage, Awolowo, [1968:69]. They also believed that the colonial power made sure that there was enough structured imperfection left behind to bedevil inter ethnic relations after independence. However, this view of imposition held by this school is not exactly objective as Nigerians involved gave consent for her to become a federal state.

The second school of thought is of the opinion that historical and geographical factors determine the political evolution of Nigerian federalism. Nigeria being a large and culturally variegated country could not have been governed for a long time from one centre Akinyemi, [1979:91]. This view is not quite correct, as it is time that factors of history and geography more than anything else determines the constitutional evolution of Nigeria.

Ethnicity is one concept that cannot be over looked in the discussion of the structure of Nigerian federalism and national integration as a whole. It has been defined as the social phenomenon associated with interaction among members of different ethnic groups refer to social formation distinguished by the communal character of the boundaries of which their common factors may be language, culture or both, Nnoli, (1973:58). Nigeria is one country that comprised various ethnic groups with physical or different backgrounds, ancestry and tradition. Nnoli goes further to mention some characteristics that distinguish one from ethnocentrism which simply connotes pride in ones group, a hampering that makes the members of the group inward looking.

According to him, ethnicity exists in a political society consisting of diverse ethnic groups. It is also characterized by a common consciousness of being one in relation to the other groups. Impulsiveness can be sighted as an attribute of ethnicity which says, is normally accompanied by nepotism and corruption. Conflict is also seen as important aspect of ethnicity.

As he says, it is inevitable under conditions of inter ethnic competitions for scarce valuable resources particularly in a society where inequality is accepted as natural and wealth is greatly exchanged.

Several efforts have been made to adjust these social abnormalities and as Ibrahim Babangida said from anthropological and sociological viewpoint, Nigeria is a complex country, therefore nation building in Nigeria context must be of necessity because it is a complex and expensive enterprise.

Eleigwa, (1995:5), Nnoli 1978, also believed that the recovery of Nigeria will not be an easy task. He says adequate solution to the ethnic problems of Nigeria must stern logically from rigorous scientific analyses of the causes of the emergence and persistence and growth of ethnicity in the country. Ojukwu in his lecture, towards a greater Nigeria, said that national integration cannot be achieved by giving setaceous speeches; rather appropriate steps will include de emphasising tribe and ethnic origin in all official documents that no Nigeria should offer instability whatsoever.

However Ema Awa, [1976] has noted that federalism involves corporation between the two levels of government and such cooperation increased in scope and quantity as the federation matures. Bargaining also assumes more important as the federation becomes more highly developed. As he further explained, there are always some conflicts in the relation between the regions and federal government and among the regions and themselves.

After going through the available literatures on federalism it was observed that the writers made relevant contributions, they did not give a comprehensive analysis of the problem of Nigeria federalism as they affect national integration. Sequel to this, in exploring the meaning of federalism, the issue of national integration must inevitably arise. In line with this, it became germane to review the contributions made by some scholars on national integration.

Duuelger defines national integration as building up solidarity and breaking down antagonism among the people in a political system. It refers specifically to the creation of a sense of territorial rationality which overshadows parochial loyalties.

Chime sees national integration as a process of cohesion between two or more social units whereby those units come together to constitute a political whole, which can in some cases be described as community.

Ali Mazrui in his book cultural Engineering and nation building in East Africa 1902, sees national integration as the process of merging sub going entities into a shared sense of national consciousness.

In the same vein De Uree also defines integration as the combination and autonomous social and political problems arising among its members, for controlling their behaviour and the processes occurring among them, for keeping peace among them and or mobilizing their power or resources for making collection decision and as a result of all things, acting as a new unit with respect to its social or physical environment. Prior to these definitions, integration will be conceived as the process of increasing a social or political system capacity based on decision making process.

National integration is relation to national development. It usually constitutes a platform for national development. Development can only be achieved in an atmosphere of cooperation and unity.

Where everybody feel a sense of belonging and wants to contribute his own quota to the development of national goal.

According to O. Aboyade in his book, issues in the development of tropical Africa (1976:16), he observed that development is essentially a continuous process of generating and more efficiently allocating resources for achieving greater social satisfying ends. While political development relates to the overall capacity of a people to govern them efficiently, this ability to govern relates to the capacity to extract resources, make and regulate behaviours. It also means the ability to resolve societal problems and manage conflicts.

If the society is able to do all these things mentioned, it will certainly lead to economic development for that nation.

Conclusively, after going through the available literatures on federalism and national integration, it was observed that some of them were able to explain to an extent the feasibility of achieving national integration. However in this study, we shall attempt to explore the suitability and adaptability of federalism to the excruciating task of building a coherent nation out of desperate and antagonistic people in Nigeria.

1.5 Theoretical Frameworks

Theoretical framework is indeed very useful in a research work in the sense that it enhances its internal activity. With this in mind, there are lots of theories used in the field of political science for research analysis; however, we will adopt the system theory by David Easton.

This theory is seen by scholars among who is Ifesinachi as a set of related elements and interrelations among them, which are disintegrated from those elements not in the system by ambiguous analytic boundaries. The theory explains the component of the system made up of groups, persons or areas where the frequency of a particular pattern of interaction falls to an observable degree. Interdependence is the uniting force in the system; this is because stability and subsequently growth can only be achieved when all the components of a system work together.

As a way of using the system theory by David Easton to analyse this work, Easton, [2002], defines a political system as that system of interacting in any society through which binding or authoritative allocations are made and implemented.’[Easton in Okere 2002:98] this implies that an organization interacting with an environment, influencing it and being influenced by it and there also many interacting internal parts which constitutes parts of the arranging that the society employs in formulating and pursuing its collective goods [Almond and Powell 1980:4].

The three vital components of Easton definitions of political system constitute authoritative allocation, values and society. At this point, it becomes necessary to make a brief application of this theory to the Nigerian political scene, before and after independence. The theory would be employed in this study because in Nigeria, like any other third world federative system, the power to allocate the resources available in the country is essentially concentrated at the central government, [federal level] that is the hierarchy of authority [federal level, state and local government], with the central government sitting on top of other levels in the allocation of revenues. This is basically due to the prolonged military rule in the country, and this has been one of the banes. For the country to experience genuine unity and subsequently development, all the groups and cleavages have to come together since no part of the system can function effectively and maximally without depending on the other components.

1.6 Hypotheses

It is necessary to formulate some guiding hypotheses. The hypotheses thus raised are.

The method of revenue allocation tends to constitute the major factor responsible for the crisis of national integration in the Nigerian federalism.

Federalism in Nigeria could help in talking the problem of national integration.

Religious and ethnic loyalties are major threats to national disintegration.

1.7 Methods of Data Collection/ Analysis

In this study we adopted the use of secondary source of data as the main method. This is justified due to its intrinsic values. For any research to be meaningful, reliable and scientific fact and ideas must be supplemented with empiricism.

Secondary materials like textbooks, research papers, government publications, newspapers, magazines etc will be seriously put into use.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

The basic problems which were encountered during this study were the scarcity and inaccessibility of materials. However the study was successfully done because of the extra efforts made to get more resources and procure the materials for analyses.

1.9 Conceptual Definitions

In this study, some key concept will be used. Some of these concepts include national integration and federalism.

National integration

National integration involves the existence of national consciousness, which is the feeling of individual or group identity within the nation state as the only political unit through which their collective interest can be realized. National integration therefore involves patriotism which a call for supreme scarifies on the part of the entire citizenry for the whole country if the need arises.


Federalism means an arrangement whereby powers within a multinational country are shared between a federal or central authority and a number of regionalized governments in such a way that each unit, including this central authority exist as a government separately and independently from the others.

Division of power among the levels of government by the constitution is explicit. The centre and the component unit [regions, states] have defined spheres of authority, powers and shared among the levels of government which are coordinates. Powers shared among the various levels could be categorized as exclusive list, concurrent list and residual list.

Exclusive list

Subjects on this list are reserved for the centre [federal government] examples here are, defence, internal affairs, national currency, immigration, maritime activities, aviation, etc.

The Concurrent List

Subjects here are to be exercised both by the federal and the state. Example includes agriculture, health, commerce, education, works etc.

Residual List

This comprises functions to be exercised by the state/ unit government alone, example includes chieftaincy title etc.

Chapter Five

Recommendation and Conclusion


  1. The study recommended that the current government of President Mohammadu Buhari fight these corrupt acts because Nigerians can no longer afford to withstand and watch while brazen, mindless and feckless official corrupt activities.
  2. The government should provide a conducive political atmosphere to curtail political instability, religious strife, and rudderless administration, flagrant wastefulness, tribalism, maladministration, and administrative lapses, overloaded judiciary, bloated, corrupt and unwieldy civil service, and unbelievable personal greed.
  3. The government in power should consider the marginalized regions or state in power and resources allocation in the federating units, by given special consideration to bridge the existing gap between the regions or states.
  4. The government should make sure it demoralize society and refute any advances the country have made so far.
  5. To overcome these problems of federalism in the Nigerian context the present administration of President Mohammadu Buhari should harness all the administrative, political and military resources at its disposal to ensure that there is sustainable development in African nations been the Chairman of ECOWAS.
  6. President Mohammadu Buhari has been the Chairman of ECOWAS should halt this perennial bloody and federalism contention that clearly stands out in traumatized countries in and African in general.
  7. Possibly the sole and most significant factor of the future of Nigerian federalism is the rule of law.
  8. To maintain equality among all the citizens of the confederating units, the federal government should adhere to the principles of federal character commission.
  9. To lessen the problems in power and resources allocation in the federating units, the government should audit all the activities of the federal character commission, on quarterly or yearly bases.
  10. To minimize the problems of federalism the federal government of Nigeria should ensure equality and justice in power and resources allocation among its citizen in the federating units


In conclusion, the spirit of true federalism is to unite all the states and the regions in the country. And to give each state or region nationally significant independence to manage its affairs at the states and regions. Nigerian federalism centered essentially on the need to understand the basis of true federalism of power sharing and resource control. This arrangement is in line with the principles of federalism. Though the system is attributed by conflict in power-sharing and resources allocation. This has created a series of debate among the individuals in the nation. This debate is old, obsessive and questionable. The study concluded that diversities among individuals is natural, virtue and a means of collective benefits for societal progress as obtained in most federal states across the world, but in Nigeria, it has resulted to slow and poor planning, decisions making and implementation, unnecessary societal divisions, and particularistic feelings. The instruments of attaining state unity and development as well as the state apparatus have been bastardized. The paper further concluded that Nigeria sovereign nation, more than anything else, the greatest impediment to the federal system and nascent democracy is the persistent uncertainty of lives and property, as demonstrated by the spate of armed robbery attacks, political assassinations, religious conflicts and federalism coupled with the seeming helplessness of security agencies to handle criminal acts which arose as a result of uniting people of different culture, region and languages (Uhunmwuangho and Epelle, 2011). This state is worsened by the cumulative number of jobless Nigerians some of whom are recruited for illicit actions.

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