True Federalism: Better Option For Nigeria

The United Arab Emirates is a classic example of the beauty of true federalism

Nigeria’s Version of Federalism Is An Aberration

Nigeria’s Federal system is at best patchy and glaringly a contradiction of what a truly federal system should be. Nigeria today actually runs a Unitary system with Federating units that draw their legitimacy from the centre as opposed to the centre drawing its legitimacy from the federating units as is the case in other federal arrangements such as the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates. Far from the enthronement of a unitary system that is working, Nigeria’s over-centralised structure is glaringly failing and breeding an unbridled lust for power which is holding down development and encouraging corruption and violence. Let’s return to the path of true federalism as envisioned by our founding fathers and abolish things like:

1. A big Federal Government and Bi-Camera Legislature which operate full time with bogus emoluments and pensions
2. Federation Account
3. Centralised Policing system
4. Revenue Mobilisations and Fiscal Commission
5. Petroleum Equalisation Fund.

Let’s Borrow The United Arab Emirates Example

The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. The federation was formally established on 2 December 1971.

Since the seven Emirates decided to come together as a federal state in 1971, the United Arab Emirates has witnessed an atmosphere of healthy competition which has birthed an era of peace, progress and prosperity as each Emirate continuously strives to develop itself without the overwhelming influence of the centre as is the case in Nigeria.

Decentralising Power Truly Reduces Tension And Allows Each Federating Unit Find It’s Voice And Set Its Priorities

Under the United Arab Emirates federal arrangement, “each of the component emirates already had its own existing institutions of government prior to 1971 and, to provide for the effective governing of the new state, the rulers agreed to draw up a provisional Constitution specifying the powers that were to be allocated to the new federal institutions, all others remaining the prerogative of the emirates. Areas of responsibility assigned to the federal authorities, under Articles 120 and 121 of the Constitution, were foreign affairs, security and defense, nationality and immigration issues, education, public health, currency, postal, telephone and other communications services, air traffic control and licensing of aircraft, in addition to a number of other topics specifically prescribed, including labor relations, banking, delimitation of territorial waters and extradition of criminals. The Constitution also stated in Article 116 that ‘the Emirates shall exercise all powers not assigned to the Federation by this Constitution”.

Growth And Development In The United Arab Emirates In The Last Four Decades

Since coming together as a truly federal state in 1971 with strong federating units and a centre which allowed each federating units develop at its own pace rather than the over centralised system in Nigeria with a centre that insists that revenue be shared centrally and the concept of deve;lopment be universalised as is the case in Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates has witnessed unprecedented growth and development. From the transformation of Dubai into a business hub and a tourism destination of choice, to the building of a truly modern city in Abu Dhabi to great growth and development feats in the other emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, each emirate picked its own priority and decided to run with it, creating one strong nation that is not only the envy of all in the Middle-east but indeed, the rest of the world. Celebrating 4 decades of the success of true Federalism in the UAE in 2011, Hani Al Hamli, Secretary-General of Dubai Economic Council stated that the National Day is not just a traditional occasion. “It’s a chance for us to document an ongoing stream of achievements of a nation which enabled itself to turn into a model of development and civilization for many countries worldwide”.

There Is No Better Path For Nigeria To Follow Than Allow True Federalism

To the believers of the status quo in Nigeria, who see the call for true federalism as unpatriotic, please study the UAE model again and be educated on the possibilities which will blossom if only we can return to true federalism with strong regions which are allowed to set their development priorities and grow at their own pace rather than have a strong and mighty centre that is holding us all down. The United Arab Emirates example is a golden one which I think we should follow rather than continuously be embedded in political struggles such as the current Boko Haram insurgency and the Niger-Delta Militancy. We need to allow each region retain its identity, while allowing each region the right to set its development priority. I believe we all will be stronger and better for it. The UAE already points us in the right direction!

The above is written by Bolaji Okusaga, the Managing Director of The Quadrant Company.


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