I have had cause in the past to pooh-pooh our 1999 constitution and its half-hearted claim as a federal constitution in this column. This inadequacy is despite the glaring provisions in Section 2 Subsection 2 of 1999 constitution, which provides that: “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. As will be obvious on further reading, the constitution subsequently went ahead to decapitate the foundations upon which federalism is founded. Likened to Janus, the Roman two-faced god, it turned unitary in making provisions for the very foundations of a democratic state.
Two glaring examples of the weak foundations of this democratic state will suffice. I remember a helpless Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, lamenting the carnage as extremism ravaged community after community in his state. Despite receiving an advance notice of an attack on one of the community as the state chief security officer, he was helpless, when the then state commissioner of police failed to rouse the federal police on his instructions to action. Another was when the federal police connived with the Peoples Democratic Party to abduct one of their own, then Governor of Anambra state, and now Senator Chris Ngige. The Governor, a supposedly chief security officer of the state was temporary quarantined in a toilet by thugs, until a potentate federal authority was moved to show mercy.
Another major raid on federalism in the Nigerian Constitution is on the economy. According to the Governor of Central Bank Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and a host of other experts, many of the states of the federation are perennially bankrupt, and are unviable as a state. The 1999 constitution while listing nearly all the potential economic activities of a modern state as items under the exclusive legislative list in the Second Schedule of the constitution, which is exclusive to the federal authority, created 36 miniature states, as the federating units referred to in Section 2(2) of the constitution. With the economy in the federal pocket and several overbearing federal executive bodies created and listed in the Third Schedule to the constitution to oversee and overawe the miniature states, the name Federal Republic of Nigeria is aptly a huge joke.
K.C. Wheare, a renowned authority on federalism, apparently did not reckon with Nigeria when he wrote his book, entitled: Federalism. In the book, he had referred to Federalism as a “method of dividing powers so that the general and regional governments are each, within a sphere, coordinate and independent”. For a workable federalism, the learned author had envisaged a system where no level of government is able “to override the terms of agreement about the power and status which each is to enjoy”. He was, however, referring to a system where the constitution will provide that the national and state governments “are not subordinate to one another, but coordinate with each other”.
Federalism in Nigeria obviously is different. First, the constitution is skewed against its major tenets, and secondly, the practitioners imbue the few federal provisions with human frailties, misrepresentations, fallacies, fraudulent intent and malice. The latest swindle is against the State of Osun and their revolutionary Governor Ogbeni Rauf Aegbesola. If the newspaper reports in the past week are correct, then the Governor should instead of defending himself against accusations of infraction of offences unknown to law, rather brief his lawyers to sue the authors of the verbiage for libelous publications. Unless, of course, we have sunk to a state of anomie; how on earth does the issue raised by the so called security report against the Governor now in the public domain constitute the necessary ingredients to prove the grave offence of planning to wage war against the state or secession?
According to the media reports, a leaked report of the State Security Service (SSS) allegedly accused the Governor of preparing Osun State to secede from Nigeria. One such step, according to the report, is the renaming of Osun State to ‘state of Osun’. To show how laughable this is, the peddlers have forgotten that all the states in Nigeria use all manner of alias, like State of Excellence, Coal City State, even Born to Rule state. I have also searched the constitution and have not seen where they wrote ‘Osun State’ instead of the mere listing of ‘Osun’ as one of the states in Nigeria. In the same light I have checked the exclusive legislative list in the second schedule to the constitution, to know whether coat of arms, anthem or flag are listed as items on which only the Federal Government can legislate; and they are not listed. I also know that the making of any of those totems does not constitute an offence under any federal or state law. So, what laws has the Governor breached to constitute a crime, or are we merely at the mercy of human whims and caprices?
I guess the federal authorities merely wanted to ruffle Governor Aregbesola for his outspokenness and independence of mind and action; not for infringing the law and that is why the battle is in the media instead of the courts. The idea that he wants to Islamise his state, for me, is the most dangerous spice in the Osungate scandal. Those in government and security services involved in attempting to set up a people against their Governor should pause to remember that the religious crisis in many Northern states stated as a political gimmick, but has since been hijacked by a thoroughly separatist movement – the Boko Haram; not the joke by the federal authorities against the state of Osun and their sagacious state Governor.