Nigeria operates a federal system of government by which the political structure allows states to unite under a central government. It is a compromise system of government that emerged as a result of British colonisation of the pre-colonial diverse multi-ethnic geo-political societies that is now Nigeria. Under the system, the federating units are to maintain a measure of independence and interdependence while the culturally pluralistic territories within them, as much as possible, are to retain their identities. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) (“the Constitution”) creates a federal system of government. Historically, military regime, with its characteristic command structure, was not federalism-friendly in the country. The Constitution, in a democratically elected civilian government, provides, and successive governments have adopted, measures to preserve the nation’s federal system. Nevertheless, the practically low quality governance in the country, over the years when there have been both military and civilian regimes, generates a debate as to the functionality and even sustainability of the architecture of Nigerian federalism. This article is a contribution to the extant debate, and focuses on the limited extent to which the present Nigerian federal system is functional and sustainable. It is recommended that there should be a comprehensive amendment of the Constitution to incorporate provisions including restructurisation of the country’s federal system, review of power sharing, decentralisation of the police force, meritorisation of the federal character and quota system, allowing each of the constituent units to be in charge of resources and revenue generated therein, and re-orientation of Nigerians to be federalism-friendly and patriotic. By these recommendations, there will be injection of new principles into the constitutional architecture of Nigerian federalism, in the interest of a politically stable one nation, truly bound in freedom, peace and unity.
Federalism is an age-long political philosophy in which members of a group are bound together with a governing representative head. It is a political structure that allows states to unite under a central government to maintain a measure of independence and interdependence. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended) (“the Constitution”) created a federal system of government as a compromise. Federalism is attributable to the colonial experience and its multi-ethnic colouration.