FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE: Necessary or not? Not Necessary!
It is unnecessary for a beardless man like me to have a shaving kit. Just because something has a purpose doesn’t mean it is necessary. The Federal Character principle was drafted for some specific purposes. But the question is: Is it needed for that purpose? To this, we say a resounding no. Let us examine the basic purposes of the principle and see if the principle is truly needed for those purposes.
First: to reflect the federal character of Nigeria. This statement is controversial and undermines the importance of the principle. It is like constructing a mirror and expecting it to always show your face but never reflect your pimples. The Federal Character of Nigeria describes the nature of Nigeria’s Federalism. But Nigeria is a country with diverse ethnic groups that were colonized by the whites. Our federalism is yet to be perfect. We need a principle that can strengthen our Federalism, not the principle that would reflect our imperfections.
The second purpose of the principle is to promote National Unity. I agree with my opponents that it is the improper implementation of the principle that causes nepotism and favouritism. But even if the principle is well implemented; it still would not guarantee national unity. The federal character principle was enforced in 1979 when the Federal Government was the major employer of labour. But now the labour market is dominated by private organizations. According to the Governor of the central bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, 91% of the jobs created in 2013 were created by the private sector. The private sector is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria. We cannot impose the federal character principle on private organizations. This means that even if the principle is well implemented, its effect would only be evident in less than a quarter of Nigeria’s population. How then will it guarantee National unity?
The final purpose of the principle is to ensure that there’s no predominance of persons from a few states, ethnic or sectional groups in the government or any of its agencies. But even this is unnecessary, for it is based on the assumption that predominance is the same as dominance. There are many instances of people of an ethnic group being predominant in one field or the other. The people of TIV are known for fishing while the Fulani’s are predominant in nomadic cattle rearing. In spite of this; every Nigerian gets to consume fish and cows. So predominance is not the same as dominance and since the passion, interest and expertise of Nigerians differs; there is nothing wrong with the predominance of people of a state or ethnic group.
My opponents might say that there’s a minimum qualification and so merit would not be affected. But we all know the standard of education in the country is low and even those who have high qualifications in the country do not perform well, not to talk of those who have just the minimum qualification.
My opponents might say that if the principle is not necessary then why then is it in the Nigerian constitution. I reply to them with section 9 subsection 1 of the same constitution that: The National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of the provisions of this constitution. The Nigerian constitution gives room for the amendment because it recognizes that laws are not perfect and might even become unnecessary overtime.
Ladies and gentlemen, the oxford advanced learners dictionary defines necessary as that that is needed for a purpose or reason. We have examined all the purposes of the federal character principle and we have found that the principle is not needed for any of its purposes, hence it is unnecessary. If after all this my opponents still come only to lecture us about the purpose of the principle then it means that they have no case, hence I rest my case.