Redefining our unity

Taiwo Odukoya

Taiwo Odukoya

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3

Most countries adopt the system of government, which best suits their circumstances and people. Often adopted is federalism, a system in which power is shared between a central government and its constituent units. It is commonly attractive to countries with multiple cultural, ethnic, religious or lingual identities, as it provides some form of autonomy and assures the flourishing of such identities within the system, while facilitating peaceful relations among the different groups.

Broadly divided into two categories: symmetric (where all the constituent units possess equal powers) and asymmetric (where the units possess unequal powers). Part of federalism’s uniqueness is in the fact that whatever type is practised, it is usually as agreed upon by all stakeholders.

Spain, for example, has what some call “imperfect federation” in which the central government grants different levels of autonomy to its sub-states, considerably more to some autonomous communities and considerably less to the others, out of respect for the nationalist sentiment and rights these regions have enjoyed historically.

Canada practises a combination of symmetric and asymmetric federalism, allowing Quebec, among other things, to operate its own pension plan and have extensive authority over employment and immigration issues within its borders.

The United States of America continues to practice symmetric federalism, with each of the 50 states in the Union having the same standing and powers, while Malaysia and India practise various forms of asymmetric federalism. The former grants two states significant autonomy in excess of that exercised by the other 11 states, and the latter makes special provision for some states on certain issues.

One will discover that though all these countries practise federalism, there are no two countries, where it is practised exactly the same way. Each country, with the consent of its people, determines what is best for it, based on its peculiarities.

Though Nigeria tilts more in the direction of symmetric federalism, as practised in the United States, its citizens have not had the privilege to dialogue and negotiate their coexistence. And in almost every government that has led the country, corruption—among other things—has not allowed the authentic practise of this federalism. Ironically though, a couple of past governments have thought about it, but shied away; the closest we have gone being the 2014 National Conference. It is, therefore, not surprising that many groups in different regions of Nigeria cite marginalisation as the reason for their ethnic agitations.

Yet, one of the advantages of federalism is that it helps to mitigate and manage conflicts, as it disperses power and allows groups and communities to self-determine their existence. At this point in our national existence, we just have to come to terms with the fact that dialogue is inevitable in truly defining the basis and parametres of the relationship among and between the different groups and communities in this country.

Nigeria Has A Great Future!
Pastor Taiwo can be reached at

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1 Comment
  • ukarakpa

    Sure I agree. But one challenge we may face if symmetric form of federalism is adopted is that some powerful forces in each region or state as is currently configured, will highjack every thing to themselves and the masses would continue to go empty handed. I recall what the minorities faced during the civil war in parts of the Niger Delta, for instance. Total conquer by the major and dominant group. This also include: Lack of suitable power to defend themselves. Have seen agitation skewing towards that direction or grouping once again. God forbid the agitation succeeds. Therefore, the way to go is allow states some autonomy as many protagonist currently clamor for, while the federal retains key national institutions like defense, currency, external affairs, immigration and the like. The key thing to agree here is we should talk. I totally agree with you on continuous dialogue and not just devolution of power without sitting down to set the parameters and perhaps sanctions if the parameters are not allowed to work. A kingdom divided within itself cannot stand. I hope you remember this and I hope The Guardian can reach you with this comments. Thanks.