Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
After four years of independence, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is experiencing teething troubles. As Africa's most populous country, its role in contemporary history is significant. There are only nine nations in the world larger than Nigeria in population, and it is worthy of note that of these six are federal in structure. Ironically, our population gives us an advantage and places us under a handicap. Though it earns us prestige, it also causes us to be visited by a multiplicity of problems.
The election to our Parliament, which took place last December 30, brought some of these problems into sharp focus and precipitated a crisis. Whether the containment of the crisis will be permanent or temporary depends upon how those in authority take cognizance of the forces that are working to undermine the security of the state and the stability of the government.
The immediate causes of the crisis were the incompetent manner in which the electoral machinery was operated, the undemocratic nature of the electioneering campaigns which were featured by violence and lawlessness, the boycotting of elections in one-fourth of the 312 constituencies and the threat of secession by one of the four regions forming the Federation.
But there were remote political causes which accentuated the problems of federalism in the Republic and ultimately precipitated the December crisis. These were related to the exercise of executive, legislative and judicial power, the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, the creation of more states and the status of the Head of State.
Before the advent of British rule in Nigeria, most of our people were essentially democratic in their political institutions. There were exceptions in communities where strong men emerged and assumed power or usurped it, but such autocratic tendencies were generally resisted. This heritage of democracy has been preserved through the elders of the community, who became an instrument for the maintenance of law and order in their society. To ensure that the canons of ethics and law were not discarded, responsibility was granted to the elders, who were presumed to know and cherish the customs and traditions of the group.
"Gerontocracy" means government by elders. Although the exercise of power is vested in a caste of elderly people, this type of government is a form of representative democracy. Throughout Nigeria, the observer of indigenous customs must be struck by the way Nigerians respect their elders as guardians of their heritage and trustees of their communities. The council of elders usually comprised the leading chiefs of the community, most of them titled men and women, whose powers were subject to the usages of custom and convention. The paramount ruler usually exercised power after consultation with the council of elders. Failure to consult or to act on advice often led to a crisis which might develop into warfare or loss of human life or violence or dethronement.
The main political lesson learned from this Nigerian experience is the premium placed on collective leadership. A strong monarch might find himself in trouble if he did not respect the collective views of his council of elders. The word "council" is antonymous to "individual." Its operation is collectivist and not individualist. It is becoming clearer now that in many African societies the community acts collectively through a chosen leader-what I would describe as conciliar democracy. I believe that the reason why liberal democracy has not been wholly successful in many African countries is because they failed to grasp its collective element. When an individual is placed in a position to exercise omnipotent authority, there is always a likelihood that he may become power drunk. This aspect of human nature is often overlooked by political leaders of countries which presume to be "advanced," and until they reckon with its importance to social stability, we shall continue to hear of successful and unsuccessful coups.
Everywhere in the world, the story of this mad scramble and struggle for power is the same. It makes no difference whether it is in Africa or Asia or Europe or America; history keeps repeating and displaying itself to new generations in a different garb. The issue, then, is: What price power, if on attaining political autonomy human beings are obliged to resort to violence in order to cling to what they have won with so great sacrifice? Nigerians must decide whether they, too, wish to tread the beaten path of violence enabling the chosen few to exercise the power of life and death over the inarticulate many.
The House of Representatives is the effective legislature of the Federal Government, whose membership is elected on the basis of qualified adult suffrage. Representation in the House is roughly one for every 178,270 inhabitants of Nigeria, but it is uneven, because, whilst the North is represented on the basis of the adult population of both sexes, only men are eligible to vote. In the South, both male and female adults are eligible to vote. This unevenness has created inequality in representation and there has been agitation to amend the Constitution so that the basis of representation and eligibility for voting should be uniform throughout the country. Either there should be universal adult suffrage in the North or the seats allocated to it should be reduced to make it reflect its male population only. As I see it, the Federation of Nigeria has come to stay and if we are sincere in our profession of national unity, then the North should enfranchise its female population and thus fall in line with the rest of the country. This is the only clean method of effecting a healthy and desirable change.
Another matter which has disturbed many people is the tendency to rush government measures through Parliament without giving Members sufficient time to study and debate them intelligently and fully in an atmosphere of deliberate tranquility. As a democratic people, Nigerians do not like to be rushed in expressing the collective will of the nation. After all, the original idea of parliament is to provide a place of calm to which men may repair to deliberate on great issues of state and resolve them in accordance with the rules of dialectics. An examination of our Hansards will show the spate of criticisms made by Members on what they regard as a subtle attempt to rule Nigeria by rushing legislation without full debate.
A problem which has caused grave concern in Nigeria is the practice of carpet-crossing-that is, of M.P.s abandoning one party for another. Since January 1952, when 14 members of the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (N.C.N.C.) and six sympathizers crossed the carpet, thereby bolstering the government in Western Nigeria, this immoral practice has continued to plague our parliamentary institutions. Early in 1964, eight Nigerian M.P.s crossed the carpet from the Action Group to the Northern Peoples Congress (N.P.C.).
There have been revulsions against this exhibition of lack of principle. In a front-page editorial, one of our national newspapers, the West African Pilot, commented that, "In Nigeria, politics appears to have become a game for scoundrels. The bankruptcy of politics is shown by the ease with which mercenaries and opportunists change camps at the slightest pretext. The pious and grand statements they make as they shuffle from one camp to another is no more than a brazen effort to hide the shame of their sullied souls." It counseled that, "Any legislator who feels so sore about the party on whose platform he won a seat to the legislature that he wants to leave the party, should also have the courage to resign his seat in the legislature simultaneously. He can now come back on his own or on the ticket of the new party of his choice to ask for a fresh mandate."
The Nigerian National Democratic Party (N.N.D.P.) is the political party at present in control of Western Nigeria, which has 94 members in its House of Assembly. It is significant that of this number 54 are members of the N.N.D.P., of whom 49 are Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, and four are the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Chief Whip and Party Whip, respectively. In the words of a columnist in the Sunday Times: "The only member remaining resigned from the party only a few days ago. So that every legislator on the Government Bench holds an office. This record goes beyond the continent of Africa. It is a world record. . . ."
We should tackle this problem of carpet-crossing realistically. I know the usual argument put forward to justify it on the exigencies of politics. I cannot agree that Members of Parliament should betray the trust of the electorate on the grounds of "conscience" whenever their opportunism excites their inordinate ambition. We should now lay it down in our Constitution that, if any legislator decides to change parties, or desires to become an independent member, then his seat should be declared vacant, to enable him to test the popularity of his change of front.
Mr. O. C. Ememe, a former Member of Parliament, felt that the mood of our leaders was geared "towards the preservation of the authority handed over to them by the imperial British." He thought that this was motivated by fear and desire for self-preservation:
The leaders are afraid that power might slip off their hands only to fall into the hands of their opponents. Therefore, they designed a Constitution- which would leave all powers in the hands of politicians. As a result, the President, the Regional Governors, the Judges, including the Chief Justice, are to be made appendages of the politicians-the Prime Minister and his regional colleagues-the Premiers. . . .
In this country, the executive is already usurping the powers of Parliament. It is with great difficulty that Parliament exerts any influence on the executive. In fact, Parliament is used here as a rubber stamp. When controversial issues are tabled for discussion M.P.s, especially those on the Government Bench, are supposed to vote according to political parties, the policies of which are dictated by the same executive. But party leaders constitute the executive. Deviationists are penalised. Thus the same politician who controls the legislature would also control the judiciary. When the legislature, the executive and the judiciary come under the control of one and the same person or a group of persons, then the Government is said to be a dictatorship.[i]
The Senate of Nigeria was devised to have delaying powers only. It has no jurisdiction over financial matters and to this extent its avowed concurrent jurisdiction is of little practical consequence. After a fairly good start, Nigeria's upper house appears to have been transformed by politicians into a dumping ground for those who failed to win seats at popular elections but who have ambition to become Ministers. An emasculated legislature of this nature stands the risk of exposing itself to criticism as a haven for mercenary "elder statesmen." The Senate should be reformed and be vested with complete concurrent jurisdiction with the House of Representatives. The corollary of this is that Senators should stand for election in their various constituencies. Its advantage would be to discourage ciphers and nonentities from elbowing their way to the legislature through the back door.
The exercise of the legislative power is a most important responsibility, which should not be trifled with, especially in an embryonic nation. We must ensure that well-educated people of good character are elected to parliamentary seats in order to participate intelligently and responsibly in parliamentary debates. If there is decline in the functions of Parliament, the fault must lie not in its forms, organization and administration, but in its dramatis personae, that is, the politicians who run the affairs of the country.
The Nigerian judiciary is the bulwark of the liberty of the citizen. We regard it as our last best hope for survival as a democracy. In a study which he prepared for Liberty, an organization of Nigerian jurists whose objective is to maintain and uphold the principles of justice and fundamental liberties, Mr. Aliyi Ekineh, Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association, asserted: "The extent of our freedom in Nigeria . . . is to a large measure the responsibility of the courts. The courts can curtail our freedom and they can widen it just as they please. The Constitution gives this great power to them in order to protect the rights of everybody in Nigeria."
Great care was taken to ensure that in the exercise of judicial power individual freedom would be guaranteed in a manner that would be consistent with the concept of the rule of law, which animates the activities of truly democratic societies. Those who dispense justice in a democratic society must be part of the democratic system and must be imbued with democratic ideas. Therefore, we have insulated our judicial officers from the undercurrents of partisan politics. As individuals, we cannot expect them to be immune from having their own political beliefs and persuasions, but they must divorce their personalities from the partisan aspect of politics, if they would be trusted to dispense justice without fear or favor, ill will or affection.
In spite of adequate safeguards to insulate our judiciary from the humdrum of political strife, our federal system has labored under a great strain, due to the tricorporal nature of our legal and judicial systems.[ii] Our judicature is organized into courts of superior jurisdiction and those of inferior jurisdiction. In the former, the recording is usually done by the presiding judge or magistrate and not by a court stenographer; neither an accused person nor the litigant or his counsel can fairly ensure the accuracy of such records, although they are usually accurate. In criminal cases, a very limited type of offense is tried by a restricted jury. As far as the customary courts are concerned, they are presided over by laymen who are neither legal practitioners nor persons who are learned in the secular law, although some of them may be well-read in Islamic or Canon Law. But an irony is that these inferior courts are equally vested with civil and criminal jurisdiction. Not only are they clothed with power over life and death of the citizen, but they have extensive powers to apply Islamic Law over non-Muslims.
Under Section 21 of our Constitution
(5) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled . . .
(c) to defend himself in person or by legal representatives of his own choice; . . .
Provided that nothing in this subsection shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law prohibits legal representation in a court established by or under the Native Courts Law, 1956, the Sharia Court of Appeal Law, 1960, or the Court of Resolution Law, 1960, of Northern Nigeria (a), the Customary Courts Law, 1957, of Western Nigeria (b), or the Customary Courts Law, 1956, of Eastern Nigeria (c), as amended, or any law replacing any of those laws.
Practically, this fundamental right of the citizen to legal counsel is a dead letter, in view of the above proviso. The customary courts are exempted from the application of this entrenched clause with the result that political opponents have complained of deliberate persecution in being denied representation by counsel. There have been cases of legal practitioners, Southerners and nominally Christian, who were tried for political offenses in customary courts in Northern Nigeria by the al-kalai- that is, laymen who are not legal practitioners but are said to be well- read in Islamic Law. The accused persons were sentenced to severe terms of imprisonment and in one case the prisoner was marched through the streets manacled.
Extensive reforms in our judicial system are overdue so as to harmonize it with expectations that are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. As an independent Federal Republic, we have severed our connections with the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council. Our Supreme Court is now our judicial tribunal of last resort. The present regional High Courts should be transformed into Federal Courts of Appeal to be presided over by justices identified by number and stationed at regional capitals. The jurisdiction of the Federal Courts of Appeal should be defined to avoid conflict of authority with any other superior court of record; appeal should be to the Supreme Court.
A High Court should be stationed at the headquarters of each province and presided over by a judge. Its jurisdiction should be defined and it should have appellate jurisdiction from the lower courts of record. The Sharia Court of Appeal should have concurrent jurisdiction with the Provincial High Court, but accused persons and litigants should have the option to decide whether or not to make use of this court of appeal or its concurrent court of jurisdiction; and it should be up to the latter court to decide whether it should refer certain issues of a technical nature to the Sharia Court of Appeal for an opinion, before judgment is delivered.
A county court should be established at the headquarters of each Local Authority and presided over by a Magistrate. It should be a court of record and it should have appellate jurisdiction from lower courts. There should be a local court in each local council area of authority to be presided over by a Justice of the Peace. This should be the present customary courts. The civil and criminal jurisdictions of the local court should be carefully defined and strictly limited.
In civil cases, the local court should deal with customary and petty cases, with power to award damages not exceeding £10. In criminal cases, it should have the right to detain, but not to imprison or to impose severe bodily punishment on any guilty person. Even detention should be temporary, not exceeding 24 hours, and should be for the sole purpose of transferring an accused person to either a guardroom or prison. Otherwise, the person concerned should be either granted bail or discharged.
The criminal jurisdiction of the local court should be limited to the imposition of a fine not exceeding £5 and it should have no jurisdiction to imprison any person.[iii] If an accused person is unable to pay a fine, then the county should arraign the individual concerned in a county court. Under this scheme, all customary courts and al-kali courts would be absorbed in the local courts, and their jurisdiction restricted.
I have suggested the unification of the judicial system to enable all the courts of the land to dispense justice on a uniform basis. My aim is to make it possible for the Federal Government to control and supervise all our courts, whether customary or al-kalai or Sharia or Magistrate or High or Appeal or Supreme. After all, the dispensation of justice is a judicial and not a religious or political act. Whilst I will admit that only persons learned in Islamic jurisprudence should be appointed to dispense justice in customary courts where Muslims may be tried, yet I must insist that the courts of the land should not take cognizance of the religious beliefs or political attachment of any person when his liberty is placed in jeopardy. After all, Nigeria is a secular state; it is not a Christian or an Islamic state.
The story of the human race is a recapitulation, from age to age, of the struggle of man to enjoy fundamental rights. When Nigerian newspaper editors joined other West African journalists to visit the United Kingdom in 1943, they urged the Government to extend basic human rights to all the British territories in West Africa. In their memorandum, they included the right to life and all the fundamental rights of man, which were to find a worthy supporter, five years later, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
During the Constitutional Conferences of 1953, 1957 and 1958, the N.C.N.C. and Northern Elements Progressive Union joined the Action Group in demanding the incorporation of fundamental rights in our Constitution. It was not until 1959 that the Colonial Office was convinced of the wisdom of doing so. Sections 18 to 33 of our Constitution contain provisions for the enjoyment of certain basic rights in Nigeria, namely: freedom from inhuman treatment; freedom from slavery and forced labor; personal liberty; freedom of private and family life; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression and opinion; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; freedom of movement; freedom from discrimination; and freedom to possess property.
In spite of these far-reaching measures, our Constitution vests the Federal and Regional Governments with the power to enact laws which would neutralize these ten fundamental rights, provided that such laws are "reasonably justifiable in a democratic society." The reasonableness and justifiableness of any such law is one of interpretation by the courts. Hence, whilst this innovation is highly appreciated, the provisos give one cause for justifiable apprehension, since they virtually stultify our charter of liberty.
The proviso to Section 28, in respect of freedom from discrimination, is a case in point. It stipulates that "a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, tribe, place of origin or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person" be exposed to discrimination; but there is a proviso which vitiates this by virtually encouraging discrimination ad libitum against Nigerians anywhere in Nigeria as regards employment in the public service, the armed forces, the police force and the statutory corporations. There is also a proviso validating discrimination against Nigerians "with respect to the acquisition or use by any person of land or property." And the Constitution also legalizes discrimination against Nigerians if any region enacts legislation imposing disability or restriction or accords privilege or advantage that, "having regard to its nature and to special circumstances pertaining to the persons to whom it applies, is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society."
These provisos which encourage discrimination against Nigerians in their own country are scandalous. It is not a good advertisement for a nation which believes in liberal democracy and the rule of law to insert in its Constitution provisions which would vest its constituent units with power to foster discrimination against its citizens who happen to originate from other regions. We must either have one country or separate and independent countries. We are either Nigerians or we are not.
Nigerian leaders must address themselves to the root causes of bad faith and suspicion in our body politic. We must be frank in tackling the problems which have arisen as a result of our decision to live together as one country. I cannot see the logic in depriving a Nigerian, anywhere in Nigeria, of the liberty to lease or purchase land, simply because he comes from a different region. After all, one of the advantages of the federal system of government is common nationality, and to deprive a Nigerian national of the right to own property in his own country is a violation of the spirit of our Constitution. Therefore, our Constitution must be revised to enable Nigerian nationals-be they Northerners or Easterners or Westerners or Mid-Westerners or Lagosians-to be entitled, as of right, to own property anywhere in Nigeria, to seek for employment anywhere in Nigeria, to enjoy all the rights and fulfill all the obligations of Nigerian citizenship anywhere in Nigeria.
One formidable barrier to be hurdled by this young Republic is the question of creating more states. Whilst there had been agitation for breaking the country into smaller units, it was not until the 1957 Constitutional Conference in London that it became a live issue. In 1943, I had suggested that Nigeria should become a federation of eight protectorates, but in 1946 Nigeria was officially divided into three virtually separate regions. In 1955, Mr. Okoi Arikpo, a former Federal Minister, developed my idea with some modifications. Immediately thereafter, a Nigerian political analyst proposed 30 states for the country.
In order to evolve into a near perfect union, the whole of Nigeria should be divided and so demarcated geographically and demographically that no one region would be in position to dominate the rest. When I proposed that Nigeria should become a federation of eight regions, I was being political, and not sociological, in my approach. I did not necessarily overlook the tribal factor, but in my innocence I deliberately minimized it. Within five years, tribalism had reared its horrid head and Nigerian politics was saturated with its obnoxious ramifications. Since then tribalism has displaced patriotism as the center of political gravity and Nigerian leaders have been man?vred to dissipate their energies and turn against themselves.
In making my suggestion, I was thinking of the country as a whole, as I still do. I did not bother to think of a Nigerian specifically in terms of his tribe or clan. I regarded a Nigerian as a citizen who had certain rights and obligations. When tribalism had replaced patriotism, the N.C.N.C., the party I led at the time, grudgingly decided that Nigeria should be split into 14 states in order to accommodate what had become a reality in Nigerian politics. This explanation is necessary, because I am not sure that the political situation and the psychological factors involved were fully considered when my proposal and that of Mr. Arikpo were critically analyzed in a doctoral dissertation, in which the author advocated the creation of 30 states, based mainly on nationalities.
Irrespective of the number of regions suggested and in the light of the present situation, the idea of dividing Nigeria into many regions is basically sound because the aim is to consolidate national unity. If Nigerian leaders are disposed to listen to the voice of experience, they would see the wisdom in further splitting this country according to the main nationalities or linguistic groups (not ethnic groups) which form the bulk of the population. I prefer to use the more correct anthropological terminology because there has been loose talk about "tribes," "ethnic groups," "races," etc., by some ill-informed but well-meaning Nigerians and by many "experts" from abroad. Professor Ashley Montagu correctly said that without language human culture would be impossible; thus it is "the great stimulator and binder." Those who speak the same language generally come under the organizing influence of the environment into which they are born.
The requirements of contemporary political life are becoming extremely complex and the demands of the modern state on the citizen are becoming more exacting, if not confounding. This calls for a critical appraisal of the effect of federalism on the body politic. Since its introduction, Nigerians have had the mortifying experience of seeing claims and counter- claims made for the creation of separate states because of alleged neglect on the part of the Federal and Regional Governments to provide the people concerned with the amenities of modern life, to wit: postal facilities and telecommunications, tarred roads, free elementary schools, general and specialist hospitals, rehabilitation centers, recreational facilities, cheap housing schemes, secondary industries, electricity, cheap transportation on land and inland waterways, piers and quays, cheap foodstuff during all seasons of the year, libraries, theatres, etc.
The pragmatic alternative open to developing countries which are federal in character is to alter fundamentally the basis of their federation. It is apparent that only affluent societies are capable of assuming the financial obligations to which the member states of a federation are committed. This is due to their economic growth, high standard of living and immense purchasing power. If one contrasts the income of the largest African federal government with that of the smallest American state government one will be shocked at the disparity. Take Rhode Island, for instance: its area is 1,214 square miles, and its population is 859,488. Yet its total revenue for the financial year ended June 1960 was $123,000,000. During the same period the Nigerian Federation, with an area of 339,170 square miles, and a population of 35,297,000, grossed a total revenue equivalent to $266,000,000, one of the highest in Africa. In other words, Rhode Island had a per capita revenue income of $266 to Nigeria's $8.40. In the face of this disparity, Rhode Island can afford to stick to the region as a basis of federation, since it is financially viable. But Nigeria certainly cannot. In fact, no regional government in Nigeria is able to provide all the necessary amenities for its inhabitants, with or without the subvention of an already impoverished Federal Government.
We should, then, diversify our federal system by basing it on the local authorities and provinces as well as the regions. In doing so, we shall have to expand the areas in which the Federal Government shares responsibility so that all the governments of the Federation participate in the crusade for even development, and thus ensure economic, social and political equality for all, irrespective of the abstruse doctrine of states' rights.
In this line of reasoning, I suggest that each region, province and local authority in Nigeria should be entitled, as of right, to certain basic amenities. This should stem the present tide of apparent utter helplessness, planlessness and destituteness. With a high degree of courage and planning, the Nigerian economy can be revamped and, instead of our financial and commercial emissaries globe-trotting, begging for financial aid "without strings"-which plea cannot make the least impression on the affluent nations in the present diplomacy of geopolitics-we should start our own "Operation Bootstrap" and straighten out our economy in a way that would make federalism a blessing and not a curse to our people.
Another safeguard suggested for sustaining federalism in Nigeria is the popular idea of having an executive Head of State. It is obvious that Nigeria's brief experience with constitutional government has not developed a tradition of respect for a selected constitutional Head of State, as distinct from an elected executive. The fact that in recent years, Heads of Government in Nigeria have tended to be very conspicuous in performing ceremonial functions, which are customarily reserved for the ceremonial Head of State and Regional Governors, has not improved matters. Prudence and modesty should have influenced the judgment of those concerned; but as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruminated: "Self-love is a cup without any bottom; you might pour all the Great Lakes into it, and never fill it up."
The majority of Nigerians are still illiterate; their cultural development is still limited to the tribal level, comparatively speaking, so that it is the source of power and show of authority that appeal to the primitive mind, the poverty-stricken opportunist and the sophisticated careerist. Psychologically, the tendency to worship and flatter the Head of Government, even at the expense of the Head of State, must naturally lead to mutual jealousies, unless those concerned are incapable of being infected by the virus of inordinate political ambition.
Nigeria simply is not ready to have a constitutional Head of State with hollow power working parallel with a power-loaded Head of Government. No matter what may be the good relations between the two persons involved, as has been the case between me and Sir Abubakar, external factors are bound to provoke feelings and sow seeds of misunderstanding. As far as I am concerned, I can say without hesitation that I have no personal ambition in partisan politics; this explains why I have been able to play the role of a prisoner in a gilded cage with personal satisfaction and complete equanimity.
To save the Nigerian federal structure from perennial infighting among its leaders, it is imperative that we do one of two things: either we should have an elected executive Head of State and scrap the post of Prime Minister, or we should retain both functionaries but vest an elected Head of State with certain specific powers, whilst retaining the Prime Minister with the plenary powers he exercises at present.
If we accept the first proposition, then supreme powers shall be vested in an elected Head of State. The popular tendency in the world is to adopt this line of action; but the effect has not always been salutary. Rather, in some instances, it has strengthened the strong and weakened the weak; and it has encouraged instability in government. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are classic examples of the tragedy of the strong- man executive.
If, in view of the foregoing, we prefer to vest the constitutional Head of State with certain specific powers, then he should be an elected officeholder and his responsibilities might include the following areas, among others: control of the Federal Public Service Commission, the Federal Audit, the Federal Electoral Commission and the Federal Census Board. These are four explosive areas of politics, and by placing them under the exclusive control of the Head of State, an impartial non-partisan, they can be insulated from being subverted for partisan ends.
Even after we have bifurcated power and have vested the Head of State with specific powers, leaving the plenary powers with the Prime Minister, it will still be necessary to insulate certain organs of the Federal Government from being subverted for political ends. I have in mind the use of the police and the armed forces for ostensibly military, but actually political, purposes. At the present stage of Nigerian development, and in the light of the experience of contemporary African and other countries, we should now make it impossible for politicians to use our service forces for partisan purposes. As an antidote to political subversion, we should create a Federal Privy Council and charge it with the sole responsibility of advising the Head of State on matters relating to the use of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police-for military purposes.
The Federal Privy Council should comprise a panel consisting of past and present Heads of State, Heads of Government, Regional Governors, Regional Premiers, Presidents of the Senate, and Speakers of the House. It should be charged with the exclusive responsibility of advising the President on: (1) the military use of the armed forces and the police for the maintenance of law and order and other purposes of internal security; (2) when to declare war; (3) when to terminate a state of war; (4) when to negotiate and conclude a military alliance or a peace treaty.
The central problem of federalism in Nigeria is how to coexist in harmony. How can people who speak diverse tongues and have inherited different cultural traditions cultivate a national spirit of oneness? By enlarging the scope of authority of the Federal Government to include more concurrent subjects, by vesting the Senate with concurrent powers, by unifying our legal and judicial systems, by reinforcing the fundamental rights clauses in the Constitution, by creating more states, and by augmenting the prestige of the Head of State, definite steps would have been taken to strengthen coöperation between the regions and the Federal Government. This should create an atmosphere of confidence and ease tensions that are inherent in federations.
Nigerian federalism can lead to concord if areas of conflict can be mutually adjusted. Should more states be created? If not, should not the smallest unit of government be guaranteed equal development, under the Constitution-irrespective of its size, population and region of origin-thus countering the charge of partiality or the weapon of almightiness, which may goad regions with large areas and huge populations to behave like giants and thus invite repercussions that would be based on fears and apprehensions of imagined domination?
The federal system of government is based on compromise between conflicting interests in order to produce a harmonious union of apparently irreconcilable elements. The Nigerian federal system derives its inspiration from this universal experience; hence Nigerian political unity has been forged on the anvil of compromise. When a compromise is effected some concessions are usually made; but this should not necessarily imply surrender of principles or virtual extinction of any of the compromisers. In most federal systems, the principle of local autonomy is respected on the assumption that if the parts can coexist, then the whole will exist.
[i] Daily Express, Lagos, September 4, 1963.
[ii] The English legal system (Nigerian Constitutional Law, Nigerian Statute Law, and Nigerian Case Law); Nigerian Customary Laws; and Islamic Law (Maliki school). There is definite need for a monistic system of corpus juris Nigeriensis.
[iii] The severity of the sentences imposed by these courts is proverbial in Nigeria. For example, a customary court in Gboko, Tiv Division, Northern Nigeria, was reported to have sentenced each of the six persons accused of rioting to serve 24 years in prison and, in addition, to be flogged with 12 strokes of the cane. Fifteen months ago, another customary court in Kano sentenced each of the ten NEPU and Action Group supporters accused of criminal defamation to serve 12 months in prison and, in addition, to be flogged with 80 strokes of the cane.