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Eghosa Osaghae calls for a new framework of federalism in Nigeria

The Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Professor Eghosa E. Osaghae, has called for a new framework for federalism in Nigeria, one that is more contextualised and adaptable to the country’s unique circumstances.

Esaghae made the call during his keynote address on Tuesday at a recent event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Guardian newspaper, titled “Federal is the answer; what is the question?”

Esaghae began by questioning the very definition of federalism, arguing that many people who advocate for federalism do not have a clear understanding of what it entails, stressing that federalism is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that each country must develop a unique federal system that suits its specific circumstances.

Drawing from his extensive research on federalism, he argued that the essence of federalism lies not in the constitution or the federal government but in the nature of the society it serves.

In the context of Nigeria, the professor argued that the current centralised federal system is no longer working and that a more decentralised approach is required, citing the fact that Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups, making it one of the most diverse countries in the world.

In such a diverse country, Eghosa argued, a one-size-fits-all approach to federalism will not work.

“There is no country else in the world that is exactly like Nigeria…that is why we need a federal system that is designed specifically for Nigeria. We cannot simply borrow the federal systems of other countries and expect them to work here.”

Esaghae noted that Nigeria needs to move away from a “nation-centered” federalism to a “region-centered” federalism, adding that Nigeria needs to develop a “federal political culture of accommodation, resilience, tolerance and win-win for everyone.”

He also argued that the current federal system is not working because it is based on a fear of dominance and stated that both majority and minority groups fear being dominated by each other, and this fear has led to a very centralised system of government.

Esaghae, however, called for a new framework for federalism that is based on the principles of accommodation, resilience, tolerance, and win-win for all, saying that this new framework will require a change in the way that we think about federalism.

“We need to get away from the idea that federalism is just about the constitution,” Esaghae stated.

The director general also emphasised the importance of federalists—individuals who advocate for and understand federalism—and expressed hope that The Guardian’s newspaper would spark a revival of federalist ideals in Nigeria.

Source: The Guardian