The Unitarist versus the Federalist; the Nigerian Experiment
President Buhari is a Unitarist in orientation. All military men are unitarist in orientation. What does it mean to be a unitarist?
A unitarist is an advocate for a unitary system of government. That is not all. All unitarists believe in a central command system of government. Because of the military nature of a unitary system of government, all unitarists tend to be dictatorial.
A unitarist believes a central command system is more effective than a devolved federal system. A unitarist believes that if a country can be controlled from the center and that center has good leadership strength, all will be well. A unitarist believes in central confrontation, they perceive every call for negotiation as an insult and threat on their central command system. Dialogue is unnecessary. They believe force from the central government can resolve any crisis. They believe the gun is mightier than the pen. If President Buhari has his way, he will wipe out the Shiites, Niger Delta Militants, IPOBS, the Federalists and any other non-conformist threat to his central command system. This does not make him a bad person though, it’s just the nature of a unitarist with a military background. To the unitarist, all non-conformists are criminals. To a unitarist, the central command system is sacred, it should not be questioned. None of the central powers should be devolved. None. The unitarist avoids looking at the root cause of issues. Afterall, they have both the yam and the knife at the center, why should non-conformists be tolerated or dialogued with?
A unitarist leader is very fearful of losing an inch of his central command authority. He can do everything possible to hold on to the central power, a unitarist therefore sees the call for devolution of power as an insult or even treason. Because Nigeria practices a unitary system of government, most politicians automatically become unitarist in orientation once they get connected to the central command system.
Minister Fashola was a Federalist, so was Tinubu, El Rufai, Atiku, Emir Sanusi, etc. They have all become unitarists. They no longer talk about the need for state police, decentralization of electricity generation and distribution, resource control, decentralization of economic and political powers, restructuring of the states, the need for state constitutions, etc.
One of the evils of the unitary system is that it makes the unitarists believe they can fix it all from the center. You have all the resources, all the man power, absolute power, security, etc., why can’t you certainly fix it all from the center? That is a major pitfall of a unitary system. At the end, despite the central control of everything and the genuine efforts, the unitarist ends up as a disaster to both himself and the country, they always do end up as failures. President Buhari will not be different. Goodluck Jonathan was a unitarist but not until the end of his tenure when he saw the need to devolve some federal powers. He failed anyway.
Millions of Nigerians have over the years become unitarist in orientation. They have been infected by the ‘feeding bottle’ central command disease. The lawmakers are unitarists. The civil servants are unitarists. The trade unions; NLC, TUC, ASUU, etc., have all become unitarist in orientation. Younger Nigerians are also infected. Reclaiming Nigeria from these unitarists will be a difficult task. If you are one of those Nigerians who believe Nigeria’s problems can be solved by just good leadership at the center, you are a unitarist.
The 1999 Constitution is a unitary military document, it is unitary in spirit but federal in words. Every leader who operates within the ambit of that document becomes a unitarist. Whether we elect a civilian or a military man to become President of Nigeria, as long as he is to work with that unitary military document, he automatically becomes a unitarist and he is bound to fail at the end.
As long as we still operate that 1999 Constitution, Nigeria is still under unitary-military rule. It does not matter whether we elect the politicians by democratic means. The system determines their behavior.
It is time to discard this unitary system of government and entrench a proper federal system.
I am a Federalist.
I believe true federalism will fix Nigeria.
I believe in the devolution of economic and political powers.