FEDERAL-STATE RELATIONS IN NIGERIA'S SECOND REPUBLIC. JOSEPH OKOROJI. LONDON: V.O.R. PUBLICATIONS, 1997. 72pp.©
A common theme expressed in publications that examine the political fortunes of post-independence Sub-Saharan Africa is frustration -- frustration that an area with such great potential continually deflates the best-laid plans of visionaries and practically-minded administrators, planners, and constitutional experts alike. Perhaps nowhere is this sentiment more often expressed than in commentaries on Nigeria, a country blessed with a large, relatively well-educated population, such abundant natural resources, and so many natural advantages that it would seem to place in the upper tier of world nations. Instead, Nigeria seems to always fall below the expectations of the world community. In the past thirty years, three separate constitutions have been crafted and launched amidst much fanfare and international acclaim. Each time, however, political forces have appeared to be out of control and civil disorder threatened, providing ready-made excuses for the military to intervene.
Joseph Okoroji's relatively slim volume (just 72 pages) contributes to the already vast literature on Nigeria with a rather narrowly pitched study of the trials and tribulations of federalism during the Second Republic (1979-1983). While he never makes a clear statement about his purpose, Okoroji seems to have two reasons for undertaking this study. Like a number of others who have examined this subject, Okoroji seeks to determine why this second constitutional framework failed to provide the glue required to hold Nigeria's notoriously divided population of over 200 ethnic groups together. To this end, the author describes several informative episodes that illustrate the non-cooperation which bedeviled the Second Republic almost from the very beginning. These include the federal-state confrontation over the construction of the Nnewi-Afikpo road, the struggle for control over the single national police force, suspicions surrounding the appointment of Presidential Liaison Officers, and arguments over reaching an equitable revenue allocation formula for the distribution of federal funds to the nineteen states. All of these add substance to several previous articles on Nigerian federalism that typically are long on rhetoric but short on detail.
Another purpose to this book is the author's intent to demonstrate that, in certain respects, the Second Republic constitution actually did provide some minor successes in mitigating conflict between rival ethnic groups and political units in the federation. It is in this latter endeavor that we see some real contributions; so few have acknowledged these strengths since the Second Republic fell with such a resounding crash in the last months of 1983. This point is illustrated with a look at the federal-level Council of State, the workings of state liaison offices in state capitals, external borrowing, inter-state relations, and the way in which the "federal character" principle was implemented in Anambra state. Unfortunately, these examples are not described with enough detail to make them anything more than brief overviews. The author would have done us a greater service by focusing on one or two of these cases and devoting more analysis to them.
While I certainly wish to acknowledge the insights the author provides through the case studies, I would be very hesitant to recommend this slim volume to any save those who are already well initiated in the inner workings of Nigerian politics. The author does not seek to provide any detailed background in which to center his detailed study. As a result, the reader is confronted with a whole series of political personalities, parties, associations, and institutions that would only be familiar to the most seasoned observers. A chapter on the colonial experience with federalism and another on the First Republic would have been helpful in this regard, especially since the political, social, and economic dynamics of the Second Republic were certainly set in place long before 1979. Indeed, the politicians and leading political movements that shaped the Second Republic were almost identical to those of the First Republic.
Readers who are already familiar with the study of Nigerian politics will find the author's treatment of constitutional theory, institution-building, and the wider literature on Nigerian federalism to be frustratingly inadequate. Apart from B.O. Nwabueze's 1983 work on the Second Republic constitution, and two or three woefully out-dated pieces from the early 1960s, the author cites no other works on the subject. As such, he ignores a rather voluminous literature that has arisen based on the efforts of both Nigerian and foreign academics to cover the span of three separate constitutional eras. Another problem is that the author limits his theoretical treatment of federalism only to aspects of structural design. This leaves the theoretical underpinnings of the book open to much criticism. For example, there is no consideration given to the large literature on state-society relations and political culture that could give additional insight as to why the level of constitutional choice has been so ineffective in resolving deep societal divisions in Nigeria. Also ignored is the even more extensive literature on Nigerian political economy and incipient class formation.
In the final chapter, the author muses about a particular model of federalism that might be preferable for Nigeria, especially given its past history. A brief analysis is offered of the applicability of the federal constitutions of Germany and Canada, but ironically, no mention at all is made of the Third Republic constitution that was brought into existence by the Babangida military government in 1989. This is an egregious oversight for a book published as late as 1997! The Third Republic constitution offered some new modifications to the Second Republic model, especially in the realm of federalism, and the author should have devoted some attention to it.
All in all, I find little useful in this book to recommend beyond the details provided in the brief case studies.
Donald C. Williams