Nigeria: A Case for Confederacy

2nd October 2017 BY Chinemerem Onyeukwu

Should Nigeria reorganize its governing structures?

Today Nigeria is the largest representative democracy in Africa, with a population of almost 200 million people. Nigeria also wields the largest economy in Africa and the 24th in the entire world (2016). The West African Nation is endowed with an abundance of resources from vast oil reserves to natural gas and coal. With a national portfolio like that often the question is why is Nigeria and nations like her largely stagnant and unstable?

As Nigeria’s independence from the British Empire just passed us this is the best time to evaluate how we look at the structures that govern Nigeria and whether those structures are conducive to the progress of Africa’s Giant. Currently, the Nigerian Republic is a representative federal democracy much like the United States of America. Like America, Nigeria has an Executive branch led by a president (Buhari), a Legislative branch with a House and Senate, and Judicial branch vested in a Supreme Court. Many political scientists view this structure as one of the most effective forms of democracy, however, many Africans are aware what works in the West does not always work in the Motherland.

This is the question that faces Nigeria, despite her vast resources and various advantages, why does she still lag behind in many developmental areas? The answer is widespread institutional corruption. Currently, the republic is afflicted by terrorism to the North (Boko Haram), kidnappings and unrest in the Delta regions. Coupled with rising tensions between major ethnic groups, specifically Northern populations, and Igbos of the Southeast. Recently groups in “Igboland” have formed in the hopes of advocating for the concerns and interests of the Igbo people and other southeastern Nigerians.

Many in Igbo majority states feel as the federal government intentionally under-invests in their region as punishment for a failed attempt at secession. Some of these groups have even reintroduced the idea of secession into the Nigerian social discourse. Nigeria’s current President Buhari is a particularly interesting character in this conversation because of his role in the Nigerian Civil War. In his youth at the start of his military career, Buhari was a key leader in the counter-coup (July Rematch), Buhari went on to lead a violent campaign against Biafra. Today many elders of the southeast still hold a deep disdain for Buhari because of this history.

Why A Confederacy?

Nigeria’s current federal structure is a throwback to colonialism and western views on democracy. It is premised on a firm belief in diversity and liberalism. However, these concepts do not always transfer smoothly through African societal structure. This political grafting is made more difficult when you introduce the diverging cultures, interests, and standards of a population as diverse as Nigeria’s.

Confederacy:  A union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states

A confederacy would offer Nigeria the best of both worlds, granting regions more independence and latitude when crafting policies and legislation for local populations and maintaining the strength of a Federation when dealing with outside threats and policies. The formation of a confederation would undercut the idea of secession and war.

So the question remains is Nigeria best served as a Federal Democracy or a Confederation?