Revitalising the Federal Character Commission

In the last 50 years of Nigeria’s history, which represents the post civil war era, several efforts have been engineered by the federal government to fast-track national integration and cohesion.

It is not an understatement to aver that the country’s ethnic diversity has been a major factor causing disunity and knowing that the plurality of our culture, ethnicity and creed has been a strength recognised globally, successive Nigerian  leaders had been devising ways of ensuring that the cord of unity doesn’t break.

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Federal Character Commission were few of those lofty initiatives used as propelling binding forces to cement the fault lines and fortify the cord of unity amongst us.

The doctrine of Federal Character was conceptualised to ensure equitable and even distribution of appointments and  commonwealth across all the six geo-political zones, which represent and encycled over 300 ethnic nationalities that abound in the most populated African continent.

Since the advent of democracy in 1999, all the leaders have strived hard to abide by this constitutional Federal Character principle targeted at unifying the nation by resolving the deafening cries of marginalisation  and make our country  a real egalitarian society.

Without the risk of being immodest, the long years of military interregnum in the nation’s body polity brought a lot of lopsidedness and class differences with the country  riddled with obviously  skewed appointments to the extent of bringing class differences that polarised the nation across ethnic lines.

Though the concept behind the policy was fine and right, but the implementation has always been bastardised by morbid politicking and ethnic chauvinism that have pervaded the nation.

Today in Nigeria, some ethnic groups are still seen having the upper hand in the sharing of the Commonwealth, which has invalidated the purpose for which the Commission was established.

In some cases, a minority ethnic group can subdue a major provided it wielded the presidential powers to arrogate appointments to such a vantage ethnic group at the expense of the others.

The fact remains unassailable that no nation can achieve a perfect egalitarian status, but there must be fairness and justice in the system and the Federal Character is noticeably failing  in this regard.

To corroborate the foregoing, the commission itself was a victim of lopsidedness in appointments as many vacancies  still remain unfilled after the tenures of some commissioners   expired.

One would wonder that if   this could happen in a Federal Character Commission, saddled with the responsibility of ensuring equity and justice, then  every other sector is gravely endangered .

The statute stipulated that every state must have a commissioner totalling 36 and a chairman as a  general superintendent. But information at my disposal indicated  that over 30 of those commissioners had left after the expiration of their terms with no replacement in due course for the establishment to function appropriately.

This had virtually paralysed the commission and rendered it impotent  to be able to discharge its duties to Nigerians.

Section 7 ( 4) of the Act that established the commission provided that one third is required as quorum for the commission to function . But the vacuum has created a lacuna and  caused a lot of  lopsidedness in recent time in terms of appointments.

Knowing that this was gradually causing discomforts in the system, President Muhammadu Buhari made some appointments to fill the vacancies for the commission to bounce back to reckoning and do the expected to stabilise the polity.

It is no gainsaying the fact that the President enjoys the unfettered constitutional rights to appoint whoever he so pleases, but since the principle of federal character has been entrenched in our body polity, I advise that such should get a guiding  principle in the overriding interest of the majority.

To underscore the potency of the Federal character, the principle  was deployed  by the administration of the   late President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua in 2007 to pacify the aggrieved Niger Delta militants when angered over marginalisation of the region.

Aligning with the principle of federal character, the late President Yar’Adua in a rare display of political mastery and humility established the ministry of Niger Delta and ensure that people of that zone got a fair share of appointments and that extinguished the tension and restore normalcy .

Before resorting to that, the country lost multibillion naira oil installations to bombing by these livid militants. Aside from that, the nation , which relied solely on revenue from oil was losing 700,000 barrels of crude oil out of 2.3mllion daily production. This constituted a great danger to the economy and nearly pushed it into  the valley of recession.

To this end, President Buhari must keep faith with Nigerians by strengthening this well conceptualised policy using his presidential influences to be  able to deliver on its mandate. Emasculating the principle on the altar of political urgency or expediency may injure the nation badly and cause damage of colossal adverse consequences.

It is instructive to note that over 60 percent of the social ills like insurgency, kidnapping, and ethno-religious crises afflicting the nation would be resolved naturally, if the federal character principle takes the centre stage and our country will be better for it.

When there are no angers or dissonance of ethnic colouration, there will be stability, unity and peace in the system and  those in leadership positions will enjoy a stable emotion to be able to administer the nation rightly.

Aluko is assistant Principal, Ikere High School, Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State.



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