Agbakoba calls for removal of federal character principle

By Joseph Onyekwere   |   16 September 2015   |   4:34 am  

Olisa-AgbakobaTHE former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has advocated for the removal of the federal character principle in the constitution.

Agbakoba stated that Nigeria needs a decentralised and balanced federation as recommended by the 2014 National Political Reform Conference in its report, adding that an amendment of the constitution to reflect the change is imperative.

Agbakoba, who addressed newsmen in his Ikoyi office yesterday argued that expunging the principle as well as the quota system in our country, will promote hard work, equity and justice.

He said, “I want the federal character principle expunged in the constitution. In fact, the constitution should be amended. We should have a decentralised and balanced federation. If the recommendations on the system of government recommended by the Political Reform Conference is adopted, there will be no room for federal character principle.”

Speaking on the state of the nation, he lamented that Nigeria has been hit by a wave of big shocks “the first shock is that our oil resources have gone out of fashion as the world moves from smelly hydrocarbon oil to clean shale oil.”

According to him, “Nigeria produces smelly hydrocarbon oil that are no longer attractive in the international market. We are having trouble selling our oil. The second big shock is that we are no longer an oil economy. We are now in a post oil period. The third shock is that our economy is in danger of running out of steam and cash. The third shock would have a profound effect on Nigeria, unless it is well managed by President Muhammadu Buahri.”

The legal luminary urged the President to be careful in making his appointments in order to avoid misunderstanding in a plural society as Nigeria, as he also advised him to borrow a leaf from former President of the United States of America, Franklin President Roosevelt who ably dealt with the shock of the great depression that ravaged the country when he became president in the 1930’s.

According to him, “President Buhari should as a matter of urgency through executive orders and legislative proposals touch critical pillars of Nigeria’s political infrastructure such as the political arrangements and agreements that bind Nigerians as one nation.

Insisting on the fact that the amalgamation agreement of 1914 failed, Agbakoba said, “We have not lived in peace and harmony. Nigeria is a fractured and divided nation. The colonial agreements in the shape of orders in council promulgated by the English crown failed us. The post-colonial constitutions and their military counterparts all failed us.

“The result has been long years of national disorder and disharmony that has impeded economic development and political stability. This is a challenge the president must engage as soon as possible. All that is needed is a comprehensive review of the reports of the national conferences. It will be a very difficult but not impossible task.

“The key in arriving at a new constitution is in isolating what Nigerians will agree to immediately. I believe Nigerians will accept the need for a balanced federation. We must strive for a balanced federation and decentralisation of powers from federal to state governments. The centre is too strong and can pass responsibility out of the 98 items of power, under its exclusive control, to states,” he suggested.

The activist-lawyer stated that a gradual amendment process would be more result-oriented than the ‘failed holistic attempts to write new constitution in one fell swoop’, insisting that creating a new national order will be very difficult but not an impossible task.



  • AriseNigeria

    Buhari has failed the nation with his divisive style of government. Although, I have thought, Nigeria under Jonathan and Yardua governments was making head way towards unifying the country since the return of democracy, I am beginning to believe that the Nigerian project will never work, and therefore a waste of time and hope. It is time to start thinking about the agitation and creation of a Country where the coalition of the willing can live together side by side. Buhari is a total failure, and I doubted his ability to govern Nigeria with fairness and justice, and he has demonstrated that he is nothing but a bigoted fellow, and he will ensure his successor will have the same dark and evil hearts as his. Therefore , we must begin the process of extricating ourselves from the stranglehold of this falsehood called Nigeria, if it means another civil war, it is better than to be a slave in your own country without resistance.

    • AA

      Your views make a lot of sense but I must disagree with the very idea of a civil war. South Africa ended dictatorship without a civil war; the Soviet Union broke up without a civil war. I am sure we can restructure Nigeria without a civil war if we are serious. Once we begin to consider the idea of a war, it will become inevitable. Moreover, modern wars hardly end. Look at Somalia, look at the Sudans, look at the Middle East, look at the War on Terror. We must decide that we can resolve our issues in a non-violent way. The problem is that we have not even started trying. Most citizens are very illiterate and unenlightened about our poltiical issues so they don’t know how to respond except by resorting to ethnic, regional, and religious bigotry. That is why someone as visionless as Buhari has the support he has today. In my view, our biggest problem is political illiteracy and not even corruption. And I think that is where we should start, by educating our people, especially the young. My two cents ….

      • Bello Barriga

        With utmost respect, your “two cents….” is exactly two cents. Question:- Of what value is two cents? In other words, your contribution is worthless. Have a nice day.

        • AA

          Ha ha ha. U must be incensed by my harsh comment about Buhari. But u don’t have to insult me. All u have to do is counter my point and show that I am wrong. Produce a better idea and argument, and who knows, I might be persuaded by u and come to ur side. That is actually what the expression, ‘my two cents’ means. It means this is my idea but I recognise that others might have other ideas – maybe even better ideas. Wake up, my friend. This is 2015 and we are in a democracy. We have a right to argue, to criticise. Your insult will not deny me of that right. Prove that ur champion in Aso Rock is not visionless as I have claimed. Your turn … (And again, my two cents …)

          • Fuzio

            Logical facts make partisans angry. No amount of well laid argument will convince them. They are impervious to reason.

      • emmanuel

        Good comment

      • AriseNigeria

        My statement has a condition attached to it, “if it means another civil war, it is better than to be a slave in your own country without resistance.” Those were my statement. The great American poet Patrick Henry made a speech to the Virginia Convention in 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia when he said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” This was made in his support of the American “Revolutionary war” of independence against the occupying British force Nigeria is simply a failed State, and under Buhari’s new idea of exclusionary government, it has become a doomed country. I agree with you that the discussion should no longer be about sustaining the status quo of a “united but unequal citizens” of Buahri’s dream country, we should be discussing how a new coalition of the willing can craft out their own country out of the mess that was imposed on us by the British government and a Buhari government that believe some section of the citizens does not belong to the country or qualified to help in the governance of their own country, but must be force to remain as part of the country because their resources is needed to support and sustain the few privileged in the society, mainly his kinsmen. Yes, we should be discussing the impracticality of one Nigeria, and the realization that it was never meant to work, and therefore cannot work. But discussion without practical steps for “change” will not work, we need more than discussion, what we need is action.

        • AA

          Thanks for your response. So much sense. But if u will let me, I don’t think Nigeria cannot work. I agree that it was created to satisfy the needs of the colonialists, but it CAN work. No country works automatically, no country was created without lies and force. But when the people wake up and set their minds to it, it can and it will work. Even if we craft new countries out of Nigeria today, those new countries will face similar problems as we face today and will only work if the people sit up and do what they have to do. I don’t know if u get my pint. But I definitely agree with you that an alternative arrangement must be found because we can’t continue to be slaves in our own lands indefinitely.

          • AriseNigeria

            One characteristic of a parasite is that it needs a victim host in other to survive, so telling a parasite to leave the host victim alone is tantamount to telling telling a parasite to die, naturally that will be resisted by a parasite. Ideally, confederate states will be the best option for Nigeria,where each region will run its course and determine its destiny but there are people, mainly from the North who feels that because they claim to have numerical advantage, the rest of the people should simply fold their arms and accept the status quo or rather the fate they have imposed on them, that is a parasitic thinking. Every country faces challenges now doubt, but our challenge after 50 years of experience has shown that the basic foundation and element of a nation does not exist, that was why the Soviet Union disintegrated. Nigerian cannot co-exist under its present operation. Imagine an elected President in a democratic system completely extricate and excluded a large portion of its citizens and to some people that is a cause for celebration, sorry, we can’t have that. There is no reason to hope things can get better. I was told by a wise man that “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of madness,” and I think that defines those who for unrealistic expectation believes Nigeria can co-exist with a President with the bigoted mindset as Buhari, I happen to disagree. One Nigeria is simply impracticable, dissolution is the only common sense solution, and if war will make that possible, so help us God, death is better than slavery said Patrick Henry.

          • AA

            You dey vex o bros, but when u say “Nigerian cannot co-exist under its present operation”, u are very correct. I also share ur views on PMB. If u follow discussions, u will see that the sentiment of division has shot up seriously since he became president thanks to his famous 5% statement and other acts. But, what I am saying is that we must fully explore non-violent means and discourage war talk. These days, wars don’t get won – people just die and die and die while the elites protect themselves. This happens on every side, so I don’t really think war is a way to go.

          • Fuzio

            After more than 50 years of exploring this non-violent means, what do we have to show for it? Worse outcome typified by Buhari. It is even worse than the condition immediately after the civil war. If you want peace, then prepare for war. There is no other way. If you want your children and children’s children to live in a free society where they can have unfettered dream, then this is the time to act. Those who the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. That is why this jihadist president in poking his finger into the eyes of people and daring them with Junaid Mohammed.

  • chiemex

    Oga Olisa, thanks for returning to the trenches. Welcome back. Agaracha has come back!

  • Sweetsugar

    I wonder the clamour for removal of Federal Character at this time. When did it come to being and why was it in force in the first place? Who is benefiting from it and who is not? are those benefiting also calling for removal? Who were those behind its implementation, are they the ones in power or not? If they are, how possible is it for them to remove the product of their endeavour, and why would anyone want to fight with his leg, who will fall? I think the problem should be allowed to solve itself. If it’s as a result of presumably lopsided appointments, people should fight that without bringing in the Fed Xracter and comment objectively on what they are not pleased with, blame whoever is to blame, and again leave federal character alone.

    • AA

      The federal character principle allows less qualified people to access privileges on the basis of the state them come from alone. Historically, it has favoured northerners much more than southerners. It is, in essence, anti-progressive and anti-merit in its workings. That is why someone like Agbakoba is making this call.

      • Sweetsugar

        Now you see the essence of my questions, who is benefiting from it and why would they (northerners) want to remove it under a government that so favoured them especially because they are being supported by the westerners. Do not forget that Nigeria is not a nation but a “Geographical Expression” and those who are benefiting from the shoddy arrangement will fight tooth and nail to ensure it stays. They also have the majority to their advantage.

  • Fuzio

    Anything that will promote hard work, merit and competition will face stiff opposition from the North no matter what. They have confessed on many fora that the only gift that they possess is that of political manipulation.

    • AA

      Harshly said, but it is quite true in regard to the behaviour of the northern establishment although not all northerners are likely to think in that way.

      • Fuzio

        Sometimes you have to say it as it is without mincing words.

  • chilagorom

    Thank you guys for your thought provoking arguments without insults. I believe if we provide solutions to national discuss it is better than insulting each other and showing our ethnic and nepotic colouration. The best option for Nigeria, i posit is going back to true federalism and that will give equal opportunity to every geopolitical zone to develop at her pace. The present system foisted by the armed forces cannot stand any longer and whether any body likes it or not Nigeria must be restructured for peace to reign. The center must be made less attractive and we go back to regions by abolishing states. With the current economic reality most states cannot stand economically. How long should the federal government continue to bail out states. Most states are not viable and are docile in economic and development efforts. Resource control must come to be without prejudice so that others can develop their God given resources.

  • ufoma

    I completely disagree with Olisa, unless they first of all amend the constitution and expunge state/LGA of origin, ethnic tribe and religion, it will not work. We will become like the Balkans that broke into five different nations… Amend the constitution to remove all those indices that divides us, and enshrine that you are a citizen of the state and town you are born, there will be no North and South, no North Central, North East, North West, South West, South East and South South,. That is what obtains in the western world where there is no federal character… We should be honest to ourselves!!!

  • amador kester

    Removal of federal characterpromotes hardwork? Good sense! Perhaps. But look at it this way : supposing you want to appoint six transparent technocratic ministers.And you pick them from one zone out of six.Are you saying that you also cannot identify a transparent technocratic gentleman or lady from each of the other five zones.Yes my dear learned gentleman, your argument here is not water tight

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