Nigerian Federalism: A Communism at the Levels of Government

One of the funniest things about being a rightist is how they believe communism is evil, so because of this they adopt capitalism, and because they have adopted capitalism, democracy would have to be in the package, and then, to be able to govern a diverse group of people and to be able to take the governance down to every corner of the society, they would add federalism to the package; then stylishly, the federalism would add the  core ideas of communism to the governance (only not within the people but within the levels of government). One major idea of communism within the people that federalism adopts and brings within the government is the idea of “contribution and redistribution”; within the people, this basically means the people contributing as they could and when it’s time to redistribute the contributions, everyone gets equal portion, or in another version of communism, everyone gets according to their needs. The implication of contributing according to your ability and getting according to your need or everyone getting equal portion is that the ones who contribute more would surely get lesser than they contribute, while the ones who contributed less would get more than they contribute. Whether this is fair or evil, it all depends on how you understand the nature of human, the availability of resources, human creativity, economic rights and opportunity. But talking about this idea of communism hidden within federalism as par the levels of the government, it would mean the units that contribute more and the unit that contribute less would get either the same portion after redistribution or the latter would get even more than the former. In the case of the democratic societies, this, to me, is the rightists bringing in the ideas of the leftists but within the government. How fair or evil this is to you depends on how you view human organisation, resources management, and the meeting of needs.

In most federalism in the world, this idea of pooling everything to the centre and sharing them back to the units they are pooled from in another style different from how they are pooled is never fair to everyone at the same time. To specify this to Nigerian federalism, pooling all resources to the centre to share to each unit with whatever formular has never been fair to everyone together; will never be, can never be. One core reason for this is the fact that Nigeria is one-resource focused country, and that one resource comes from the part of the country that is the smallest, the most marginalized politically, and in fact, the most oppressed economically. These units have never at any point in time been really relevant in any decision on the fiscal policies of the country, so it becomes really easy for the system to make policies that would never really benefit the said units. This, amongst other reasons, is the core of the problems the Nigerian federalism. There is no sharing formular that has been adopted that is practically not about the politically domineering units (the major parts of the North) getting blessed than they have contributed, while the politically marginalized units (mostly the major contributors) get far lesser than they have contributed. This is a democratic and capitalistic Nigeria adopting communism within the government in the guise of federalism. This has been a factor always bringing up a reason for some states in the South-South of the country and a state or two in the South-West having to agitate against the precious North-West and the North-East. Trending one of these is the Rivers and Lagos State governments currently making the news because of the shouts of the Rivers State governor, Governor Nyesom Wike against the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FISR) and how his state generates so much to the federal government but gets little back from the federal government. Political and legal elites of Lagos are on this trend too, shouting about how Lagos generates too much to be getting so little from the federal government. Hence, the fight to take over the VAT of their states. However you see this, fair or evil, it depends majorly on two things: whether your state is favoured by this communistic federalism or your state is one of the few states carrying the loads of the whole country and yet getting lesser rewards from such commitment.

I expected the reaction of the Gombe State Government on how they are enjoining the agitating southern states to take it easy on wanting to take over their VAT; what would be your reaction if your contribution to a group is minimal but you get as more rewards as the ones who contribute more? The indifference of many of the southern states is understandable too; most of these states have nothing of their own than the fact that they were given the state posture even when, by resources, they can only stand to be a local government. Turn the table a little bit, just assume the North is the major contributor to the country’s purse, what would the fiscal policies look like? If you can’t imagine it, let me help you get there; the North contributes more to the population of the country, yes? Now see how they use that as an excuse to dominate the government. Similar to this is what would happen if the North was the major economic contributor. This fiscal federalism is far from fair! The whole of Nigerian federalism is incapable of solving the problems we keep it for; in fact, it causes more problems than it has ever solved. We need to go back to the boards.

About Olusegun Peters

Olusegun Peters is a businessman, an investor and a scholar. He is the founder of and He is passionate about contributing his knowledge to impacting as many people as possible one person at a time. Read more about Olusegun Peters here

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