For a country that has diverse religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds such as Nigeria, there is a need for deliberate policy choices to create unity in diversity, as against the current ones that have resulted in divisive dialogue.
The was the central theme of a letter written by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba(SAN) to President Muhammadu Buhari entitled “The Missing Fundamentals and Regional Autonomy for Nigeria”, in which he suggested Constitution Alteration (Regional Autonomy and Devolution of Powers) Bill as a step towards true federalism.
In the letter, dated February 2, 2021, Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, (2006 to 2008), told Buhari: “We continue to raise issues around our differences— the dilemma of missing (national) fundamentals.
“We can only make progress by understanding and embracing our challenges.
“Common fundamentals are policy goals in the political, economic, cultural, religious and social affairs of a nation that often must be similar to achieve political cohesion.
“These common ideals are usually taken for granted, but remain central to effective governance and development of nations.
“The notion of missing fundamentals are at opposite poles and refer to an absence of common political objectives on vital national policy.”
He then cited for President Buhari examples of countries that managed their diversity (the United Kingdom, Canada) and those that did not (Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Russia).
According to Agbakoba, “In Nigeria’s case, we have not, unfortunately, managed the challenge of diversity.
“Brought together by the force of amalgamation in 1914, it was not until 1951 that the first attempt to manage our diversity occurred.
“There was self-rule in three regions— Northern, Eastern, Western and eventually Mid-West Region.
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“By aggregation of discussion among our founding fathers, they understood the need to manage unity in diversity by devolved political authority.”
The legal luminary then suggested a way forward: “It is clear that our diverse nature and large size means that the political system best suited for Nigeria is a federal system.
“But the challenge has been what type of federalism. I believe that this must be devolution of powers and regional autonomy.
“In my opinion, the process of regional autonomy and devolved powers can be achieved by virtue of an enactment styled ‘Constitution Alteration (Regional Autonomy and Devolution of Powers) Bill.
“This is the only way to stabilise Nigeria,” Agbakoba added.
Read Agbakoba’s letter to President Buhari HERE.
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