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Corruption, Elections, Resistance To Restructuring As Nigeria’s Fault Lines


The Oasis Reporters

October 29, 2018

Illegal kid voters give northern states their high election figures all the time.

Election has been, and still is, a major fault line in Nigeria. But we must salute the landmark achievement and sacrifice of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, irrespective of any of his perceived other failings.

The other major fault lines in my opinion are corruption and restructuring. My take is that corruption is more a symptom of a badly structured and governed country. When a distant ‘Lord’ milks resources from a badly neglected vassal and redistributes it as he deems fit, in any society, this will create a perverse incentive – Corruption.

In the Niger Delta, the landlord (indigenes) effectively pays rent to the tenant (federal government). Such is the depth of the deceit.
Nigeria is littered with many underlying policies, which raises my fear of calamity, if they are not re-visited. I will examine a few of them.

REVENUE FORMULA: I have previously (in a different article) analysed how the north-led government accreted almost all revenues previously reserved for the regions and states, to the center. The Nigeria revenue generating and sharing formula is one of its kind in the entire world. You cannot find any country or nation where a region or two regions provide 80% federal and distributable income.
You can equally not find where such money spinning regions have to wait for allocation from the center. All oil revenue is taken by the federal government, and 13% of it is later ‘allocated’ to the oil producing region. On VAT, 90% is reserved for distributable pool. There is no country in the world where such formulas are obtained.

In multi-regional Spain, which has arguably the most acrimonious multi-region democracy in Europe, the Basque region controls most of its (Basque’s) tax revenue. It pays the center for services rendered (foreign affairs, defence,monarchy) by negotiated transfer. It controls all other aspects of its society. Yet, they feel aggrieved and Basque separatist movement has been an enduring reality in Spain. Their grievance, amongst others, is having to subsidise poorer regions like Andalusia in the south and Galicia, in the north. It is also worth mentioning that the regions renegotiate their contract with the Central Spanish government every five years. And some of them like Basque and Catalonia have autonomy.

Germany has poorer, north eastern states (Landers) like Saxony, Brandenburg, etc in East Germany. But they do not ‘kidnap’ resources from West Germany. Neither is there a ‘mysterious’ revenue formula used to drain the richer West Germany, for purposes of one united Germany. There are agreed and accepted transfer, from Berlin. Not forced or foisted exploitation.

The Mezzogiorno in Italy is a region of relative poverty. But it does not resort to official extortion to re-distribute income from richer regions.

The Nigeria revenue formula is unsustainable. There is deep resentment in the South-East and South-South of Nigeria over this insolent revenue formula. My fear is that it may reach a tipping point unexpectedly.

FEDERAL CHARACTER: In recent days, the supporters of Buhari have been telling the whole world that appointments made by Buhari are based on merit. This was in response to accusations of lopsidedness. I was rather surprised, since federal character, which was championed by the North, has not been annulled. I wish it was.
Federal character is a classic form of quota system. Some people may regard it as affirmative action. It was initiated by yet another North-led government in Nigeria. It was intended to reserve positions in the federal civil service to disadvantaged states. (Read: Northern states).

Indeed federal character is a pseudonym for ‘Northern Character’ or affirmative action for the North. It was a crass display of contempt for merit. It was supposed to be affirmative action for minorities, but it has been affirmative action for the majority ethnic group.
When Murtala Mohammed first advocated it to the constitution drafting committee in October 1975, it was intended to give every citizen a sense of belonging in Nigeria. But many observers suspected that it was to balance the perceived hurdle that merit imposed on ‘disadvantaged’ states.
No other multi-ethnic or multi-lingual society (talk less of multi-religious one) applies this type of affirmative action.

India has quota system for her civil service, but it is mainly for the lower cadre. The upper or administrative cadre of the civil service is recruited through one of the toughest exams in the world. It is purely on merit.

Belgium has it French-speaking and Fleming speaking population. But recruitment to her civil service is by successfully passing a competitive examination, organised by the federal selection and recruitment office (SECOR).

Canada likewise has English-speaking and French-speaking regions. Till 2003, it used a ‘best-qualified’ criteria for recruitment. From 2003, under its Public Service Modernization Act, it now applies a value-based approach. Emphasis is on experience, skill and knowledge for the advertised position. No federal character or ethnic character.
In fact in 1984, its commission on Equality in Employment recommended that no quota should be applied in civil service. Rather specific targets can be set for relevant groups like the disabled, etc.

Where did this federal character come from?

It is another grievous fault line, that I am afraid could tip the balance against tolerance.


Nigeria is the only country in the world where a federally subsidised tertiary education is not merit-driven. How can we be complaining about the quality of graduates, when only 40% of university and tertiary education is reserved for merit?
Imagine that!
Higher education in the 21st century is based on sundry considerations like ‘catchment areas’.
When countries are worried about the quality of their higher education and are focused on selecting the best. Nigeria is trying to preserve ethnocentric admission policy that rewards tribe and religion and punishes merit and hard work.
What kind of a nation or country are you expecting to build?
Youngsters from the south can score 200 in JAMB, and fail to gain admission in federally subsidised institutions. Their counterparts in the north would score 66 and get admitted into choice professional courses. I am yet to see anywhere in the world where this formula is applied. It is straight from the pit of hell.
Several nations preserve affirmative action for tertiary education, but it is always a low percentage, never exceeding 15%. Reserving 60% of a nation’s university education for considerations, other than merit, in the 21st century, is a recipe for mediocrity.

In Nigeria’s case, because it greatly discriminates against the south, it is another subterranean fault line that has generated tremendous animosity. I am afraid for this country if that continues unabated.


This act effectively transferred ownership of 900,000 square kilometres of Nigeria land to the government. It is Marxist in principle, but has its ancestral home as a policy, in the erstwhile feudalistic North.
In the pre-colonial days, land management was vastly different in the North and South of Nigeria. The North practised a more feudal system of land maximization within the ancient state.It was not common to see small landowners in the North, before the British incursion. This is unlike in the south, especially south-east and south-south, where land typically belongs to families and individuals. There were many small land holders (farmers). People typically farmed their land, rather than work in large farms that belong to feudal lords, as was the case in the pre-colonial north.
Today, we have a land policy directly borrowed from the former northern practice. The feudal lord now is the government. This is alien to the typical and customary land management in eastern and southern Nigeria. It is a reform whose time has come.

Written by Frank Olisa Akukwe
Twitter: @FrankOlisa

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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