Continued from yesterday

By Ladipo Adamolekun

Diversity Management – Nigeria in Comparative Perspective

Restructuring the Federal System: There is a notable similarity between the re-organisation of constituent units in India and Nigeria.  Just as the number of constituent units of the Nigerian federation has increased from three at independence to the current 36, the number of states in India has increased from 12 at independence in 1947 to 29 in 2018 – the 29th was created in 2014.  Strikingly, the mix of cultural diversity management, promotion of national unity and enhancement of economic opportunities across the country’s territorial area that is emphasized as factors for state creation in India are broadly similar to those in Nigeria.

Prof. Adamolekun

However, it is important to acknowledge that the salience of linguistic factor in state creation in India contrasts with the dilution of ethno-linguistic factor in Nigeria. Furthermore, whilst state creation in India has consistently occurred through negotiations among the political elites within the context of uninterrupted democratic politics, state creation in Nigeria has occurred almost exclusively through military fiat. (The only exception was the creation of Mid-West region as a fourth constituent unit of the Nigerian federation through a plebiscite in 1963).

The balance between centralisation and decentralisation of powers in a federation – there are examples of both over centralised and highly decentralised federations – is normally the result of competing political forces within each country.  However, the broad lesson from the comparative study of federal systems is the following: “Generally, the more homogeneity within a society, the greater the powers that have been allocated to the Federal Government, and the more diversity, the greater the powers that have been assigned to the constituent units of government” (Ronald Watts, 2002).  With respect to policing function that was highlighted above, it is a subject that can be compared with attention to its impact on both diversity management and general effectiveness.

The existing constitutional provision that makes policing an exclusive federal function in Nigeria contrasts markedly with the decentralisation of policing function in almost every federal system. In Canada where provinces can either opt to be served by the National Police on contract or establish their own provincial police forces, Quebec that emphasises its distinct identity has its own provincial police force while the adoption of contracting enables the provinces that prefer this option to obtain effective policing.

In contrast, Nigeria’s centralised police force is widely acknowledged as having limited effectiveness – it ranked at the bottom of 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index, WISPI, that covered 127 countries – and a clear majority of the constituent states would like to establish their own police forces that would be both responsive to their local peculiarities and be held to improved effectiveness. In many other federations, a federal police force co-exists with police forces of subnational governments, including police forces for local governments and municipalities in some cases.  Examples include Brazil, India and the United States.  These federations as well as Canada rank higher than Nigeria in the 2016 WISPI.

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It is important to stress the strong linkage of effective policing to the assurance of peace and security which, in turn, impact significantly on diversity management, national cohesion and socio-economic development.

Diversity Management and Democratic Principle: Commitment to the principle of democracy is affirmed in Section 14 (1) of the 1999 Constitution: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.”  In Canada and India, political participation and the rule of law are two dimensions of democratic principle that are emphasized with respect to diversity management.

Regarding political participation; the parliamentary system in the two countries contrast with the presidential system in Nigeria. Furthermore, Nigeria’s mandatory national political party system contrasts with the party system in the two countries that allow for the co-existence of national and regional political parties.

While the relative impact of the contrast between presidential and parliamentary systems of government on diversity management might be debatable, there is an obvious direct linkage of regional parties to diversity management in some federal systems, including Canada and India.  In Canada, it is a regional party, Parti Quebecois that champions the interest of the Francophone minority in Quebec Province in a more effective manner than either of the country’s two big national parties. And in India, regional parties have successfully championed the creation of some states to accommodate cultural (especially linguistic) diversity that neither of the two major national parties initially supported. Strikingly, too, in India, a few regional parties have recorded impressive socio-economic development in the states they govern (for example Kerala State) through state-specific infrastructural, technological and human development policies.

This has allowed states to develop at different paces and it is also the case that both the national government and interested states have been able to adopt development policies that have worked in the states that have recorded rapid socio-economic development.

Several aspects of the rule of law impact directly on both diversity management and socio-economic development. At a fundamental level is the equality of all citizens before the law which is affirmed in Nigeria as well as in both Canada and India. And each country has a constitution that is based on, and supportive of, the rule of law. There are specific constitutional provisions focused on varying aspects of diversity in each country as well as distinct laws such as bilingualism law in Canada and affirmative action law in India.

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Furthermore, in a law-based state, the legal system simultaneously ensures respect for individual (human) rights and enforces property rights and contracts. And this combination is strongly linked to the achievement of sustainable economic development (Mancur Olson, 1993).

However, the crucial issues are judicial independence, judicial efficiency, and respect for the rule of law by both the rulers and the governed within each polity.  Comparisons across countries with respect to these important dimensions of the rule of law would require details that cannot be undertaken within the context of this paper.  Regarding the Nigerian situation, in addition to other grounds already covered in the critique of President Buhari’s recent viewpoint that “national interest” should trump the rule of law, I would like to make the point that acceptance of his dictum will certainly impact negatively on both diversity management and socio-economic development.


In conclusion, I would like to proffer some recommendations drawn from the comparative experiences of diversity management discussed above.  And I close with a brief comment on the country’s three interlinked goals: better diversity management, national unity and rapid socio-economic development.

  1. Four recommendations:

(i). On reorganisation of the federation’s constituent units: The reorganisation of the constituent units of the Nigerian federation that I consider desirable is an equal number in the North and South, a total of six or eight, with clear distribution of powers and resources. It should be stated explicitly that each unit will have full authority to determine the number, scope and powers of its sub-jurisdictions. The relevant bill on this reorganisation should be a priority subject for the ninth National Assembly, and exceptionally, it should be subject to approval through a national referendum to be conducted not later than during the first half of 2020.

(ii). On redistribution of powers between federal government and subnational governments: To achieve better diversity management, more powers should be decentralised to the federation’s constituent units. In particular, policing function should be decentralised such that the federal police force co-exists with the police forces of subnational governments. This has the potential to enhance the prospects for more effective policing that is capable of assuring peace and security with positive consequences for diversity management, national cohesion and socio-economic development.

(iii). On the desirability of regional parties: Given the positive results recorded through the co-existence of national and regional parties in some federal systems with respect to both diversity management and socio-economic development, it would make sense to abandon the mandatory national party system in Nigeria and allow for the co-existence of national and regional parties.

(iv). On the rule of law: Respect for the rule of law by both the rulers and the governed within a polity is critical to ensuring that it impacts positively on both diversity management and socio-economic development. Subordinating the rule of law to any other consideration such as “national interest” (however it is defined) would be counterproductive.

  1. On three inter-linked goals: better diversity management, national unity and rapid socio-economic development

There is evidence in the literature on federal systems that policies which contribute to economic growth help ethnic accommodation because inter-group conflicts over resources become less salient. In other words, the centripetal influences of economic progress contrast with the centrifugal influences of economic decay: rapid socio-economic progress tends to both promote national unity and enhance better diversity management. For example, it is widely acknowledged that while the strength of the West German economy played a key role in the reunification of the two Germanies, economic decay was a major force behind the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Against this backdrop, the weak performance of the Nigerian economy exacerbated by institutionalised corruption – a four-quarter recession in 2017/2018 and increasing poverty in the land – need to be reversed to prevent the inevitable centrifugal influences that would impact negatively on both diversity management and national unity.  Although it is rather early to assess the extent to which the incumbent government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, 2017-2020 is moving the country towards achieving economic progress, the challenges of achieving both rapid economic growth and significant reduction in poverty level must guide the revision and implementation of the ERGP in the years ahead.

Last Word

My last word is on the need for urgent action with respect to understanding the full dimensions of the country’s diversity.  How many Nigerians are Christians and how many are Muslims?  (The balance would belong to any of our traditional religions or they could be agnostics/atheists).  How many are Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Tiv, Yoruba and others?  How many speak the three main languages (Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba) or Pidgin English?  What are the other languages spoken by a significant number of Nigerians who do not speak/understand any of the main languages? If indeed a well-defined problem is half-way to being solved, we cannot make sustainable progress towards achieving a healthy diversity without committing to an understanding of its full dimensions.  Therefore, we must have answers to the above specific questions relating to ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity in the country. Consequently, I would strongly recommend that the next census in the country must include appropriate questions that will help provide the answers.


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