Imperative of True Federalism in Nigeria: The Gujarat Model and Experience

Nigeria, relative to other nations, in the world can best be described as a nation blessed with flora and fauna or in the scriptural parlance, abundance of milk and honey, which if well harnessed by creative and visionary leaders would make the country one of the biggest five economies in the world within the next decade. The inability of successive leadership to lift the nation beyond the present precarious state despite numerous resources has been attributed to myriads of reasons. The core reason for Nigeria’s set-back which is the focus of this write-up is absence of true federalism and its fundamental ethos. The model of governance in Gujarat (India) provides undisputable justification for a quick return to true federalism in Nigeria, as both nations were at par few decades ago.

Gujarat is just a state among the twenty-nine (29) states in India. Its capital is Gandhinagar, while its largest city is Ahmedabad. The state is home to the Gujarati-speaking people of India and the nation’s richest state with a sustainable GDP per capital income. It is also the home of Mahatma Gandhi; the preacher of unity and a worldwide figure renowned for peaceful non-violent struggle against tyranny of the British Imperialists. The state is a near perfection of what true federalism is all about. What then is true federalism? What are the benefits and other deliverables of federalism observed in Gujarat?

Federalism is a type of governmental structure where there exists sharing of power between the federal government and constituent units (states, provinces or regions). The federating units agree on the areas of jurisdiction/autonomy/resources that each will concede to the central government, not an imposition by the central. The constitution is usual written to specify the jurisdiction of the federating units with nomenclatures like exclusive list, concurrent list and residual list. There are two main models of federalism in the political literature, namely: Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism. Adoption of the two models had socio-economic and political consequences on the sustainable growth and development of Nigeria.

With regard to dual federalism, it was the model of federal system chosen by the founding father of Nigeria at the dawn of independence. It adoption was predicated on the fear of strong central government. The dual federalism thus chosen allowed for strong regional government (west, east and north) and weak federal government. It also allows for control over resources at the various regions. Dual federalism gave more responsibilities to the regions then, relative to federal government. More importantly, this model provided for larger share of the revenue to the regions than the federal government on account of larger responsibilities given to the regional governments/regions. Dual model of Federalism was driven by the principle of separation of powers; and checks and balances. This is the type of federalism that many Nigerians are agitating for. Alas! The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria would have to be amended for this tall dream to be realised.

Cooperative federalism on the other hand describes a broader sharing of authority between the federating units (federal government and regional governments). It is a model of federalism that Nigeria currently practised. It adoption some years back was predicated on the need to save the nation from precipices of civil wars, specifically Biafran war and Western region upheavals. This model as currently practised in the country allows for strong federal government and weak state governments (which currently stood at thirty-six with federal capital). Cooperative federalism put the control of resources in the hands of the federal government, which then appropriates the resources accordingly. Cooperative federalism gives more responsibilities to the federal government and provides larger share of the revenue to the federal government on account of larger responsibilities as defined in the Exclusive Legislative List.  After civil war and take over of control by successive military regimes, Nigeria’s federalism shifted to this model “unknowingly” and without mutual agreement among Nigerians. This informed the agitation for sovereign national conference since the annulment of June 12, 1993 election won by MKO Abiola and later resource control agitation by the people of Niger-Delta.

In contrast to Nigeria’s federal arrangement, India allows for true federalism in all the 29 states. With specific reference to Gujarat, the state plays an important role in the socio-economic and political landscape of India. Like Lagos state in Nigeria, Gujarat has been the location of major ports on the Arabian Sea with several trade and commercial centers, thus making it one of the fastest growing states with flourishing economy in India. Gujarat is governed by a Legislative Assembly of 182 members. Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected on the basis of adult suffrage from 182 constituencies, of which 13 are reserved for scheduled castes and 26 for scheduled tribes. The term of office for a member of the Legislative Assembly is five years. The Legislative Assembly elects a speaker who presides over the meetings of the legislature. A state governor is appointed by the President of India, and is to address the state legislature after every general election and the commencement of each year’s first session of the Legislative Assembly. The governor is purely a nominal cum ceremonial head and representative of the President of India in the state of Gujarat. The leader of the majority party or coalition in the legislature (called the Chief Minister) or his/her designee acts as the Leader of the Legislative Assembly. The day-to-day administration and business of the state is vested on the Chief Minister without any interference by the governor or president. He is thus the chief executive of the state.

The state thus enjoy a federal structure with genuine democratic ethos of rule of law, constitutionalism, independence of judiciary, independent electoral organ, full resource control, checks & balances et cetera, Consequent upon these democratic ethos and enabling political environment, the state of Gujarat over the years established itself as a leader in various industrial sectors including textiles, engineering, chemicals, petrochemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, dairy, cement and ceramics, and gems and jewellery, amongst others. This vibrant state as it is popularly called in India is the main producer of tobacco, cotton, and groundnuts in India. Other major food crops produced are rice, wheat, jowar, bajra, maize, Tur, and gram. Gujarat has an agricultural economy; the total crop area amounts to more than one-half of the total land area.
The 1991 post-liberalization period in India saw Gujarat’s State Domestic Product (SDP) rising at an average growth rate of 14% per annum in real terms. Gujarat has State Wide Gas Grid of 2,200 km. 87.9% of the total roads in the state are asphalt surfaced. Besides, 98.86% village connectivity with all‐weather roads, the highest in India. 100% of Gujarat’s 18,000 villages have electricity connection for 24hr power through the Jyotigram Yojana. Gujarat ranks first nationwide in gas-based thermal electricity generation with national market share of over 8% and second nationwide in nuclear electricity generation with national market share of over 1%. Interestingly, the state since 1995 generates as much as 35% of its power generation capacity through independent power plants (IPPs), a dream which Lagos state has been nursing, but which the federal government has found difficult to approve.

It may interest the readers back at home in Nigeria that Bus Rapid Transport System was introduced in Gujarat with full autonomy and control under Ahmedabad Janmarg Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS); it is the first BRT project in the whole of India with monumental performance. The Gujarat BRT like the replica in Lagos, Nigeria is not only about creating bus infrastructure, but also about enhancing the quality of commuting with dedicated bus lanes, cycle tracks, pedestrian facilities, personalised vehicles and optimum parking. Consequent upon its efficiency experienced by foreigners (even the author) it was hailed as the best mass transit system in the country. Recently, it was awarded the international transport honour, as the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award.

Apart from the litany of successes above, other Gujarat’s socio-economic contributions to the whole India’s economy are provided below in quantitative figures in order to serve as bench-mark for self-seeking governors presiding over economically non-viable states in Nigeria to measure their states’ performances henceforth:

  • 17% of Fixed Capital Investment
  • 16% of Industrial output
  • 22% of India’s exports
  • 16% of Value of Output
  • 12% of Net Manufacturing Value
  • 10% of Factories
  • 98% of Soda Ash production
  • 80% of Diamond Export
  • 78% of Salt production
  • 62% of Petrochemical production
  • 53% of Crude Oil (Onshore)
  • 51% of Chemical products
  • 37% of Groundnut production
  • 35% of Cargo Handling
  • 31% of Cotton production
  • 30% of Natural Gas (Onshore)
  • 10% of Mineral production
  • 25% of Textile production
  • 35% of Pharmaceutical products
  • Longest shoreline — 1,670 kilometres (1,040 mi)

In conclusion, it is my informed opinion that as Nigeria prepares for a new political dispensation, once the April 2011 election is conducted and winners sworn-in, the first issue that should be discussed and a clear position taken is constitutional amendments, specifically the issue of true federal structure. When this is done, the national political landscape would allow power and resources to be constitutionally divided between the federal and the states without rifts and acrimonies. The proposed political arrangement like what was obtained in Gujarat would help engender pluralist democracy, equitable revenue sharing formula, competition among the states, state police, public choice, rule of law, independent judiciary and protection of minority rights. The present federalism going by the avalanche of criticisms indeed favoured arbitrariness, rent-seeking, self-seeking, monopoly of resources by powerful centre, weak cum non-viable states created for political reasons, nepotism, unequal opportunities and corruption, the result are over concentration of power at the center and bigheaded federal government. It may interest all readers at home that last year 2010, Forbes’s list of world’s fastest growing cities included one of Gujarat’s cities; Ahmedabad at number 3 after Chengdu and Chongqing from China. The world is moving fast and would not wait for failing states and profligate nations. We therefore need to make a U-turn in 2011, as a nation with great hopes and aspirations.

I write from Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India.

By Mr. Raimi, Lukman
Lecturer, Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED),
Yaba College of Technology,
Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa
Phone: 9558389876 (India)