North-South imbalance: Nigeria in free fall to self-destruct -Michael Owhoko


Praying for Nigeria’s redemption from its current woes is like asking God to prevent a building with
defective foundation located in the Lekki area of Lagos from collapse. Even intercessions by best of
prayer warriors cannot save such a building. As long as Nigeria continue with its current inapt political
structure, its descent to self-destruct is definite. The ominous signs are there for any discerning mind to
see except those with impaired vision and beneficiaries of the prejudicial system.
If indeed Nigeria is a product of amalgamation of two separate “countries”, comprising Northern and
Southern protectorates up till 1914, it infers there should be a balance between the two regions in the
distribution and management of the country’s resources. This was the intention of 1963 Constitution.
The 1963 Constitution was painstakingly negotiated and tailored to address the country’s heterogenous
and multiethnic peculiarities for equity purposes, encouraging representatives of the regions to transfer
part of their sovereignty to federal or centre at the time.
Abrogation and replacement of the 1963 Constitution with a unitary system (Decree No 34 of 1966) was
therefore a very costly political mistake made by General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi. Rather than reverse this
anomaly, the counter coup by northern elements in the army that brought General Yakubu Gowon to
power sustained this same inappropriate structure that was partly responsible for their vengeance. This
is the genesis of Nigeria’s unending woes and steady free fall into abyss and self-destruct.
No matter the inherent flaws of the 1963 Constitution, the features of federalism in the constitution
guaranteed equity and would have been left to evolve. By now, Nigeria would have been a more stable
country, offering leadership to the rest of Africa and enjoying global respect outside the continent.
To have retained this unitary system till date through the current 1999 Constitution, is dishonesty and
unhelpful to the country’s unity. This constitution which was indolently generated from the 1979
Constitution and foisted on Nigerians, was predetermined, draped in pseudo-federalism and inimical to
a plural society like Nigeria.
Indeed, the 1999 Constitution is not a product of serious negotiation as it was deliberately framed to put
the Northern region at advantage over the South. It gives the North more opportunities in federal
bureaucracy than the South through the application of quota system or federal character principle, a
policy meant to hold down the South for the North to catch up.
If this special waiver (quota system) deliberately imposed by this constitution was put in place to correct
the educational and employment imbalance, among others, between the North and the South in public
sector, for how long will this system be sustained? Is it in perpetuity? It has been in place even before
1960, and was given legal and official cover by the 1979 Constitution, and later the 1999 Constitution.
For equity purposes, why was the quota system not applied to the Igbo at the end of the civil war to
facilitate their reintegration into society, under the 3Rs of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and


Rehabilitation. The Igbo were left to fight their way into economic, social and political relevance to
catch up with the rest of the country.
The North has obviously caught up with the South, and it is high time the country got the federal
character principle reviewed, discarded and do away with. A system where Southerners with higher
marks cannot get admission into federal schools while those with lower scores from the North are
admitted cannot be a fair system, neither the recruitment of Northerners with lower qualification into
public service while Southerners with higher qualification are ineligible on grounds of the quota system,
is impartial.
Besides the disparity in favour of the North, the 1999 Constitution is the root cause of corruption in the
country. It concentrates power and resources in the hands of one man, promotes nepotism and
encourages leaders to take total control of governmental instrument to pursue ethnic and sectional
agenda. This explains the attendant desperation by the various ethnic groups or regions to capture
power at all cost at the centre, making it practically impossible, for example, to conduct accurate census
and free and fair elections, as they are incidental to power and resources.
The unitary system is an aberration and provokes discontent within the polity resulting in national and
diplomatic deficit. One of the consequences is Nigeria’s dwindling respect, influence and honour within
and around the world. The country has been on a descent from its hitherto enviable height, indicative
of system anomaly, institutional mismatch and structural failure. Even Africa countries which used to
be Nigeria’s sphere of influence in foreign policy matters, now see Nigeria as a weakling and underdog.
This was not the dream of Nigerians at independence when the structure and system of government
guaranteed national equity with each region having the autonomy to grow at its pace through unique
local administration that was suitable to the needs and aspirations of the respective ethnic groups and
It is the unitary nature of the 1999 Constitution that has given impetus for the entire organs of
government, namely, the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary to be headed by Northerners, besides
service chiefs and heads of strategic ministries, departments and agencies of government that are also
dominated by Northerners. Even for a blind man, this is obviously an unfair system that leaves the other
partner, the South, disadvantaged.
Allowing the North to get away with this power sharing disparity suggests the North is the superior
partner, and the South, the inferior of the union. Implicitly, while political and economic opportunities
are shrinking in the South, the North is experiencing increase. This is manifest in recruitment pattern in
ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government, among others.
Thus, in response to dwindling prospects, Southerners now flee and migrate to other countries to take
up demeaning jobs for survival, and sometimes, resort to all kinds of vices at home and abroad,
including internet fraud and prostitution.


Southerners prefer to be strangers in foreign land with sense of liberty than remaining in a country
where dreams cannot be fulfilled through decent and legitimate process of hard work and honesty.
Identifying oneself as a Nigerian has become a burden because of the negative public perception,
particularly in transnational circles.
Nigeria’s miseries are further compounded by prevailing political uncertainty and leadership vacuum
fueled by the eccentric 1999 Constitution. Any country that is destined for greatness is known by the
demeanor of those charged to manage its affairs. How far such a country can go in meeting the
aspirations of its citizenry is determined by the quality of leadership thought process. When those
thoughts are driven by narrow and selfish motives other than national interest, what you get is futility.
Leadership from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top have veered the country from the course of
greatness with no hope of attaining unity of aspiration. Who will the youths look up to as reference
group when all you hear, see, feel and experience from those at the helms of affairs is theft, nepotism,
insincerity and lies as encapsulated in corruption?
Nigeria has become a metaphor for corruption and a country without direction. Citizens no longer
believe in the country, as the texture of atmosphere in Nigeria reflects direct opposite of the country’s
national motto of “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”. Nigeria is currently disunited, faithless,
tumultuous and regressive, and this also accounts for the unrestrained massive corruption going on in
the country.
Obviously, the 1999 Constitution does not encourage Nigeria to fulfill purpose of a united country
devoid of prejudice aimed at transforming its human and natural resources into advantage for the
collective good of citizens. Rather, opportunistic ideology holds sway. Get to power, screw policies in
favour of your ethnic interest, particularly with projects and appointments, grab or steal as much wealth
as you can, and get out. Leaders see Nigeria as a project with an expiry lifespan because of skepticism
over its continuity as a country.
This is why distribution of resources are flagrantly allocated inequitably to serve primordial, narrow,
sectional and selfish interest. Rather than strengthen institutions to fulfill national aspiration and
purpose, institutions are deliberately weakened in preference for strong personalities and personalized
leadership to enable them control and distribute the country’s resources at whims.
Today, insincerity has been elevated into a creed. There is no governmental agencies that functions
transparently because of personal and sectional hidden agenda. In fact, there is complete system failure
in all aspects of the country’s life. This has also left in its trail bottled up anger and tension in the land
that is gradually snowballing into a dangerous proportion capable of consuming the country.
There is no hope the country will ever recover or know true peace except the polity is rescued and
restructured within the framework of the 1963 Constitution, otherwise, eventual disintegration is


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