“STRUCTURAL imbalance in the country arising from creation of states, local governments, and constituency delineation, and revenue sharing formula can be inequitable and lead to cries of marginalization by those who feel cheated in the process. Inequities and unfairness in resource distribution manifest themselves predominantly in four main areas: (a) Distribution of the nation’s natural resources; (b) Exclusion of some ethnic groups from the governance process; (c) Distribution of political and appointive offices; (d) Concentration of capital resources in few hands, thus creating distinct classes of “haves” and “have-nots.” With the above quote in his 159-page scintillating book, ‘Who Will Love My Country’ that covered plethora of burning national issues, Ike Ekweremadu aptly captured the sentiments of a large swath of Nigerian citizens who think that the country is structurally rigged in favor of some geopolitical zones or a particular tribe.
The sentiments are reinforced by the central government’s activities, behavior and indifferent attitude which perpetuate inequity and unfairness within the country. The perception that the country is structurally imbalanced is widespread and any attempt to foist a contrary view on the masses would be a losing proposition.
Ekweremadu’s insightful book, which enunciated major topical issues such as culture of government, electoral process, reforming party politics, public participation, public institutions, educational system, inequitable resource sharing, security system, menace of corruption, poverty and unemployment, Nigeria’s federalism, and synergy between leaders and citizens, encapsulated the problem plaguing beloved Nigeria in chapter eight, ‘Inequitable Resource Sharing.’
Not only that the chapter eight crystalizes the root causes of the myriad of sociopolitical problems the country has perennially faced, it illuminates the inherent difficulty and the entrenched interests that inhibits any attempt for corrective measures.
The chapter crystalizes the subtext of the country’s inequitable distribution of its resources with various cardinal points. One does not need to look further to find the cause of unhinged political process. To buttress the existence of the phenomenon, Ike Ekweremadu said, “Distribution of resources has bedeviled and, not infrequently, dominated and deformed the political process, souring relations between the central government and ethnic groups.” Elaborating on the ugly situation in Nigeria, Ekweremadu further stated in his book, “Unfair and inequitable distribution quickly transforms the democratic process into one of cynicism and frustration.”
In other words, I postulate that the inequitable distribution of resources creates an environment that does not foster the growth of national identity. Citizens seem to be disloyal to their country because they feel that they don’t have a stake in it. Flagrantly absent in such an environment where people feel cheated is the national identity, intense patriotism, and a bonding that unites a people regardless of religion or tribe. If people are not patriotic and do not have allegiance to their nation, they are less likely to work tirelessly for the interest of the country. In fact, they would rather work to undermine the national interest in order to protect their own narrow interests. The contention above is in consonance with what Ekweremadu argued when he said, “More fundamentally, unfair distribution of resources will predictably spawn dissension, resentment, and ultimately disorder.”
In a similar vein, Ekweremadu stated, “Citizens’ faith in the democratic progress and trust in their leaders are significantly undermined whenever they feel that the nation’s wealth and resources are unfairly and inequitably distributed.” Lacking a commonality due to the perennial imbalance, cynicism and lack of trust have become a catalyst that is diminishing the interconnectedness among the people of Nigeria.
Consequently, the citizens look at every policy, decision or federal appointments through vintage religious and tribal lens thereby creating a gaping division. The division along the tribal and religious lines seems glaring and it impedes national growth. Also, the situation creates the absence of national bonding which has left Nigeria gravely polarized with religious and tribal sentiments dictating the behavior and actions of the citizens.
To address the dire need for fair and “equitable distribution of appointments in the public service,” the federal character principle has been allegedly applied. However, the federal character principle has not worked effectively to redress the inequity in public service appointments.
Rather it has been used to exacerbate the problem. And in some instances, the concept is used to breed mediocrity in public service. Ekweremadu opined, “The reality is that federal character, like any human enterprise, has been abused and exploited and is in dire need of reform.” “Regrettably, federal character has become a euphemism for recruiting unqualified people into the public service. Those who engage in this conduct wittingly or unwittingly increase the polarization of Nigeria along ethnic lines by redefining federal character to include hiring unqualified and clearly unsuitable people just because of their ethnic origin.”
The aura of resentment and cynicism arising from the inequity in the country will continue to percolate across the nation unabated until the leaders find a critical mass to have courage to change the structure. The bandage solution to a structural problem will not be successful.
The federal character principle is bandage solution to a deep structural problem that requires a structural transformation. Thus, the problem arising from the inequity and unfairness in the will fester as the vestiges of the malady continue to plague the country. In Ekweremadu’s words, “Inequitable distribution of resources is profoundly unjust and destructive of efforts to build a peaceful, secure and stable democratic nation.”