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« Weep Not for Atiku | Main | Why we Must Confederate African Countries, Part II »

September 08, 2005

Why we Must Confederate African Countries, Part I

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, washington) --- HAMLET: What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? ~~~~ Hamlet, II, ii

Human beings are ratiocinative creatures. It, therefore, confounds one that they see problems and ignore them until they explode in their faces. This is a tragic flaw in the human character. They fail to take proactive and affirmative actions to address problems that are so palpable that one could literally touch them.

African countries are problematic countries. They are artificial social constructs. None of them is an organic community. They are all artificial entities put together by European colonial powers. Those powers constructed these countries for their own good. The motivations and behaviors of Europeans are understandable.

It is not for other persons to do what is good for one, but what is good for them. Europeans had a right to construct African countries that served their interests. It was in their interests for African countries to be weak. You make your enemy weak so as to better control him.

What is not understandable is why Africans have not reconstructed their countries so as to serve their African interests. Instead, they merely complain about what Europe did wrong in constructing the countries they inherited from Europe. Why not stop complaining and fix the problems you see? What are Africans, children or adults? Children see problems and complain about them. Adults accept the problems that existence gives them and solve them, or, at least, struggle to solve them.

Those who struggle to solve their problems develop a feeling of empowerment; those who refuse to address their issues feel depowered.

Instead of bellyaching about what Europeans did wrong, Africans ought to correct the mistakes they perceive in Africa. African countries are like powder kegs waiting for someone to light a fuse on them and they explode. When any of them explodes, people are killed and the international community wrings its hands in wonder, asking why Africans cannot seem to do anything right; why can’t they seem to govern themselves well?

There have been ethnic cleansings in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Ivory Coast, Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda and in other African countries. We shall continue having these problems until we decide to behave rationally and call for a conference, pretty much like the 1884 Berlin Conference that fixed Africa’s current boundaries, and reconfigure African countries, this time, on a realistic footing that would no longer generate future conflicts.

Extant African countries were put together by European countries. These Europeans did not consult Africans but arbitrarily congregated disparate people into political conglomerations that served their imperial goals.

Let us use Nigeria as an example in our effort to explicate the problems with contemporary African countries.

In 1460, Prince Henry the Navigator built a navigation school at Lagos, Portugal. He gathered sailors and had them explore the coast of Africa. By 1487, history tells us that the first Portuguese (hence Europeans) sailed to Nigerian ports. They visited the King, Oba, of Benin. They reported that the city of Benin was comparable to what they had in Europe at that time.

For our present purposes, the salient point is that it was in the late 1400s that Europeans came into sustained contact with Africans.

Christopher Columbus visited the Americas in 1492 and, thereafter, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began. The Portuguese established slaving ports on the Coast of West Africa and arranged for coastal Africans to sell them Africans, whom they took to the new world and used to work in their plantations.

It should be observed, however, that prior to the Trans Atlantic Slave trade that Africans were already selling themselves to Arabs. History books tell us that as early as the tenth century of our common era, Africans were already selling themselves into Arab slavery. In fact, the earliest West African empires, such as Ghana, Mali and Songhai, were little more than slaving syndicates for capturing and selling Africans to Moslem Arabs. We are told that the leaders of these so-called empires (such as Askia Mohammed and Sony Ali) took thousands of slaves with them when they visited Mecca for their hajj and sold them to Arabs.

(It is safe to assume that slavery had existed for at least five hundred years in Africa before the Europeans came to the scene. Africans sold each other into slavery for, at least, a thousand years: between 900 and 1900 AD. As such, Africans developed a slaving culture and a slaving mentality. This mentality contributes to their present anti social behaviors: they do not identify with their people and, instead, see them as slaves to be sold. Today, the international community prohibits slavery; otherwise, Africans would still be selling each other. Now, they sell each other in other ways. They exploit each other. For example, they pocket the monies that would have gone into helping their fellow Africans live decently. The contemporary African has as much a callous heart as his slave selling ancestors. He needs psychological surgery to teach him that the best lived life is one that devotes itself to serving fellow human beings. Africans have a sickness of the soul and until this sickness is accepted and healed, it is doubtful that they can effectively and decently govern themselves.)

The Portuguese established a slave port at Lagos (Nigeria) in 1529. In time, Portugal, as a seafaring power, declined and was replaced by other seafaring nations, first, by the Spanish. The Spanish, in turn, fell and was replaced by the Dutch, who, in turn, were replaced by the French and English. In the meantime, whichever European power was on ascendancy used the slaving ports established by the Portuguese on the coast of West Africa, to buy African slaves.

Slavery eventually elicited opposition to it. In England, William Wilberforce led the fight to outlaw slavery. In 1807, the British House of Commons outlawed slave trade. But, for all intents and purposes, the trade continued to flourish. The British Royal Navy was, therefore, mandated to patrol the Guinea Coast, West Africa, and board and search ships in those sea lanes and ascertain that they were not involved in slave trading. British war ships searched many ships and freed many slaves. Some of the freed slaves were settled at Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Ultimately, Britain recognized that it was not enough to intercede on the high seas and free slaves but that she had to go to the source of slaves and do something about selling Africans into slavery. Thus, in the mid 1800s British war ships began making calls on West African coastal cities, trying to work out arrangement with local African chiefs that would stop them from selling their people into slavery. In 1851, the British Navy landed at Lagos and tried to negotiate with the city’s king, Oba Kosoko, to stop buying and selling slaves. The Oba refused. The British, therefore, intervened militarily and removed the Oba from office and replaced him with another king who agreed to stop the horrible trading in human beings. This arrangement eventually required the British to maintain military presence at Lagos, to make sure that slavery was not going on under the cover of darkness.

The British did the same at other West African port cities. In Nigeria, they intervened at Calaba and Bonny, notorious slave ports. The cumulative effect of these interventions is the British decision to maintain permanent presence on the Coast of West Africa, to prevent slave trading. (It is interesting that many coastal African peoples fought tooth and nail to maintain slave trade. One would think that Africans would have taken the initiative to fight slavery, but, no, others did so and they resisted the effort to stop them from selling their own people. They are still selling their own people, albeit in different forms. These people’s characters were so distorted by slavery that to the present they hardly know the difference between right and wrong. Consider corruption. It is wrong to engage in corruption. But these people do so no matter what any one tells them about it. Watching Nigerian policemen taking bribes from motorists makes them seem like despicable animals.)

Britain attempted to replace trading in slaves with trading in other goods. British business men were encouraged to trade with Africans in goods other than slaves. The idea was to give hitherto African slave traders alternative sources of income.

In Britain, the Royal Niger Company (later called United African Company, UAC) was charted by the House of Commons and encouraged to trade along the River Niger and its delta tributaries, buying local produce like Palm oil and Palm kernel from Africans.

Coastal Africans learnt to go into the interior to buy palm oil and palm kernel, rather than buy slaves and traded these for European goods at the various factories that the Royal Niger Company set up along the Niger and its creeks.

The Royal Niger Company, more or less, became a government and ruled the communities where it traded. Professors Kenneth Dike and Ajayi have written splendid books on the activities of Sir George Goldie and his Royal Niger Company; we need not rehash what those outstanding African scholars said.

The activities of other European countries in West Africa, particularly the French, led the British to decide to intervene and directly govern the area that the Royal Niger Company governed. Thus, in 1906 the British government declared a protectorate over what it called Oil Rivers. An employee of the Royal Niger Company, Frederick Lugard, was hired to run the area. His girl friend came up with the name, Nigeria, and the oil rivers was changed to Southern Nigeria. The British made similar arrangements with the Sultan of Sokoto and his emirs (Sultan is Turkish for chief and Emir is Arabic for the German word, chief) of the Northern part of what is now called Nigeria and formed the protectorate of Northern Nigeria.

In 1914, Lugard united the Southern and Northern protectorates into what became Nigeria. Lugard became the first Governor General of Nigeria and appointed lieutenant Governors to help him govern the southern and northern parts of Nigeria.

Later, Nigeria was divided into three regions: North, East and West and lieutenant governors were appointed for each region. The deputy governors reported to the Governor General, who, in turn, reported to the colonial secretary at Whitehall, London. The colonial secretary, in turn, reported to the foreign secretary, who was part of the cabinet led by the British Prime Minister.


Lugard studied the pattern of governance in Northern Nigeria and was impressed by what he saw. He decided to rule Northern Nigeria through the already established rulers of Northern Nigeria. Thus, he told the Sultan of Sokoto and his emirs (each Hausa town had an emir, a chief, that helped the Fulanis rule their conquered Hausa states…the Fulani chieftain, Othman Dan Fodio, conquered Hausaland in 1804) what to do and they, in turn, got their people to do it. This system was called the indirect rule. Essentially, Lugard, assisted by a secretariat of colonial administrators stationed at the colonial capital, Lagos, told his lieutenant Governors, stationed at Kaduna, Enugu and Ibadan, what to do, and the lieutenant governors, in turn, told their district commissioners/officers what to do and these told emirs of their districts what to do, and the emirs got their people to do what their British overlords asked them to do. In effect, Lugard ruled Nigerians through Nigerian chiefs. The advantage of this system was that it saved cost and manpower for the colonial administration. With a handful of British colonial administrators, Britain governed Nigeria.

Lugard easily replicated the system he had established in the North in Western Nigeria. In Western Nigeria, there were already existing chiefs, Obas. Lugard, his lieutenant governor and district commissioners ruled the Yorubas through the obas.

In the East, particularly in Alaigbo, the going was a bit more difficult. There were no preexisting chiefs through whom Lugard and his assistants could rule the Igbos. Lugard proceeded to invent warrant chiefs for the Igbos. He appointed chiefs among people who, traditionally, were democratic and republican and had no chiefs. (Igbo ama eze; today, some phony Igbos disregard their history and run around calling themselves chiefs.)

Lugard attempted ruling Alaigbo through his artificially invented chiefs and had a difficult time of it.

Like every thing else in this world, there are always exceptions to a general rule. Some Igbos had chiefs. Those Igbos who bordered non-Igbo people, apparently, were influenced by their neighbors and had chiefs. Igbos in Onitsha, Asaba and Abo were close to Edo people. Edos had chiefs, the chief of whom was the Oba of Benin. Thus, these Igbo towns had Obis, such as the Obi of Onitsha.

Before we get carried away talking about the “great institution of kingship in Onitsha”, however, it should be remembered that until recently, Onitsha was just a town of no more than a few hundred people. We are talking about a minor chief. For all practical purposes, therefore, Igbos had no chiefs.

Lugard retired and his successors made minor changes to the system of governance that he established in Nigeria. Nigeria had many constitutional changes, such as Arthur Richards, McPherson and so on. Suffice it to say, however, that no major changes were made to the system of governance established by Lugard until Nigeria gained her independence from Britain in 1960.

The Littleton/Lancaster House constitution that gave Nigeria Independence retained the British form of government for Nigeria, a parliamentary system with the party winning the majority at elections forming the government and its leader becoming the prime minister and its sub leaders given cabinet positions. The first independent government of Nigeria was led by the Northern People’s Congress (political party) and the Prime Minister was Sir Abubaka Tafawa Balewa.

In 1966, the Balewa government was overthrown by a military coup. The coup leader was an Igbo, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu. Nzeogwu was quickly arrested and jailed and the most senior military officer took over governing Nigeria.

Major General Johnson Thomas Umunna Aguiyi Ironsi became the first military ruler of Nigeria. He was an Igbo. Aguiyi Ironsi toyed with the idea of giving Nigeria a unitary form of government.

In August of 1966, there was a counter coup and Ironsi was murdered and Major Yakubu Gowon, a Christian Northerner, became the head of government.

In the meantime, Igbos all over Nigeria were massacred. It is reported that over two million Igbos were killed. What was left of the Igbos in other parts of Nigeria ran to their Igbo homeland. The governor of the then Eastern region, Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in 1967 declared his region the Republic of Biafra.

The Federal authorities engaged in what they called a police action to quell Ojukwu’s secession. That police action lasted 30 months. In the process, it is reported that three million Igbo people were killed.

In January 1970, the Federal forces, under General Olusegun Obasano, Nigeria’s present President, received the unconditional surrender of the Biafran armed forces at Owerri. Ojukwu had fled the country and his second in command, General Efiong, had the onerous task of surrendering to the victorious Nigerian forces.

In 1975, while out of the country, Gowon was replaced by General Mutala Mohammed in a bloodless coup. Mutala ruled with Obasanjo as his second in command. An attempted military coup by Major Danjuma killed Mutala and Obasanjo became the head of government of Nigeria.

Obasanjo wrote a constitution for Nigeria and handed power over to an elected civilian government in 1979.

Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the first executive President of Nigeria in 1979. Four years later, Shagari won re-election. His government was allegedly characterized by corruption and graft, and General Buhari, on that account, overthrew it.

Buhari, by most accounts, was a man of probity. So far, no one has accused him of corruption. Nevertheless, he was replaced by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.

Babangida, the maradona of Nigerian politics, handed power to a civilian, who was quickly dispatched by General Sani Abacha.

Abacha allegedly instituted the most corrupt government in Nigeria. He died while in office and his assistant, General Abdul Salami replaced him.

Abdul Salami wrote a constitution for Nigeria in 1999. That year, an election was held and Obasanjo and his People’s Democratic Party won the election. Obasanjo became the president of Nigeria. Obasanjo is still in office (September, 2005).

The purpose of this paper is not to provide the reader with a thorough history of Nigeria. The paper’s goal is to reflect on the type of government that suits Nigeria and other countries in Africa. If the reader is interested in a more detailed history of Nigeria, he or she should read books on Nigeria’s history.


What is the reality of Nigeria? It is that it is an artificial country. Nigeria was put together by the British. The British did not consult the people living in Nigeria before they forcefully agglomerated them into one political entity.

Nigeria is composed of Hausas (Hausa is actually not a tribe; it is a Creole language, mix of Arab and African, spoken by those Northern tribes that had accepted Islam as their religion, and who were greatly influenced by Arab culture; they tend to have a unified, Moslem based worldview, and, for all practical purposes, may as well be considered an ethnic group), Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws, Edos, Efiks, Urobos, Isikiris, Tivis, Kanuris, Fulanis, Bornu and many minor tribes.

These tribes, ethnic groups, call them what you like, are different from one another. They were forced to live with one another against their will. This, then, is the major problem of Nigeria. Different groups of human beings were forced against their will to live in the same country.

Generally, some of these tribes detest others. However, for some reasons, they are compelled to live together. As noted, in 1967 the Igbos seceded from Nigeria. The Gowon led Hausa-Fulani government at Lagos went to war with Biafra and successfully defeated it. Why did the Hausa-Fulani and their Yoruba ally go to war with the Igbos? Was it for their love of the Igbos?

Biafra encompassed the Niger Delta region, the region that produced most of the oil that provided the revenue with which Nigeria survived. Therefore, Biafra had to be defeated so that the Hausas, Fulanis and Yorubas (the triple alliance that fought the war with the Igbos) would have access to oil revenue.

The Nigerian civil war was, in effect, an economic war. The people from the North and West needed to get their hands on Niger Delta oil and had to defeat the Igbos so as to do so.

Today, revenue from oil supplies over 90% of the money that funds the Nigerian federal government, the Hausa and Yoruba governments and some other governments in Nigeria.

The men from the North and West essentially keep Nigeria together for economic reasons: they need to get their hands on the oil revenue that comes from the Niger Delta. They could care less for the Ijaw who live in the Delta. They, of course, in a Machiavellian vein manipulate the Ijaw and tell them that their neighbors, the Igbos, would like to take over their oil. Thus, the Ijaw, who are, in fact, a mix of Igbos and themselves, see the Igbos as their mortal enemies and then run to the Hausas to protect them. The Hausas protect them alright.

Money from Ijawland’s oil is used to develop Northern and other parts of Nigeria, while Ijawland is ignored. Ijawland is so devastated by oil drilling and burning of gas that it literally looks like denuded moonscape.

What we have in Nigeria is a collection of odd bedfellows who, for the sake of oil money, agree to tolerate each other. These people hate one another with passion but know enough to realize that they need the oil revenue from certain parts of Nigeria. Thus, like honorable thieves, they agree to get along with one another, provided that they share the loot from Ijawland.

There is no doubt whatsoever that what holds that strange country called Nigeria together is oil money. If there was no oil in Biafra, Northerners would have gladly seceded from Nigeria and not give a hoot for Igboland. It has been reported that the original intention of the August 1966 counter coup was to secede the North from the rest of Nigeria. Apparently, the coup plotters wised up to the fact that they needed revenue from the Niger Delta, changed their minds and decided to keep Nigeria one.

As long as these strange fellows have oil money to share, they would probably continue to agree to be in the same country. But when that oil runs dry, Nigeria probably would disintegrate. Nigeria probably will not last a second longer than oil lasts.

We have established that the political entity called Nigeria is the invention of Britain. We have further established that the British put together different people who did not want to live together and forced them to live together.

The various ethnic groups are radically different from each other, some as night is from day. The Hausas are Moslem. The Igbos are Christian. The Hausa had established a feudal political structure before the British came to their land. The Hausas seem to have adjusted to their feudal social structure. On the other hand, the Igbos are very individualistic, democratic and republican in orientation. Before the advent of the Europeans in Alaigbo, Igbos did not have kings ruling them. The Igbos do not like the Hausa feudal social- political structure.

How can these two very different people coexist in the same political arrangement? They cannot do so without conflict. The Igbo detests what he sees as the Hausa feudal system of governance and the Hausa does so regarding Igbo republicanism. The result is conflict between the two groups. So far, this conflict is masked by the preponderance of power that the Hausas have.

The Hausas control the Nigerian military (with second fiddle role performed by the Yoruba). For practical purposes, the Hausa-Fulani-Yoruba military axis overwhelm the Igbo with their superior military power and, in effect, terrorize them into going along with the pseudo political entity called Nigeria.

The Igbos are a terrorized people. The men from the North and West use military power to intimidate the Igbos into going along with the government of Nigeria. Without force holding them down, the Igbos would break away from Nigeria, today.

(One may ask whether it is right to terrorize a group of people? Hasn’t human civilization gotten to a point where terrorism is no longer tolerated as instrument of governance? If terrorism is wrong, why does the rest of the world keep quiet while a group of human beings are intimidated with brutal force? Moslem terrorism in Europe and North America is fought by the West. Why does the West permit Moslem terrorism in Nigeria?)

One is searching for a political arrangement that gives all Nigerians freedom to be themselves and not intimidated persons.

In Ones view, it is necessary for the various ethnic groups that exist in Nigeria to come together in a national conference and renegotiate the parameters of their continued existence as a nation. In all likelihood, they would choose a confederation, not total divorce from each other.

Let us restate the obvious. The various ethnic groups in Nigeria are different from one another. Each of them ought to be allowed to develop along its natural lines. No one ethnic group should impose its worldview on the others. Each group ought to have the opportunity to pursue its destiny, without others interfering in it.

At present, the various ethnic groups are forced to live together. The more powerful ones impose their values on others and these others silently resent being imposed on. A sort of Carthaginian peace prevails in Nigeria. But we all know that such peace does not last forever.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a mask for Russian empire, comprised of sixteen republics. In 1991, those sixteen groups separated from Russia. Within today’s Russia Federation are many ethnic groups, these suppressed by the Russian people. Some of these ethnic groups are agitating for freedom. Chechnya is fighting for independence. By and by, the various ethnic groups in Russia will obtain a measure of independence from Russia. Until Russia has the foresight to give some independence to these people, it must remain an unstable empire.

In Yugoslavia, President Tito used iron hand to hold six different nations together. These nations: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Kosovo-Albania etc are now running their own governments, but not before Yugoslavia had under went political and military convulsions.

Czechoslovakia saw the hand writing on the wall and peacefully separated into its two component parts, Czech and Slovakia republics.

The English used force to unify the disparate people that lived on Britain. The various Celtic groups were forced to accept the ruler ship of the English (Germans). But, today, the suppressed groups are agitating for a measure of Independence. The Welch, the Scotts and the Irish are asking for independence. Tony Blair, the astute British Prime Minister, has read the hand writing on the wall and realized that you cannot suppress a people forever and ever hence devolved the government and gave the Welch and Scotts a measure of independence.

After over a thousand years of being subjugated, the Celts of Britain are today resurrecting their “dead languages and cultures”. This goes to show that you simply cannot suppress a people forever.

In the United States of America, the Anglo Saxon elements employed superior force to displace the Indians and relegated them to reservations. In these ghettos, the Indians are given alcohol to drink themselves to untimely death. Genocide is being perpetrated against Native Americans, and the world keeps silent.

Nevertheless, if what we know of history remains constant, American Indians will some day come to their own. In the not too distant future, the various Indian tribes will probably rise up and become self governing entities.


We have posited that Nigeria and most contemporary African countries are artificial social constructs. We have established that these countries essentially constitute forced marriages. Like in all such social arrangements, those in them itch to get out. In most cases, they are held together by brute force. In the case of Nigeria, military force is used to terrorize the Igbos into staying in a political arrangement that they detest.

What is the alternative to terrorist African states? Is total divorce called for in Nigeria?

The various ethnic groups in Nigeria are often too small and weak to go it alone. Independently, most of them are not viable political and or economic entities. Somehow, they need each other to survive.

The real question is not dissolving Nigeria but finding a better form of association for the current strange bed fellows called Nigerians. Since these people need each other and yet do not get along with each other, one believes that the best workable political arrangement for them is a confederation.

We need to retain the fiction called Nigeria but reorganize and make it realistic to its multi-ethnic composition.

Each of the twenty ethnic groups in Nigeria ought to become a state, a state in the real sense of that term; a state that rules itself. The various states then should cooperate with each other in a confederation of states called Nigeria.

The states should delegate certain functions to the central government, such as foreign affairs and military control. But beyond the specific areas given to the central government, each of the constituent states ought to govern itself in every other way, including having 100% control of its resources.

(The Ijaw ought to have 100% control of the oil revenue that comes from her area. Ijaw indigenes, like every one else, should pay income taxes to the confederal government. The confederal government ought to be able to impose no more than 25% tax on the individual’s annual income, and use such revenue to fund its activities.)

There should be the following states in the Confederation of Nigeria: Hausa State, Yoruba State, Igbo State, Edo State, Efik State, Ijaw State, Tivi State, Kanuri State, Bornu State. The minor tribes should be grouped into states. The total number of states in Nigeria should not exceed twenty.

The critical requirement is that each of the major ethnic groups constitutes a state and has the opportunity to govern its affairs, unimpeded by other ethnic groups.

Each state must include all those who speak a unique language, different dialects not withstanding. Alaigbo State, for example, must stretch from Ikwerre (Egwuocha/Port Harcourt) to Abo, from Arochukwu to Ida/Nsuka, with its capital at Owerri, the Igbo heartland.

One visualizes the state structure to be as follows: a unicameral legislature (not bicameral legislature, to reduce cost and avoid duplication of functions), not to exceed fifty elected legislators, who serve fiver year terms, not to exceed six terms, for a total of 30 years; a Premier selected from the dominant party in the state legislature, who is the chief executive officer of the state; a governor who is the nominal head of the state and signs bills passed by the legislature into law, an independent judiciary (High Court of seven judges, headed by the state chief judge, district courts, and town courts).

The state political structure is replicated at the district level: A district council of nine members, a district executive, elected for a five year term, two term limits, who heads the executive branch; a district court with district judge of first instance.

Finally, a town/city government: town/city council of seven members and a mayor heading the executive branch and a town magistrate court.

Each state is to have no more than fifty districts (and district governments).

The states would be responsible for delivering education and health services to their citizens. Each state must provide all its citizens with free six year primary education, free six year secondary education, free four year university education for at least one third of the graduating students from secondary schools and free four years of technical education for all the other graduates of secondary schools. Graduate education should be for the top ten percent of university graduates (a two year masters’ degree program and another three years for the doctor of science degree program for the top two percent of graduate students.)

Towns/cities are to be required to provide preschool education for children from age two to five…here working women drop off their children in the morning and pick them up after work, with such centers remaining open from six in the morning to seven in the evening. The town must find the resources, through property and sales taxes and licensing fees etc to fund this and other services.

Each state is to obtain its revenue independently from the confederal government. It is to tax its citizens and seek other revenue streams with which it funds its activities. Under no circumstances is a state to be financially dependent on the central government.

The confederal government is to be composed of a legislature (at least two delegates from each state, not to exceed overall 100 legislators for the country), legislators serve five year terms, not to exceed six terms, 30 years altogether; a prime minister elected by the legislators from among themselves; who serves a term of five years, but not to exceed two terms, ten years; an elected but nominal president who serves one term of ten years, the president must be of retirement age, a 70 year old national achiever, say, the best scientist in the country; an independent judiciary with the usual three tiers: Supreme Court of not more than thirteen justices, one of whom is the chief justice, appellate courts of three judges and district courts of single judges; each state having at least one district court, and a group of states constituting an appellate area.

What one visualizes for Nigeria is a situation where each of the ethnic groups in it is essentially governing itself while delegating certain powers to the national government. This arrangement would give each ethnic group sufficient sense of independence and leg room to be itself. This system will work for Nigeria.

In fact, it is the only system that will work for Nigeria. Not only will it work for Nigeria, it will work for other multiethnic countries in Africa. One advocates that multi ethnic countries in Africa adopt confederal systems of government. African countries, in fact, do not have any choice but to do this.

If in the future Africans freely choose to become federations with strong central governments, rather than confederations with weak central governments, that are welcome. In the present, confederating the present African countries seem the only way to avert some groups dominating others, and those dominated resenting it, with the result being intermittent civil wars in Africa.


Whereas confederal government seems the best government for extant African countries, this type of government tends to have inherent weaknesses. It is because of its weaknesses that the United States of America gave it up. It should be recalled that after its war of independence, America first adopted a confederal constitution (Articles of Confederation) and later found that system unworkable. Essentially, the Articles of Confederation made the central government too weak and the states too strong. The states did not have to accept direction from the center. There was no president or judiciary; congress was not even standing but met occasionally. This arrangement was particularly detrimental to the country’s military so that enemies easily walked all over America.

In light of the inherent problems in confederations, one made some changes in them by insisting on a standing national legislature, nominal president, executive prime minister, unified military command at the central level and the center’s control of foreign relations.

Each state must have control of its own police force (the central government must have its own police and additionally a secret police).

We do not have to deny some of the inherent problems of confederal governments, but with good effort, confederations can be made to work, after all they work in Switzerland. At any rate, it seems the only alternative that would avert Africans penchant for mutual mayhem.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD(UCLA)

Posted by Administrator at September 8, 2005 02:06 AM


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