Partner Speaks on Federalism and National Unity: Optimising the Richness of Diversity

On Friday, June 13, 2014, the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan hosted students, lecturers, and the whole community to its annual public lecture with the theme: Federalism and National Unity – Optimizing the Richness of Diversity.

The 2014 faculty public lecture was chaired by Chief Folake Solanke, SAN, the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, an icon of excellence. The guest speaker was Dr Fabian Ajogwu, SAN of the law firm of Kenna Partners, Lagos.

In espousing on the theme for this year, Dr Ajogwu, SAN highlighted the importance of the topic to the development of our wobbling federal structure which ought to have been our major strength as a nation. He further explained that the propagation of oneness and nationalistic orientation is the sure way to the development of our nascent democracy. He stated that he believes that the subject of federalism if embraced in its true nature with the realities of our diversities in a plural system will enhance the common good and promote a utilitarian society.

Dr. Ajogwu, SAN explained that the allegiance to family, ethnicity, religion and cultural groups have undermined our national consciousness and solidarity as a nation which has resulted into various ethno-cultural or religious crisis in recent times. The learned silk called on all Nigerians to rise above the parochial bases of allegiance to integrate on the basis of common interest for the good of the society, and as a nation, we should join hands against anything that threatens the common good.

Highlighting the challenges of a true federalist system of government, Dr Ajogwu, SAN explained that apart from the identity politics and ethnic allegiance rather than national consciousness, the issue of fiscal federalism and resource control has been a major challenge to Nigeria’s federal structure. He further argued that starting from the Phillipson Commission of 1946, Nigeria seems not to have an apt revenue allocation formula. He advised that rather than looking for the perfect revenue allocation formula, an optimized utilization of the allocated resources should be promoted.

On optimizing the richness of diversity, Dr. Ajogwu, SAN argued that there are bound to be conflicts among federating units in a nation with about 350 ethnic groups and over 470 languages. He opined that the diversity in any organized or democratic society like Nigeria should be more of a resource than a source of conflict. He proposed that the diversity in the identity of the Nigerian federal system should propel a strong competitive platform for economic, social and political development in the country. He however submitted that without good governance which is the duty of both the leaders and the followers, the society cannot progress.

The Senior Advocate noted that the diversity of the nation is also witnessed with the endowment of different and diverse mineral and natural resources which constituted majority of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the pre-crude oil era. He advised that if this diversity is properly harnessed in addition to the Nigerian oil and gas industry, Nigeria would emerge as one of the world economic drivers.

Dr Ajogwu, SAN finally proposed that there is an urgent need for the practice of true federalism in the country to ensure that federating units co-exist without acrimony and bad blood. He further stated that with Nigeria being constitutionally recognised as a secular state, there is need for tolerance and freedom of religion, and her people should be bound in the spirit of brotherhood culminating from their identity as being part of the nationhood – Nigeria. Only then can we have the Nigerian dream, or the Nigeria we have always dreamt of.

The lecture was attended by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Isaac F. Adewole, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Administration), the Dean of Faculty of Law, Dean of Faculty of Arts, Registrar, other principal officers of the University, and members of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan branch. The Vice Chancellor expressed the gratitude of the University to the Learned Senior Advocate for his generous donations towards the 3.5 KVA inverter donated to the Faculty of Law, and also the donation of funds to equip the faculty library.

In bringing the programme to a close, comments were received from law students – both undergraduate and postgraduate and the students expressed their concerns on the future and development of the Nigeria. The Chairperson, Chief (Mrs.) Solanke, SAN in giving the final comments, advised all and sundry to show patriotic disposition towards nation building and ensure that we join hands in propagating the Nigerian dream that we all desire.

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