Federal Character And Quota System in Nigeria – A Good Public Policy

It is quite interesting that time have recruited some Nigerians to become advocates and supporters of federal character in appointments to federal appointments. Disparate groups have joined this worthy discourse!

All Nigerians should in good faith advocate that appointments and how we do business reflect our essential composite make-up as Nigerians, from local government to state and federal levels. All hands should be on deck. All engines for Nigeria’s development should be firing at full-throttle, from our diversities!

I was abused for advocating federal character and quota system in June 2003 when I wrote: “Quota System or Federal Character In Nigeria And Affirmative Action Policy In America Compared” It is was and still is a good policy; good public policies should be advocated and advanced, even when it does not benefit us personally, regionally and parochially! Nigerians must practice intellectual honesty, not selectively and not as fair-weather friends.

There is a need to revisit and reissue, for publication, this opinion on federal character, quota system, our affirmative action program; this topic, upon which a substantial portion of this article was first published in June 2003, it is slightly modified for this republication, which is as a consequence of the reignited debate about the importance of true and effective implementation of federal character in public appointments to reflect the multi-variables of a multi-cultural, multilingual, multi-religious Nigeria’s national development.

It is important, particularly, in a plural society such as Nigeria, that all citizens feel a sense of equal voice, equal representation and equal participation. No citizen or group of citizens should feel marginalized.

The Constitutions of Nigeria, ( since 1979 to the present 1999 version) for decades now, have made provisions for a Quota System and the reflection of a Federal Character in appointments of public office holders, this, in my view makes perfect sense, in a diverse country and society as Nigeria. Diversity needs to be actively and purposefully encouraged and even, legally enforced, this should be provided by our laws, at local, state and federal levels and as well made justifiable by Nigeria’s Supreme law, the Constitution of Nigeria.

All states, but especially the educationally disadvantaged states, need special provisions and protections in the admission process in Nigeria’s educational system, especially in higher education and the professions! All Nigerians and Nigeria will be the beneficiaries of such good policy, that encourages the grooming and nurturing of opportunities for every Nigerian from every communities in Nigeria, and particular effort should be made, in order that Nigeria does not live anyone behind, economically, socially, educationally and developmentally, this is in our national interests, its nothing to jeer or sneer at!

In my view, there is the added urgency in the area of education and specifically in the professions, the educationally disadvantaged states received special grants during the President Shagari’s administration in 1981 or 1982? About 50 million Naira was set aside for this purpose. My rationale is that, producing doctors from every nook and crannies and from every Nigerian communities make prudent investment in education and social mobility, even if Nigerians and Nigeria have to collectively pay more or make some sacrifice, in order to ensure that a doctor is produced from your hometown and from mine! I am fully aware of the so-called merit argument, but it is neither here nor there, and it completely ignores the Big Picture!

“Merit” is not the exclusive preserve or monopoly of any particular region of Nigeria, culture and environment and available opportunities and exposures has a great deal to do with what any human being attains, achieve or accomplish in Nigeria and outside it! It is the superiority of nurture over nature.

In Northern Nigeria for example, there is clearly high literacy rate, even noticeably higher than the literacy rate in the Southern parts of Nigeria, the fact that the North did not embrace Western World education or Western European definition of education, simply does not change the fact that most persons in the Northern parts of Nigeria can Read and Write in Arabic, and being able to Read and Write is sufficiently accepted definition of being a literate person, unless we are to say the Germans, the Chinese, the French and the Japanese etc. are all illiterates as they conduct their lives not in English?

The majority of the Nigerian citizens of the Northern extraction can Read and Write Arabic, so that, if we were to teach medicine and law in Arabic, these Nigerian citizens will be quite at home (even at age 100) whereas, correspondingly, there is no such high literacy level in the Southern part of Nigeria, and this fact is more pronounced in the older generation citizens of Nigeria of the Southern extraction.

The later day acceptance of Western World education has severely and severally hindered the numbers of the “educated” among peoples of Northern Nigeria, but since we are in the same boat, all Nigerians are in the same boat! Our destiny is and will forever be intertwined, it is therefore wise and good investment to actively and purposefully invest in increasing the numbers of our brothers and sisters the Northern part of Nigeria in higher education and in the professions, we will be doing ourselves a favor, favor not to the recipient, but those who are willing to make the collective investment and sacrifice, to bring about a balanced, equal and fair society which Nigeria deserves, this is our path to greatness.

Historically, some Southerners have also been huge beneficiaries of programs and policies similar to what I now advocate, for example, many years ago, I met Southerners who were students in Maiduguri’s BOCOBS aka Borno State School of Basic Studies where they prepared for the General Certificate of Education GCE Ordinary or Advanced Levels and then proceeded to different Nigerian Universities, particularly the University of Maiduguri and I can only imagine the short term and the long term benefits of all these individual Nigerians from the North and the South who benefited, and the short and long term benefit for our entire country!

There were also, many Students, of Southern Nigeria origins, who benefited immensely from the Remedial Education Programs at the University of Maiduguri, even though, the Remedial Programs were specifically targeted at Students of Northern origins from the immediate areas or neighboring states (catchments areas) the direct and indirect benefits are clear to me, or anyone who cares to examine it! The students for whom the programs were intended benefited, students who were outside the targeted group also benefited, the entire Nigerian nation benefits! What could possibly be wrong with that?

Affirmative Action Programs Policies and the Quota System and Federal Character Policies reflect visionary thinking, a wonderful foresight, that should have the force of law, that we should all support and encourage and see that these policies continues to be enforced in Nigeria and America, the Big Picture is that we will all benefit!

The more equipped Nigerians from every community in the nation are, the better we all are! When all Nigerians become equipped with skills, training and professional education in every level or strata, Nigeria will be on the way to our destined greatness!

It is quite interesting that time have recruited some Nigerians to become advocates and supporters of federal character in appointments to federal appointments. I was abused for advocating federal character and quota system in June 2003 when I wrote: “Quota System or Federal Character In Nigeria And Affirmative Action Policy In America Compared” It is was and still is a good policy; good public policies should be advocated and advanced, even when it does not benefit us personall

y, regionally and parochially! Nigerians must practice intellectual honesty, not selectively and not as fair-weather friends.

Good public policies will lead to progress, development and advancement of Nigeria, for collective our benefit.

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