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‘Federalism Working In Nigeria’
By Rafiu Ajakaye, Trainee Reporter, Lagos
Lagos, Nigeria, February 21, 2006 – A four-day pan-African conference on federalism and ethnicity in Africa began on Monday in Lagos, where delegates from across the 19 sub-Saharan African states are gathered to discuss issues of federalism and its suitability for multi-ethnic Africa.
At the opening ceremony held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affair (NIIA), Nigerian federalism came up for applause for possessing rich experience from which its African counterparts could tap to end the long search for a political system suitable for multi-ethnic societies. This provided a forum for President Olusegun Obasanjo, the British Council, among others, to hold that Nigeria’s federal system was not a disappointment.
The event attracted scholars from within and outside the African continent. They included the Foreign Affairs Minister of Somaliland, Edna Adan Ismail; a Columbia University teacher, Mahmoud Mamdani; former Secretary General of Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaokwu; an associate fellow, Chattam House, Muzong Kodi, former Minister of Information, Sam Oyovbaire; Director General of the NIIA, Joy Ugwu, and a host of others.
The conference was organized by the British Council in conjunction with the Chattam House and the NIIA.
The director of the Council, John Richards also attended the programme.
President Olusegun Obasanjo declared the conference open with remarks that no other political system outside of federalism could match African situation, where a plethora of ethnic groups competing for political and economic independence abound. He was represented by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Ayo Ibidapo-Obe.
“Over the past few decades, I dare say that federalism has acquitted itself credibly. It has been more successful and providing new opportunities for addressing the specific and peculiar nature and dynamics of nation building in Africa,” he said.
The President argued that Nigeria “has been able to respond to agitations and requests of particular ethnic groups for political units of their own and the political engineering visions of particular leaders and governments.
“I think we are all agreed that the federal arrangement in Nigeria is working. If course it is also a work in progress and we are making all efforts to continue to improve it.”
Kodi said Nigeria was an epitome of working and experienced federalism and urged the participants to avail themselves of the opportunity of the conference to learn from the system, which he said has had its ups and downs, yet remained the strongest on the continent.
Chibeza Nfumi, a delegate from the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in Zambia, said Nigerian federalism served a good example to all, but expressed worries that African countries were yet to attain economic independence.
Source: Daily Independent