Nigeria operates a 3-tier federal government having the federal, state, and local governments. The constitution defines the rights and duties of each tier, more particularly, the sharing of responsibilities between the federal and state governments through the legislative lists (exclusive, residual, and concurrent). In all, we have a federal government, 36 state governments, and 774 local governments with the federal capital territory being administered by the federal government with quasi-state status.

Again, it is part of the frame upon which governance and political relationship rest, and the units must be decided by the people and then be reflected in the constitution. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The nation which started with the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates had 3 main regions at independence in 1960, to wit: Northern, Eastern, and Western Regions. It metamorphosed into 4 when the Midwest was carved out of the Western Region. Military governments created the rest at different times from 4 to 12 to 19 to 21 and finally 36. So is the case of local governments too with lopsidedness and favouritism. 

The people did not sit to review or even adopt the 36 states and 774 local governments as the 1989 and 1999 constitutions were simply handed down by the military while those chosen under it prevented the review for fear that they could be swept off. They only allow alterations and cosmetic amendments which are guided by the National Assembly. The attempt by Lagos State under Senator Bola Tinubu to create additional local governments for the state was necessarily rebuffed and the faceoff has created a hybrid institution recognised only by state laws. It would have opened a floodgate of proliferation.

The fact need to be stated that Nigeria is over-governed. In comparison to the United States of America which has an economy of a hundred and fiftyfold and a land size of over 9 folds of Nigeria's, there are 7 Governors on the average parcel of land governed by a Governor in the US. The effect of over-governance evinces in the proposed 2023 budget of which a big chunk will be borrowed and deployed to service debts. There will be little or no capital projects. So, it will be spent on the payment of salaries for doing virtually nothing more than maintenance.

When we consider that the best days of this nation were the days of the regions when we had a Premier in the areas that now have 5 - 19 states; when there was only one attorney-general, commissioner for education, health et al. Now in the west we have 6 Governors, 6 AGs, 6 commissioners for education ... all receiving salaries and perquisites; and, with corruption at the level it is today, our redemption is beyond prayers.

Some well-meaning Nigerians, including my good friend, Dele Farotimi, have clamoured for a return to the 1963 constitution when the regions had their respective constitutions and the country was a confederation. That is becoming imperative as the agitation for self-rule is drumming stronger with the proponents of the Odu'a Republic and Biafra waiting for the outcome of the 2023 elections with selfish and measured hopes.

Over the years, new natural regions have emerged with the 6 geo-political zones awaiting constitutional recognition. The regions are north-west, north-central, north-east, south-west, south-south, and south-east. The recognition of those regions is imperative now that it is becoming more difficult for some regions to produce the leader of the country. Howbeit, it is not to be a new tier of government but a replacement for the 36 states. If we desire more, each zone could be split into a maximum of 3 states with Lagos and Abuja granted special status.

It is submitted here that the creation and administration of local governments should not be a concern of the federal government. The regions should create their local governments under a guideline that will ensure that there is no proliferation with a ceiling prescribed. There should not be more than 50 in a geo-political zone. They could be weighted in grades. There should be executive leadership in that tier unlike now the election suggests executive status but the operation is otherwise.

The list needs to be reshuffled. A government that makes laws should have the power to create an enforcement institution to enforce the laws. State police are a necessity without prejudice to having the federal police. It could be a light weapon force. In fact, at the level of growth, it is better to operate a confederation and remove the limitations in the list. With Hisbah, Amotekun and the conflict over VAT, the doctrine of necessity is already overriding constitutional legalise.

Let us remind ourselves that a failed nation simply capitulates by disintegration or war. The pointers are found in pre-wars of life-claiming crimes, protests, insurgencies, centrifugal agitations, and weakened constitutionalism (willingness to obey laws). And if God still loves our togetherness, there could be a revolution (perhaps by a benevolent putsch); or, a revolutionary evolution or evolutionary revolution in a short space of time.

The only gamble-hope of the nation is on a man who is convalescing. It can only be hoped that he will put restructuring on the front burner. Anything short of that is like mobilising to put more water in a leaking tank. It was time we looked ourselves in the eyes and administer the bitter pills.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

S. O. K. Shillings Esq.

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