As you are aware, I have written and talked a lot about my support for a federal government over the unitary arrangement we have in Uganda. Those interested please visit www.kashambuzi.com or www.udugandans.org. I have used the examples of Switzerland and Nigeria among others in support of federalism for Uganda.
Nigeria is currently reviewing its federal arrangement as it celebrates its founding 100 years ago. I urge you to follow the developments for clues as to how we should do it in the aftermath of NRM that has rejected a federal system even when the majority of Ugandans want it as contained in the Odoki report.
President Jonathan has led the process along the following lines and with the following message.
1. As defined by the 1979 Constitution ‘federal character’ is “the distinctive desire of the people of Nigeria to promote unity, and foster national loyalty and give citizens of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of ethnic origin, culture, language or religion which may exist and which in their desire to nourish and harness to the enrichment of the federal republic of Nigeria”.
2. Bowing to public pressure President Jonathan announced on October 1, 2014 that a National Conference would be convened to chart the way forward for Nigeria.
3. He established a 13-member Presidential Advisory Committee to advise the government on a framework for the conference after nationwide consultations. The committee reported there was a national consensus for the conference.
4. The National Conference was inaugurated by the president on March 17, 2014 in Abuja. It is scheduled to last for three months. The 492 members of the conference were selected by a broad category of interest groups including government itself, labor representatives, ethno-religious organizations and former government officials.
5. The conference is free to discuss anything under the sun except the division of Nigeria.
6. The conference is taking place at a time when the National Assembly is in the process of amending the Constitution and the conference recommendations will be taken into account.
7. President Jonathan urged the delegates “to engage in intense introspection about the political and socio-economic challenges confronting our nation and to chart the best and most acceptable way for the resolution of such challenges in the collective interest of all the constituent parts of our fatherland. This coming together under one roof to confer and build a fresh national consensus for the amicable resolution of issues that still cause friction amongst our people must be seen as an essential part of the process of building a more united, stronger and progressive nation.
“It is our expectation that participants in this conference will patriotically articulate and synthesize our people’s thoughts, views and recommendations for a stronger, more united, peaceful and politically stable Nigeria, forge the broadest possible national consensus in support of those recommendations, and strive to ensure that they are given the legal and constitutional backing to shape the present and the future of our beloved fatherland. This conference is open for us to table our thoughts and positions on issues, and make recommendations that will advance our togetherness.
“The issues range from form of government, structures of government, devolution of powers, revenue sharing, resource control, state and local government creation, boundary adjustment, state police and fiscal federalism, to local government elections, indigeneship, gender equality and children’s rights, amongst others. [It should be] a positive turning point for our country’s development. We must seize this opportunity to cement the cleavages and fault lines that tend to separate us. We must re-launch our country”(Africa Today April/May 2014) – a powerful and positive message indeed.