Home Articles MERIT VERSUS FEDERAL CHARACTER: ARE THERE INCONSISTENCIES IN THE CONSTITUTION?

MERIT VERSUS FEDERAL CHARACTER: ARE THERE INCONSISTENCIES IN THE CONSTITUTION?

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One incident that occurred 24 years ago has for several years prompted my thoughts on Merit/Quota System/Federal Character and their application to various spheres of governmental activities in Nigeria. I have every so often wondered if our constitution does not truly contain inconsistencies, as alleged in several quarters. Let me relate the event under reference. In 1994, the Military Administrator of Osun State whom I then served as Chief Press Secretary had a very difficult tie to unknot. The public service at that period operated along the Dotun Phillips Recommendations with several non-career appointees as Directors-General. In line with the regulations, they were all dropped in an exercise that witnessed the re-emergence of some of them who were career civil servants, while Directors General appointed from outside the civil service were dropped. The Dotun Phillips Report indicated that DGs must go with the governments that appointed them. What happened? The administrator, conscious of the enlightenment of the people of the State and their assertiveness, as well as demanding accountability and writing petitions was careful in making appointments of new career Directors-General to head Ministries/Departments/Agencies of government. In a few cases, he went as low as Grade level 13 in an attempt to satisfy all the sections of the state. But there were qualified Grade level 16 officers who could not be appointed just because they originated from some other parts of the state that had too many qualified personnel. In spite of this, petitions were still forwarded to the General Staff Headquarters then headed by Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya and the military administrator was queried. He had to rush to Abuja with the seniority list to explain to his superiors how he had to embark on the delicate art of balancing appointments, in the process, leaving out highly qualified seniors to appoint less qualified juniors, simply to satisfy all interests. To many, this was ridiculous and was a clear case of injustice. How do you justify promotion of juniors over and above seniors? Was this not discrimination that the same Constitution declares illegal? I am not a legal practitioner or draughtsman and could only advance an ordinary view. Records indicate that the ‘Federal Character Principle’ (FCP) was recommended the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) of 1975, (The 49 Wisemen) headed by famed legal guru, Chief Rotimi Williams, SAN to manage diversity and promote inclusiveness. The recommendation was adopted, and therefore, became…

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