1.1 Background of the study

Nigeria a federation of different nations is the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 160 million people. The country is divided into 36 states and 774 local government areas. The religious, ethnic, and cultural diversities of the federating units no doubt make it a unique one. Otite (1990) in Mustapha (2007), identifies 374 ethnic groups which are broadly divided into ethnic ‘majorities’ and ethnic ‘minorities’. The majority ethnic groups are the Hausa-Fulani of the north, the Yoruba of the southwest, and the Igbos of the southeast. However, the relationship between these groups is characterized by fear and suspicion of domination of one state or ethnic group by another. Meanwhile, this suspicion and fear between groups is historical.

However, it became pronounced when Sir Fredrick Lord Lugard began the process of subjecting ethnic groups with a history of mutual distrust and hatred together as one Nigeria. Remarkably, these ethnic groups are not of equal population and hence some tend to dominate others thus exploiting them. Also, political and economic imbalances exist among these various states or ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. These imbalances arose from the nature and character of the post-colonial Nigerian state. In almost all the sectors, state, ethnic or regions, people feel marginalized. These have brought about a choking competition for federal government appointments among the various ethnic groups which have resulted into ethno-regional conflict and tension that characterize Nigeria since 1960.

The emergence of various militia groups in the Niger Delta, OPC in the South-West, MASSOB in the South East and of recent Boko Haram in the North, are all indications of the existence of rivalries between and among the various groups over the sharing of national cake. These ethnic, regional, and religious divides in the country have become so problematic with resultant patterns of inequalities. These inequalities are caused by a complex range of factors, including history, geography, cultural orientation, religious affiliation, natural resource endowments, current government policies, and past colonial policies. Akinola and Adesopo (2011) in Aderonke (2013) support this argument when they posit that, the problem of ethnic minority has been receiving attention of scholars and practitioners of governance and development. This is because ethnic minority is usually sidelined and ignored by the majority in decision making and resources distribution.

The consequence of such politics of exclusion has been agitation and demand for social inclusion, which at times results to violent actions. In a heterogeneous and deeply divided societies all over the globe attempt to manage their diversities and divisive tendencies through one or combination of policy alternatives in the management of their public services for performance and service delivery has been of great concern in politics and administration globally (Abdullah, 2007). Often times, these policy alternatives turn out to be delicate arrangements, but when carefully conceived, crafted and practiced, it provides opportunity for centre-seeking and centre-fleeing forces to interact peacefully and co-habit on agreed terms. One of such policy alternatives adopted for the management of diversities and ensures even appointment is the Federal Character, which was borne out of the need to ensure national integration in the country (Nzeshi, 2012).

The principle of federal character was formulated and put into use by successive governments in Nigeria to address and hopefully mitigate the problem of diversity so as to ensure a peaceful, stable and united Nigeria. As Ojo (1999) persuasively explained, Federal character principle as an integrative mechanism is defined as fair and effective representation of the various components of the Federation in the country’s position of power, status and influence. He however observed that the principle of federal character touches on array of problems in the political process which includes ethnicity, the national question, minority problem, discrimination based on an indignity, resources allocation, power sharing employment and placement in institution, et cetera. It provides a formula for participation in the governance of the country in such a way that a single section of the country will not dominate another or a segment dominating the rest. Federal character principle sought to give “opportunities in education and employment, usually at the point of entry, to disadvantaged groups and areas to enable them compete and catch up with more advanced areas and sectors of the nation” (Ekeh, 1989:38).

Section 14, subsection 3 of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) also states that: The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies. To this end the Federal Character Commission (FCC) was established by act No. 34 of 1996 to implement and enforce the Federal Character Principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public appointment, socio-economic amenities and infrastructural facilities among the federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The provision of the 1999 constitution of section 14 and 153 also empowers the commission to operate in a democratic setting (Samuel et al., 2012). Therefore, the undertaking of this research will critically assess the application of federal character principle in federal government appointment and its effects on national integration in Nigeria. This research project is set out to examine critically the application of federal character principle in federal government appointment and its effect on national integration in Nigeria.