Federal Character Principle And Ethnic Marginalization Of Federal University Students On Admission Quota Into Undergraduate Programme In Akwa Ibom State

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  • Background to the Study

Over four decades after the independence, Nigeria stills battle with one of the major fall-outs of federalism the politics of trying to appease all sections of polity.

Therefore, two of the most controversial issues in the Nigeria socio-economic and political formation are that of the federal character principle and ethnic marginalization or simply put the “minority questions”. The two questions date back to colonial days when the Willink commission was set up to critically look into question of minority who complained of marginalization and exploitation by the major ethnic groups in the aspects of education and other  facets of life. Till date, it has consistently mounted campaign against what they (ie the minority) regarded as domination by the major ethnic groups which includes Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups in the scheme of things.

Against the back-drop of the above complaint, it is the question of the “National-cake”, a generic phrase which is a popular expression in the Nigerian political parlance as a result of the facts that, it is at the core of theory of the socio-political problems which have resulted in the “National Question”, the national question is a relatively a new phraseology in the Nigerian educational and political sphere.

The national Question is an almalgam of the many other questions. Each of the questions has to do with basic fundamental national issues such as who presided over the sharing of the Nations resources or National cake.

One of the strategies recommended for sharing or solving the minority or ethnic problem is what the “constitutional drafting committee in 1977 referred to as “Federal character principle” of the country.

Therefore, Federal character principles connote policy of equity in representation of all sections of the country in government bureaucracy. This principle is applicable in federal appointment and promotions and retrenchment, admission and scholarships etc. We shall continue to examine the application of this principle and more importantly to see to what extent it has succeeded in solving the marginalization and ethnic problems of students into tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom-University of Uyo as a case study.

Certainly, the most popular formula for managing marginalization and ethnic problems today which the Nigerian governing classes have recommended is the federal character principles.

It is a distributive principle which is aimed at preventing domination of government and its resources by one ethnic group in certain sectors and also granting ever y regions access to their admission in any federal institutions in Nigeria.

In principles, a federal character principle is a concept which entails proportionality which is called “Quota system” or the ethnic arithmetical formula.

The antecedents of the federal character principles date back to colonial times when concerned with lopsided composition of the federal character principles in the appointments of senior staff in some parastatals.

Hence, after the independence in 1960, and particularly after the civil war, the war, the quota system was extended to admission into tertiary institutions.

Finally, the opportunity came to design a new constitution in 1976 and 1978; the already popular quota system was then adopted to solve the problems of preventing domination of a particular region into tertiary institutions owned by the federal government in some of the state in Nigeria like in the case of Akwa Ibom State.

The federal character principle in Akwa Ibom State and ever y other state that own a federal institutions indeed does not put into practice the principles in the case of University of Uyo, because the indigenes will continue to dominate or have upper-hand in the admission quota. The federal character principles was used as a unifying factor or institution of the various ethnic groups in the country also encouraged unity in diversity  and integration of the ethnic groups without much prejudice.

  • Purpose of the Study

The study focused on the application of federal character principles and ethnic marginalization of federal university student’s admission quota into under-graduate programmes in the University of Uyo, Uyo-Akwa Ibom State.

Yet the basic questions remains, why has the ethnic problem persisted and in many cases intensify

The purpose of this study, include others:

  • To examine the continued marginalization of students from other tribes in terms of gaining admission into the university of Uyo.
  • To examine the application of federal character principle s and process of admitting students into university of Uyo.
  • To find out how the internal politics in Akwa Ibom State and even university of Uyo, affect admission of students into the University of Uyo.
    • Research Questions

The federal character principle is faced with serious problems as far as ethnic-marginalization is concerned in cases of admission in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State, especially in the University of Uyo.

Therefore, non indigenes are not given much admission opportunities into the university on the basis of federal character principles which is based on equity. Therefore, we are guided by the following research questions:

  • Does the continued marginalization of students from other tribes in favour of the indigenous students affect gaining of admission into the University of Uyo?
  • To what extent does federal character principles been applied in the University of Uyo, affect the process of admitting qualified students?
  • Does the internal polities been played in Akwa Ibom State and that of the University administration affects gaining of admission by students into the University of Uyo?
    • Research Hypothesis

Since University of Uyo is a federal establishment, the admission quota should be shared between the indigenous universities and other tertiary institutions students from Akwa Ibom state and student in the entire federation equitably

Therefore, the study is guided by the following null hypotheses:

  • There is no significant effect of marginalization of students from other tribes and favoured indigenous students who seek admission into the University of Uyo.
  • There is no significant effect of application of federal character principles on the process of admitting qualified students in the University of Uyo.
  • There is no significant effect of internal politics of the state and that of university administration on the gaining of admission by students into the University of Uyo.
    • Significance of the Study

Although many have written and spoken about the problems faced by students in gaining admission into any federal institutions in Nigeria, especially University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, as to the correct application of the federal character principles in the admission of students into the university programmes.

It has been revealed that many of these studies emanate from analysis (Bleden 2007). This is the result of the superficiality of analysis and the lack of scientific rigor and the desire to sanitize the university education (Nwafor 2007).

It is also noted that researches have not been conducted recently on the marginalization of non-indigenous student in the gaining of admission into the University of Uyo and the proper applications of federal character principles. These has generated problems which ought to be corrected in subsequent research.

This study would give the government reliable data for policy formulations and implementations through relevant education body in granting of admission to candidate who are not from Akwa Ibom State. The data generated from this work would further assist government to be aware of the likely consequence of neglecting the plight of candidate who are seen as non-indigenous-would-be students in gaining admission into the University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Therefore, it could be observed that adoption of federal character principles as away of alleviating ethnic problems in the University of Uyo is very important; therefore the federal character principles should be well implemented and strictly monitored by the co-ordinating  body like National University Commission (N.U.C) and for effective practice of admission issues in the university of Uyo and all federal university in general including parent and other stake-holders in the educational sector.

  • Delimitation of the Study

This study focused on the principles of federal character and ethnic marginalization of federal university students’ admission quota.

Here therefore, it is delimited to university of Uyo, Uyo in Akwa Ibom State only.

  • Limitations of the Study

There are several problems usually associated with social research of this sort. In the course of gathering data for this work, a lot of problems were encountered which included the followings:

  • The unwillingness and un-cooperative attitude of the interviewees to furnish the researcher with the necessary information was a serious problem to this study.
  • Finance was the greatest limitation of this study. Financial difficulties were encountered in terms of transportation to some of the offices and centres in our case study to get reliable data which are relevant to the problem of this work.
  • Another problem that was encountered was that of time constraint. It was not easy to cover other federal institutions, the task of typing and binding as a result of circumstances imposed by other events such as visiting other federal institutions compelled the completion of this work within a short period of time. But with pains and perseverance, consistency, some of these problems mentioned were surmounted.
    • Assumption of the Study

The following were made to serve as a guide to the study:-

  • That, Aluko (2007), policies such as federal character principles and quota system were adopted to ensure equitable admission into federal universities in Nigeria, such as university of Uyo,


  • That, the correct implementation and adoption of federal character principles will stop ethnic marginalization of student from other tribes in gaining admission into federal universities such as university of Uyo, Uyo.
  • That, admission into federal institutions such as university of Uyo, should not be politicized and candidates that merit it should be given admission based on hard work and performance.

1.10. Definition of Terms

Certain terms owing to their specialized used in this study required operational definitions. The terms were thus:-

Ethnic marginalization:  It is defined as a situation whereby a region or an area is denied a fair and equitable share in the nation’s wealth; this could be in terms of resources or revenue etc.

Tertiary institution admission equota: It is a process whereby the total numbers of students who seek for admission into any tertiary institutions are given admission without the school administration being bias or lopsided and the statusquo is maintained equitably for all.

Federal character principle: The federal character principles refers to the distinctive desire of the people of Nigeria to promote National unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria, a sense of belonging and direction in the scheme of things.

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