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Calls For New Constitution

IT has become obvious that many Nigerians have lost faith in the 1999 Constitution.

An agglomeration of geopolitical interest groups known as Change Nigeria Organisation has called for a meeting of all ethnic nationalities and political interest groups toward the creation of a true Nigerian constitution.

The groups included National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, Ethnic Nationalities Movement, ENM, Pro National Conference Organisations, PRONACO, and Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF.

The organization said, “Those who think that whatever defects anyone may find in the 1999 Constitution can be cured by amendments are in grave error. The National Assembly and the government of the day are products of the fraudulent 1999 Constitution imposed more for the purposes, which have unfolded to our collective chagrin”.

Some may frown at the call, because Nigeria has operated fully or partially six constitutions since independence. They are the Independence Constitution, the Republican Constitution, the 1979 Constitution, the 1989 Constitution, which the Babangida regime operated before the Interim National Government was overthrown in November 1993.

General Sani Abacha, empanelled the Constitutional Conference of 1994/95 and used some of its positions to conduct elections in April 1998. Abacha’s death terminated that transition.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar rushed the nation through an eleven-month transitional programme and bequeathed the 1999 Constitution, one of the most incoherent and confusing constitutional documents ever written.

Of all these efforts, only the 1963 Constitution can rightly be described truly as an effort of the Nigerian people. This obviously accounts for many agitators for justice and equity in Nigeria hoping we return to it.

The others were planned, empanelled, supervised, manipulated and approved by colonial or military dictatorships with tendencies to central command and political control.

Those who argue that the fault of the 1999 Constitution is not in the constitution itself but in its operators may have their point given the predilection of the Nigerian political elite to circumvent it for their selfish interests. It does not detract from the fact that when a constitutional document is flawed beyond redemption as is the case with the 1999 Constitution; the only way to redressing the situation is to start afresh and allow Nigerians to decide the constitution to govern their affairs.

Some will also argue that civilians argued and put together constitutions created under the colonialists and the military. This argument loses sight of the fact that there were clear terms of reference, including “no-go” areas, at the end of which exercise the supervising authority added and subtracted what they wished in order to safeguard their permanent interests as they vacated power.

Poor constitutional basis has underdeveloped Nigeria. The foundation is false; therefore, the building remains shaky. We must rebuild the foundation, ensuring this time that powers are properly devolved to the peripheries to bring out the best in them while at the same time maintaining a strong federal government that is able to guarantee the security and prosperity of the generality of our citizens.


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