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Their constitution, our constitution

By Tony Momoh

There is increasing polarization of views about what they gave us and what we want. They refers to those who have governed this country, and we refers to the people, the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The bone of contention is the Constitution in the context of what amendments the National Assembly wants to undertake and how  qualified they are to do so.

If the National Assembly amends the Constitution, that is the 1999 Constitution, then that body would be part of the club the people refer to as they.  They the people say that they had never asked those who were in charge of affairs of the country to give them the constitution they had been operating; that it is a fraud committed against them

. Even those who are supposed to hold the mandate of the people are now part of the they under reference. It would seem that those who qualify to be we are those who are not in government, who are not charged with exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers. They say those elected were not sent there to give us a constitution or even amend the one which they complain has never been their own.

They want a Constitution that they can say they gave to themselves to provide for how they, 97,000 communities in all, would like to live together, mindful of their heterogeneity. Those who make law for us say they are the ones who can amend the Constitution and no other body can do so because any constitutional changes will be undertaken by the lawmaking arms of the federation, the National and State Assemblies.

I address the issue today for two reasons. The first reason is the dream we have and how that dream can be frustrated by the type of government that runs our affairs. The second reason is historical. We will be 100 years old as integrated space in January, 2014, and when we celebrate it, as we must, I wonder what we will be showcasing.

Is there no way we can transcend our unbelievable narrow mindedness and think, even if within the box, as thinking outside it would be asking too much of those who do not have thinking in their dictionary? So, what is the dream we have? We bandy around what we slavishly call Vision 20-20-20 which we are told means that by the year 2020, we would be one of the first 20 economies on earth.

Every road points to the fact that we believe we can achieve that goal without working for it, or by actively working against it. That is a lie because it is what we do today that will grow to be celebrated tomorrow. And it is what we have been doing that made America come to the conclusion that Nigeria would be a failed state. They did not dream up the conclusions.

Their experts considered issues to do with globalization and the impact on political development and economic growth, patterns of conflict, terrorism and democratization. We still deny America’s claim that Nigeria would be a failed state from the way we have been reacting to what secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, told us when she came calling. I went to town on this prediction in 2006 with arguments that are reproduced on Pages 501-502 of Prince Tony Momoh: A National Bibliotherapist & Cultural Engineer by Dr. Oshiotse Okwilagwe.

This is what I said and which I still believe is true, “In spite of the bleak picture, there is hope, not because we are aware or working for its fulfillment but because God has a plan for this country and that plan can only be delayed by our indiscretions, not subverted. The truth is that Nigeria is a country that does not only have a future, but a mission.

It can be shaken to its foundation, but it won’t break. What it holds in store for the world, which should be manifesting beautifully in the next quarter of a century is bigger than any one person or groups of persons. Nigeria is being peopled by human spirits that are open to profound spiritual recognitions and they will be the vehicles for downloading the next set of material that will grow this earth into a Kingdom that will know God.

If as a Nigerian you are present anywhere and within a short period of time, your presence is felt, it is because of what you are, but which you may be ignorant of.  The many churches taking root in Nigeria and moving outside our borders to all nooks and crannies of the earth is no accident.  It is a cosmic event, unfolding for us to see. But we are the ones who are blind.

Our eyes will be opened, by force, because there is work to be done, and those to do it are here, by choice.  We can lessen the pain of forceful change if we decongest the political space to permit of automatic economic deregulation.  The political space is congested”.

Believe me when I say that it is the expectation of what will be that makes me have so much faith in this country. The material we have today, unfortunately, is not sensing the danger of failing, but the pain will be more if that lack of sensing is sustained through stubborn insistence on rendering service on man’s terms, not on God’s brief. In five short years, that is by the year 2014, we can have a country where there is light 24 hours of the day; where our educational institutions are functional without strikes; where the roads are a joy to drive on; where health services are so dependable that people will come from outside of here to ask for help;  where our youths are gainfully employed because we have created the environment for manifesting life wherever they may find themselves.

Lagos is more complicated to grow than any other city in this country but what Tinubu and Fashola have done to it is there for even the blind to behold. But there is a prerequisite for achieving success on the scale we demand it, and that is through political re-engineering.

And that is the second reason I am addressing the issue today. Nigeria as is cannot work.  The Constitution we have is imposed, but we need one that the people will endorse, will accept as their own. The National Assembly cannot, for obvious reasons, midwife that Constitution because many are the provisions that they will never accept to pass since, whether we like it or not, whatever is decided has to have legal backing to come into force.  And that legal backing must be given by the National Assembly.

My suggestion is simple.  We have accepted what the Uwais panel on electoral reform has done.  The president should see it as more important for Nigeria than the vested interests socking it dry.  He should therefore tell the Council of State, an advisory body, that we have a problem of sustaining this country.

All the governors are there and the two leaders of the national assembly and the former heads of state of Nigeria and the former chief justices of Nigeria and the Attorney General of Nigeria.  Let them accept the Uwais report and decide that it is what Nigerians want and send it to the bodies that  can effect the changes – the National Assembly and the State Assemblies.  The first, second and third readings can be done within one hour, and the resolutions in support by the 36 states of the federation can follow within 10 minutes.

And within 48 hours, aware that we have an emergency situation on our hands whose alternative resolution would be bloody, we will have a constitutionally amended document on the President’s Table.  What can happen with the Uwais panel report can also happen with any other part of the Constitution.  But the content must reflect the wishes of the people. They want a heavily decongested political space in which we accept that quantum of democracy which our economic cloth can accommodate.

Need I repeat the details here as to how we can sustain our structures at minimum cost so that we can address the basic needs of security and welfare? Need I?


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