By Dayo Benson, Political Editor & James Ezema
With two and half years into the life of the current administration and less than one and half years to 2011 general elections, stakeholders are still calling for restructuring of the country. This is in spite of the twin issue of constitution review and electoral reforms currently being addressed by the National Assembly.
Wednesday last week in Lagos at a forum organised by International Centre for Reconstruction and Development, ICRD, discussants took turns to x-ray the myriad of problems plaguing the nation from the pre-independence period.
Those who spoke included Pastor (Dr.) â€˜Tunde Bakare of Latter Rain Assembly, whose 55th birthday was the raison dâ€™etre of the forum; former Chief of Staff and erstwhile Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd); Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, a NADECO chieftain and chairman, Change Nigeria; Action Congress National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Lagos lawyer,Â Chief Fred Agbeyegbe and ChairmanÂ ofÂ Afenifere Renewal Group, Hon. Wale Oshun.
Also in attendance were Alhaji Yerima Shettima and Prof Ropo Sekoni as well as a legal practitioner, Mr. Tony Nnadi who is the Secretary of Change Nigeria.
At the end of their presentations, they all argued that Nigeria must be restructured or else…
Below are some of the views expressed:
Dr. Tunde Bakare
There is no doubt in my mind that this nation is moving at a high speed on the bumpy road to state failure. And it is the moral obligation of every right-thinking Nigerian, regardless of age or gender, status or stature, to do everything within the law and his or her power to stop this mad rush to national disintegration.
By bothÂ nomenclature and an imposed constitution, this nation goes by the appellation â€œFederal Republic of Nigeria.â€ In practice, all the arms of government and the majority of our eliteÂ know that we are neither a republic nor a federation. Even right now as we speak, our democracy is loaded with aÂ clear and Present danger because this present rule by the supposed majority has afflicted the nation with serious trouble since the majority is wrong; and as is inevitable, the worse the majority gets, the more wrong choices they will make.
To save Nigeria from an impending doom of disintegration, the best form of government we need to embrace with our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious endowment is a constitutional republic of true federating states. In a constitutional republic, the people rule through their chosen representatives and those representatives must rule by law.
The plight of our poor masses
Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, reprehensible tentacles into our city slums, villages and hamlets. To many of our legislators, as well as the members of the executive arm of government, the sorry plight of our poor seems invisible in the light of their own privileged positions, affluence and obscene wealth. Consequently, hell is about to break loose upon our clime (Psalm 9:17).
True federalism â€” now or never
Our founding fathers knew too well that unitarism will only lead our nation to paralysis and disintegration. If we use the template of Israel in the Bible, each tribe had its own council of elders ( 1stÂ Samuel 16:4) and its own army or law-enforcement agents (1st Chronicles 12:1-40). And while Israel practised monarchy before it became a republic, there was a governing document that spelt out even the behaviour of royalty (The ConstitutionÂ 1stÂ Samuel 10:25).
Failure to return to true federalism can only lead to disintegration and we will only play into the hands of those who do not wish us well, including some western powers and their internal collaborators who only see our land as an oil field and are ready to invoke the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to self-determination, autonomy, self government and or nationality in supporting their position. (See United Nations General Assembly Declaration of 12th September 2007, Articles 1 â€“ 46).
Those who are slumbering in the midst of an unstoppable revolution will wake up from their slumber. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr., â€œwe must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.â€ And according to The Good Book, â€œwise men foresee evil and avoid it but the foolish people ignore warnings, run into evil and are punishedâ€ (Proverbs 22: 3). May the good Lord unblock our minds as a people and grant our leaders a heart of wisdom.
Prof. Ropo Sekoni,
Nigeria before 1885 was a land mass occupied by several ancient nations and civilizations, each with its own history, language, mythology, political systems, and cultural values. The pre-Nigeria or pre-colonial nations in what is known today as Nigeria include the Edo, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, Ijaw, Itshekiri, Gwari, Nupe, Tiv, Idoma, Kanuri, Calabari, Efik, Yoruba, and so on. Some of them were even acknowledged by the British colonial administrators to have built kingdoms and empires long before the Berlin Conference of 1885. Those nations included the Kanuri, Sokoto, Hausa, Benin, Oyo, and many others.
It was the amalgamation of Nigeria on January 1, 1914 that brought the multiple nations and nationalities in todayâ€™s Nigeria together into one country. The amalgamation was at the instance ofÂ Frederick Lugard, a strong believer in the principle of centralism or unitarism. Until 1922, Nigeria did not have any constitution or working document.
With the first constitution, the Clifford Constitution of 1922, the North refused to participate in the countryâ€™s first deliberative council over nation-wide administration. To prevent the North from reverting to the situation before 1914, the Richards Constitution of 1946 tried to create three regions with some measure of recognition of the special needs of the three regions. Governor Arthur Richards once said that the best way to strengthen the unity of the country was to â€œencourage the regions to develop each along its characteristic lines.â€
Richardsâ€™ romance with regionalism was later built upon by the Macpherson Constitution of 1951. This constitution gave more legislative and executive responsibilities to the three regions, while still giving more concessions to the North that was given 45 seats at the Central Council while Eastern Region and Western Region each got 33 seats, as a compromise on the initial demand by Northern Emirs, especially the Emirs ofÂ Zaria and Katsina for 50 seats to complement 25 seats each from the two southern regions.
The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 in which the governor tried to assuage the fear of leaders of the North about possible domination by the South was the one polished to create what later became the Independence Constitution of 1960.
During the negotiation for the 1960 Constitution, each of the three regions opted for sharing of responsibilities between the federal and regional governments.
The Northern Region recommended that there should be a federal system of government in Nigeria and that in addition to a central legislature, there should be regional legislatures with powers to legislate on a number of specified subjects and also on such other matters as may, by legislation, enacted by the central legislature, be vested in the regional legislatures.
The Eastern Region recommended that there should be a federal system, with a central legislature and regional legislatures. It also recommended that the regional legislatures should exercise only such powers in any matter as the central legislature may delegate to them.
The Western Region recommended that there should be a federal government consisting of states formed on an ethnic and/or linguistic basis but that for the time being, there should be only three states, namely, Western, Eastern and Northern. It further recommended that there should be a federal parliament and state parliaments, and that the state parliaments should be competent to legislate on all residual matters not specifically included within the legislative powers of the Federal Parliament.
One of the Minority reports by Mbonu Ojike and Eyo Ita affirmed that â€œGrouping of Nigeria along ethnic and linguistic units would serve to remove the problems of boundaries andÂ minority dangers now threatening Nigeria .â€
The 1963 Republican Constitution was given legislative support through acts of federal and regional assemblies. So between 1946 and 1963, Nigeria had moved considerably away from the centralist or unitary governance that the amalgamation of 1914 symbolised.
It must be stated that the Republican Constitution of 1963 had entrenched in it the principle of 50% derivation for oil_producing regions Even after the creation of 12 states by Gowon, some measure of regional powers was still evident in each of the twelve states. It was the government of Murtala/Obasanjo that resumed the process of de-federalisation that Ironsi introduced in 1966 and for which he was removed from office by Northern troops.
Under this regime, symbols of federalism were removed: regional flags, coat of arms. The Federal Military Government took over regional universities, stadium, and broadcasting houses. It also commissioned the writing of a new national anthem to replace the Independence version, in addition to taking the power of indigen
ous communities over their ancestral lands and vesting such powers in the government through the Land Use Decree.
Imperative for complete dismantling of present constitutional order
The present constitutional order (1999 Constitution) is an amalgam of all the decrees by which the military executed the transformation of a federal system to a choking unitarism.
Let me explain that a constitution simply means what it says â€˜to constituteâ€™ â€“ bringing together many parts to form one whole.
In the context of Nigeria it is the agreement by and under which various peoples who could have been countries of their own submit aspects or all of their sovereignties (their lands and their peoples) to a union. The content as well as the process by which it emerges are clearly defined in legal jurisprudence all over the world. It settles three basic questions, namely:
Consent to enter into a union and the terms thereof; the formations/units (structure) and the scope and limits of the powers of the centre in relation to those of the federating units (exclusive, concurrent and residual lists).
It is on this basis that it becomes the grund norm or the supreme law of the land establishing the union and also the source of authority for government. Anything outside of this is illegitimate and comparable to the power armed robbers wield when they have overwhelmed a neighbourhood.
This is the fatal flaw of the â€˜1999 Constitutionâ€™ because it did not emerge through a process that can confer it with the status of the source of authority for governance. That is the crux of the cases in court against the 1999 Constitution, which we insist is a fraud and a forgery in that it was made by one Abdulasam Abubakar while it proclaims in its preamble that it was made by â€œwe the people…â€.
The answer to the simple question raised by those suits will determine the fate of the entity called Nigeria because if we did not make and enact the document as alleged, then it must be terminated forthwith. If we do not address the issue peacefully while we can, it will address itself violently.
as various groups are already taking unilateral steps to extricate themselves from the â€˜mistake of 1914â€™ and to retrieve their portion of the geo-space (geographical expression) called Nigeria.Â In this category we find OPC arming itself outside the law, Lagos State creating 57 LGAs outside the constitution, MASSOB flying the Biafran flags â€”Â in rejection of the constitution (Nigeria).
Today, 12 states in the north are operating sharia law outside the constitution, MEND is engaging the armed forces of Nigeria in a war â€”Â questioning their relationship with Nigeria in respect of the resources found in their region and which the constitution has vested in the centre by fiat. They are all saying the same thing â€“ we have not agreed.
Now to those notorious evils plaguing the country and the connection with the 1999 constitution, we have decayed infrastructure, insecurity, corruption, elections, resource control
SocialÂ welfare, education, healthcare, economicÂ policy etc and other basic social welfare instruments which are supposed to be the benefits of the citizens in the social contract called governance, are conveniently bunched away in a chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution rendered non_justiciable by S.6(6)(c). By these provisions the governments of Nigeria do not in law owe the citizens any obligations in respect of these social welfare services. Whatever they do is only a matter of conscience and on compassionate basis.
These are only a few examples, there are many more. The so called national assembly which pretends towards an amendment that will cure these evils is itself a creation of the same 1999 Constitution designed to sustain the skewed benefits entrenched in it.
It will be stupid to hope that the changes that will reverse these evils will come from them. Therefore it is imperative for all to join hands and dismantle the â€œapartheid constitution of 1999â€ imposed by a minority to the pain of the majority the same way the people of South Africa dislodged the evil when it came to their clime. These can be done within a Nigeria through a sovereign national conference or unilaterally as MASSOB advocates. The United Nations by its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the right to self determination.
Barr Fred Agbeyegbe
The Panacea to a troubled Nigeria
For mÂ Godâ€™s first gifts to man are the gift of life, the air God gave for the gift of life to endure, the land upon which man found himself, the resources with which God endowed the land in which man found himself, manâ€™s ability to choose and the inalienable right to choose.What to do with those gifts God gave him, what to do with himself and what to do with other people around him, are epitaphs in a manâ€™s other inalienable rights of self assertion and self determination.
Self assertion and self determination are the two characteristics of man created by God. Both gave rise to manâ€™s inherent and natural desire for self satisfaction, expressed through choices available to man in his abode and surroundings. The only limitation to his right to choose is that, if among other peopleÂ his right to choose ends where othersâ€™Â right to choose begin.