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Jurisprudential examination of Sovereignty Crises in Six Commonwealth States

BY MIKE OZAH O. OZAH

The book “Jurisprudence of Sovereignty – Commonwealth States; Political Instability and Crisis of Constitution Making”, is an incisive jurisprudential examination of the crisis of sovereignty in six selected commonwealth states – Cyprus, Malaysia, Pakistan, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria by Dr Chris Anyanwu. The author traces the political instability in the studied states to the absence of an autochthonous constitution as foundation for the repositioning of sovereignty on the people. A fully representative constitutional commission and referendum are necessary foundation for an autochthonous constitution that would locate sovereignty in the people of any polity.

This jurisprudential treatise is divided into seven parts. The first part examines in theoretical appraisal, the fons et erigo of the modern nation state within the context of international law and contemporary world order. It studies the pre-colonial political histories of the selected six countries under study with a view to highlighting the historical ethnic rivalries which were exploited by colonialism and impacted adversely on subsequent development in the polities by leading to their constitutional order imbroglio post independence.

The legality of colonial infiltration and usurpation of political power forms the thrust of part two of the book which examines the tension between the opposing forces of colonialism and nationalism. It also examines such theoretical issues as the propriety of colonialism as the basis of a legal system, the legal status of colonial states or territories, pre-colonialism, the treaties of cession or protection and the propriety of modern state title rooted in colonialisation. The book links the contemporary constitutional challenges of the countries under reference to their colonial experiences.

The book examines the issues of legitimacy and legitimation of sovereignty by an Act of British Parliament. It probes the crisis of self determination and independence and their legal significance as the bedrock of sovereignty. These are all critically examined in part three of the book which also deeply probed the experiences of independent states upon attaining self government. The legal x-ray of the fledging democracies under study resulted in the conclusion that the rapid collapse of their post colonial independence constitutional orders is not unconnected with constitutional orders that lacked autochthonous roots. In Nigeria for instance, the immediate past independence government was headed by the Queen of England as head of state while the Nigerian government was assumned. to be acting on behalf of the Queen! What an absurdity! Queen of England or Queen of Nigeria? If of England, was Nigeria an annex of England? If

of Nigeria, did Nigeria’s traditional rulers at anytime crown her Queen of Nigeria? It is apparent therefore that these anomalies would not be if the past independence constitutional order had autochthonous roots which would have taken into cognizance the challenges of the complex relationship between the Nigerian society and its laws.

The lack of autochthonous roots for post colonial governments soon gave birth to political crisis which necessitated states of emergencies. Part four of the book undertakes a critical considerations of these political emergencies, evaluating them against the backdrop of international law.

The author recommends that the courts should play a more prominent role by resorting to rules of international law or universal legal principles and international human rights norms such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, African Charter on Human and Poeple’s Rights and other international legal documents in eking out solution to the persistent constitutional crises or instability of such decolonised polities as the six democracies under reference. In his focus on Nigeria, the author is of the view that Nigerian courts were not sufficiently proactive in drawing on international and universal legal principles to solve emergencies arising from constitutional logjams. The book actually considers the approval of Nigerian courts as timid.

The author also questions the current frontiers of constitutional jurisprudence on military seizure and usurpation of the people’s sovereingty in commonwealth jurisdictions in the light of court decisions, academic and juristic opinions. He submits boldly that it is high time military usurpation of state power is recognised in law by courts as revolution. The book considers positivist doctrines as they relate to solving constitutional problems as destructive and recommends a recourse to international legal instruments.


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