By John Amoda
THISDAY, February 17, 2013 in the Sunday News page carries the story titled, “Nigeria Sliding into a Failed State, say Nwabueze, Akinrinade, others- seek convocation of National Confab”. It is this phrasing of the National Question that informs the title of this particular column.
When we read sections 13 and 14 of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution we will see the necessity of distinguishing between the state as capability for sovereignty and government as the governance institution of sovereigns.
Making this distinction will, in fact, help to amplify the enormity and urgency of the issues symptomatic of the national crisis alluded to as slide into a failed state and what should be the subject matter of the National Confab advocated by Professor Nwabueze and the other leaders of opinion.
Section 13 states:
“It shall be the duty and responsibility of all exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of the Constitution”.
The authority of this section inheres in the enforcement of the duty and responsibility declared in this section. Justiciability is a consequence of the dereliction of this duty and responsibility.
Absence of an authority to compel all organs of government and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter titled “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy”, Section 13 is reduced to guidelines and directives to be treated as suggestions. Yet duty and responsibility are not words of suggestion or advice- they are imperative in denotation and connotation.
Section 14 (1) (2)(a)(b)(c) declares the state policy.
(1) “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that-
(a)Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its power and authority
(b)The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
(c)The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of this Constitution”.
Section 14 declares that the Federal Republic of Nigeria to be a state founded on the principles of democracy and social justice, it is accordingly declared that:
(a)Sovereignty belongs to the people from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
(b)The security and welfare of the people shall be primary purpose of government; and
(c)The participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of this Constitution.
Section 14(a) is the foundation of the State. It should be rock solid to bear the edifice of the nation called the Federal Republic of Nigeria; but Section 14(a) it is not; it is only declarative.
It should not be a declaration, it should be expressive of the fact of a sovereign people with the capability of sovereigns for exercising their sovereignty through their Constitution; the government should be the government they institute, their government; but there is no such state because the people with the capability for sovereignty is merely assumed and assigned the status of a sovereign while the promulgators of the 1999 Constitution exercised their sovereign will of enacting a Constitution for their government.
We thus find that the 1999 Constitution is not an act of the People as the state. The People have not the capacity for sovereignty because they have not instituted their sovereignty over the territory of Nigeria and have not set up for themselves a government whose primary purpose is their security and welfare.
What Professor Nwabueze alludes as state failure is thus the failure of the government the 1999 Constitution has established and unconstrained by Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution. What is absent in Nigerian constitutionalism is the fact of the People who through contestations for proprietary control of the country have established themselves as owners and rulers of Nigeria.
Such an end is not accomplished without the instrument of sovereigns power- the Party of the People, the instrument by which the People have organised themselves into a Nigerian territorial sovereignty.
The distinguishing characteristic of the Nigerian Constitution is its enactment of governments without sovereigns, of governments responsible to themselves.
Sovereignty being an achievement and not a postulation, the state is its institutional expression and the party is the organisation of the people as sovereign, as their organised capacity for sovereignty, and cannot therefore be abstracted from The People; for there is no The People, without the People organised as sovereigns, as The Party. What the 1999 Constitution recognises as political parties in section 221-224 are authorised mechanisms for canvassing for votes for candidates at any elections. An association shall function as a political party when it conforms to conditions stipulated in the relevant provisions of the Constitution.
The political parties of the Constitution are thus not the organs of the sovereignty of The People but mechanisms for electing candidates for running the government as provided for by the Constitution of its promulgators. It is the constitutional political system established by the promulgators of the Constitution for the running of their government according to the provision of their Constitution that is in crises. It is the constitutional political arrangements that is sliding into a failure. As a bridge fails and collapses under the load it should normally carry, so is Nigerian Constitutional Government in crisis. It is because it is government and not governance that is failing that is why its failure is equated with a failed state. The Nigerian crises are two crises in one- (1) The absence of a sovereignty in Nigeria (2) The failing of government.
“This country,” observes Prof Nwabueze, “is on the verge of becoming a failed state, there are so many failed states in Africa and Nigeria is on the verge of getting that status of a failed state. Before now, we didn’t know about kidnapping, but it has become a way of life.
Did we know about bombing before? But today churches, schools, offices are being bombed on daily basis; the worst is that bombers are not coming from outside of the country, we are bombing ourselves. A nation that cannot provide a credible election for her people is a failed state. In 2003, 2011 we had no credible elections, yet we are talking about democracy.
A country that cannot secure social and economic rights for her people is a failed state. Read chapter 2 of Nigeria’s Constitution and you will understand what I am talking about; they are not leaders but looters,” he said…
The professor lamented that the masses are suffering and living in abject poverty while the National Assembly members have all kinds of allowances running into millions of naira.