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A perspective on Obama and Clinton African policy (2)

CHAPTER 2 of the 1999
Constitution captioned “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy” puts in bold relief the arguments that are being made. Section 13 clearly states: “It shall be the duty and responsibility of 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 these chapter of this Constitution”.
The responsibility is specific. It covers not some, but all organs of government. Not some, but all authorities. Not some persons, but all persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers. They are enjoined in the exercise of these powers in every arm of government to conform to observe and apply the provisions of this chapter.
A key provision of this chapter is Section 14 which states: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice”. The repudiation of the relationship between principals and agents in an electoral process is a fundamental attack on the principles of democracy as stated in Section 14(1). Section 14 (2) is explicit in its description of the principal as stated in Section 14 (1), namely: “It is hereby accordingly declared that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria, from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority”. The repudiation of the principal by its agents – legislative, executive, or judicial is therefore an overthrow of this directive principle of state policy. Apropos the point made above Section 14 (2) (b) and (c) defines substantively and in terms of process the interests of the principal in its sovereignty:
(b)the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
(c)    the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.
All of the above assumes the existence of sovereigns, the integrity of sovereigns, the efficacy of their choice of agents to execute their preferences.  But when the very existence of sovereigns are radically repudiated as agents become principals through the process of election, at issue is the power of sovereigns to correct so radical an affront.
Usurpation of the power of the electorate by their elected agents is not an issue that can be pursued while the repudiation is in force. Security of sovereigns, defense of their existence as sovereigns, stabilising the conditions for institutionalising their existence as sovereigns are not actions that agents can undertake, be they legislative, executive, or judicial. Sovereigns must be capable of defeating assaults on their positions as sovereigns directly and decisively.
From the above we confront the challenge and relevance of constitutions drafted by government, be they military or civilian, for society as a whole and in the name of a putative sovereign. If a case can be made in Nigeria for the relevance of a government acting on behalf of the sovereign as presented in the Constitution, then what has been argued as attributes of sovereigns require, at the very minimum, a robust defense of constitutionalism as a process of encouraging the emergence and development of the people as sovereign.
So far the political history of post-colonial Nigeria shows a lack of commitment by the civilian politician or their military rivals to a people who are sovereign and who should be developed as sovereigns. The defense of popular democracy in the language of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria entails an acknowledgement of a misalignment between the professions of the constitution and practices supposedly legitimated by the same constitution.
The problems identified in this exposition are not only those of election reforms, constitutional amendment, or governmental reforms. They deal with the relevance of constitutions as expressions of sovereignty. This problem must contextualize the discourse on the matters of democracy and popular rule.
President Barak Obama and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton have brought to the fore of political discussions in Africa matters of elections, fair and free, transparent, governance, service by accountable leadership, zero tolerance for corruption and supports for institutions of rule of law. What is not sufficiently recognised by the current US administration are the sub-structural issues of sovereignty and relationship between sovereigns and their agents.
History tells us that the super structural matters of governance, legitimacy, transparency, are the down stream challenges dependent upon the up-stream resolution of contests among putative sovereigns. Whatever epoch is in focus, Roman, Grecian, or New World, contestation for who governs or who rules have always been resolved  before the stream lining of constitutions by the group that emerge as dominant in the struggle over sovereignty. This is true of the US that fought a civil war to determine who rules – the party of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davies. It is true for Europe that had fought two global wars. It is true of every unit of the NATO countries. We wish Africa could skip this phase of history. This is the problem, addressing the up and down stream statecraft issues in one go, and out of sequence.


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