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This patch-patch Constitution

By Josef Omorotionmwan
SOME of the things we do to survive are mind-boggling and sometimes, outright irritating. For the traders, their constant prayers are that when they are buying, prices should fall and when they are selling, prices should hit the ceiling.

This view is centred on the self. Although society is supposed to be based on the mutual coexistence of all, as far as they are concerned, they must make their money and others could go to hell. Their policy is one of live and let die.

That is why a man could travel from Nigeria to India and arrange for merchants of death to repackage and re-label expired drugs which he would bring down to Nigeria for the use of his countrymen. At the end, people die like poisoned rats and we conclude that malaria is now resistant to malaria drugs.

This is our quick-fix research because things have changed to the extent that while the overseas universities are researching into space and thinking of how to get to Mars, our universities are yet researching into pure water and how to break even to be able to pay the next salaries before proceeding on strike.

All the same, we are moving fast. The smuggling business still thrives. Because of our penchant for foreign goods, we must smuggle out our crude oil to Niger Republic, refine it there and import it back to Nigeria. Those fine shoes made in Aba must be cleverly labelled “Made in Italy” so as to lift their prices slightly above ground level.

By now, the reader should know where we are heading. If things are bad in the outside world, they are worse in the legislative world. The process of lawmaking has since become a process of self-aggrandizement. When they make a law, they build themselves into the law. When they amend the Constitution, they amend themselves into the Constitution. Simply because a man wants to reapply as the President of this country, he must first seek to amend the tenure from four to five years. At first, he must pretend that he will not benefit from the amendment. But Dr. Syracuse Njoku, a PDP chieftain of no mean repute, knows better. He has since dragged our President to the court in an attempt to prevent him from that contest.

Without prejudice to what the court will decide, we are yet to see how President Goodluck Jonathan will solve the two simultaneous equations – extend the tenure to five years and then reverse himself into it! At the end of the day, he shall have spent 10 years as the President of Nigeria (1+4+5). If this is not a life presidency, we wonder what is. And who says that this will be the end of the manipulation, as long as the process of the Constitution amendment is still open?

Proposed amendments

For the senators, it is a two-pronged approach: With the proposed amendments, those who want to return to the Senate will enjoy a longer tenure. More importantly, states are going to be carved out as retirement benefits for some Senators. They have carefully reckoned that under the existing state structure, they will not be able to win a governorship election. Their grand design is to reduce their different enclaves to states to which they can conveniently return as governors. These are some of the important factors for which they now go gallivanting the entire country in the name of Constitution amendment.

The whole issue of the so-called constitutional amendment is becoming upsetting.

The greatest stupidity on earth is doing,
even with the greatest dexterity, that which ought not to be done. This country has engaged its entire life in amending its Constitution. At independence in 1960, we gave to ourselves a Constitution. This was amended in 1963 to reflect our Republican status. The 1979 Constitution was one major amendment on the 1963 one. At the end of every military interregnum, we had an amended Constitution. Thus, after the 1988 and 1995 processes – known by various names – Constituent Assembly and Constitutional Conference – we finally came up with what metamorphosed into the 1999 Constitution. In August 2010, close to one thousand clauses of the 1999 instrument were amended in a single swoop. In October of the same year, the National Assembly reversed itself on some of the amendments it made two months earlier. By the way, who has ever set eye on the amended 1999 Constitution? It must still be undergoing the patch-patch process, eh?

When it suits us, we imitate the Americans but quite often, and in the present rumble in the jungle, we are on our own. Since 1791, when the American Constitution – which we lifted almost wholesale – came into effect, only 14 sections have been altered!

Yes, a Constitution that has 68 items on the Exclusive Legislative List (an area exclusively reserved for the Federal Government) and 30 items on the Concurrent Legislative List (where the Federal Government, states and localities can share power) is clearly a unitary formation, not a federation. This is a clear indication that power is concentrated at the centre and there is need for the devolution of more powers to the states and localities for efficient and effective federalism.

Clearly, our present Constitution is at war with itself; full of inconsistencies – it professes democracy while it is authoritarian; it strives towards federalism while it is every inch unitary; and it struggles towards secularism while it remain theocratic. What is needed now is a total overhaul of the Constitution, not this patch-patch approach, which can hardly help even the cause of amending a local government edict!



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