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Search for Nigeria’s security challenge: The Patriots’ proposal (2)

John Amoda
THIS is so because in the three periods relevant for support for The Patriots choice of the basis of sovereign representation, the sovereigns in the societies that were united to form the Nigerian Province of the British Empire were never normally and universally ethnic nationality sovereign. In the pre-colonial period, sovereignty was variously monarchical, imperial, and age groups stratified.

In the colonial period all included in the British Empire were subject of the English monarchy.

For administrative convenience, the British co-opted native rulership institutions and banished rebel monarchs and elites from their kingdoms. “We put kingdoms in parenthesis because British Imperial Sovereignty was not a divided or shared one.

The contemporary traditional rulers were legitimated as officials of British rule and ruled at the pleasure of the British Colonial Office. The British in granting independence to Nigeria did not restore to power the pre-colonial rulers nor did they by their transition constitution from colonial rule to self rule re-instate the pre-colonial orders.

The British transferred the administration of the Colony of Nigeria to politicians organised as electoral parties.

The successor administration of the government of the Colony of Nigeria declared by the British Government on October 1, 1960 to be the representative of a new sovereignty was formed by electoral parties legitimated by the British Colonial Government. Colonial Nigeria legitimated as sovereign Nigeria through negotiated cession of authority by the British Colonial Office to parties elected in elections organised by the British Colonial authorities in 1959 was a new societal construction- a province of an empire, not a restoration of the independence of pre-colonial societies.

Colonial Nigeria was constructed through British imperial conquest. It was not constructed through a contract of pre-colonial sovereigns which would have been tantamount to a contract to become subjects of the British Monarchy. Colonially created traditional chieftaincies were not successors of the pre-colonial autonomous sovereigns.

In the Northern part of this country, politicians organised for elections through partnership with the colonial traditional rulership. Similar methods were applied in the Yoruba South West. In the East, political parties were put together through electoral organisation of economic and ethnic associations.

The stake for all parties was control of the administration of the colonial government now legitimated as the sovereign government of Nigeria.

If there is any place for the role of contract it was in the agreement of political parties to act as one in constitutional conferences organised by the British Colonial Government for transfer of proprietary authority over the Colonial Government of Nigeria to a concert of politicians organised as rival electoral parties.

There were differences within and among the colonial delegations of Nigerian politicians negotiating for the independence of Colonial Nigeria from British rule. Their options were limited. They could agree to downgrade their differences so as to obtain their goal of independence or they could let their disagreements prevent their attainment of their common objectives.

Consensus on the goal of ending British rule in Nigeria did not extend to unanimity on the issue of what party or coalition of parties would constitute the successor sovereignty. Political parties in Nigeria eventually chose to create electorates based on political construction of ethnic unanimity. Similarly, they chose to configure governments, regional, state and local on constructions of ethnic unanimity.

These ethnicities were constructed for electoral purposes for the capture and control of government. Every institution of government and governance were instituted on the basis of constructions of ethnic unanimity.

These constructions made no room for constructions of ethnic diversities. A consensus has emerged on the status of the people in the promulgation of constitutions by civilian and military politicians. From 1979 to the present constitutional amendment exercise, the people, not the ethnic nationalities has been proclaimed The Entity of the Sovereign in Nigeria Section 14[2(a)] is a problematic statement of this consensus.

“Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom Government through this Constitution derives its powers and authority”. The whole statement is problematic because it makes sovereignty a property.

Can the people secure their sovereignty when government has always from colonial period to the present been indeed de-facto exerciser of sovereignty? If The Patriots seek to subsume their construct of ethnic nationality under that of the promulgators of the Constitutions of Nigeria there is still left unresolved the problem of how to ensure that the 389 ethnic nationalities substantially represent the people.

In any case, The Patriots have rejected the postulation that there is the people. The Patriots state that there are 389 peoples, each a claimant to the collective sovereignty. This is a political argument, not a constitutional one. And there is no context or condition for constituting the people from the 389 peoples.

There is only one starting point in thinking through the question of the modalities for the conference. We must start from the basic premise that Nigeria is a British institution which has now been ceded to Nigerians.

If we are to adopt a nationalist stand on what Nigeria is, namely, a province of an empire now declared a separate country, we must jettison from the national conference discourse concepts of Nigeria defined in terms of electoral denominations. Nigeria is ceded to all Nigerians. How to secure this gift from ruin is the present security challenge.

 


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