It should not come as a surprise that many Nigerians are not paying much attention to the ongoing zonal public hearings for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
Nigerians are severely distracted by the security challenges that threaten to capsize our ship of state. All the killings and kidnappings that are making it difficult for people to move freely and live their normal lives make the talks of yet another constitution review seem irrelevant.
This exercise is widely seen as a jamboree and laughable. Jamboree in that, over the years, billions of naira to carry out amendments that have done little to make life better for Nigerians. Laughable in that the man implicated for the daylight seizure of the Mace, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege in April 2018, is now riding on the Mace’s sanctity to head yet another constitution amendment.
Above all, what proof do we have that the age-old clamour for restructuring of the federation to wean it of its military legacies will be respected by the president and guardians of special interests in the National Assembly who insist that we maintain a failed system simply because it benefits them?
We are strong believers that the 1999 Constitution is a sham. It is a military Decree imposed on Nigerians without their input. This means that we are not only operating a false federalism, but we also live with a false democracy. The powers of the centre remain overweening. The federating units, having been crippled to perform their functions as the economic workshops of the nation, Nigeria’s over 200 million people are forced to survive mainly on the dwindling oil rents shared monthly in Abuja.
The only redeeming factor in this round of constitution amendment public hearings is that it offers perhaps the final opportunity for our leaders to rescue this country by taking urgent steps to create a new, people-based constitution for the federation of Nigeria.
One of the options for us is to take a fresh look at the 1963 Republican Constitution which created a very strong regional base and gave a newly independent nation the fuel of productivity and competition among the defunct regions. This was the period that this country recorded the fastest growth in its history.
If we adopt the 1963 Constitutional model with a six, eight or 12-state/regional structure and a heavily devolved Federal Exclusive List, we will automatically reduce the cost of governance to at least a third of what it is today. With healthy competition among the regions and equitable access to power at the centre, the current separatist agitations might wither away, and Nigeria will resume its military-interrupted march to greatness. Bring back the 1963 Constitution.