March 26, 2024

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

From last week continues the narrative of how Professor Ben Nwabueze emerged as a member of the 50-man Constitution Drafting Committee inaugurated on October 18,1975, his other appointments as well as his very lofty background 

ATANI, his hometown, is the headquarters of Ogbaru Local Government in Anambra State. Atani is also the hometown of my favourite musician, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe(March 17, 1936- May 11, 2007). In 2004, I was in Atani when my friend, Chief Chris Nwabueze Ngige (71) from Alor in Idemili South Local Government, was the Governor of Anambra State. A very quiet town.  

Professor Ben Nwabueze was later made the chairman of the sub-committee on National Objectives and Public Accountability of the Constitution Drafting Committee. Other members of the committee were Kanmi Ishola Osobu and Professor Emmanuel Uwamagbuhunmwun Emovon (February 24, 1929 – February 20, 2020) from Benin City, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Jos, who later became the Minister of Science and Technology under General Ibrahim Babangida. The other members were Dr. A.Y. Aliyu, lecturer Public Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Chief Paul Wanteregh Unongo (September 26, 1937 to November 29, 2022) from Jato Aka in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, who later became Minister of Power and Steel under President Shehu Shagari and Alhaji Ibrahim Imam (1916 – April 1980), a Kanuri politician from Borno, who was the secretary of the Northern People’s Congress and later became a patron of the Borno Youth Movement. He was elected into the Northern House of Assembly in 1961, representing a Tiv district. Prior to his election in 1961, he had represented his district of Yerwa in 1951 after supporting a strike of Native Administration workers.

It was in this subcommittee that Professor Nwabueze served his country best. His footprints are all over the 1979 Constitution. Professor Nwabueze subcommittee’s main objectives were: (1) to consider and make recommendations on the desirability of embodying National Objectives and Directive Principles in the Nigerian Constitution; (2) to suggest what such principles and objectives should be; (3) to consider and make recommendations regarding constitutional arrangements to ensure observance of and conformity to such principles and objectives, including the procedure to amend this part of the Constitution; and (4) to examine and make recommendations on institutional and other arrangements to prevent corruption and abuse of power on the part of all persons holding public offices or exercising power (be it executive, legislative or judicial).

The committee’s recommendations were that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is one, indivisible and indissoluble, sovereign state based on the principles of democracy and social justice and, accordingly, (a) Sovereignty belongs to the people from whom government, through this constitution derives all its powers and authorities; (b) the welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; (c) Government shall be responsible and accountable to the people; (d) participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution; (e) the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this constitution and to ensure and facilitate the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people; (f) the state shall not adopt any religion as state religion but the freedom of every individual to preach, to teach and to practice the religion of his choice shall be respected and protected.

It was Professor Nwabueze’s subcommittee that recommended the 15 codes which a public officer must adhere to. If those codes had been enforced, I am sure this country would have been a better place. The codes were: “a leader shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his responsibilities as a leader, or which enables him to explore others; without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing paragraph, a leader shall not (a) hold more one public office, (b) engage in any private, trade or profession, (c) receive any remuneration, gain or profit other than the emolument payable to him in respect of the specified office held by him; (d) a leader shall not, after his retirement from public service and while receiving pension from public funds, accept a remunerative position as chairman, director or employee of a public company or receive any other remuneration from public funds in addition to his pension. 

Notwithstanding anything in paragraphs 3 and 4, a leader shall be entitled to earn, in addition to his emoluments as a leader— (a) interest on money deposited in a bank, building society or other financial institutions; (b) dividends or other profits from stocks or shares held by him in any registered company; (c) interest on government stock; (d) gains or advantage derived through personal labour on land owned or occupied by him. 

6. No person shall own or occupy more than one plot of State land throughout the country. Any person who at the coming into force of this Code owns or occupies more than one plot of State land shall sell the excess over one plot to the State. The price—(a) as regards the ground shall be at a rate at which allocations of State land in the area in which the plot is located are made by the Government at the time of sale; (b) as regards any building erected on the plot, shall be such as may be agreed or determined by the court in default of agreement.

A leader shall not ask for nor accept any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done, to be done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties, nor accept gifts of whatever nature other than from relatives and personal friends.

To be concluded