By Nwabueze Akabogu
The 9th Senate of the National Assembly recently constituted fifty-six members Senate Committee to carry out further review or amendments of the military imposed 1999 constitution. The members of the Senate Committee drawn from the six geo-political zones and headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege as its chairman was inaugurated by the Senate President Ahmed Lawan with the mandate to immediately carry out extensive amendments of the 1999 constitution that will reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people.
It will be recalled however, that previous attempts to amend the military contrived constitution had always ended in fiasco or monumental disaster due to political intrigues and glaring insincerity on the part of the political class. The first attempt to amend the anti-people constitution was carried out during the former President Obasanjo Administration when the 5th Senate under the leadership of the former Senate President Ken Nnamani outrightly rejected the lofty amendments based on the alleged 3rd term ambition of former President Obasanjo, thereby “throwing out the bath water with the baby”. There was yet another attempt to amend the constitution during the 8th Senate when the immediate past Senate President Olusola Saraki constituted Senate committee on constitution review headed by the then Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. Although that committee carried out extensive work on the constitution amendments including conducting public hearings, and yet the exercise was later aborted as its recommendations never saw the light of the day.
Again in 2014 former President Jonathan constituted a high powered constitutional conference tagged “2014 confab” which was made up of eminent Nigerians headed by the erudite jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Late Justice Lutigi of blessed memory as its chairman with the renowned Professor and former Nigeria Foreign Affairs Minister Bolaji Akinyemi as the Vice Chairman. That noble committee was mandated to fashion out a brand new constitution for the country that will satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigeria people. After about three months of intensive debates and political horse trading, these eminent men and women finally produced what could be described as generally acceptable document as the country’s new constitution which was later submitted to former President Jonathan for immediate implementation.
It is a matter of deep regret and national calamity that the envisaged new constitution which would have offered Nigeria a new lease of life and by extension the consolidation of her unity did not see the light of the day but had since been gathering dust at the Presidency without being implemented for the common good of the Nigerian people.
There was again another committee set up by the Buhari administration on restructuring during his first tenure. The report of that committee which was headed by the Governor of Kaduna State El-Rufia is yet to be made public up till this moment. One could go on and on ad inifinitum on the previous attempts by successive administrations in the country to further amend the 1999 anti-people constitution. However, there had been persistent clamour for a brand new constitution that would satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people and which would truly be called the people’s constitution.
It is needless to emphasize the point that for Nigeria as a nation to record any meaningful progress in her socio-economic cum political development, the country urgently needs a brand new constitution through a Constituent Assembly whereby the people of Nigeria from all shades of opinion and diversity would participate in fashioning out a new constitution to be truly called the people’s constitution.
The current military imposed 1999 constitution has obviously outlived its usefulness and must therefore be jettisoned to make way for the people oriented constitution that will satisfy the wishes and aspirations of the over two hundred million Nigerians who had been subjugated by the anti-people constitution for many decades.
If Nigeria must join the comity of advanced democracies in the world and stop her current retrogression, our present crop of leaders must rise to the occasion and quickly create the conducive political environment for the enthronement of true and genuine democratic principles and norms within the frame work of the people’s constitution. In fashioning out a new constitution, the current unitary system of government being operated under the guise of Federalism must be totally abrogated to make way for true fiscal Federalism as obtainable in advanced democracies such as the U.S from where Nigeria borrowed her federal system of government.
The country must therefore be restructured in such a manner that regions and not the present states would constitute the federating units while the states or provinces as the case may be would operate under the regions and those regions would also determine the number of states or provinces as well as their statutory functions. The envisaged constitutional arrangement would obviously engender healthy competitions among the regions and they must be allowed to develop at their own pace based on their individual peculiarities and natural endowments.
The Central or National Government would only be assigned with such functions namely: National Defence, National Currency, Foreign Affairs among other functions as may be prescribed in the new constitution. Again in order to further strengthen national unity, cohesion and integration, Nigerian citizenship must be based on place or state of residence rather than the current archaic and primordial policy of state of origin which had greatly impeded the orderly growth and transformation of the nation as a modern state.
The above patriotic recommendations for a brand new constitution are the only panacea for the survival and continued existence of Nigeria as one united country. The only alternative to the envisaged new constitution is the disintegration of the country which now seems inevitable given the prevailing extremely dangerous and precarious situation in the country.
In the circumstances therefore, Nigeria could be allowed to disintegrate peacefully by giving effect to the formal abrogation of the infamous amalgamation treaty of 1914 by the erstwhile British colonial powers. The diverse ethnic nationalities that were forcibly lumped together in an unholy union by the British Imperialists could now go their separate ways as was the case in the former powerful Soviet Union or USSR where the fifteen Republics that were originally forcibly brought together by the former Soviet dictator Stalin in 1922 and the union was later dissolved by the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1992. Consequently, every constituent Soviet Republic declared its independence from the defunct Soviet Union following the end of the cold war in 1991.
Nigeria could as well take a cue from the experience of the former Soviet Union and peacefully dissolve the rather unwieldy and unworkable union and later work out the modality for economic co-operation between or among the various independent nations that might eventually emerge after the dissolution of the Nigerian union.
Nze Nwabueze Akabogu (JP) is a Regular Public Affairs Commentator and Analyst.