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Tony Nnadi: The problem with Nigeria’s constitution (2)

We have to ask ourselves: what is that Nigeria? The reason it has become a question so very urgent is that by 1966 things happened: soldiers came and toppled the five constitutions that became that federation. It had become five because Mid-Western Region came in 1963, adding to the three earlier regions and and a federal constitution;

By the coup of 1966, those constitutions were toppled and with this toppling you had a centralisation of power; you had a centre that should have been the union’s office of those federating regions now becoming the owner of the whole country, taking us to what you call unitarism in which all the economic assets of Nigeria had become the assets of a federal government that emerged in the midst of the confusion between 1966 and 1967.

It was a rogue federal government in the sense that you cannot have a federal government without a federation. Nigeria ceased to be a federation effectively in 1967.

It was an imposition that put the assets and rights of the erstwhile regions in the hands of a central federal government, such that is it now the federal government that is giving back to the states that were later created, because they had become mere appendages of the federal government to the point that even the simple matter of electing who would govern them is exercised by an central electoral body called INEC. It’s like people in California having to wait on someone from Maine or Arizona to decide who will govern them.

To put aside that imposition, two things must be tackled: we must examine the preamble to the constitution that declares that “We the people of the federal republic of Nigeria, having solemnly agreed to live as one indivisible country, do hereby and give unto ourselves the following constitution…”

There are two things contained in that preamble: that we the Ijaw, we the Ogoni, we the Tiv, we the Idoma, we the Fulani having consulted and discussed amongst ourselves, hereby make and give ourselves the following constitution; like a company that shareholders and promoters are putting together. The first thing is for them to agree.

There is the ‘Memo’ (A, B, C and D agreeing to come together) and there is the ‘Article’ (What will happen in the management and control of XYZ Limited). That’s exactly what a constitution does for a country. And that’s exactly what we have in our hands is a situation where what we agreed had been toppled, and what is written came from an imposition from way back 1979.

On the matter of restructuring: many people who speak of restructuring it most often begin and end with amendment of the constitution, and that is the opposite of what the situation requires.

Tony Nnadi

But the first order of business is to accept that we have not made a constitution. Just like the apartheid constitution of South Africa: was it by amendment that it was cured? There was a master-servant imposition by the Boers against the owners of the land; they, otherwise, became servants in their own land. That’s exactly what Nigeria fell into from the point a constitution was imposed on them in which second- and third-class citizens in their own place.

Let me be clear: the mandate of the National Assembly does not include constitution making; the mandate of the National Assembly, given to them by election,is one in which they have to make laws by the constitution.

The owners of Nigeria have rejected the 1999 constitution as a basis of their nationhood. All the self determination initiatives, including those who have become determined enough to carry arms (the Niger Delta agitation, the Biafra agitation, the Oodua agitation, we’ve come together looking at the nature of the problem and come to the conclusion that it cannot be resolved by coing into an election.

We, the Lower Niger Congress, already went public on December 11 in Lagos with the Freedom Pact Proclamation to tell the politicians that we the owners of reject this constitution.

The Yoruba Solemn Assembly did similarly in September in Ibadan, where their governors and traditional rulers told the whole world that they had rejected this constitution as the basis of the union that is Nigeria.

The Eastern side had rejected it at the Solemn Assembly of 2015. Same for the Middle Belt — remember the day they stopped the plane from landing? So the owners of Nigeria have rejected that constitution and going into elections will only reinforce that constitution.

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