The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, stated last week that the constitutional review process embarked upon by the National Assembly is a “waste of time,” adding that fundamental changes are needed in Nigeria, including the power of states to enforce laws.
The Governor added, “What we are fighting for, is central to the development of this country. States should be able to enforce the laws in their states. People ask me about Yoruba Presidency and I say what we need now is not that but restructuring. I am not saying it is a magic bullet.”
The Senate public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution last week, has already seen the Lagos State Governor, Jide Sanwo-Olu request a special economic status for Lagos, State Police, and the entrenchment of true fiscal federalism in Nigeria.
The House of Reps also revealed that that the zonal public hearing in the geopolitical zones on the review has been fixed for June 1st to 3rd. Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase said, “We have an opportunity to write our names in gold, let us not waste this golden opportunity as all eyes are on us.”
Is the review process a waste of time?
Chima Nnaji, a legal practitioner and political commentator, in a Saturday evening interview, told Nairametrics, that the review process might as well be nothing but a mere tactic to buy time for the administration.
“It a total waste of time, designed to buy time for the maintenance of the status quo, the review would achieve absolutely nothing, except helping those benefitting from the present order to buy time,” he said.
“It is a fraudulent exercise because it lacks legitimacy, which has not been confirmed by the people in whom sovereignty lies,” Nnaji added.
He revealed that it should be the benefit of every Nigerian, that a new constitution be developed, where the 68 items in the exclusive list are delisted as it will address the interest of everybody on an equalitarian basis.
“If Justice is denied equity is impossible, and where both are not operating, there would be agitations, and only a matter of time before the agitations reach the street. The youth do not have the patience of their grandparents and parents which did not yield any dividend. They want it now and the earlier those holding Nigeria down realize this, the better for them, otherwise themselves, will have no system to enjoy, and the new order will flush them out,” he warned.
Areas in the constitution that should be reworked
When asked about the possibility of amending sections of the constitution as a stopgap measure until a new constitution is drafted, Nnaji stated that if the lawmakers are sincere, it could indeed be done but only as a temporary panacea as the more permanent solution would be drawing up an entirely new constitution based on justice, equity and true federalism. He further suggested that the present geopolitical zones could be made into separate federating units.
“There needs to be a situation where respected representatives of ethnic groups come together to draft a constitution that will reflect the interest of the country. It is doable, all you need is to use the 6 geo-political zones as federating units on an equalitarian basis.
There has to be a rejigging of the system in a radical way, and the best way of doing that is getting a new constitution that is equitable, based on the foundations of justice and equality,” he reiterated.
Should the review process be ditched?
Although he stated his reservations about the outcome of the review being positive, Nnaji encouraged the National Assembly to tackle the assignment with courage saying that the present government is currently faced with an opportunity to write its name in gold in Nigeria’s history. Moreover, the process had been budgeted for and it is only logical that it should be steered to a fruitful conclusion.
He warned that Nigeria needs to work hard and fast to bring in a new constitution, to achieve higher levels of fiscal federalism and resource control, and noted that this would force states to become more productive. Although the initial stages would be tough, there is no easier way to bring a lasting solution to the myriad of problems facing the nation.
“If we must go ahead with constitution review due to budgetary obligations, it has to be a very short schedule, the ultimate aim is to get a brand new constitution through a national conference, it has been done in the Benin Republic, it can be done alongside a present government, which also gives Buhari the opportunity to rewrite his name in Gold,” he added.
Timeframe for the review process
“The amendment can take place within the next 2 months if they are serious and there are key areas that need urgent attention. There is no need for new states, we have to manage with what we have until we have a new constitution based on equalitarian principles. In the application of federalism, the southwest is the same as the southeast and other geopolitical regions. Creating states would then be the business of each region.
If the administration would go ahead with the wishes of ordinary Nigerians, the nation can have a new constitution by December 2021,” he stated.
Why this matters
The clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria has grown louder in recent years stemming from the heightened economic hardship and insecurity in the country. There is no better time for the government to begin to address the people’s demands as the growing dissatisfaction particularly among the youth may as well end up becoming the nation’s undoing.