13 May 2010

Nigeria: 1963 Constitution Is The Solution Predicament

opinion

Lagos — A Consideration of the Constitutional Transition And Development in Nigeria, From the Pre-Independence Constitutions Which Include the 1922 Clifford Constitution, 1946 Richards Constitution, 1957 Macpherson Constitution, 1954 Lyttleton Constitution And the Post-Independence Constitutions Which Include the 1963 Republican Constitution, 1979 Republican Constitution, And the Present 1999 Constitution, Reveals That the Nation's Experience in Constitutionalism Has Brought to the Fore the Heterogeneous And Diverse Nature of the Country. This Has Posed a Serious Challenge to Our Survival As a Nation. Only the 1963 Constitution Appears to Address These Challenges And Capture the Essence of Our Diversity.

It seems clear that the political bastardization, constitutional uproar and the structural and systemic deterioration in our polity are as a result of the operation of the current 1999 Constitution. This is because the present Constitution is a fraudulent document that lied to itself in its preamble because Nigerians did not at any time gather anywhere to enact such a Constitution as claimed by its preamble. Rather it was imposed on us in a manner reminiscent of a testament after the demise of the testator. Thus, the bane of the present Constitution lies in the absence of the people's consideration by the military before its enactment. From its making, content and context, there are several inherent contradictions and lacunae in its provisions which call for the restoration of 1963 Constitution.

It is through the 1963 Constitution the nation can experience the operation of true federalism and democratic ethos, where the federating units will have their autonomy, authority and independence on a wide range of subjects, and also exercise control over their resources. It provides, furthermore, ample opportunity for the federating components to develop at their own pace and focus on those consequential issues that address the people's needs.

It is unfortunate that the present Constitution lacks true federalism. This is because it was not subjected to referendum, and any constitution that is not subjected to a referendum is a waste of time because it lacks legitimacy drawn from the masses that are the real custodians of the concept of constitutionalism and sovereignty. In a true federal structure, there is a clear demarcation of areas of authority and strict non-interference of one government with the other. But we have been witnessing such interference and unjust circumstances under the present system where the President can unilaterally and single- handedly stop the statutory allocations of a state government or local councils. This cannot be done in any civilized state operating under a true federal concept. So where is the federalism? Of course this is real unitarianism.

Only the 1963 Constitution addresses the structural predicament, sociopolitical brouhaha and methodological disaster in our polity. The issue of resource control, which is a catalyst for the survival of any nation, can also be tackled by that constitution. It helps to foster healthy rivalry and competitive development among the federating segments by conceding up to 50 percent derivation revenue to the constituent states or regions, which the 1999 Constitution fails to address.

The 1963 Constitution is a stout pillar of fiscal federalism, which runs pari passu with the basic tenets of good governance. Therefore, this present constitution is a threat to the practice of true federalism and antithetical to the basic tenets of democratic governance. So let's restore the 1963 constitutional status quo, with such adjustments now necessitated by the passage of time.

Macdonald Uchenna Enwere Lagos.

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