11 June 2014

Nigeria: Diminishing Our Constitution


THE thought that some operators of the Constitution and their cohorts think they are more important than the Constitution is disconcerting - it is actually illegal. Times over, politicians - especially those who are holding elected positions - believe that their agreement is needed for the Constitution to be law.

It is time this illegal practice stopped. The most prominent example of a constitutional aberration is the attachment of the absurdity EXECUTIVE to the title of governors. There are about 108 references to "the Governor of a State" in the Constitution. Not once is "Executive Governor" used. Some governors are said to be so enamoured of the title "Executive Governor" that any letter to them without the "appropriate" title cannot be presented to "His Excellency, the Executive Governor".

Pictures of our governors, official correspondences to them, and official publications from their offices bear this illegal title. Remarkably, some of the governors are lawyers! If there is an "Executive Governor" who is the "Non Executive Governor"? The only reference to "executive" in describing a governor is in Section 176 (2) which states, "The Governor of a State shall be the Chief Executive of that State.

Perhaps more insulting to the Constitution is the approval that the President gives for the implementation of constitutional provisions. This practice began during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. It continues today as a public relations gimmick that dents the Constitution.

When a court gave a ruling then, former President Obasanjo would obtain the advice of his Attorney-General before a public statement would be issued that the President had agreed or disagreed with the court ruling.

His position decided what happened. The flagrant annexation of the powers of the court was a regular circus especially in court decision that favoured former Anambra State governor Dr. Chris Ngige. Obasanjo refused to obey those orders, except the one that nullified Ngige's governorship.

It was probably in line with this tradition then, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua approved the Court of Appeal judgment in 2008 that Adams Oshiomhole was governor of Edo State. Did the President have to approve?

A year after, then Vice President Jonathan Goodluck ordered that Ibrahim Geidam, Deputy Governor of Yobe State be sworn in as governor, after the death of Governor Mamman Ali. Section 181 of the Constitution clearly states that the Deputy Governor succeeds a governor who dies or leaves office before the expiration of his tenure. President Jonathan was a beneficiary of this provision when he became a governor in Bayelsa State .

We should stop diminishing the Constitution by acting as if it needs approval for its provisions to be law, or by adding extraneous provisions to the ones, it awards.

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