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Nigeria’s Constitution: Matters Arising (Part 3)

Nigeria’s constitution: Matters arising (Part 2)

Every country on earth has its own constitution. A constitution is a body of laws or rules by which a country is governed. It can be a written constitution or an unwritten constitution. Britain is an example of a country that operates an unwritten constitution, although most of the laws by which it is governed are contained in a document. And America is an example of a country that has a written constitution.

Read also: Nigeria’s constitution: Matters arising (Part 1)

Since 1922, when the Lyttleton constitution came into being, Nigeria has had other constitutions by which she was administered in successive political dispensations. But what should be noted is that the constitution of a country ought to be harmonious with the political dynamics and cultural peculiarities of that country.

Now, we have noticed that the 1999 constitution, which is a rehash of the 1979 constitution, is deeply flawed and unsuitable for administering Nigeria, which is a complex country. Without a good constitution and competent political leaders who are patriotic and visionary, no country can achieve true greatness. Based on these factors, our country’s current constitution should be discarded and a new one written. As Nigeria is at the crossroads of political disequilibrium and economic depression, having a new constitution has become a top priority and overriding imperative.

As to the new constitution that should be written, the procedures that should lead to granting a part of the country its secessionist bid should be expressly and explicitly spelled out in it. Should referendums be used to decide whether a part of the country should stay in the country or secede? An answer should be provided for this question. Addressing the matter of secession in the constitution is necessary so as to prevent the country from descending into a fratricidal civil war. The Nigeria-Biafra civil war, which led to the depredation of our economy and infrastructure and the wastage of millions of human lives, is still evergreen in our minds.

Read also: Nigeria’s constitution: Matters arising (Part 2)

Again, fiscal federalism ought to characterise our federalism. But sadly, and ironically, too, the sub-national governments in Nigeria are too financially emasculated to survive on their own without seeking financial help from the centre. Most states in Nigeria are in debt traps now, with little hope of exiting them. Empowering the sub-national governments, constitutionally, to manage the natural resources found under their soil and making it mandatory for them to donate a certain percentage of money to the centre will be a step towards emplacing fiscal federalism in Nigeria.

Another matter that should be addressed in the new constitution is the secularity of Nigeria. Nigeria should be ruled based on our constitution, which is supreme and superior to religious laws. The fact that we have mixed populations of Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Ijaw, Efik, and other people in major cities of Nigeria imposes the need on us to uphold the secularity of Nigeria and the supremacy of the constitution.

Another matter, which is as important as putting measures in place to prevent the undermining of the secularity of Nigeria, is the issue of the independence of the Nigerian judiciary. First, judges who decide the fate of people as to the cases that are brought before them must be found to be above board. But before judges can be impartial arbiters who serve the cause of justice, the independence of the judiciary must be guaranteed. The constitution of Nigeria should ensure that the hiring, remuneration, promotion, and punishment of judges are done by bodies other than the federal and state governments.

The judiciary, which is the last hope of the common man, is pivotal to the survival and deepening of our democracy. If unscrupulous and murderous politicians know that judges who will entertain their election petitions are impartial and incorruptible, they will not kill their political rivals and subvert the political will of the people by rigging elections. A resilient and truly independent judiciary is a bulwark against our country’s descent into an anarchic situation. That is why the new constitution should explicitly spell out how the independence of the judiciary should be maintained and guaranteed.

More so, the matter of our over-bloated federal executive, which has come about through our strict adherence to the federal character principle, should be looked into. To ensure that each state is represented in the federal executive, we now have ministers of state. This has led to our having a bloated federal executive, which is a drag on our national development.

Lamentably, those ministers are beneficiaries of the president’s dispensation of political patronage. They are not savants in their respective professions, whose competence and patriotism cannot be called into question.

In addition to the matters I have called the government’s attention to, the roles of the traditional institutions in modern-day Nigeria should be properly situated, delineated, and/or captured in the constitution. In the pre-colonial era, the British imperialists used the traditional institutions to administer Nigeria. They used both the direct rule and indirect rule systems to administer the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria effectively.

So the framers of the proposed new constitution for Nigeria should ensure that the cultural practices of our peoples are harmonious with modern leadership trends, which are prevalent in today’s world.

Chiedu Uche Okoye; Uruowulu-Obosi: Anambra State. ‪08062220654‬.

Okoye is a poet