The 1999 constitution as ‘grundnorm’ – Part 2
The same principle applies to all authentic nations of the world defined by a specific language, psychological trait and history. The British worldview is empiricist and positivist, the French rationalist, the Chinese humanist etc. The easiest means to understanding the behaviour and disposition of any individual is through the lenses of the metaphysical temperament of his nation. You could for example accuse a high profile politician in France of sex scandals as happened to Francois Hollande and Dominique Strauss Khan in 2011 due to their rationalist temperament to life. A Frenchman would not mind working four hours a day and spending triple that time partying with friends. Such a lifestyle would be repugnant to the average German. This is perhaps where the appellation “German Machine” derives. Those who have worked in for instance, American and Indian companies can tell the difference in approach between them – both in work ethic and remuneration. Philosophies and worldviews have a way of influencing and manifesting in every area of a peoples life: institutions, individual behaviour, legal systems, temperament, national character etc.
And so the closest interpretation to what Kelsen’s grundnorm represents is that of a psychological outlook and a metaphysical presupposition of a people. This incorporates elements of history, language, culture, and psychological trait. Only nations, on this score, can have grundnorms, and thus authentic and positively functional justice systems.
Multinational societies, amalgams and Lugard-like experiments have, in essence, no grundnorms, and hence no defined authentic functional justice systems. If anything should pass as the grundnorm of the military-designed 1999 Nigerian Constitution, it would have to be the psychological temperament of the military who designed it – those of “effective subjugation”, and “maximum exploitation”.
It is this oppressive temperament that accounts for such provisions in the constitution as those of Section 44(3) and 162(2) which haughtily and arrogantly bestow all juicy resources of the ethnic groups such as (minerals, crude oil and gas) as exclusive properties of the federal government. It is this grundnorm of oppression and maximum exploitation that accounts for the culture of police brutality and extortion, military highhandedness in beating up citizens to a pulp at the slightest provocation, of politicians looting public funds to stash away in foreign countries, in budget padding and over bloated contracts, in shabby job executions, in shameless borrowings, indebtedness and devaluation of the naira, and in general backwardness and underdevelopment.
If a self-determining restructuring were allowed in Nigeria and authentic culturally homogenous nation-states as the Urhobo, Yoruba, Igbo etc., were to exist independently, each would develop institutions and legal systems based on their individual worldviews, philosophies of life and culture. These would serve as the grundnorms of their societies. Their constitutions would reflect their respective worldviews, cultures, mores, norms and psychological traits. It is in that context that Hans Kelsen’s “grundnorm” would appropriately apply. Until that eventuality happens, the drivers of the Nigerian rickety equipment can continue in their foolish pretense, deceiving themselves and their cronies that Nigeria will be better someday. But they must now stop insulting the peoples’ intelligence in claiming that the Nigerian Constitution is the country’s grundnorm. It is not only embarrassing to continue to do so; it announces our ignorance and poverty of the knowledge of philosophy to the whole world.
Arodovwe is manager at Urhobo Historical Society Headquarters.