Nigeria should go back to 1963 Constitution, says NADECO
The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a platform of distinguished Nigerians committed to securing and protecting democracy in Nigeria, met at the weekend in Lagos “to rise and defend democracy in our dear country.” Below is the statement issued at the end of the meeting attended by chieftains such as Dr. Amos Akingba, Chiefs Ayo Opadokun and Ayo Adebanjo and many others including the group’s Chairman, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu:
The events in the Southeast and in particular, Abia State, which was invaded with a large contingent of the soldiers amount to an unconstitutional and gradual takeover of power by the military.
On Sunday September 10 2017, the Nigerian Armed Forces invaded Southeast Nigeria, and in particular Abia State with a large contingent of soldiers, armored tanks and other military paraphernalia. In Abia State, the soldiers’ invaded communities, tortured civilian population, over-awed the constitutionally elected governor and civil institutions of the state, and declared the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist organisation, in defiance of the judgment of the Federal High Court. All of these actions are unconstitutional and represent an illegal take-over of the functions of the National Assembly, the Abia State House of Assembly and the legal authorities.
The Army High Command has announced further that the “Operation Python Dance” will be a regular event and that another similar activity named “Operation Crocodile Smile” will be carried out in the South South and Southwest.
The actions of the Military, we restate are inconsistent with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and may be the beginning, if not checked, of the unwitting or witting subversion of democracy in Nigeria.
We therefore call for an urgent action by Nigerians to see to it that we put a stop to this gradual return to military rule. All lovers of democracy in Nigeria need to stand up and raise their voices against this retrogressive political development in our country.
NADECO has long affirmed that the way to restore justice, equity and fair play to our polity is to return to True Federalism. It is rather unfortunate that some political actors are trying to confuse Nigerians regarding the true meaning of federalism. This effort to misinform, especially by some political parties, is a dangerous play and deceitful ploy.
The 1959 and the 1963 Federal and Regional constitutions of Nigeria described essentially what True Federalism is. For emphasis may we remind us what true federalism means:
• Independent federating units come together to form a federation.
• These federating units cede some of their powers and responsibilities to the central government.
• The federating units provide the resources to run the services ceded to the central government.
• The federating units maintain their autonomy to run their affairs without let or hindrance, outside those services or responsibilities they have collectively transferred to a central government.
That is true federalism in short. But the problem with Nigeria, and what is causing all the agitations and instability, is that we have an inverted federation, which the military converted Nigeria to.
Here, it is now the Central Government (Federal) that is creating the federating units, they now collect all the resources and decide what to give to the federating units; they take all the powers and cede what they like to the so-called federating units. This is the problem.
All the cry for restructuring is simply to restore the Nigeria Federation to a proper federation. Why should this offend some people to the extent that they are now using every method including military incursion to prevent it?
Attention of all is here drawn to the undeniable fact that to date, No, repeat No, political leader in/of the so-called North has done as much as the Sardauna; no political leader in/of the so-called East has done more than Michael Okpara; and no political leader in and of the West (mid-West inclusive) has done as much or more than Chief Obafemi Awolowo. If any “political leader” has, let him or her rise and say so. Why was, why is that so? It is indisputably obvious that the structure (True Federalism) they were operating was a big, indeed the major foundational and contributory factor.
It is clear to us that unless Nigerians fully understand and address what is at stake, those who benefit from the continued instability of Nigeria will continue to create confusion and delay Nigeria from achieving its manifest destiny.
NADECO, a platform constructed by distinguished Nigerians, former Nigerian Public Office Holders, leaders of ethnic nationalities, civil society organisations, labour unions, professional and business leaders, youth and women among others is disturbed by the current seeming attempts by partisan political operators and others tending to confuse the Nigerian public and particularly our young people about the clear and unambiguous meaning of federalism, which universally represents a system of government whereby there is a distribution of power particularly between a central government and the constituent units wherever it is practised as opposed to centrist/unitary government.
Nigerian Independent Constitutional Arrangement was a Federal System in 1960. Federalism as a term had been more than sufficiently and critically explained and understood by peoples of Nigerians through the strategic advocacy of NADECO, its various affiliate bodies and activists in various fora since 1994.
The word “True” came into our national narratives partly as a result of the annulment of June 12, 1993 election that was won by Basorun MKO Abiola, and whereby the sectional politicians in military uniform led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Sani Abacha got him, MKO arrested for claiming his just mandate, detained him, humiliated him, and eventually got him killed.
Pro-democracy groups, activists, professional groups were convinced that a clique of the army could not have been able to be so contemptuous of the collective popular will of majority of Nigerians expressed on June 12, 1993 if the Nigerian Federal Constitutional arrangement had not been illegitimately abrogated suspended, truncated by the military. The popular will of the majority of the Nigerian peoples then insisted on total reversal away from the 1963 Federal Republic Constitution upon which we secured our independence. The peculiarities of Federal Constitutions in India, Canada and the United States of America and others are credible reminders of the peculiarity of the Nigerian Federal Constitutional order upon which the ethnic nationalities negotiated Nigeria’s Independence in 1960.
No one, no organisation be it political party or otherwise ought now feign ignorance about the genuine meaning of True Federalism when it was because of the sheer popularity and currency, the patent propriety of the demand for it that led some to include this in Manifesto, viz : that Manifesto that “TRUE FEDERALISM” remains one of the cardinal kernels of the Manifesto.
In some Constitution; it is provided that the Party will:
• Initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit.
• Restructure government for a leaner, more efficient and adequately compensated public service.
NADECO is not unaware that the present governance and not a few partisan political operators and others who are beneficiaries of the current lopsided, warped and skewed national structure have rejected the 2014 National Conference Report and regarded it as not applying to, talk less of being binding on them. It should be crystal clear now that it is just following the same footpath in this seeming misadventure to repeat what had happened, judging from same steps as advertised only recently.
For the avoidance of doubt, the following Nigerian historicity among others is clear and unambiguous:
1. Nigerian secured its independence after several negotiations on a Federal Constitutional Arrangement, the last being the 1963 Federal Republican Constitution; along with the Constitution of the Federating Units.
II. It was the politicians in military uniform that violently overthrew the democratically elected government of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa on January 15, 1966 and the counter coup of July 29, 1966 and thereby illegitimately imposed the military coup plotters as rulers of our country.
III. It was by Decree 1, of 1966 (Constitution Suspension and Modification Decree), Decree No.2 (May 24) and Decree No. 5 of 1966 (Constitution and Modification Decrees) that Federalism was abolished even though under Decree No.8, part 1 and part 2 of 2 of 1967, there was a deceitful reaffirmation of Nigeria as a federation because the General Yakubu Gowon’s side has gained the upper hand in the military foisted ego combat. That unfortunately led to three-year civil war that consumed about a million Nigerian lives and led to avoidable inhuman deprivations, pains and permanent scourge.
IV. Decree No. 28 of 1970 finally abrogated the 1963 Constitution except those preserved by Decree No. 1 of 1966 by the suspension and abrogation of the 1963 Federal Constitution; and having regard to the Organogram of the Military Institution, the military immediately appropriated to their Central Government over 662/3 of all the powers and authorities upon which the regions had powers to legislate and function and by 1999, they have appropriated about 80 per cent of all formal regional powers and influences to the Central Government led by its Commander-in-Chief.
V. The Nigerian Military cloaked its military dictatorship with a kind of protective provision/immunity decree against future prosecution for their many acts of treason/insurrection against the Nigerian State. See Section 6 (6) (C) (d) of the so-called1999 Constitution was brought into existence by Decree No. 24 of 1999.
VI. The military, appropriated to its Central Government, the major revenue resources of the regions and its succeeding balkanised states, which were not created on any scientific and genuinely negotiated parameters except to satisfy the various interests of military big shorts and their civilian collaborators, friends and loyalists. It is incontestable that Nigeria became Unitary Government since the Army seized power in 1966 and Nigeria has been living a lie by calling itself Federal Government when it had been run unitarily and centrally since 1966.
Arising from the above summary as to where the rain started to beat Nigeria, the following observations are germane, namely, that:
a. The suspension and abrogation of the Federal Constitutional arrangements by the military and the result of the upper hand gained by a wing of the Nigerian Army prior, during and after the three years civil war has further increased the quantum of imbalance in the untenable political equation in the country till date. The must significant outcome became, becomes…” The Federal Republic of Nigeria” Army (Gen Chris Ali)!
b. Part of the result of the undue advantage has resulted into
I. Injustice in socio-economic and political life of Nigeria.
II. Inequity in the allocations and distributions of national commonwealth at the expense of the majority.
III. As a result of the consequence of the aftermath of abandoning the Federal Constitutional Arrangement, dysfunctional monopoly of otherwise nation-building areas such as the Nigerian Security and Intelligence Agency including the Nigerian Police. These get usually monopolised by a section of the country at the expense of the majority except for very few times after much public complaints.
It is therefore the negative results of the abrogation of the federal constitutional order subscribed to by our founding fathers and the ethnic nationalities that had created a pronounced but unwritten master/servant relationship among the ethnic nationalities and that has led to the ethnic agitations in various names – Resource Control, Self-Determination, National Restructuring thereby leading to the establishment of groups like, Egbesu, Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Niger Delta Avengers from the South-South and others. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and others from Southeast, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and other Self Determination Groups from the Southwest and Middle Belt Youth Movement from the Middle Belt and the Northern Youth Movement, from the Far North.
All the agitations intrinsically are directed at calling for immediate and compelling need for Nigeria to return to Federal Constitutional Arrangement upon which it secured its independence. Under the Federal Constitution, each region was independent to run its affairs by its constitution but the four were coordinating at the centre. The Federal Government was not the boss or “Father Christmas” to the regions on resource allocations. Fiscal Federalism was the constitutional method for Revenue Allocation.
There were significant and enduring developments and progress in social services and the provisions of infrastructure in all the regions. There were healthy competitions to serve their people.
10. There is no doubt therefore that it was the Nigerian Military that had arrested the then on-going Nigerian growth and development since 1966. All constitutional arrangements since then have been initiated and superintended to conform to their military rulers predilections.
The current national agitations, mutual mistrust and lack of cohesion cannot be tackled whimsically and with partisan posturing as the some who are favoured by the current sectionally dominated system have been saying and doing recently. In particular, some maybe self-serving all called for greater devotion to the Nigerian Youths who have never experienced good governance except military adventurism in political office amounts to a misdirected understanding of how we arrived at the current state of the nation. There are several thousands of their likes that remain on-lookers because of their place of birth. Let’s all join to level the playing fields for all others.
The British Colonial Master used their superior military powers to force into co-habitation the pre-existing ethnic nationalities that have been in absolute control of their native land resources and natural endowments for over several thousand years before the colonialist misadventure into their shore.
It is a fact that Kings Dosemo of Lagos, Overami of Benin, Jaja of Opobo, Alafin of Oyo, Attahiru of Sokoto and others fought against the imperialists until they were subdued. And at the advent of their forced departure, the imperialists manipulated the processes of their succession to produce a determined result that will permanently keep Nigeria within their spheres of global influence. Nigerian ethnic nationalities have not been given the democratic rights to write their own home grown constitution. We are not unmindful that there was:
• Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s Conference Report
• Gen. Sani Abacha’s Conference Report
• Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo’s Conference Report
• President Goodluck Jonathan Conference Report
Even so, NADECO is therefore advocating that Nigeria should immediately return to the basic 1963 Federal Republic Constitution treasonably abrogated by the Nigerian Army to halt further drift, which the unsustainable current National Structure has occasioned.
b. All other variants, and concepts (even as listed in an advertorial) of/on creation/merger of states, Derivation Principle, Devolution of Powers, Federating Units, Fiscal Federalism, Form of Government, Independent Candidacy and others are already provided for as parts of our Federal Constitutional arrangement.
It also needs to be restated for emphasis that the National Assembly even as per our so-called Constitution can only amend constitution. But what Nigeria need urgently is a new (ie not amended DECREE) constitutional document whose working background document will be the 1963 Federal Constitution, which gave Nigeria hope and gradual fulfillment of aspirations before the Nigerian Army arrested the National Growth and Development in 1966.
A return to the 1963 Federal Constitution along with genuinely negotiated necessary amendments to meet contemporary improvements will significantly reduce the level of corruption, which has become a monumental national cankerworm. It will largely restore the sense of belongings, and the erstwhile previous march to the country developing into nation-State
Those who are asking Nigeria to take their complaints on National Restructuring to the National Assembly are making either uneducated or deliberately mischievous (to the detriment of fostering the country’s pursuit of nation-state and existence) errors of omission and commission assumptions and conclusions. What they are in fact asking Nigerians to do are:
I. To accord the Treasonable conducts of the Putchists/military coup d’état/insurrections against the Nigerian State legitimacy.
II. Accept the militarily foisted decrees/constitutions that have abrogated our negotiated federal constitutional arrangement and substituted it with recurrent falsehood of “WE, the People” decrees.
III. Accept the current unsustainable political administration that has for over 25years now led Nigeria to be spending about 80 per cent of its earning on recurrent expenditure thereby making very little allowance for capital expenditure. Nigerian’s Human Development Index and Gross Domestic Product statistics are among that of the war ravaged countries in the world even though we were for about 25years the seventh or eighth highest exporter of crude oil, exporting averagely two million barrel at averagely $100 per barrel per day.
IV. Accept the arbitrarily created states and Local Governments (mostly unviable) which favours particular sections of the country because a preponderant part of the military and political leadership for most years were from their parts of the country. And they have equally used their powers in government to make Land Mass, number of local governments and otgers as part of the parameters for sharing national revenue and basis for election constituency delimitations.
The place of the legislature is an important matter to be discussed and resolved by Nigerians. So the National Assembly cannot be presiding over its own matters. In any case, none of the lawmakers campaigned that they were going to write a new constitution during their campaigns.
The current nation-wide agitations by Ethnic Nationalities for national restructuring cannot be described in all honesty by any right thinking Nigerian to be that of defeated politicians as we have earlier on set the record straight to have started in recent times in 1994.
Those who are making such uninformed, or rather deceitful statements are doing so for pecuniary gains, which the current unsustainable national structure has afforded them, (many of them had lived, strive to live, on government from cradle to grave), is affording them now or may afford them in the future. And they just make such statements now and again for their selfish reasons and ambitions.
Take Indian Ghandi, Pandit Nehru, the political elite and their Political Commission were able to work on India’s Parliament to grant full autonomy and independence to the various big ethnic nationalities that were agitating and allow for mergers of contiguous states thereby producing 29 states and Seven Union Territories in all. The result has been that India has since become a Union of Federating States and has become a stable and vibrant nation state. India today is the biggest democracy and the fastest growing economy in the Asian hemisphere.
Those who imagine that they can still continue to use the force of arms to keep Nigerian Ethnic Nationalities in cohabitation are ignorant of current global realities. Self-Determination by indigenous people/freedom fighters has now become part of the United Nation Protocol. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights States thus says, “All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right that freely determines their political status and freely pursues their economic, social and cultural development.”
“Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and no one may be compelled to belong to an association.”
1. The political groups should appreciate that no condition is permanent. It is not impossible that there can be a reversal of fortune. It is essential that all avoid tread the negatively partisan path.
11. The political operators must also appreciate that it is too late to imagine that any force on earth can stop a momentum (national restructuring-return to the 1963 Federal Constitution Arrangement) whose time has come from becoming a reality in spite of the illegal and unconstitutional declaration having the Nigerian State describing the youth as terrorists.
The Nigerian Army should no longer be allowed to misuse public coercive instrument bought with taxpayer’s money to clamp down on democratic and legitimate demands for self-determination. Clamping down on, repressing and hounding campaigners for justice, equity and fair play for ethnic nationalities and groups has been globally outlawed and held as repugnant to civilised conduct in today’s world. NADECO has paid much for such with its members and leaders sweat, blood, liberty and supreme sacrifice during our vigorous campaign for restoration of democracy now being misused by many of the current political actors. The world is now a global village. Recent history is replete with the transformation of yesterday’s rebels and terrorists who have assumed political leadership of nations where they have been formerly arrested, jailed, humiliated and dehumanised while fighting for freedom and liberty of their peoples.
What we have tried to remind all to this release is that doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result is an unfortunate misadventure. It is wasteful and wasted exercise.
The recent emergence of civil societies, professional and business bodies, governors, clergymen and other groups are welcome development but they all belong to one ethnic nationality or the other; they don’t genuinely represent the building blocks with which the founding fathers negotiated various treaties to couple Nigeria together.
Furthermore, we recommend to all concerned to face the reality that majority of Nigerians from more than four out of the six political zones of Nigeria can no more accept the current sectionally foisted and configured unity by the past sectional military dictators that has kept other sections of Nigeria in servitude for too long. The 1963 Federal Republic Constitution as may be amended, which was negotiated by our founding fathers nationalists and leadership of the ethnic Nationalities must be the basic document for any genuine reconciliation agenda start up.
NADECO will like to enjoin all political actors and operators to have the humility and serenity to realise the need for a quick rethink about the political instability of the state of the Country and the fragility of our country’s bond.
Let us sound it clear once again “Self-Determination is the anthem of this millennium”. National Restructuring and Return to Federalism are necessities whose time have come. Whatever wrong (or is it, disturbing!) that we see today, would and will be Child’s Play if we do not face the necessities whose time have come.
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