Thursday, 17 April 2014
The Supremacy of the Constitution , Good Governance and the doctrine of Neccesity: A Critical Appraisal
The various constitutions we have had in the past lend credence to the establishment of a genuine and viable democracy. Democracy is supposedly expected to provide for meaningful and extensive competition among individuals and organised political parties for the major positions of governmental power, a highly inclusive level of political participation in the election and selection of leaders.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria envisage that the three arms of government i.e. the legislature, executive and judiciary to observe and perform their individual roles as enshrined in the constitution for the betterment of the individual on one hand and the entire fabric of the society on the other hand. The supremacy of the constitution of our land is a vital organ to enthronement and sustenance of democracy or independence of the Judiciary. Section 1 of the 1999 Constitution provides:
‘’This Constititution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the federal Republic of Nigeria’
Subsection 1(3) provides thus’
if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.’
‘The constitution is supreme over the legislature because it does not only control the legislature in its law making functions, amendment of the constitution requires more than the procedure for ordinary law making.’ ( Issues in Constitutional Law Practices in Nigeria)
The constitution went further to provide in section 14’ (2)( a) ‘
‘ Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority’
From the foregoing, it means that the constitution is supreme and all the three tiers of government must adhere strictly to its provisions . The 1999 defines the roles, functions and objectives of each organ of government. The supremacy of the constitution is the basic tenets of the democratic system of government . The supremacy of the constitution is ambly demonstrated and well defined in Section 1(3) of the 1999 constitution as quoted above. The constitution assumes that those who wield the powers of the state will be conscious of and responsive to its obligations and responsibilities. Powers are bestowed upon the institutions and organs of government not for the personal aggrandisement of those who wield them from time to time but for the welfare and advancement of the society as a whole. The events in the last couple of months in Nigeria and especially in our body politic is worrisome and calls for sober reflection particularly to those of us who are ardent believer in the rule of law.
President Mr Umaru Musa Yaradua left the shores of this country in November 1999 to attend to his failing health . There have been agitation from well meaning Nigerians as to on whose shoulder the affairs of the country should rests. I believe that the issue of who takes over the reins of government should not have degenerated to this level if those in power respect and adhere strictly to provisions of the constitution of the country particularly paragraghs 144,145 of same . In as much as I accept certain defects in the provisions of the constitution , I am of the opinion that if truly Nigerian and the so called politician respects the provisions of the constitution, then the honourable thing would have been for the National Assembly to have recourse to the provisions of sections 144,145 and 146 of the constitution and would have gone ahead to amend that particular sections and the ‘doctrine of necessity’ would not have arisen at all. The constitution does not envisage ‘neccesity’ in whatever disguise and the honourable and legal option would have been recourse to the provisions of the constitution of the land. The first major hurdle militating against genuine enthronement of civil rule in Nigeria is inability of our political class or our ‘so called ‘ rulers to adhere to the provisions of the constitution .The Preamble of the 1999 constitution provides thus
‘’We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria , having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in Unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of Inter African solidarity world peace, international cooperation and understanding.
And to provide for a constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedoms, equality and justice and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people’’
The key elements in the above phrase adopted for the purpose of this write up are ‘constitution., good government and welfare of persons and justice’ I have elaborated on the constitution above.
The concept of ‘governance is the process of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented . Governance can be used in several ways such as corporate governance , national governance and local governance . Since governance involves decision making , an analysis of the event in our body politic since the departure of President Umar Musa Yaradua for Saudi Arabia on medical grounds calls into question the actions or inactions of some of our political gladiators or political jobbers and opportunists parading themselves at the corridor of power. I am one of the few political pundits who believes that our political appointees or elected members of the federal Republic of Nigeria have failed woefully that if we are to adhere strictly to section 14 (2) a of the 1999 constitution we should reject some of these so called political jobbers and marabouts at the next general election. Good governance has 8 major characteristics Accountability, Responsive, Rule of law, Transparent, Consensus oriented, Participatory and Equitable . I am sadden to conclude that all the above key elements are genuinely missing in our body politic and the so called elected reprensentatives. I am more ashamed and sadden to learn that the majority of members of the national assembly voted against the passing of the bill for electoral reforms and an attempt to review certain sections of the constitutions at the alter of their own selfish interest and personal aggrandisement . If sovereignty belong to the people of the federal Republic of Nigerian envisage by the constitution , then ‘We’ cannot continue to take a back seat and continue to exhibite complacency in the face of flagrant abuse for the rule of law and disregard for the tenets of the constitution. The ball is in our court to take our destiny in our hands and ensure that no further disrespect to the provisions of the constitution by our so called elected reprensentatatives is allowed . I refer to an article by Alphonsus U. Nwadike ‘ Non Participation in Active Politics by Honest, Good Nigerian ,the bane of our Nation’ the writer quotes as follow ‘
It is an undisputable fact that when a nation’s responsibilities of empire are entrusted or abandoned to the care of political blunders, social marauders, opportunists, unwise and corrupt individuals/persons, meruwas,. okadas riders or truck pushers , the country’s ship of state must be wrecked in the sea of incompetence and corruption’
I am bold to corrorborate this assertion that if intellectual persons or people with intergrity and dignity and people of high sense of puporse and credible are given the opportunity to saddle the affairs of our dear nation , then the issue of doctrine of necessity would not have come into place. Our country is presently undergoing political imperfection and turbulent period going by the events in the past couple of months, we need honest , committed , and visionary leaders to take over the mantle of leadership if we are to pride ourselves in the comity of nations and to continue to enjoy the monopoly of the ‘Giant of Africa’. Furthermore, we cannot rule out the role of the judiciary in defining the affairs of state of our nation. The judiciary is a vital organ in any democratic society . It is the judiciary that protects the right of the citizen against abuse by the other arms of government, it declares the right of the citizens and makes pronouncement on the legality of government action. In the case of Att.Gen of Bendel State Vs Att.Gen. of the Federation and others the supreme Courts reiterated the fact that
‘Our constitution has put the judiciary in a pre-eminent position, a position unknown to any other constitution under the common law . This is further elucidated in section 6 (a,)(b)of the 1999 constitution ,’the judicial powers are endowed unto the courts,these powers extend to all matters between government or authority and any person in Nigeria and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto for the determination of any questions as to the civil rights and obligations of the person’ To enable the courts carry out their constitutional duties in atmosphere of impartiality and freedom, secure their independence and determine issues without fear or favour .
I cannot conclude without adverting our minds to the events that plagued our nation since the President travelled to Saudi to attend to its health. The interpretation of sections 144 and 145 and section 146 of the 1999 constitution . As I am writing this piece, I became inundated with calls that the president is back in Country and that the issue of transmission of a letter to the National Assembly as envisaged by section 145 is now belated. But the pertinent questions to ask ourselves is whether in view of the nature of his ailment , Mr President will still be able to direct the affairs of this nation or that the President is presently undergoing permanent incapacity which precludes him from performing the functions of his office as provided by section 146 (1) of the constitution. Then we asked the National Assembly to be align to their constititutional responsibilities and genuinely be guided by the provisions of the constitutions and not be swayed by doctrine of necessity which we take us to nowhere.
In conclusion, I invite all genuine , honest, visionary leaders, men and women of intergrity both in Nigeria and outside the shores of our country especially our ‘diaspora ‘ citizen to please come home and let build a virile nation together. We cannot continue to take a back seat and allowed marabouts , political jobbers and visionariless leaders to continue to direct the affairs of this nation.
I am convinced that most of us living outside the shores of this county are passionate about our country Nigeria. In another couple of months, we are going to experience another election , this is the time to rise against oppression, intimidation, irresponsible government and . I summarised thus in the words of Edmund Burke‘ THE ONLY THING NECCESARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING ‘