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Constitutional Amendment; It Is Ruse, It’s All Ruse!

November 13, 2010

Ignored is the fact that what we now have as the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a neo- military import, without any popular input of the Nigerian citizens.

Ignored is the fact that what we now have as the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a neo- military import, without any popular input of the Nigerian citizens.

Also ignored is the fact that this neo military document is what seriously undermined the little amount of national cohesion attained after the resolution of secession crisis. These parliamentarians are just taking the survival of this country for granted, ignoring or refusing to face up to the existence of a powerful forces of disunity, disintegration and confusion, which will stop at nothing to delay and block the total prosperity of this country. And the most effective weapon of these forces is manipulating the constitution and evading the naked realities of our political economy. It seems that the level of national cohesion in the country is very low when it should be much higher.

Indeed our historical experience shows that succumbing to the status quo on national unity by any government subverts our cohesion and is almost criminal. Untouched by the so called amendment is Article 2 that stated: “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state…” And in Article 9 : “ the motto of Republic shall be UNITY AND FAITH, PEACE AND PROGRESS and accordingly national integration shall be actively encouraged whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, religion, sex, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited…” Under these articles it is made the duty of the state to encourage free mobility of people, goods and services; ensure residence rights for all citizens everywhere, promote inter ethnic, inter religious and inter linguistic associations and even inter marriages. There are innumerable exhortations about promoting national unity to override sectional loyalty; national loyalty to override sectional loyalties; feeling of belonging. etc
It is presumably in order to ensure all this laboriously expressed commitment that they evade Article 123 that stated;” Appointment to the office of the Minister of the government of the federation shall be made by the president acting in his discretion… and shall be appointed from among Nigeria’s  citizen who belong to each of the federation” And it is for the same purpose that Article 173 was maintained, which stated that; “ members of the executive committee or other governing body of a political party shall be deemed to reflect the Federal character of Nigeria only if the members belong to different states not being less in number than the two third of all the states comprising the federation”. The crucial words in those provisions are clearly BELONG TO. These are defined in Article 210; ‘a state refers to a person either of whose parents is a member of a community indigenous to that state. . The most important issue, with regards to all these two provisions in Articles 123 and 173; is therefore; what exactly constitutes a community indigenous to a state? It is on this that the whole import of the provision hangs. Has a community got to come from nowhere else for it to be indigenous to a place?  Or if emigration is allowed, for how many generations has a family got to stay in places that are to become indigenes? Who are the indigenes of Adamawa for example? Is it the Bachama who somebody will say come from come from Gobir? Or the Jukun who somebody will say come from Egypt? Or the Chamba who somebody will say come from the Chad? Or the Fulani who somebody will say come from Senegal? If it is a matter of length of occupation; how many years have a people got to stay in a place before they become indigenes of a place? One thousand years, five hundred years, one century, just a generation or just a dry season?

Should the letters and spirit of this constitution be totally adhered to, most of the ministers appointed would have to publish their genealogies with a commentary and probably face court action to prove their indegenity. How many of the ministers would face court action if they had to prove that they are indigenous to a place? It would not only be when ministers are appointed that there would be litigation and rumpus, but indeed every time political parties register the names of its executive committee. There would be national debates and discussions on their origin, origin of their grandmothers, grandfathers and even on the indegenity of the communities they belong to have come from. There shall be a lucrative business for historians fabricating and exposing genealogies, and for lawyers carrying out the litigation and evolving a body of law unique to Nigeria and built on the solid foundations of our cherished tradition and culture !
 Not only does it make ethnicity a deepened form of ethnicity akin to racism- a permanently explosive political issue but it completely makes bogus the provision of full residence rights, free mobility and completely undermines the development of national citizenship, a basic requirement for national cohesion. By reducing participation in the political system to crudely racist levels, it establishes three distinct types of citizens.

The first class citizens are those who live in a state where they can claim to belong to ‘a community indigenous to that state: The second class citizens are those who can claim origin from ‘a community indigenous’ in one of the states but actually live in another. If they want to fully participate in the political system these people are entrenching. The third class citizens are those who cannot claim to belong to a’ community indigenous’ to any of the states, although they are full pledged Nigerian citizens. The confusion and dissention this has caused is not only going to extend to the people of Igbo, Hausa Yoruba, Efik or Nupe origin living in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt or just to the Yorubas and Igbos in Katsina and Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Makurdi or Jos. It is going to extend to the Kanuri, People of Sokoto or Daurawa living in Katsina. It is going to extend to the Jassawa of Kano origin; the inhabitants of Ibadan, of Igbira Igala, Hausa Ijebu or Benin origin; to the Fulani of Bida and Ilorin; the people of Margi origin in Adamawa, and millions of Nigerian whose parents and grandparents over a century has woven the real fabric on which national citizenship and cohesion may be forged. The confusion and dissention these certainly gave  is a political system like that of the United States, that is unfortunately our barometer for gauging the suitability of our political economy even though our history and orientation are far from different. But this would not move us toward national cohesion for another millennia.

It seems quite clear that if this constitutional amendment goes unchallenged, far from moving towards national cohesion,  Nigeria will sink deeper than we can imagine .Far from providing a basis and framework for the development of national cohesion and democracy, there will be an intensification of the present day grossly uneven pattern of underdevelopment, greater bureaucratic greed, individualism and chaos. When that happens, the Nigerian people will be accused of being ‘too immature’ and too ‘irresponsible’ for democracy and preparations will be made for consolidating the status quo and ensuing ‘law and order’ through repression and terror. And all this would be done in the name of national unity and national cohesion which, however this exercise is trying to block.

Mukhtar Kabir Usman wrote from
Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design
Universiti Antrabangsa Islam, Malaysia
([email protected])          

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