Constitution Review: No section of Nigeria must feel shortchanged – Akeredolu
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state on Wednesday stressed that the proposed review of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria must be carried out in a way that all the yearnings ,grievances and challenges facing all sections of the country must be addressed without anyone feeling shortchanged.
Akeredolu stated this at the Public Hearing by the Senate Committee on Constitution Review held at the International Centre For Culture And Events (The Dome),Akure, Ondo State.
Akeredolu said “This is the time for candour, that rare opportunity which gives vent to processed nuggets of introspection. This is the hour to accept that fundamental errors of judgement have been made and there is the need to correct same.
This is the moment when brothers and sisters must look at themselves in the eyes, chastise in love and be ready to embrace, warmly, afterwards. The stage must not be set for an unending and needless blame game and acrimony. This is definitely not a contest in sophistry where orators say so much but, in the end, say nothing. Providence has ensured our presence on the World Map as Nigerians, a badge which evokes a mixed feeling of approbation and warmth, on one hand, and a general sense of revulsion for attitudes symptomatic of the current crisis of confidence in the country.
Our ability to deliberate, dispassionately, on the issues which, ultimately, define us as a nation of peoples bound in the same destiny, will be far reaching in our quest for abiding solutions to the perennial crises.
This, Distinguished Senators, is the summary of the decisions arrived at in Asaba when all the 17 Southern Governors deliberated on issues of governance and nationhood. The resolutions have been made public and there have been reactions, expectedly, from different quarters.
A cursory glance at these resolutions will leave anyone keenly interested in finding lasting solutions to the myriad of challenges in the country with no better conclusions. The substratum is the quest for nationhood anchored on the principles of Equity, Justice and Fair dealings and the commitment of the Governors to the unity of this country.
The meeting deliberated on sundry issues and came up with a Communique encapsulating the essence of the gathering, indeed a summation of the current agitation in the country at present.
This was contained in a 12-point resolution: a total ban on the anachronistic and vexatious phenomenon of open grazing, a review of appointments into federal agencies in line with the principles of Federal Character, creation of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments, creation of institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism, convocation of National Dialogue to enhance inclusiveness in the existing governance arrangements, concern on the economic implications of the possibility of another lockdown, the continued hardship occasioned by the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and establishment of ports in other states of federation to create jobs.
The constitution of a country should reflect the aggregate of the realistic expectations of the components parts which form the union. It is the basic law which must define the powers and responsibilities of the offices created to serve the people. It must address the possible areas of anxiety. Nothing must be taken as given. All aspects of concern must be looked into with a view to reaching a consensus.
All disparate aspirations must be harnessed to evolve a national ethos. No section of the country must feel shortchanged. The document produced must be a true reflection of collective bargaining and concessions secured in an ambience of frank exchanges among members of the same family.
The current attempt at Constitution amendment should be taken beyond the usual jamboree conceived and executed to arrive at predetermined result.
This country has been experiencing constitution review since 1922 when the colonialists pretended to give a semblance of representation in our affairs. The 1946 Richard’s Constitution followed due to agitations of the people who clamoured for more representation. The Macpherson’s of 1951 and Lyttleton’s of 1954 followed the same pattern.
The 1958 Conference held in London gave provenance to the Independence Constitution of 1960. The 1963 Constitution retained Regionalism and upheld the principle of autochtony, an organic development of the law using local experiences.
The Republican status of the country was reflected. Each Region had considerable latitude to blossom at her own pace. There was devolution of powers in the true sense of the term. This was the period when even outsiders noticed the potential greatness of the nascent post colonial country.
The major provisions which allowed the three regions which existed before independence were retained in the 1963 Constitution.
That remains the best document for a country as heterogeneous as Nigeria. It was the best practicable guide towards nationhood. Unfortunately, the military coup of 1966 destroyed that when it abolished regionalism and created the so called provinces while imposing a unitary system on the country.
Any honest analyst will agree that this act marked the beginning of the crises of confidence among the peoples of this country.
This gross commission led to the civil war and the attendant loss of lives and property on monumental scale. The country still smarts from the effects the needless war among brothers till date.
The 1979 Constitution was a departure from the 1963’s but it lacked originality. The 1995 Abacha document was not used for a day. The 1999 Constitution has been described as a document which tells lies against itself.
It was just decreed into existence by the departing military. This explains the several amendments in barely two decades of its existence.
The current exercise, therefore, must not toe the path of the previous attempts at tokenism.
The basic law of any country must not be reduced to frivolities reflecting preferred whimsies. It must not be oppressive of the minorities. Its provisions must indeed give teeth to the primary purpose for which the government exists. No provision of the law must not be justiciable as Chapter Two of the current 1999 Constitution seeks to impress on us.
All the agitations of the peoples of this country must be looked into with a view to improving the economic power of the average citizens. The best way possible is to allow each region flower in its areas of comparative advantage.
The behemoth called the Federal Government must shed the excess weight unduly appropriated over time. It is the major cause of friction. It is the reason for the politics of bitterness. It explains why everyone wants the power at the centre. It promotes ethnic chauvinists and encourage mediocrity.
The new law must view, critically, the current misnomer which sees the Federal Government appropriating humongous amounts for moribund agencies whose duties overlap with those of the states.
The fiscal policy of the country must be restructured to encourage ingenuity and uncommon resourcefulness. The Federal Government should only coordinate and receive royalties. The current system is not sustainable. All of us are beginning to appreciate this fact.
The current exercise will derive its legitimacy if taken to the people for revalidation. Nothing must be taken for granted. Everyone must be treated as an equal partner in this whole enterprise of nation-building.”