IBB, Senate wandering in error -Wale Okunniyi
By Wale Okunniyi
The comment of General Ibrahim Babangida (Vanguard newspapers of Monday, 19 January 2009) on the current attempt to review the Nigerian constitution clearly depicts the typical ignorance or mischief of the Nigerian political class. The critical question at stake, at the moment, is the origin and legitimacy of the 1999 constitution and not the trial of the soundness of its provisions.
The point is that, in the light of its undemocratic origin, no amount of wonderful courts pronouncements on the content of the 1999 constitution can ever turn the document into a peoples' constitution.
The American constitution that is often referred to, albeit ignorantly, has a solid background in peoples' consensus and it is therefore originally owned by the America stakeholders, who first adopted it, after which various amendments were carried out on it. This is contrary to the foisting of military decree 24 on Nigerians as 1999 constitution.
The most important index of a good constitution is the peoples' ownership of both the process and content of the constitution and that is what makes it defensible by the people, otherwise it will remain an imposition which will never be embraced both spiritually and physically by the constituents of the country.
It is therefore to the extent of lack of peoples' ownership, that the 1999 constitution is today prone to all manners of violations, abuse and contemptuous actions, which are currently being experienced by the constitution. For this to happen with impunity, it means the 1999 constitution has no place in the heart and consciousness of the people given its clique imposition.
One is not against the principles of incremental legislative amendment as proposed by the senate or amendment by judicial pronouncements as propounded by IBB. The point is that before any of these two principles are carried out on a country's constitution, the country must have first fulfilled the pre condition of people's ownership or legitimacy of the original process leading to the content of the constitution.
Again, the legalise of any constitution alone does not make it acceptable and enduring no matter how excellently moulded or good intentioned its makers are. Moreover, the 1999 constitution is clearly riddled and fraught with unpardonable contradictions and political mischief.
I suppose both Babangida and the Senate, though arguing from opposing perspectives, missed this crucial point and thus the nation is about to squander another N1b on error and mischief. Sadly this will once again deal a great blow on the economy of the poor people of the country.
Therefore, like i have mentioned severally in my previous public commentaries, the crucial thing the national assembly needs to do at this juncture of Nigeria political wanderings, notwithstanding its credibility problem, is to use this new initiative as a conflict management tool and an entry point to resolving the endemic Nigeria national question by facilitating a genuine and autochthonous constituents dialogue that will recommend popular constitutional proposals for their endorsement via a referendum of the people of Nigeria.
It is after these crucial fundaments must have been methodically laid that we can talk of any form of amendments, when the need arises, just as the American constitution has evolved from 1776. However, the Nigeria military, to which IBB belong, is the greatest culprit of the strangulation of Nigerian constitutional evolution with its various incursions into politics and suspension of the Nigerian constitution at every stage of their intervention.
What is clearly appropriate now is that Nigerians must be allowed to go back to status quo ante to renegotiate the terms of their union and corporate existence peacefully to avoid the inevitability of a looming bloody negotiation