AFTER more than 92 years, Nigerians are still endlessly searching for a workable constitution. Another search is scheduled to begin this month with the convocation of a national conference by President Goodluck Jonathan. Initially, the conference was scheduled to take off by March 10, but has been delayed by one week. It will now begin on March 17. To put the conference right on course, the federal government has named Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, former chief justice of Nigeria, as its chairman, to be assisted by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, who was named deputy chairman. Dr. Valerie Azinge was also named the secretary of the conference. Already, the list of the 492 delegates who will take part at the conference has been made public. The list includes representatives of elder statesmen, retired military and security personnel, retired police officers’ association, retired state security and national intelligence agency officers, traditional rulers, retired civil servants, organized labour, organized private sector, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, National Youth Council of Nigeria, National Students’ Association and other youth organizations, women groups such as the National Council of Women’s Societies, market women associations, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Nigerian Association of Women Journalists and Women in Management, Business and Public Services.
Others are representatives of political parties, religious groups, civil society organizations, Nigerians in the Diaspora, people living with disabilities, Newspaper Proprietors’ Association, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, socio-political/cultural and ethnic nationality groups, geo-political zones, national academies, former political office holders at national, state and local government levels as well as professional bodies such as the Nigeria Bar Association, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Nigeria Medical Association, Nigerian Institute of Management, Nigerian Institute of Architects, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Nigerian Environmental Society, Nigerian Economic Society, Historical Society of Nigeria and Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria.
Going by that long list, it appears every segment of the country’s population has been recognized as a critical sector that must be represented this time around in the process of fashioning out what can be called “a people’s constitution”. Over the years, the lamentation had been that in the past 92 years ever since Nigerians started the search for a workable constitution, most of what they got had been imposed on them first by the British colonialists and then by the military. Even though the British gave Nigeria a parliamentary constitution that was predicated on a federal system of government, they made the constitution unworkable because they deliberately sowed the seed of political instability by leaving behind an unbalanced federation at independence. That instability gave the military cause to take over power from the politicians in 1966. It was the military under the then General Olusegun Obasanjo that imposed a presidential constitution on Nigeria. That constitution replaced a federal system of parliamentary democracy with an expensive presidential system which has led the country to nowhere. This is the time to critically look at the desirability of the American presidential system of government in Nigeria.
It is the wish of most Nigerians that this time around, the delegates to the national conference who represent all critical sectors of the economy and segments of the population will be guided by national and not partisan interests to give Nigerians a constitution they can proudly claim as their own. It is also our hope that unlike past efforts, the 2014 national conference will succeed where others had failed. In view of the national significance of the conference, our cover story this week seeks to examine the issues likely to come up for discussion and the pre-conference positions of the various geo-political groups as well as how they are likely to impact on the overall decisions to be reached. Entitled ‘National Dialogue: Endless Search for Identity’, the story was the handiwork of Olu Ojewale, our general editor and the in-house political analyst. Happy reading.
— Mar. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT