RESTRUCTURING:THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SCRATCHES THE SURFACE
MAZI SAM OHUABUNWA is a rare gem. A social crusader and a boardroom administrator whose writings cover all spheres of life. This is his debut as a columnist in this platform and has addressed the vexed issue on Nigerian question. Read him, agree or disagree with him via our social media feedbacks: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or Comment box:
I must admit that I was completely taken aback by the flurry of constitutional amendments undertaken by the NASS last week. I did not see it coming,perhaps because I was away from the Country for several days. Some time last month, the Senate moved a motion requesting the Presidency to re-submit the recommendations of the 2014 National conference and I do not know that the Presidency had responded. In fact when the Acting President did his day-return visit to the President in his ‘winter’ home in the UK, I was hoping that item was on his list of prayers. Therefore I was not expecting that any legislative actions were in the offing.
However I was aware that the National Assembly had been undertaking piece-meal amendments of the 1999 Constitution and that it had held a couple of retreats in this wise, but I had hoped that the growing demand for restructuring which seemed to have reached a crescendo recently after the commotion caused by the Arewa Youths response to the IPOB demand for the sovereign state of Biafra, the NASS was going to abandon this piece-meal approach and took a fresh holistic restructuring of the Constitution so as to achieve a holistic restructuring of the Federation. So I was thoroughly astounded to hear of the passage of 30 bills out of the 33 dealing with several sections of the Constitution.
But to be true, 30 bills amending the constitution passed in one day or so is a feat in itself. It is therefore appropriate to congratulate the NASS for this prodigious output. But when I reviewed the amendments, I came to the conclusion that if what the NASS did had any relationship with the strident call for true rearranging of the structures and systems of this Country to set it free to soar and to save it from implosion, then I am sorry to say that they have only scratched the surface.
Indeed my analysis shows that most of the amendments were addressed to three key stakeholder groups. First, the National Assembly gave more powers to themselves – they can amend the constitution without the President’s approval or concurrence; the President and Governors must now send the names of their ministerial and commissioner nominees with their assigned portfolio within 30 days of coming to power,etc. The second beneficiaries are local government Chairmen, who now have more powers and more monies to misappropriate. The third group is the governors who are large beneficiaries in a negative sense, their powers to misappropriate local government funds have now been removed, and they can no longer sit in their offices and ‘elect’ Local Government Chairman and Councillors through the ‘State Dependent Electoral Commissions’. But these may not stand as I can bet that they will get their State Houses of Assembly who are fully beholden to them to reject this disenfranchisement and reduction of their power to control the local governments.
The problems Nigeria is facing can not be resolved in any way by these amendments to the constitution. How do these amendments address the marginalization of the Igbo and other oppressed nationalities in Nigeria? How do they deal with the growing insecurity in the Nation? How do they deal with the unchecked menace of the Fulani herdsmen? How do they remove discrimination over school enrollment of children from some sections of the Nation?
How do they motivate States to look inwards to maximise economic potentials in their States and depend less on federal handouts? How do they remove the clogs on the wheels of economic growth in the Country? How do they reverse the situation where,we are eating up our seeds by spending over 70% of our income in servicing the public service?
How do they reverse the situation where Nigeria has one of the highest disease burdens in the World? How do they reverse our Lowly positions on the Human Development Index and the Corruption Perception Index? How do they reverse our pitiable global competitiveness? How do they reverse the despoliation and impoverishment of the regions that produce the Nation’s wealth?
How do they help to correct the instability of the inverted federation where the tail wags the dog? How do they resolve the mutual suspicion among the different ethnic groups? How do they engender love and patriotism amongst the People? How do they create a new Nation?
I wish to be charitable to the NASS, and would assume these 33 bills they considered and approved 30 or so is only the first phase in the effort to improve governance in Nigeria. But it seems they started with dealing with the low hanging fruits which seem less contentious.
My suggestion is that they should move rapidly to the next phase and deal with the real issues that will be for the benefit of the peoples of Nigeria. I know that what we are asking for is quite difficult for them to do. It is in the nature of man not to surrender advantages easily or to take positions that could imperil their status. Many people have said that no amount of amendment of the 1999 constitution will satisfy the majority of Nigerians who truly love the Nation and who want it to continue as a single Nation.
Such Patriots insist on a brand new constitution that will restore stability by engendering Justice, Equity and Fair play or a return to the 1963 Republican constitution. But in my view, this 8th National Assembly has shown so much courage and capacity for Hardwork that some us still hope that they can bite the bullet and make fundamental changes that will lead to a peaceful and orderly restructuring of the Country. I therefore urge them to make hay while the sun shines.
- Mazi Ohuabunwa, OFR, writes from Lagos.