On Constitutional amendment -By Sesugh Akume

Filed under: Political Issues |


Someone asked what the position of #ANRP (Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party) is on the current Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; whether we believe in amending it, or crafting a new on that is people-oriented, as this isn’t covered in our documents (THIS IS OUR OWN – our manifesto, or FAQs – frequently asked questions).

I believe that the answer is yes to both questions. Not either/or, but and, meaning both options. The process of coming up with a People’s Constitution will have to be via amending the existing one. To be sure, #ANRP is looking at key structural reforms, so an amendment is sure and goes without saying. However, for us the philosophy behind what we do, the process followed, and how the process is perceived is as important, if not more important than the end result itself.

As important as amending the constitution to reflect the reforms we propose and bringing about a People’s Constitution are important, it isn’t a first order of business. We don’t see it as something to be rushed into. At #ANRP we think Nigerians have never really had any good governance, if we did we wouldn’t be where we are after all these years. We also think that a few, if any administrations have had any legitimacy by earning the confidence of the people towards the making of great country, not to mention a great nation. We see most Nigerians feeling no real sense of connection, belonging, and ownership with Nigeria. These are the first critical issues we hope to address.

So, imagine that an administration comes in and their first order of business is to cut down the cost of governance. Imagine that the National Assembly by majority decision urges the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which sets the pay of all public officials to downwardly review their atrociously high pay, which is the highest of any legislature in the world, and rationalise to a realistic remuneration that fits the reality of our society. Imagine them strengthening the Code of Conduct Bureau/Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCB/CCT) and FOI Acts to ensure that assets declaration by public officials are public, and accessible to citizens on demand. Imagine NASS fighting over which reforms are most important and urgent for the greater public good, instead of fighting about cars, ‘juicy’ committee memberships, ‘constituency projects’, and the other frivolities they’re known to fight about.

Imagine an administration that is all out, and is seen to be addressing the myriad social justice issues Nigerians have been seething in for years without outlet or reprieve.

Every year (including this one) we spend hundreds of billions of naira in buying SUVs, vans, and other motor vehicles. Imagine an administration that places an embargo on buying motor vehicles but emphasises and ensures that the available ones we’ve been acquiring for years are refurbished and put to proper use. And if they absolutely must be bought with government money, they must be from Innoson and Peugeot. What if an administration applied this modesty and frugality across board, including the sizes of official motorcades.

Imagine an administration that is all out, and is seen addressing and resolving the myriad social injustice issues Nigerians have been seething in for years without outlet or reprieve, and thus bringing healing to our peoples. Imagine a stabilised economy that has certainty and is predictable, and in fact has prices falling. Imagine an administration creating work for our teeming populace, thus creating a new class and generation of earners and spenders. And this is no big deal. Employing teenagers and other youth to plant trees, flowers, and grasses, repainting buildings, and maintaining other public facilities to keep them in a functional state and also visually appealing would keep hundreds of thousands of our people busy, and also earn for them something to spend. Simply enforcing existing codes (not introducing new ones yet) like the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) policy alone would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the recycling and wastage management sector alone whilst keeping our environment healthy, safe, and beautiful. This is no rocket science.

Imagine a government that is honest and doesn’t lie, but trusts Nigerians to be responsible and reasonable to take the truth and work with it. Governments lose credibility when they keep lying, something successive governments in Nigeria have refused to realise. Imagine one that easily opens up its books for public scrutiny and is ever ready to divulge (non-classified) information to citizens, and encourages citizens’ vigilance. Imagine an administration that on assumption of office promptly prepares the following year’s budget and completes a thorough process and has it passed within 6 months, to take effect on 1 January of the budgetary year.

Imagine that wrongdoing is punished promptly through a fair and transparent process without any noisemaking. An #ANRP government would rather focus on ending the patronage, prebendal system of nepotism and favouritism, and rather build a merit-based system that promotes diversity. We would rather first fix the civil/public service sector, the source, origin, and sustainer of corruption and mediocrity in Nigeria, and implement the tens if not hundreds of government White Papers and committee reports, first. We’d rather fix the shanties and urban jungles not fit for animals where Nigerians present subsist in, first clean them up and give our citizens some modicum of dignity and humanity. We’d rather stop the use of generators in public buildings and replacing with clean alternative energy sources. We’d stop the stealing from civil/public servants in the name of deductions that are never accounted for, but never stop. We’d rather focus on correcting the aberration of having the 1 teacher to 400 pupils ratio, or worse we have in many public schools.

These and more we’d have to do first with the intent of earning public confidence, trust and support. We must first do the much we can with what’s available, only then can we convince our employers, the people, that we need an amendment to the constitution for greater service and more public good. At this time, they’d be willing to accept and buy in.

The pathway to a People’s Constitution

At #ANRP we’re more interested in doing what is right, proper, decent, and moral, than merely winning arguments on legal technicalities. We don’t think NASS as representatives of the people should sit down and amend a constitution; weaken the powers of others, strengthen theirs, arrogate immunity or not to themselves, and determine for the people what aspects they NASS members deem important for the people. We think that the people should be in the position to decide what matters or not, and to be involved in the process. The constitution is very clear that sovereignty belongs to the people, not to NASS, the people. It says the government derives its power from the people through the constitution. Why then should an arm of the government sit on its own and amend the constitution? What connects the state with citizens is the constitution, one side therefore cannot rightly sit and decide to alter the terms of the relationship by themselves. And oh please, don’t tell me about public hearing at NASS. How many people can enter NASS even on days that public hearings are announced to the public?

When we’d have earned the public’s confidence and shaped the new national culture to always place the national interest and common good first, we foreseeing states themselves willingly offering to merge with other states to become more formidable economically and otherwise, as against the clamour by some for more states to be created. This agitation stems from the present mainstream philosophy of sharing oil rent which they call ‘the national cake’. Through our personal examples and symbolic gestures we, through moral suasion would’ve turned the mindsets of majority of Nigerians to forgetting about the era of oil which is gone, to concentrating on looking inwards, being smarter, and contributing in building a beautiful nation and society that works for us all and our children yet unborn, and not the tiny few. What about that thing about being an indigene, and states of origin? By the we could be brought to a consensus on abandoning it, and focusing on state of residence.

We at #ANRP are presently working towards having only the best human capital Nigeria offers: patriotic, sacrificial, committed, honest persons with proven track records to run for office. This means for instance, that if a proposed constitutional amendment the people want is to have a unicameral legislature, or a part-time one, Nigerians can rest assured that this is the what they will get, and nothing less. We are already prepared for that.

Nigeria was at the outset designed in 1900 to favour British imperial expansionist interests only, nothing more. On leaving in 1960 they handed over the reins of power to a tiny political class, less than 1% (both military and civilian) who have been running Nigeria for their exclusive benefit, making laws, enacting policies, carrying out practices to favour them alone; running Nigeria aground since then till date. The (warped) Nigerian Dream presently therefore is for ones to cross over and join that exclusive class. Reversing this aberrant system, returning Nigeria to Nigerians, liberalising and making the abundance of the land for all via a constitution that is owned and driven by the people cannot be something to be taken lightly.