The Constitutional basis for the rule of law in Nigeria-by Nwokedi Nworisara


Nigerian The basis for Nigeria's rule of law is predicated on faithfulness to the constitution. But there is a snag here; we have to respond to the question: which constitution? Along the path to independence and beyond there has been many constitutions. Yes, many seemingly contradictory constitutions. You have heard of the Richards constitution, the Macphersons, and of course the independence constitution.

Surely you know about the amendments, the1963 Republican additions and of course the decrees from 1967 down to 1979 when we desired return to civil rule. Also, do not forget how we came about today's constitution of 1999.You may see constitutional changes as a necessity for growth, a product of change and the times. You may be right there, but what type of change has occurred in our constitutions along those years and has it direct correlation to where we find ourselves today? Maybe we need to determine empirically where we are, in terms of desirability or otherwise of our people for positive changes in our present situation to proceed with this exercise. What it ball boils down to is that constitutional changes is always to be guided by a set of principles that take root from the fundamental objectives of state action from the very beginning of statehood.

A constitution is like a vehicle designed to get a state from one place to the other. At independence the Nigerian State wished to move to nationhood and then prosperity. Nationhood because she has to forge unity of purpose among the diverse peoples because this is a precondition for united action needed to bring about prosperity and happiness. It means that growth arises only when we move towards nationhood as a stepping stone to prosperity. It means that you cannot achieve sustainable growth avoiding nationhood in this quest. The question arises for many readers: what actions presuppose the right move towards nationhood? This question is almost premature in coming and may even be presumptuous because this analysis will reach that point with time here, but we can go ahead to answer it. Nationhood demands actions that seek to establish common national values rather than divisive ones. For instance nationhood would seek to define citizenship and provide the citizen with a national yardstick for performance in place of making two rules one for the North, the other for the south; one for indigenes,the other for settlers; one rule for the governing class the other for commoners; one rule for Muslims the other for Christians; one rule for the Military, the other for civilians; one rule for the educationally disadvantaged the other for the advantaged. The irony about these divisions is that we require all these groups to come together as one man one vote during elections because the world expect Nigeria to speak with one voice.

Already it is too deep in the course of an analysis to give such details. However let us not lose sight of the trend of thought here. The right way to go for Nigeria was and remains towards nationhood. The changing constitutions should have pointed the way thereto since they could not by meaning and definition reinvent the wheel. Yes, the wheel we are talking about was established in the 1960-1963 constitution. This constitution is the only bases for the existence of Nigeria as an independent sovereign state in the comity of Nations. This is why. On independence ,Nigeria was launched in the global stage because it accepted to abide by certain principles of civilized behavior ,to respect the sovereignty of other states and to abide by basic international legal statutes that may guide international trade and relationships. It was like opening a new website which has to be launched into the World Wide Web in order to receive full patronage and recognition from users. Such new website must conform to internationally recognized code of conduct and may derive its integrity from such launching that cannot be replicated for one State. The world sees Nigeria through the prism of her declaration of independence and the integrity perceived by other nations and states made it possible for Nigeria's acceptance into the comity of sovereign states and gave her the chance to participate in international trade, to owe and be owed. She was not a pariah. Also by virtue of the agreements she signed, treaties entered into whether multilateral or bilateral, she endorsed the operation of global bodies like the United Nations Organization and other agencies like World Bank, International monetary fund, etc. Nigeria agreed like others to respect human rights of her citizens, to protect lives and property and to make laws to protect the weak, youth, children and women. All these must not change in a constitutional review without becoming counter to that integrity built by Nigeria at independence from where our rule of law should emanate and find fulfillment.

So what is then the right constitutional basis for the rule of law in Nigeria? I is the independence constitution and it must guide any future constitutional review to meet genuine aspirations of the Nigerian State. Any deviation from those provisions as happened in 1967 when the military ousted many clauses to accommodate their emergency rule is null and void as from this moment. .It does not ask for debate. It has ceased to exist and must be recognized as a useless aberration no matter how long it lasted. It is time we recognized that Nigeria has lost those years and can wake up now to continue with her match to build a nation instead of remaining in limbo.Th4e beautiful thin about doing what is right is that you need nobody's approval. All approvals have been given in print and launched for the whole world to see in 1960 and 1963.Thise who wishes to follow the wrong Nigeria cannot claim to be under the rule of law, but they can retain their free will to continue along the wrong path. For all the discerning now is called for great leadership to proceed along the right and shinning path of national liberation and redemption.

To rebuild Nigeria does not need elections or debates or referendums but abiding faithfully to the rule of the right law. It entails discerning between what is in conformity with national aspirations, where and when to find out the purpose of Nigeria and most importantly appreciating the deep significance of natural laws to the weaving of world events. When the Creator made the world as we read in sacred books, He gave the fiat: 'Let there be light'. By this volition, and words He created the World. Ever since, the world has grown from there. These words cannot change because it represents the foundation stone of that eternal up-building. Nobody has yet come up with a reinvention of this world happening. The same faint boundaries are drawn for founding a Nation. It is also eternal and spiritually supported in the same way so no one can just wake up or decides to lay another foundation outside what the founding fathers did at independence. Such a person can jolly well go and found his own country with a different name. Little wonder that so many people see break up as option for Nigeria, yet with break up there will be no Nigeria. In building a Nation, you can only add to the eternal up building and those useless 'additions' will fall apart with time.

So why bother yourself carrying placards to protest what you know is wrong except you are not sure you stand aright. Why seek the approval of those who are lost anyway, when you should simply walk along the secure road to progress? This is the basic point being put forward here when debating the nature a Nigeria revolution which this writer earlier suggested will take. My suggestion that it would be a peaceful revolution drew the ire of readers as some felt that a 'bloody revolution' was all that was needed to liberate Nigeria. I am happy that the word 'liberate' has often been employed indicating that Nigeria is only in bondage. Yet to liberate one in bondage does not always entail bloodletting. Most times bondage may not mean imprisonment. So there may not be the warden or captor to deal with, but only a mindset woven and imposed by the wise over the ignorant. Remove this dark blanket of ignorance that covers Nigeria, sustained by our senseless obeisance to the inconsequential and unworthy ruler ship through awareness and proper education and information and as Zik wrote, 'Show the Light and the people will find their way”

You cannot give what you don't have. This is why we need a period of unaffected debate to acquire what we shall give out, not mudslinging because if you focus your mind on what is wrong you strengthen it as you end up connecting your energies to it thereby relieving you of your strength for positive decision making and in obedience to the law of balance, also uplifting your opponent while keeping you deeper in bondage as those you wish to liberate. The basic change of attitude is that there is a right road to follow, and that it makes sense. Then the next step is to begin to believe in this value system and refuse to look up to those who are down there for strength. As long as the true Nigeria is being built, no matter where the reconstruction is being done,[ you know that distance is no barrier at this technological age] the fake Nigeria will begin to diminish until the these others having also become better educated join the band wagon out of their own volition. This revolution will come in a whimper because then we would have established the true constitutional basis for the rule of law and we could clearly identify the outlaws. Those who can trace the spiritual basis of Nigerian existence to the independence constitution will find themselves in stronger positions to pick up the pieces as soon as the fake foundation come crashing by.

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