Governor Rotimi Akeredolu Says 1963 Constitution Remains The Best Document For Nigeria
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State on Wednesday maintained that the 1963 constitution remains the best document for Nigeria as a diverse and heterogeneous entity, saying going back to the 1963 Republican Constitution will help to address all the ongoing agitations in the country.
Akeredolu stated this during his opening remark at the public hearing by the Senate Committee on Constitution Review held at the International Event Center, the Dome in Akure, the state capital.
The governor noted that every constitutional review in the country was drafted and foisted on the people of the country except the 1963 Constitution which upheld the principle of autochthony, organic development of the law using local experiences, noting that the Republican status of the country was reflected.
He said “This country has been experiencing constitution review since 1922 when the colonialists pretended to give a semblance of representation in our affairs.
“The 1946 Richard’s Constitution followed due to agitations of the people who clamoured for more representation. The Macpherson’s of 1951 and Lyttleton’s of 1954 followed the same pattern. The 1958 Conference held in London gave provenance to the Independence Constitution of 1960.
Akeredolu said, “The1963 Constitution retained Regionalism and upheld the principle of autochthony, organic development of the law using local experiences. The Republican status of the country was reflected.
“The major provisions which allowed the three regions which existed before independence were retained in the 1963 Constitution. That remains the best document for a country as heterogeneous as Nigeria. It was the best practicable guide towards nationhood.”
He, however, said “Unfortunately, the military coup of 1966 destroyed that when it abolished regionalism and created the so-called provinces while imposing a unitary system on the country.
“Any honest analyst will agree that this act marked the beginning of the crises of confidence among the peoples of this country. This gross commission led to the civil war and the attendant loss of lives and property on a monumental scale.”
The Ondo governor said the need for the review further underscores the urgency attached to the current socio-economic crises in the land and said “no patriotic citizen can deny the fact that the country faces dire challenges at the moment which, in themselves, bear the necessary ingredients for redefinition, determination, growth and eventual development. The movement towards social integration must be steady and focused.
“The constitution of a country should reflect the aggregate of the realistic expectations of the components parts which form the union. It is the basic law that must define the powers and responsibilities of the offices created to serve the people. It must address the possible areas of anxiety. Nothing must be taken as given.
“All aspects of concern must be looked into with a view to reaching a consensus. All disparate aspirations must be harnessed to evolve a national ethos.
“No section of the country must feel shortchanged. The document produced must be a true reflection of collective bargaining and concessions secured in an ambience of frank exchanges among members of the same family.
“The current attempt at Constitution amendment should be taken beyond the usual jamboree conceived and executed to arrive at a predetermined result.
He advised that “The leaders galvanising this course of history must cast aside partisanship, an unprofitable and distracting pastime at the moment of national emergencies, which often serves the purpose of parochialism, selfish considerations and permutations to outwit, beguile with the ultimate aim to displace and dispossess perceived opponents.
“This is the time for candour, that rare opportunity which gives vent to processed nuggets of introspection. This is the hour to accept that fundamental errors of judgement have been made and there is the need to correct the same.
“This is the moment when brothers and sisters must look at themselves in the eyes, chastise in love and be ready to embrace, warmly, afterwards. The stage must not be set for an unending and needless blame game and acrimony. This is definitely not a contest in sophistry where orators say so much but, in the end, say nothing.
“Providence has ensured our presence on the World Map as Nigerians, a badge which evokes a mixed feeling of approbation and warmth, on one hand, and a general sense of revulsion for attitudes symptomatic of the current crisis of confidence in the country.
“Our ability to deliberate, dispassionately, on the issues which, ultimately, define us as a nation of peoples bound in the same destiny, will be far-reaching in our quest for abiding solutions to the perennial crises.”
He said “All the agitations of the peoples of this country must be looked into with a view to improving the economic power of the average citizens. The best way possible is to allow each region to flower in its areas of comparative advantage.
“The behemoth called the Federal Government must shed the excess weight unduly appropriated over time. It is the major cause of friction. It is the reason for the politics of bitterness. It explains why everyone wants the power at the centre. It promotes ethnic chauvinists and encourages mediocrity.
“The new law must view, critically, the current misnomer which sees the Federal Government appropriating humongous amounts for moribund agencies whose duties overlap with those of the states.
“The fiscal policy of the country must be restructured to encourage ingenuity and uncommon resourcefulness. The Federal Government should only coordinate and receive royalties. The current system is not sustainable. All of us are beginning to appreciate this fact.
The current exercise will derive its legitimacy if taken to the people for revalidation. Nothing must be taken for granted. Everyone must be treated as an equal partner in this whole enterprise of nation-building.”
The Chairman of the Committee, Deputy Senate President and Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, said the constitutional review is holding simultaneously across all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
Omo-Agege who was represented by the Senate leader, Senator Ayayi Boroffice, said the Committee decided to adopt a bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geopolitical level and said “this approach underscores the critical importance the Constitution Review Committee places on the subnational levels of governance in Nigeria.
“Let me also remind our fellow patriots, countrymen and women, that a Constitution Review represents a critical phase in our development and advancement as a nation.
He assured that all Memorandum submitted will be attended to by the committee and said “this ongoing review provides a platform for the good people of Nigeria to express their opinions on the fundamental law that governs our lives through proposals that will lead to the highest good for the greatest number of our people.
“No doubt, we are going to have diverse and differing views on the different themes of the exercise. However, the focus for this Committee is how to manage the review exercise in a fair, inclusive, credible, and transparent manner.”