Bulletin # 46: Letter To President Tinubu: Towards A Constitutional Convention

By Femi Odedeyi
Click for Full Image Size

The Yoruba Referendum Committee knows you've begun to make efforts in the direction of re-federalizing the Nigerian State. However, since the foundation of the state determines the capacity and capability of the structure, this foundation must be anchored on the necessary political imperatives that will drive the economic reforms of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Hence, the reforms' success and sustainability depend on political restructuring, i.e., the Constitutional Re-Formation of Nigeria, as the only guarantor of the economic reforms. Therefore, the reforms must go parri-passu with political restructuring; otherwise, the reforms will be susceptible to the vagaries of political contest for power, as we experienced during the 2023 elections.

Our reasons are as follows:
(i) Amendments to the 1999 Constitution cannot guarantee the reforms. The sole reason for continuously amending the Constitution since 1999 is that it could not provide an adequate foundation for a truly federal and democratic Nigerian State. Furthermore, perennial Constitutional amendments offer the avenue to use such amendments to waste economic and political achievements, thereby creating more instability. Therefore, knowing that the 1999 Constitution has a faulty foundation, it behooves us to redesign and fashion a new Constitution.

(ii) The above is even more specific when it is realized that punch lists for Restructuring abound, all centered on the reports/recommendations of the various conferences since 1999, with some making the 1960/1963 Constitutions their take-off points. Remarkably, the 1960 Constitution came into being as the result of the various Constitutional Conferences with the representation of the peoples via the then-existing political parties whose decisions were legitimized by the 1959 Elections, while the reports and recommendations of a series of conferences on Nigeria’s federal system have no imprimatur of the people because “representatives” were appointed for such conferences by governments–military or civil.

(iii) This is why these punch lists have been reduced to certain expectations, to wit: state police, reduction in the cost of governance, changing the narrative on “residual “and “exclusive” lists etc. The common factor in these is that they are presented as if tinkering with one or the other with legislation is needed. This cannot be the case because these issues are at the heart of Nigeria’s existence, and as such, we must address whatever existential paradigms are necessary. This is the only way to ensure and assure a proper foundation is laid. And the proper way to go about it is through the instrumentality of the Nationality Referendum as the pathway towards Restructuring/True Federalism through which the People, as the Federating Unit, will manifest their aspirations and expectations.

(iv) The pre-independence Constitutional Conferences could negotiate residual and concurrent lists with the colonial power because it was a transition of power from an external source. In this case, it is not a transfer of power but the re-establishment of the wishes and aspirations of the Federating Units and the relationship between them.

(v) Therefore, to achieve this, we must address the foundational issue of the Federating Unit. We posit that the Federating Units cannot be the current atomized states, especially with the same ethno-nationality balkanized into the different states. Instead, it is the various Peoples/Ethno-Nationality administered either as Regions or States, based on the architecture of the new Nigerian State as a Multi-National State to be arrived at via the Constitutional Convention, which will also become the conclusion of the various Nationality Referendums which would have Legitimized, Confirmed and Legalized the Peoples aspirations and expectations. Hence, the Constitutional Convention is only to smoothen any rough edges in the architecture of the Nigerian State.

(vi) Furthermore, Nationality Referendums also serve the following purposes:(a) serving as the bulwark against any untoward political happenstance as it already prepares a legitimate response because they are at once a Legitimate expression as well as a negation of any unwanted or unwarranted illegitimate assumption of power from any quarter or region–Southwest, Northwest, Southeast, etc.; (b) being a democratic process providing the platform for an immediate, practical and practicable response to any eventuality; (c)becoming the standard by codifying Re-Federalization or Restructuring as a Nationality-specific Referendum, attractive to various sectors of the society and the international community;(d) embedding the relevant socio-cultural “ethos,” by weaving it into the aspirations and expectations of the Peoples to re-Federalize Nigeria, toward a new constitution where the People make decisions, even at the lowest level of governance.

(vii) Towards this end, we have sent a Bill for a Referendum to the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti Sates’ Houses of Assembly to be passed into Law and for them to conduct the Referendum. Other Nationalities/People can use the same template or design their own based on their peculiarities.

(viii) The “Nationality Referendum” combinespolitical restructuring and economic reforms and guarantees a proper foundation because it provides the platform for a new Constitutional Convention to arrive at a Re-Federalized Nigeria. The Convention will culminate the Referendums conducted within the various Nationalities as Federating Units that their chosen delegates will represent. The Constitutional Convention will be anchored on the Legitimate and Legal results of the various Nationality Referendums, thereby avoiding unnecessary acrimony while simultaneously being the closest replica of the pre-independence Constitutional Conferences.

(ix) Therefore, the basic Referendum Question is to be based on the composition of the Federating Unit, either as a merger of states, as the Yoruba Referendum posits, or setting up the form of relationships between different Nationalities, which would be based on the following, adaptable scenarios: (a) Each Region shall be a Constituent Unit of the Nigerian Union; (b) shall adopt a Parliamentary System of government; (c)The Central Government of the Union shall have no power to interfere or intervene in the affairs of the REGION, save as shall be agreed to by three-quarters of the members of the Region’s Parliament; (d)There shall be a Division of the Federal Armed Forces in the Region, 90% of which personnel shall be indigenes of the Region; The Divisional commander shall be an indigene of the Region. (e)The Judicial power of the Region shall be vested in the Supreme Court of the Region, Court of Appeal, High Court, Customary Court, and other lower courts as the Parliament may establish. There shall be a Court of Appeal in each of the provinces. Each province shall have a High Court from which appeals shall lie to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the Region; (f) Each Region shall have its internal security system; (g) Each Constituent Unit of the Nigerian Federation shall control primary interest in its own resources with an agreed Tax Model for the Federation.

(x) Furthermore, the Yoruba Referendum Committee defines the new Multi-National Nigerian State as “A Federal Nigeria, through a valid Federal Constitution, to be known as The Union of Nigerian Constituent Nationalities, with a Federal Presidential Council, whose members will be selected or elected from each of the Nationalities as Federating Units and from whom a Head of State will be selected or elected as the primus-inter-pares with an agreed term.”

(xi) The Federal Presidential Council answers the debate on choosing between Presidential or Parliamentary Systems because the Executive and Legislative power of the State would rest in the Council with the extra provision for the Executive to appoint Ministers outside the Council. As a Balanced Federation, the Federating Units will have equal representation in the Council.

(xii) The Presidential System distorts the political economy of electoral politics, which translates into the distortion of the political economy of the country at large and which will affect the sustainability of the economic reforms. Hence, the necessity to jettison the current presidential in favor of the Parliamentary System, where the political economy of electoral politics will be limited to one’s constituency, becomes logical. This will further resolve the necessity or otherwise of countrywide political parties because mandatory countrywide political parties negate the principle embedded in the Parliamentary System, where representation is local while hence representation in the Federal Presidential Council, must be left to be decided by the Federating Unit, if there is equal representation at the Federal Presidential Council.

Thank you for your time, sir.
Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee