Bulletin #47: Response To Chiefs Emeka Anyaoku, Ozekhome, Gbenga Daniel et al


As part of the on-going interrogation on the necessity to Re-Federalize Nigeria, a sizable segment of the Nigerian elite gathered in Lagos on March 18, 2024 to deliberate on “Lawful Procedures For Actualizing A People’s Constitution for Nigeria” at an event convened by the group known as “The Patriots” in honor of one of its leaders, Prof Ben Nwabueze who passed away last year just as it was also to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2014 National Conference.

The take-aways from their deliberations, from various Press reports, are all anchored on their rejection of the 1999 Constitution and the necessity for a new “Peoples Constitution” and their suggested methodologies of actualizing same, include, in no particular order, the following: the possibility of another “Doctrine of Necessity” floated by Senator Tambuwal; Senator Gbenga Daniel’s push for implementing the decisions of the 2014 National Conference; Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s advocacy for “true federalism, with considerable powers devolved to the federating units” , that the 1999 Constitution as amended lacks the legitimacy that flows from a democratically made constitution” while suggesting either accepting the 2014 national conference as an acceptable platform, or we go for a relatively inexpensive directly elected Constituent Assembly on all parties basis for producing such a widely desired constitution,”; and Mike Ozekhome’s declaration that the 1999 Constitution was merely a Schedule to Decree 24 of1999 which was not backed up by any Referendum hence urged Nigerians to “own their own constitution through a popular referendum of the people like was done to the Midwest constitution on the 10th of August 1963 when it separated from the Western region”.

The Yoruba Referendum Committee hereby responds to all the issues raised as follows:

(i) "Legitimacy”, canvassed by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, is derived by democratic means, or, in cases of social revolutions, by the forcible overthrow of an extant regime by mass revolts manifesting as either urban or rural insurrections. imposed by force of arms. Hence, if we are seeking Legitimacy for a New Constitution, and we are not in a social-revolutionary situation, the best way of going about it is through Democratic means. This can only be through a Referendum. Yet, the question as to what manner of Referendum must be addressed.

(ii) This cannot be a single, countrywide Referendum. A countrywide or Pan-Nigerian Referendum will deny the aspirations and expectations of the various Constituents, thereby neutralizing Federalism as a co-equal relationship between the national and the subnational since the countrywide Referendum already denies the existence of the subnational as a Constituent.

(iii) Mike Ozekhome’s reference to the Mid-West Referendum has nothing to do with a new Constitution for Nigeria, because the Nigeria of that time had a Legitimate Constitution and from which derived the specific purpose of creating the Mid-West Region, hence the Referendum was conducted only among the Mid-Westerners. In the case of a new Constitution for Nigeria, such a Referendum must be conducted by Nigerians who would be the Federating Units.

(iv) Therefore, the first issue to be addressed is who or what the Federating Unit is. Since it is agreed that the 1999 Constitution must be changed, it follows that its definition of Nigeria must be redefined. The 1999 Constitution says, “Nigeria is a Federation of States and Federal Capital Territory” as if these states are devoid of people; a major reason for this being the denial of our multinationalism, multilingualism, and multiculturalism, which has led to the architecture of the State as a direct competitor of, and in opposition to, the aspirations and expectations of the people/citizens.

(v) We posit that the Federating Units cannot be the current atomized states, especially with the same ethno-nationality balkanized into the different states. Rather, 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 a Constitutional Convention. Therefore, a new Constitution cannot be based on “States as federating units” but on the various Peoples/Nationalities inhabiting the geo-political space called Nigeria. The new Constitution must be derived from a Constitutional Convention, itself the culmination of the various Nationality Referendums, from which it will derive its Legitimacy thereby making a countrywide Referendum superfluous.

(vi) Furthermore, this Nationality-specific Referendum addresses the question of “devolution”. Devolution is anti-Federal because it presupposes the prior existence of a center, or authority which devolves powers. The only existing authority is the National Assembly which is a product of the 1999 Constitution we are seeking to replace. Therefore, the question of devolution does not even arise. Also, this cannot be resolved through a “Doctrine of Necessity” because an authority must also exist to enable and empower such a doctrine and will keep for itself, the power and authority on devolution. Federalism is the opposite because it is a system of coordinating a center/national with the sub-national who would have, a priori, agreed to the form of coordination. As the saying goes, “power devolved is power retained”. Devolved power can be reclaimed.

(vii) It is not possible to have an “inexpensive directly elected constituent assembly on all party basis," simply because the political parties are not the Federating or Constituent Units. The parties do not stand for the Federating units or Nationalities. Unlike the run up to the pre-independence Constitutional Conferences where elections had been conducted by 1951/52 and the victorious parties roughly corresponded with their Regions, and which provided them the needed Legitimacy. In such a case, the parties could be said to stand for their Regions. Not in this present case.

(viii) Advocacy to implement the 2014 Confab must also be derived from a Referendum because there mustalso be an authority to decide which of the over 6oo recommendations are rightfor the various Peoples of Nigeria, thereby depriving the various Peoples ofNigeria the opportunity to Legitimately determine their preferences, more so when the delegates to the Confab did not represent their peoples. They can be said to stand for their people only when their people have mandated them to do so. This was not the case.

(ix) The 2014 Confab forced the people to literally surrender their inherent capacity to advance the quest for self-actualization because they are either absent or absent-minded when crucial decisions were being made, despite being represented by either political or “socio-cultural” leaders and organizations supposedly selected by those in charge of the country’s central government that has appropriated to themselves, the authority to take decisions reflecting the general expectation of the People(s),

(x) We recall that the Richards Constitution was rejected because the principle of a Union or Federation is based on the Peoples and not on administrative units. Indeed, every Union or Federation in the world is based on a Union of Peoples which may be administered either as states (as in the US) or regions as in Germany. For a Federation or Union to exist, therefore, the People inhabiting a geographical space must make that decision.

(xi) When the case is made that the current states are now a reality that we cannot run away from, the short answer to that is, Yes, we can run away from it, in the sense that the political and economic circumstances that make for their creation are the root cause of Nigeria’s problems today, such that their retention or change can only be by the Peoples affected themselves and not by fiat from the Center. Thus, the Yoruba, for example, may decide to make every Yoruba town or city an administrative center—that will be our choice based on our economic and political imperatives.

(xii) With the above and more, it can be concluded that rather than proceed on another round of “electing representatives” to a partisan or non-partisan Constituent Assembly, the best way out is through the Nationality Referendums which would have Legitimized, Validated, and Legalized the aspirations and expectations of the Peoples, and which will lead directly to a Constitutional Conventionout of which a new Federal Constitution to usher in a Federal Multi-National State will be established. This will be a Multi-National State capable of addressing the “Leadership Question” in Nigeria because it ensures that the Nationalities are active participants in their development.

(xiii) The National Assembly’s role will be limited to legislating on convening of the Constitutional Convention, after the conclusion of the various Nationality Referendums. Such Referendums are to be conducted by the various State Electoral Commissions or in the case of smaller or balkanized Nationalities, by their preferred method. If it is said that the State Assemblies were also created by the same 1999 Constitution that we seek to replace, our short answer is that since we are not advocating anarchy or a military coup, the State Assemblies or any preference by atomized nationalities in Nigeria provide the most peaceful pathway towards a new Constitution more so when the National Assembly has no provision for or against a Referendum. Hence, the decision must rest with the Nationalities as the Federating/Constituent Units.

Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee