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To those who believe in ‘One Nigeria’

We celebrate our founding fathers because we deem them worthy of what they fought for. History has shown that they were not ordinary storytellers of…

We celebrate our founding fathers because we deem them worthy of what they fought for. History has shown that they were not ordinary storytellers of ideas or speakers of popular opinion. We revered them because of their pragmatism that transformed our identities. Despite their differences, they worked as a collective unit to create a united country.

This is why changing Nigerian laws under the guise of regional governance must not be considered to favour a person, tribe or religion. 

To be specific, our laws must reflect the collective will of the people, not the agenda of a single leader or region. 

Individualism and regional interests brought us nothing but military interventions and civil war. And we must never allow such to happen again.

It is on record that Nigeria is among the few unusual countries in the world that have changed constitutions up to 10 times. Our first was under British rule, the Clifford Constitution of 1922, after Lord Lugard’s amalgamation in 1914. There were the Richard Constitution of 1946, McPherson Constitution of 1951 and Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 — the federal constitution. 

At independence, there was the 1960 Constitution. The First Republic Constitution was declared in 1963. 

Following experience with military regimes, the Second Republic was declared under the 1979 Constitution. The 1989 Constitution was never implemented. The 1993 Constitution established the short-lived Third Republic while the1999 Constitution led to the Fourth Republic.

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Looking at the historical timeline, one cannot ignore the issue of political uncertainty. It also shows the difficulty we face in designing a generally acceptable framework. The regional government we practised following independence was discarded. And if it were any better, our founding fathers would have advocated its return in their later days. 

But after 25 years, in spite of its shortcomings, one can see the reasons why the 1999 Constitution is the longest-lived. And I dare say the most successful for reasons beyond the scope of today’s column. But like every rule book, the need for improvement will always be debated.

In economics theory, whenever the best laws or policies cannot be implemented, we are expected to choose the next best alternative. 

Stubborn idealists may not accept this. And given that we do not live in an ideal world, ideal laws are unattainable. Clearly, Nigeria is not an ideal society because of our socio-political and economic challenges. This means that we need alternative pragmatic approaches. But based on the evidence, we can agree that this administration is short of alternatives.

In a normal situation, I would not have worried myself. I would have described the potential macro implications of the regional proposals and waited for the outcome to show itself. On the contrary, this is not a normal situation. Nigeria’s unity is at stake, and this government is short on alternatives. So, we must propose the second-best alternative to avoid chaos and political instability.

As a practical alternative, it is wise to select some recommendations from the 2014 National Conference, which had approximately 492 delegates. It was formed to represent a broad spectrum of Nigerian society. They came from professional groups, ethnic groups and various interest groups. This makes the recommendations nationalistic without regional or ethnic agendas.  

For example, a modified presidential system would reduce the executive power and give the legislative arm more power. Limiting the number of ministers will reduce the cost of governance. Ensuring regional representation would improve efficiency.  Removing immunity for public officials and presuming those accused of corruption to be guilty until proven innocent will ensure laws that apply to all. 

An upward revision of allocations to states and local government areas in the fiscal sharing formula is desirable – the federal government gets 42.5 per cent, 35 per cent for states and 22.5 per cent for local government areas. 

But the recommendation is not without contradictions. In a bid to streamline governance, removing local government areas as the third-tier of government was recommended.

Looking at our history, we must acknowledge that changing Nigerian laws requires careful thinking. We do not need leaders who persist in trial and error or risk-taking. But this is not always visible to the intelligence of the ordinary man. 

Our loyalty to Nigeria must be neutral to sectionalism and individualism. It must transcend our ethnicity, religion and regions. This means that this responsibility should be left to only those who have ‘always believed in One Nigeria.’

So, the attempt to reform Nigeria according to ‘personal priorities’ must be challenged. People must not ignore his views as published by ThisDay of April 13, 1997, captioned: I Don’t Believe In One Nigeria –Tinubu. His track record of economic policies, marked by trial-and-error, has failed. But it does not look like they have learnt from making hasty, unresearched and unilateral decisions. 

This is why I urge loyal Nigerians not to sit back and watch them play trial-and-error with our laws that will eventually balkanise the country.

Happy Democracy Day!

 

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