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Coalition of leaders: Nigeria’s future and the Constitution By DR. KAZEEM BELLO

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Dr. Kazeem Bello
After 60 years of independence, we are still deceiving ourselves about governance in Nigeria. While it is true that the country has been steadily heading towards catastrophe since 1999, the cumulative effect of inactions is manifesting now. The problem did not just emanate with the current administration, it simply reared its ugly face and is now on rampage due to defective strategies being adopted by the administration especially in the areas of internal security and tackling corruption.

All the problems we are now alluding to have always plagued Nigeria as a country. They just started assuming pandemic proportions in recent times. They existed in 1999 and are still with us in 2020.

Let us take a very close look at the communiqué issued at the end of that meeting of elder statesmen, led by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. Let us take each item in isolation and then conduct a scientific analysis called Linear Time Trend analysis on them. It is a typical method that social scientists use to measure the time impact references to a specific policy or democratic rules or law. Without boring ourselves with the details here, we can subject this analysis to reference analysis instead.

Let start by taking a look at the issues raised in the communiqué issued by the Elder Statesmen as follows:

a) Nigeria Federal Structure and Devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources.

….what precisely in this first item was created by the current administration? This has been the mixed up and confusing fallacies that we have incorporated in our constitution, a document we should have thrown into the garbage since 1999. That document is a perfect example of a hybrid engine. It is completely a Diarchy which is a system championed by fascist, military and dictatorial regimes worldwide, mixed up with functional federalism. The Military that set up that Constitution and approved it were simply strangers to the norms and principles of true federalism and a free democratic system. These are alien to them in practice and by training. What they understand is the Command and control system where orders and commands are dished out and everyone is under the wimps and caprices of the Commander in Chief. The Military set up the 1999 constitution that way. We cannot blame them because that is how they understand democracy to be. But you cannot have a mixture of Diarchy and Federalism in a Constitution and expect that it will not result in total chaos and disintegration down the line.

The first line of duty of the Civilians in 1999 was to have dumped that Constitution and created a totally new Constitution with real and true federal structures. We failed to do that for over 20 years, and we expect the system not to disintegrate?

I will revert to the details on this issue later. Let us now examine our ongoing analysis. Trend Analysis of this first item in the communiqué issued by the Coalition will show that the issues have been reverberating and resurfacing since 1999. The Obasanjo (OBJ) administration had a Constitutional Conference that ended in nothing over those issues. No resolution! Mr. Umaru Musa Yar Adua may have done something about them, if he had stayed longer. His successor, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck, convened another Constitutional Conference and the results are gathering dust in the archives. These are issues we all knew are impediments to progress in Nigeria but we lack, or our leaders lack, the collective will to confront them. The problem was never created by this administration. It simply inherited the messy and confused system. In that case, the item number one in the communiqué failed our analysis test. It is never the reason why Nigeria is at this tragic brink. The problem is rather the cumulative effects of neglect by previous administrations to genuinely address the issues.

b) Security.

This issue is even more pathetic. It appears the security situation in Nigeria has completely broken down. We are not in any external aggression with another country but almost 70% of the country is on high red alert for security breaches. It is, indeed, pathetic.

Again, this problem had been there for years. It is generally due to faulty security structures, combined with neglect and lack of significant investment in security, intelligence and infrastructure over the years. These ultimately resulted in the current breakdown. Rising poverty and unemployment also added human challenges to the breakdown in security.

But this is among the issues that have been plaguing the system since 1999 but we collectively neglected to address them. They were not created by this Muhammadu Buhari administration though it may not have taken adequate measures or adopted reasonable strategies to tackle the security issues presently confronting the country. We have the largest foot soldiers, and perhaps the largest Police Force, in Africa and rank among the largest in the world, yet we have not been able to battle or confront remnants of Boko Haram for almost 10 years. Now we have rampaging invaders from West African territories called bandits marching freely and controlling our villages and farmers in the North West of the country. This is among the problems not created by this administration. These problems have been present since 1999 and we have taken no serious measures to tackle them.

This item in that Coalition’s communiqué, therefore, equally failed the litmus test. It is not a recent problem. It has been there for years with different governments neglecting to find solutions to it.

c) Electoral Reforms and integrity and credibility of elections in Nigeria?

Seriously, this is a massive fail on this current analysis. We do not need to elaborate more on the untold hardship and degradation that our faulty electoral process has unleashed on Nigerians. It is just simply ridiculous that our leaders are only now coming together to raise this issue as a major problem. Everything about the 1999 Constitution on Elections and the Electoral process is completely a Military arrangement designed to fail. It is that simple. I am very worried that our leaders are just now waking up to the reality that the constitution is the bane of our Electoral process in Nigeria. Are they just waking up since May 1999 to realize that we have an Electoral system that was planted in the Constitution to fail? It had failed and it can never work.

Again, this item on the communiqué failed our Trend Analysis test because it was never a creation of this administration. We should have collectively trashed the 1999 Constitution to arrive at a modern and more democratic electoral process before now.

d) Local Governments Autonomy
This is even more amusing and I am just wondering, it appears that our past leaders should be highly commended and politely asked to stay away voluntarily from partisan politics. We need fresh mindsets and brains as a matter of urgency in Nigeria. We are using a Document called Constitution that has completely destroyed every effort from the Grassroots and we are here complaining after failed experiments in the last 21 years. The Constitution created Local Governments and then took away ingenuity and creativity from the Grassroots and we expect magic to happen? It is more intriguing that this topic showed up in this communiqué by our so-called Leaders of Thought. Again, it would hugely benefit Nigerians if they can simply voluntarily diminish into permanent retirement. They had no clue when it matters most, and they are still very clueless at this time. Seriously, it’s time to allow fresh brains to think for this great country.

e) The Economy and Fiscal Federalism.
I am not an activist but sometimes, I am sympathetic to the cause that patriotic groups fight. The Nigerian economy in the recent past has shaken and vibrated into slumber due to years of careless and clueless management. We are even making reference to fiscal federalism. We should ask ourselves, which part or clause in the 1999 Constitution provides real contextual provisions to address the issue of fiscal federalism. It does not exist in that Constitution because it is alien to the Military that created that Constitution in the first place. What really concerns Military or dictatorial regimes with fiscal federalism? They are not subject to anyone and do not report to anybody or institution not even the citizens. They simply refused to include clauses in the 1999 Constitution that would effectively tackle issues relating to Fiscal Federalism since they have no idea of what that means in the first place.
We should have known, since 1999 that our Constitution grossly and disproportionately falls short of providing real solutions to the issue of a real fiscal federation environment. So, it is an aberration to falsely accuse the current regime of failing to enthrone fiscal federalism when the past administrations failed to tackle the issue. Again, it is the accumulation of the neglect of the past that is currently heating up the system. It is not something created in the last five years.

f) Judicial Reforms
Nigeria probably has some of the best brains in the legal profession in the World. Very brilliant and well educated. However, the rot in the judicial system in Nigeria can be traced to the neglect in recognizing the bundles of confusion created by the 1999 Constitution regarding the Judiciary. Are we just reckoning with this problem? Why is it being listed here now as one of the major issues creating problems for Nigeria by those who failed to tackle the problem in the first place?
The Military does not work with the regular legal system as we generally know it. They have a Military style legal system and set of rules that conform with the Command and control structure of the military globally. That legal structure can never work under a democratic system but our military simply copied that military legal system or their own understanding of the judicial system verbatim and dumped it in the 1999 Constitution for the democratic system. How on earth do we expect that to work? It can never work and it is the result of this anomaly that we have been witnessing over the past 21 years of using this constitution.
The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting reads in part: “The participants resolved to commit themselves to the implementation of agreed reforms and recommendations arising out of this initiative in the speediest and most acceptable process.”
The import of this statement is why I characterize our otherwise respectable elder statesmen as already spent-bullets. What Nigerians will cherish from them is to collectively announce their retirement from partisan politics and end this elongated regime of recycling old brigadiers to allow Nigeria attract young and dynamic hands to thinker with the country and fashion a way forward. It is not clear how they will implement any agenda or program in isolation of the elected members of the National Assembly and the fact that we have a ruling government in place. They have not indicated how they intend to intervene to solve the problems that most of them created and some of them had the opportunity to resolve but frittered away the chances. The poverty level in Nigeria is so high now and it is not known if Nigerians currently will relate to this group of old soldiers. So why breed more tension in the land? If they have solutions to the problems, let them marshal such out for us to analyze and determine the workability of such recommendations. For now, we cannot allow the nation to succumb to any tension that this their gathering may engender. That is the least of the worries of an average Nigerian right now.

In the final analysis, it is instructive to conclude here that the items listed in the communiqué issued by the Coalition on how to move Nigeria forward have all failed our Trend Analysis test. They are not new issues as we all know. This current administration did not create them and they can never be the reason why this administration is having challenges moving the country forward. The administration inherited this lopsided, confused structure and no serious attempts have been made in the past to address them. So why isolate and blame the current government? The regime of OBJ had all powers, capacity and legitimacy to carry out a complete reform of the 1999 Constitution and create a brand-new real federal Constitution. That would have saved Nigeria the current crisis of confidence in the system.

Now let us go back to identify and look critically at the real masquerading problem creating developmental impediments for Nigeria. IT IS THE 1999 CONSTITUTION. A past research work by the Brookings Institute in the United States on Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution glaringly identified about 1,240 clauses that are creating massive confusion and that have mixed up of Diarchy with real Federalism. There is absolutely no way you can mix up the two systems and expect that document to work efficiently. It will never happen. We would continue to deceive ourselves and waste opportunities to grow the system as long as we rely on the document created and fashioned by the military for the operation of real and true federalism. Now we can easily see the real source of all the problems. The first line of business in 1999 was to have jettisoned that Constitution, but we erroneously and pretentiously ignored the facts and have continued to use that faulty Constitution.
The Country is holding itself hostage in the midst of freedom and self-independence. Everyone, especially our Leaders contributed to the sorry situation we still find ourselves in as a Nation after 60 years of self-rule. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be crying foul over a faulty document we should have had the wisdom and capacity to fix in the past 21 years but that we collectively neglected to attend to. The refusal to dump the 1999 Constitution is simply resulting in what the document was produced to do, confusion and disintegration in the land.

Nigeria did not just start to drift into becoming a Failed Nation under Buhari. It was already in the region of a failed Nation State and a failed, truncated, pretentious Democracy since the OBJ government. I am not too sure what our Baba (Obasanjo) is really arguing about here of Nigeria drifting into a failed State. That is totally a false claim. Nigeria, practically, started to drift into the failed State syndrome since 2000 when he was in charge. We spent $16 Billion on Power and Energy and over $10 Billion on Road Infrastructure and we are where we are today with those dilapidated infrastructures at ground zero. This is part of the justification to fully support the fact that the journey to the wilderness of a failed Nation commenced in 1999.

You have a Constitution put together for a democratic dispensation under a true federal arrangement but that Constitution ended up being fashioned out completely as Diarchy with its full central command and control system that we operated under the military regimes. The military Khaki boys that put that Constitution together actually wanted to become the direct beneficiaries of the new democratic dispensation. They cannot imagine themselves submitting to the true federalism as practiced in the USA where every State does exactly what they want, independent of the Washington DC super overlords. The military left us with a completely mixed up, messed up and confusing document called Constitution and our political leaders are too busy chasing bounties and luxury rather than confront the real issue, or perhaps they can be excused for being ignorant and clueless. This is why the Federal government and the States are in a complete state of confusion over how to grow democracy and grow the economy.

We need to dump that constitution so that Nigeria can begin a steady march towards true democracy and a system devoid of the military central command and control Constitution forced on us. We know some patching is being carried out by the National Assembly on the Constitution. That may not be enough to solve the myriad of problems currently identified in the 1999 Constitution. We just simply need to act reasonably well with maturity to work together to produce a truly federal Constitution for Nigeria.

The Constitution states that it will guarantee freedom and independence of the federating units. As at the last count, we have 36 states in Nigeria, meaning there are 36 Federating Units. But in reality, what we have had since 1999 are two federating Units – the Federal Government in the Central Command and the States. That is not Federalism. That is Diarchy as understood by the Central Command System of the Military. The States have virtually subsumed and rendered powerless the most important organs of the democratic system, the Local Governments.

Let us take a cursory look at some of the major mix ups in our 1999 Constitution:

1. Federation Account Allocation System: As currently practiced, the States are made to line up in Abuja every month to collect allocation or stipends based on a completely baseless formula we call Federal Allocation Formula. We even have an entire Agency created for the Federal Account Allocation Committee or Commission. This is completely alien to democracy under true federalism. If federating units are truly independent, they are supposed to control resources within their territories and pay royalties and taxes to the Center for the running of the Federal Unit in the Federation under a commonwealth arrangement.

2. The Constitution says the States own the lands and the littoral waters, yet the Commander General in Aso Rock goes to the States and forcefully acquires all rights to lucrative minerals and takes all the money to Abuja and then starts to distribute it to the States like the Military will do. That is not democracy. It is false pretenses. It is time for the States to invoke their constitutional rights by stopping the Federal Government from tapping resources on their lands and also stop going to Abuja to collect monthly stipends. That is what the Constitution guarantees each State in the Federal Constitution.

3. We have Governors and States that will go to Abuja and present Report cards of what is being done in their States to the Commander General in Aso Rock. That is Military structure for goodness sake. The State Governor is directly and 100% responsible to its electorate not to the Central Commander in Abuja who has nothing in consonance with the States. But the Governors themselves are so clueless and sycophantic that they must go to Abuja to tender report cards to get favors or what??? That is the reason the entire system is failing gradually. It did not start with this current regime. It started with OBJ’s regime and it is manifesting now due to continued inability to fix the actual problem.

4. In Nigeria, the Constitution clearly states that the Chief Security Officer of a State is the Governor of that State. The Constitution even provided for security votes to allow the States maintain law and order. But with the nonsense Diarchy clauses in the Constitution, the Governor remains a leprous candidate when it comes to maintaining security in his State. He must beg Abuja and Aso Rock to even approve Police to arrest an armed robber or tackle the menace of invading bandits. How can you fight bandits, Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents under that lopsided military security system? It will never happen. The problem of insecurity in Nigeria is not the making of the Police per se. It is the wrong prescription in the Constitution. The Governors cannot fight the Boko Haram insurgents, armed Fulani herdsmen or bandits invading their states because they have nothing except physical cash called security votes. Even their own personal security details are not controlled by them. A Governor cannot do anything other than run to meet the Commander General for help and if he’s on the wrong side of the aisle, that help will never come or will come with political strings attached. What manner of true federalism or democracy is that?

5. In Nigeria we claim you have true federalism but a people from section of the country are awarded lucrative oil blocks and oil facilities that are supposed to be owned by the states. Meanwhile the states lack all the infrastructure you can ever think of. That is a nonsensically unimaginably faulty structure. Nigeria will never see progress until all these anomalies are corrected. The individual eventually lords it over the State and becomes richer than the State itself that owns the resources. Is that democracy or is that true federalism???

We can go on and on with the list of identified confusing provisions in our Constitution but the key issue is that we urgently need to fix these problems and produce a more robust Constitution that is truly Federal in its entirety and not a mixed up system of Federalism and Diarchy. We would continue to blame successive Governments for non-performance and continue to go around in circles of criticism until we confront and fix the actual problem.

We have not asked ourselves why there is restiveness and agitation for regional independence in Nigeria. It is of course directly related to the problems created by the defective Constitution in the first place. We also cannot discountenance the problem of bad leadership that has plagued Nigeria over the years with no exception for any regime since 1999. We did not arrive at this current state of disconnect in Nigeria in five years. This started since 1999 due to our collective failure to do the right thing and be patriotic enough to contribute positively to nation building.

Dr. Kazeem Bello is Principal Partner/CEO- Afrique Capital and Equity Funds Ltd, New York, USA; President, Nigerians In Diaspora Organization, NIDO, New Jersey Chapter and Chairman, Steering Committee of the proposed Nigerian Credit Union.

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