Being Submission to the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Review, Yola, 1st – 2nd June, 2021.
Adamawa Unity Forum for Good Governance
We will start by first commending the Honorable House of Representatives for this timely decision of the National Assembly to revisit and, as it were, tinker with the 1999 constitution (as amended) in conformity with current realities affecting our survival as a nation. This pragmatic exercise of amending our constitution to enhance our unity and development could not have been more timely and auspicious. It is no doubt an apt response to the current nationwide agitations for restructuring and palpable yearnings of Nigerians to stay together peacefully as a people of one country under God and Law, defined and guided by a just, fair and equitable constitution. That today we are under threat by prevalent and defiant insurgency, banditry and terrorism, the success of this mission could well save our country from sliding into deeper chaos and falling into the dent of wild separatist groups and tendencies. We therefore value the commitment of NASS leadership, and chairman and members of this Honorable Committee, for the intervention at the nick of time. We must all be mindful that what is really at stake here is the ultimate fate and destiny of our country and our people. Hence, the importance of the success of this assignment cannot be overemphasized. While we pray, Mr. Chairman and Members of this honorable committee, that God Almighty will guide the task to dire success, also please accept our congratulations and message of goodwill.
With several gray areas in our constitution that require urgent amendments, the basic and general aim of our submission is to help guide our legislature frame out a durable constitution that would, in part, attain the following for our people and our country:-
i. Accommodating and reflecting our diversity and heterogeneity as a nation-state;
ii. Setting authoritative higher law over discords of tradition and politics;
iii. Transcending disagreements and settling arguments;
iv. Creating and enhancing social and ethical order in society; and
v. Evoking deeper sense of patriotism and purpose in citizens.
3. Structural and Operational Requirements
We all agree that our society and system of governance are on the verge of collapse. It is our contention that this unfortunate state of affairs is mainly structural and operational issues on account of deficiencies in the following three areas:-
i. Absence of authority and responsibility at the community level;
ii. Concentration of powers, duties and resources at higher levels of governmental units; and
iii. Absence of moral authority to enforce law and order by most lawful holders of public authority.
To resolve these deficiencies, strengthen and stabilize our system, therefore, we must have to undertake the following;-
i. Devolve power, responsibility and resources in a top-bottom progression down to the communities, being the foundation and bedrock of society; and
ii. Raise high moral standard for all public officials, and for society.
3.1 Structural Requirement
Since it is now obvious that our political and administrative systems at all levels do not provide the desired results of good governance for which they were created as current constitution gives almost all powers at the centre to the detriment of the periphery, restructuring, readjusting or repositioning the system is necessary. This means supporting the following:-
i. Devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources down to the community level, beyond States and LGs, as a defined and organized level of governmental system emanating from communities in a bottom-up progression;
ii. Establish a general framework of a community-based federal system, with the community serving as a chief unit of local administration. This way, federating units and territorial divisions will be localized according to peculiar circumstances of our people. This way, communities will become organized, engaged, active, cohesive and good. Because communities will be running their own affairs participatory democracy would thereby be engendered;
iii. In essence, governance should be made to start from the COMMUNITY LEVEL where each community will be entrusted with certain responsibilities, powers, authorities and resources for the purpose of securing, developing and maintaining itself;
iv. To enhance economic viability of communities, there shall be structured community-based budgeting processes and procedures reflective of community needs and aspirations;
v. The benefits of this system are enormous. First, communities will become organized, in that each member of a community understands where their governance, success and failure begins and ends. Second, citizens will be very much engaged and active in the political process, making them major stakeholders, and not spectators, in their own affairs. That will reduce the role and power of political gatekeepers. Third, community will become cohesive, a factor that will ensure societal peace and political stability.
3.2 Operational Requirement
The literature in Nigerian political economy, history and political theory all point to the fact that the problem with Nigeria is both of the vehicle and the driver. The eminent professor of literature, Chinua Achebe, once said that the problem with Nigeria is squarely that of failure of leadership. In our opinion, formed based on years of practical experience in public service and partisan politics, the operation, and therefore the operators, of our system is as much the problem as the system itself. It is without doubt that the system needs rebalancing, as expatiated earlier in item 3 above, but that will be insufficient without equally amending the selection of the system’s operators. This, in our opinion, is akin to a brand new vehicle operated by a novice and an old car operated by a good driver. Both two scenarios are problematic, although the latter is more preferable.
i. Thus, our position is one that seeks both a good vehicle and a right operator to fast-track our development trajectory. Because we need good operators as much as we need a good system. After all, nations function, grow, prosper and develop in more dysfunctional systems than ours because of good operators in spite of the bad systems. Likewise, good systems crumble and collapse on account of bad operators; and
ii. In order to ensure that capable people with the right skill sets and character are placed in position of public service, we propose a constitutional clause for qualification to hold public offices be amended requiring that:
“no person shall qualify to hold and exercise powers and duties of any public office (whether elective, appointive or bureaucratic) in Nigeria except such a person is of unquestionable integrity”.
iii. No doubt, having such a clear constitutional clause will help in ensuring that only persons of good character, integrity and competence are put in charge of public institutions at all levels and organizations;
iv. The benefit of this is that it will serve as a check on all potential aspiring public officials, distil the process of choice of operators of our public affairs and instill sense of discipline and good character into members of society. In other words, it will raise the bar in the quality of public service and improve good governance.
In considering the intent and specifics of this submission, it should be borne in mind that, while drawing from our own experiences and those of other countries on the general features and principles of federalism, there are also no two federal systems anywhere in the world that are exactly the same. All federal states the world over have designed their system to accommodate their own local circumstances and peculiarities. This is the best approach in establishing “true federalism’. We must learn from that and also create a truly federal structure obliging our own peculiar circumstances.
Mr. Chairman and Hon. Members, thank you for this great opportunity to be heard. May God Almighty bless this exercise, bless us all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
1. Umar Ardo, Ph.D
2. Dr. Abubakar Alkali Fari ————————–
3. Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim Dasin ————————–
4. Mr. Shem D. Banjiram ————————–
5. Alh. Usman Ibrahim —————————
6. Ahmadu Shehu, Ph.D —————————
7. Alh. Ibrahim Njidda —————————
8. Hon. Lawan Abubakar