Constitution amendment my foot, By Godwin Onyeacholem

Nigaria-constitution

The writer argues that the Nigeria needs a completely new constitution.

From the perspective of the intriguing phalanx of erudite advocates of a brand-new constitution, there has always been a robust feeling that it won’t be long before the flawed wagon of constitution amendment, or is it review, begins to show signs of falling to pieces. The well-publicised machinery for delivering the real document obviously wasn’t trusted and still can’t be, taking into account its very defective assembly.

And as anticipated, a tortuous journey outlined and executed by the National Assembly under the stuffy air of parliamentary pomposity is in a fix. For all intents and purposes, constitution amendment has become a misadventure caught up in the whirlpool of a pending doom. In times like these, nothing else re-echoes other than the celebrated sarcastic line of a former President who enjoys the divine favour of being genetically packaged with an astonishing insolent charm. I dey laugh!

It’s not as if the legislators were not warned that the outcome of the exercise on which they wasted the taxpayer’s money going round 360 constituencies in a misguided mission of consultation with constituents would redound to their discredit. But they would not listen to the voices of reason. In their typical patronising manner, they rode roughshod over alternative viewpoints and their sponsors and generally behaved as though Nigeria had nothing but legislators.

To their eternal embarrassment, however, events have begun to prove them wrong. The sudden cancellation by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, of the presentation of the report of the constitution review committee of the House of Representatives as a result of alleged falsification of some of the submissions from the constituencies by certain members of the committee, has vindicated those who hold the view that nothing of substance will result from the review exercise.

They reckoned for sure that the country’s parliament, being largely occupied by questionable characters whose specialties are election rigging, manipulation and all kinds of underhand dealings, cannot be entrusted with the serious responsibility of producing the organic laws that would drive the spindle of good governance and sustainable development.

The legislators, always putting their own interests ahead of every other consideration, were never going to be honest about issues surrounding anything, not to mention the constitution. Reports say the plot for the alteration of the House committee report to favour some members and their region was being hatched as the consultations were going on. The leopard truly never changes its spots. And a hog remains a hog whether in England or in Nigeria. No matter how much it’s cleaned up, it will always thrust its broad, greedy snout in the mud and wallow in it. This is the makeup of the Nigerian legislator.

With the story of a “doctored” amendment committee report now gone viral, where is the credibility of any document that the National Assembly eventually presents as the constitution of the Nigerian people? Isn’t this vile act of alleged forgery a further affirmation of the distrust located in members of the federal legislature as honest representatives of the people? Truth is, this self-serving National Assembly can’t produce a constitution for this country.

Of course those who argue against amendment would now be excused if they go about thumping their chests and saying they got it right. And they did, indeed. Not because the National Assembly lacks the powers to effect an amendment or because they are a dishonest bunch, but because an amendment is not what Nigerians want this moment.

Going by the dominant mood of the people, only a new constitution written by an elected constituent assembly, or one which draws its origin from a national conference – sovereign or not – and takes its authority from the people would signal the hope for a positive fresh beginning. There cannot be a better way to kick-start an ailing socio-economic and political entity. There has to be a formal discussion and agreement on how to live together as a people and how to advance the cause of this collective enterprise for the benefit of all.

That Nigeria remains a badly run, malfunctioning country with a fraudulent constitution which the so-called politicians never saw until after the 1999 elections is distressing enough, but for a body of legitimacy-challenged lawmakers to assume bogus sovereignty and arrogantly insist that only their own way of doing things would prevail is to keep a date with catastrophe.

The senators and the honourables would do well to come to terms with the fact that this country is living on the edge. There is no doubt their scandalous rejection of proposals for a new constitution of the people is nothing but personal.

And with this fresh tale of manipulation (rigging) in their report of a delusive venture, you have only been served the appetizer. Wait for the real menu in 2015.

Godwin Onyeacholem, journalist; can be reached on gonyeacholem@gmail.com and www.giraffemagazine.com