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Don faults 1999 Constitution review, recommend outright replacement

By Idowu Abdullahi,

An emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Ibadan, John Ayoade, has faulted the on-going effort by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution in response to public demands, saying the laws should be replaced rather than ongoing steps being taken by the lawmakers.

Ayoade explained that what has failed over the years to provide solutions to divisive tendencies that daily threaten the nation’s development, security, and unity, would not overnight solve what ails the country.

The varsity teacher argued that the alleged weakness in the 1999 constitution has shown that the country was ripe for a new constitution that should be drafted by professionals who were not lawmakers or sitting politicians elected by the people.

Ayoade, a member of the 2005 National Political Reform Conference a Director of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), make the call while delivering a lecture at the 2020 Senator Abiola Ajimobi Foundation (SAAF) held in Ibadan, Oyo State recently.

The lecture, which was organised in collaboration with the university’s Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS), was titled, “Nigeria: A Nation of States Or a State of Nations.”

Examining socio-political malaise that had continued to plague the federation, the professor observed that the 1999 constitution cannot be amended because it is totally flawed.

He noted that the 1999 Constitution “is long overdue for replacement. It is not a federal constitution except in name. It is a constitution that gives insufficient power to the States and uses financial power to neutralize even those powers.

“What we need is a total replacement. Secondly, the constitution is not written in a marketplace. We never produce a good constitution. How many people wrote the US Constitution? Was it written by the entire world?” he asked.

According to him , a critical review of the country’s constitutional development has shown that the 1979 constitution is the best constitution we had so far because a group of 49 selected experts produced the 1979 constitution.

He, therefore, argued that the National Assembly “should not have anything to do with the amendment of the constitution. The servant cannot write his own scheme of work. Otherwise, he will write for himself.”

According to him, we asked them to decide their salaries. We saw what came out of it. Now, we want them to write our constitution. We cannot forget it. The National Assembly should hand off because they are incompetent

Under the 1999 constitution, the emes professor argued, the federal government can over-run the states just as the grazing land and the river basin proposals have strongly demonstrated.

He, therefore, said: “It is only a matter of time before the strange amalgam of a unitary federation becomes full blown. The tradition of orchestrating a pandemonium in the name of making a Constitution must be avoided.

“Our experience has shown that a small panel of experts who are conversant with Nigeria and the aspirations of the people will be more appropriate to draw up a Constitution than the hodge-podge that are usually empaneled under the guise of representation.

“The best constitution document, which has remained the template for the successive ones, was the 1979 Constitution prepared by 49 Nigerian experts. Constitution-making is, therefore, not a job for boys and girls clubs. Rather, it is a job for sober seasoned minds,” he argued.

Furthermore, Ayoade noted that a big government would not serve the purpose of an adversarial federation, which according to him, could only create more adversaries.

“What is recommended is a slim government, which will permit the states to attain their highest political potential. Federal-State relations must be based on the principle that whatever can be done at any lower level is constitutionally assigned to that level.

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