There have been many calls for a sovereign national conference as well as many arguments against it. However, few will disagree with its essence. The call stems from a perception of not having a nationally developed constitution. The method suggested by many is infeasible. This method basically involves bringing together people who will be a fair representation of the different groups inNigeriaâ€“ usually based on â€˜ethnic nationalities'. Many people have pointed out the infeasibility of bringing together true representatives of the people that would be more representative than the members of the legislature. The other problem is that of giving them â€˜sovereign powers'. In this write up I hope to suggest another alternative to getting a people's constitution as opposed to what we presently have. Since the present national assembly is made up of many people who Nigerians willfully voted for (thanks to Jonathan and Jega's reasonably good election), I believe we stand a good chance of working through this legislature to get a people's constitution. I propose we follow the steps below
- Each constituency/state should call their senators and representatives together and state in writing all the aspects of the constitution they want changed. If the different ethnic nationalities can persuade their states to request for similar things that would be all right as well
- The legislature should then begin a process of constitutional amendment where the changes in the constitution will be voted for. These voting sessions should be televised and the votes of each legislator recorded (maybe the freedom of information act can be of assistance here). This will allow people in each constituency to know how their legislators voted.
- Legislators who vote against the wishes of their people should be noted by the people. If the people are strongly dissatisfied with their legislator, they can begin a process of recalling that person from the office.
To be able to carry out the above and related tasks an alliance of different stakeholders interested in getting a people's constitution can be formed. It could be called "Alliancefor Credible Constitution" for example. This would provide an opportunity for all interested parties to pull their human, financial and technical resources together and manage the process of getting a people's constitution. This would be a more feasible approach than arranging for a sovereign national conference. Possible interested parties could be the Nigerian governors' forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo/ACF/similar groups, Nigerian Bar association, Nigerian labour congress, etc. We could make it a target for the next 2 years. While doing this we would also need to bear in mind that security, power (including electricity and petrochemicals) and corruption are very important problems we need to deal with in the next 2 years as well. If we can make this collective effort once and for all, the problem of â€˜the Nigerian question', â€˜true federalism' etc will be addressed thoroughly like we addressed the question of elections inNigeria. Jega has shown that where there is a will (and a supportive â€˜Jonathan') there is a way to do things we previously thought to be unachievable (voters' registration, peaceful elections etc). Lets see if we can get a people's constitution in the same way.