Q. What would you say, to use Chinua Achebe’s memorable term, is the trouble with Nigeria?
A. The trouble with Nigeria is monumental. The country’s structures are wrong, its system of government is wrong, and the policies of the party in power are wrong. Can right come out of so much that is wrong?
Q. Do you think that the Immunity Clause — as set out in the Constitution — has contributed to the level of corruption in public office today?
A. Certainly! There may be a strong case for immunity to apply to the Head of State, but there can be no case for immunity to apply to the Head of Government from the consequences of his misdeeds!
Q. What value can the PRONACO Conference add to the production of a people’s constitution?
A. It is a vital aspect of the PRONACO approach that the options should be explained to the public, and that the decisions of the conference should be submitted to a popular referendum, for a free choice by the people.
— Chief Anthony Enahoro, interviewed by Pini Jason, The Achebe Foundation Interview Series # 21, January 2006. http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/achebe-foundation/the-foundation-interviews-21-chief-anthony-enahoro.html (Accessed Oct 2013)
STARTING in the 1990s, the ethnic nations entrapped in Nigeria, first by British conquest at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, then by the 1960s Civil War, and now by the fraudulent 1999 Constitution, have been making unrelenting calls for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to address their concerns and improve their plight, through making a new Peoples Constitution.
Chief Anthony Enahoro, through his Movement for National Reformation (MNR), as well as the Pro-National Conference Organisation, (PRONACO), which was its successor, began the demand.
Stimulated by Pa Enahoro’s initiative of the early 1990s, there has emerged a huge community of persons, groups and organisations who are fully committed to jettisoning the fraudulent 1999 Constitution because they believe that force and fraud cannot remain the basis of the Nigerian Union.
The 1999 Constitution has been rejected by most sections of Nigerians: armed militants like OPC, MASSOB, MEND, and even the BOKO HARAM terrorists, are violent manifestations of that rejection.
Non-violent manifestations have included PRONACO, NADECO, CHANGE NIGERIA, the Yoruba National Assembly (YNA), as well as The Movement for New Nigeria (MNN), which is a partnership of the Lower Niger Congress, the Middle-Belt Congress and the Federation of Oodua People. The Southern Nigerian Peoples Assembly (SNPA) has also added its efforts to this project.
For the past 21 years, the steadfast and unmistakable purpose of these groups and initiatives has been to get the Nigerian Government to convene the SNC that would midwife a democratic People’s Constitution that structures a true federation of Nigeria’s nationalities for their sustainable unity and development.
So that should be the natural objective of President Jonathan’s National Conference if it is intended to help solve the problems that have bloodied Nigeria and endangered Nigeria’s continued existence.
Where do we go from here? And by what democratic process can we give ourselves a truly People’s Constitution?
OUR need to jettison one constitution that is unacceptable to the majority and devise another to replace it is not unique in political history. We have the brilliant and globally celebrated recent example of South Africa to learn from.
What F. W. De Klerk did in South Africa was to make a lame duck of the Apartheid Constitution while a new democratic constitution was negotiated.
For Nigeria, the De Klerk option means making a lame duck of the fraudulent “federal” 1999 Constitution while a new, truly federal and transparently democratic People’s Constitution is negotiated.
Luckily for Nigerians, President Jonathan has finally listened to the two-decade-long clamour for a Sovereign National Conference to lead us to a People’s Constitution.
If he follows through to the end of the process, he will go down in Nigerian history as the liberator who allowed Nigerians to transform their country from a feudalist fake democracy to a genuine modern democracy. He will be Nigeria’s De Klerk. That would turn out to be the unheralded but most important part of his Transformation Agenda.
Despite this encouraging start, we should bear in mind that De Klerk’s predecessor, P. W. Botha, actually started the process in South Africa by beginning the contacts that led to the release of Nelson Mandela, but then backed off under pressure from some diehard Afrikaner Apartheid fanatics. De Klerk eventually replaced him and saw the process through. So, we must mobilise to ensure that GEJ plays De Klerk and not Botha.
So the main task now is for the SNPA, YNA, PRONACO, NADECO, MNN, Middle Belt Coalition, etc., to lead and mobilise the people to support the De Klerk option as the way to get a people’s democratic constitution that would address the numerous issues troubling the polity, issues that these groups have highlighted in their various communiqués and declarations.
If we adopt the De Klerk option, all the sitting elected officials in Nigeria today can stay on as lame ducks till a new Union based on a People’s Constitution emerges.
Let’s put where Nigeria has arrived today in comparative context. In 1961, Nelson Mandela had written to Hendrik Verwoerd, the Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, asking him to convene a national convention at which all South Africans would be represented, to draw up “a new non-racial and democratic constitution.”
Mandela’s letter was ignored whereupon the ANC embarked on armed struggle. As Mandela himself later admitted, he had no illusions that they could win a military victory. The objective was to get the government to talk with the ANC.
That national convention was not to start until December 1991, and was named the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). It had taken 30 years of organised and steady pressure from within South Africa and from the Global community to bring the Apartheid regime to the negotiating table.
Similarly, in 1992, Pa Enahoro began asking the Nigerian Government to convene the SNC to return Nigeria to true federalism. Now, after 21 years of mounting internal Nigerian pressure, the first step has been taken towards a National Conference that could lead to a People’s Constitution and true federalism for Nigerians.
In 1961, when it asked to meet with the Apartheid government to negotiate an end to Apartheid, the ANC already had its Freedom Charter in hand as the basis for a democratic constitution.
In 2006, the MNN and its PRONACO allies produced their Draft People’s Constitution. And the task since then has been to get Abuja to agree to negotiate a change from the 1999 Constitution to a People’s Constitution.
The Draft People’s Constitution emerged from the Peoples National Conference that was organised in 2005-2006 by PRONACO. The Draft PRONACO Constitution provides a guide on how Nigeria can be returned to a true Federal Union.
Since the inception of Nigeria, this Draft People’s Constitution is the only constitution known to have emerged wholly from the unfettered participation of the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and it has been openly endorsed by a majority of the ethnic nationalities because they participated in its making and it answers to the issues of vital concern to them — issues, which they blame on the present Constitution.
Now that Abuja has finally stepped out, however tentatively, on the road to a National Conference, this transition can at last begin.
Towards a negotiated transition to a New Nigeria
IN a democratic era, the renegotiation of Nigeria needs to be done transparently, and seen by all to be done by a democratic process. And the place to do that is at the SNC and the Constituent Assembly that should follow it.
This transparent process would distinguish the constitution of a New Nigeria from the 1999 Constitution, which was not the result of any transparent or democratic process. Prof. Omoruyi has pointed out about the failed IBB transition programme that one of its errors was the lack of “international involvement for the entire transition process.”
International involvement by election monitors on the day of election was far from enough to protect it from its sworn Caliphate enemies. Those same enemies are still with us. We should learn from that costly failure and get the UN involved to monitor our De Klerk option right from now, as was done in transitions in Angola, Cambodia, etc.
CODESA was the all-party congress that negotiated the route to a Constituent Assembly that would draft a constitution for post-Apartheid South Africa.
Taking into account Nigeria’s peculiarities, the National Conference now being discussed should be an all-nationalities conference to negotiate the terms for a Constituent Assembly that will draft a constitution for a post-Caliphate-Colonial Nigeria. It should decide the fundamental principles that will bind the Constituent Assembly — in particular it should decide on vexed questions like secularism or theocracy, Democracy or Shari’a, the criteria for federating units, power distribution between the federating units and the federal govt.
Those who reject its decisions would thereby opt out of the New Nigeria and should be required to withdraw without disturbing the peace of the rest of us.