BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN
If morning shows the day, Professor Auwalu Yadudu, a former legal counsellor to the late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, cannot be a credible character witness for constitutional rectitude in Nigeria. And he knows this, hence his recent sly self-distancing from the Abacha heritage. Before the cock crows, Jesus told Peter, you would deny me three times. So it became with Yadudu when he bare faced denied General Sani Abacha for whom he served as legal adviser. ‘I worked for Nigeria not for General Abacha’, he protested on ARISE NEWS Channel a while ago. Really? This denial would make sense if it is conceivable that Al Mustapha, Patrick Aziza, Gwazo and other notorious Abacha henchmen are entitled to the protestation that they worked for Nigeria and not for Abacha. Would we have easily forgotten how Yadudu was brought in to supplant Attorney General Olu Onagoruwa who paid for his non-compliance with the death of his son? Would a legal adviser working for Nigeria be complicit in the kangaroo jurisprudence that condemned Ken Saro Wiwa to the gallows; framing opponents for treason and persecuting them unto death? How can a legal adviser who worked so hard to make the Nigerian constitution amenable to the life president cravings of Abacha now claim he was working for Nigeria?
You see, anyone given to lying in small things would invariably lie about big things. Responding to Chiefs Ayo Adebanjo and Inia Nwodo on their estimation of the 1999 Constitution as incurably defective,Yadudu deprecated “I think we can work within the existing legal order and you have no other basis for changing things except in accordance with an existing legal order. I know that the answer to that is that it is difficult to achieve, but wherever the constitution has been changed, they made use of what they have and of course, you can change by revolution, if you can afford it. You can enthrone whatever beautiful ideas that you want to enthrone not necessarily by reference to constitutional provision”.
Let us unpack this loaded admonition, coming as it is from the ‘author’ of the debilitated constitution. First, being the author or chairman of the editorial board that finalised the constitution,Yadudu is, ab initio, a compromised assessor. Second, to the extent that President Muhammadu Buhari has adopted the late Sani Abacha as a role model inclusive of his wholesale adoption of the Abacha derived constitution,Yadudu has a vested interested in the preservation of the neo Abacha political order. It was in this role enactment that he presumed to talk down on Adebanjo and Nwodo, whom he mocked with the take it or leave it cynical reference to the option of so-called revolution (military coup). He is, of course, correct in his view of ‘revolution’ as the only realistic avenue of securing constitutional change in Nigeria.
Behind this reference is the inference that change only comes at the behest and pace of whoever wields the upper hand in the balance of terror matrix of Nigerian power politics since 1966. Who wields this advantage is discernible in the identity of the regional military cabal behind all successful coup detat in Nigeria. While it has proven impossible for any civilian rule dispensation to create one single state, all it took for their military counterparts to create additional thirty two states since 1966 was a mere national broadcast. In a paradoxical echo of the power politics vocabulary of chairman Mao, the reality of Nigeria is that the road to constitutional change goes through the barrel of the gun. Where there is threat to the stability of the electoral advantage politics of the ‘North’, recourse is made to the superior advantage in the control of the powers of coercion.This is the vicious cycle in which Nigeria is ensnared and it is the message embedded in the clarification made by Yadudu.
“My take on the 1999 Constitution,” argued Yadudu, “is that, it was adopted along 1979 Constitution. You may say 1979 Constitution is an imposition by the military, but I think that the basic structure of 1954, 1960 and 1963 constitutions has remained what it is”. How can anyone, let alone a law Professor, assert that “the basic structure of 1954, 1960 and 1963 has remained what it is? Let us begin with the most rudimentary. Prior to the creation of the Mid West region in 1963, the constitutional structure of Nigeria consisted of three regions namely the Western, Eastern and Northern regions. How do you translate the fact of these three regions into the extant reality of thirty six states without a consequential change to the basis structure of the Nigerian constitution? What became of regionalism? Does this ballooning to unviable and unsustainable federal structure (negatively reinforced by precipitate collective fall in the share of federal revenue, in sharp contrast to a surge in the share of the federal government) portend no implication for the basic structure of the constitution? How does the contemporary allocation formula of 52.68%, 26.72% and 20.60% to the Federal, State and Local Governments respectively, correspond to that of 1954, 1960 and 1963? What has become of fiscal federalism in the variation from 50% (as percentage derivation to natural resource producing regions) to 13% and below? How does the two tier federal structure of 1954,1960 and 1963 square with the extant three tier federal structure inclusive of 774 local governments? Are the thirty six state governments constitutionally empowered to have state police, state constitution and autonomous quasi diplomatic representations abroad? Are the land use act, petroleum act and vesting exclusive mineral rights to the federal government, of no consequence to the basic constitutional structure?
Now, I do not need to belong to the structuralist school of thought to believe that Nigeria suffers from structural dysfunction by whatever name it is called-otherwise the poverty and degeneration of governance would not have dogged Nigeria since the extinction of federalism in 1966. But the admonition of Alexander Pope equally bears relevance, that if a government can deliver on the pact of its social contract (to meet the basic existential needs of the people) there would be little to gripe about in the political description of such a government. Vladimir Putin and Chairman XI of Russia and China are not my cup of tea but we do not need to look far to find the basis of the overwhelming public approval they enjoy among their citizens.They pay for the bargain of public acquiescence to their autocracy with the provision of utilitarian governance in which the basic needs of the people are guaranteed and secured.
In the case of Nigeria, double jeopardy is indicated in public acquiescence to Buhari’s quasi apartheid dictatorship without an extenuating compensation of minimally effective governance delivery. I do not believe that Nigerians are asking for too much in bending backwards to accommodate this intolerable situation as bargain for seeking compensation in the hope that the Buhari Presidency would be the last to hold them to the ransom of a bleak unrestructured Nigeria. As President Buhari has honestly confessed, he has given Nigerian governance his best shot but unfortunately his best has proven woefully inadequate-with a potential to even sink Nigeria further. He would have been spared the crushing responsibility of the unwieldy overcentralised administration of Nigeria if Nigeria has remained wedded to the antidote of the decentralisation and devolution of power. What should be clear by now is that by size and diversity, Nigeria is a inherently prescribed federal state and we have spent the better part of our elusive nationhood proving the prohibitive cost of any contrivance to the contrary. I don’t disagree with the view that the problem of Nigeria is leadership, where I differ is on the adequate response to this challenge. I searched for a foolproof response and found one in the scientific recommendation of assuming the worst case scenario. I call it the logic of preventive inoculation prescribed by the assumption that all Nigerian leaders will turn out bad. So, God forbid, if this improbable state of permanent curse is indeed the portion of Nigeria, the most logical response is to apriori devise a structure that will constrain and mitigate the capacity of failed leadership to do irreparable damage. Such constraints can be institutional like separation of powers and checks and balances between the three organs of government. Other containment strategies include the structurally and situation specific ones like federalism.
Think of what would have become of America without the countervailing levels of powers to confront the excesses of Donald Trump. In Nigeria, the constraint of federalism would potentially mitigate the damage and division a dangerously nepotic and parochial President can unleash. Given decentralisation and devolution of powers, the need would hardly arise for the destructive mad ambition to capture power in Abuja. Restructuring would free up space and power for comprising regions to pursue their legitimate priorities without let or hindrance from the federal government. It would not be up to Buhari to pick and choose which regional security outfit to condone between hisbah and amotekun. He would be denied the unaccountable powers and resources that enable him to contemplate building railways all the way to Maradi in Niger republic with resources realised from the Niger Delta. he genocidal victims of the unspeakable carnage in the middle belt would not be doomed to dependence on a non responsive (and possibly complicit) federal security forces. I have decided to broach the advocacy of restructuring this time around on account of the apparent foreclosure of any meaningful constitutional review by the status quo powers and the increasing perception of such foreclosure as the abrogation of the middle ground. In consequence, hope and belief in restructuring is being gradually eroded and supplanted by recourse to the option of outright self determination. As a result and from anecdotal observation, it is more fashionable today to identify with Oduduwa republic than to preach restructuring.
Abdulsamad on CNN
My friend Abdulsamad Rabiu (self-motivated global ambassador for the fight against the pandemic, COVID-19) is an exception to the rule of Nigerian billionaires. You cannot only identify his source of wealth but it is one that self-evidently adds critical value to the Nigerian economy- the vast BUA cement industry. He follows in the footsteps of the foremost African entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote. They are a pride to Nigeria and role models for Nigerians north of River Niger.