The Lower Niger Congress, LNC, and its Movement for New Nigeria, MNN, partners have written and sent an open memorandum to President Muhammadu Buhari. The memorandum reflects on the history of the struggle for Restructuring and return to the Federal basis of Nigeria, as well as, elucidate on the two most strategic questions on Restructuring:
- What exactly constitutes a Restructured Nigeria?
- How precisely should the Restructuring be undertaken?
Below is the full text of the historic memorandum.
An Open Memorandum To President Muhammadu Buhari On Behalf Of The Lower Niger Congress And Its MNN Partners, In Response To The Restructuring Queries Raised In Paris On November 12, 2018
At an Interactive Session Held with Nigerians resident in France, November 12, 2018, on the sidelines of the World Peace Forum in Paris, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was reported by the Media as saying the following:
“There are too many People talking lazily about Restructuring in Nigeria. Unfortunately, People are not asking them individually what do they mean by Restructuring? What form do they want Restructuring to take? Do they want us to have something like the Three Regions we used to have? And now we have 36 States and the FCT. What form do they want? They are just talking loosely about Restructuring. Let them define it and then we see how we can peacefully do it in the interest of Nigerians. They are just saying that they want Nigeria Restructured and they don’t have the clue of what the form the Restructuring should be. So anybody who asks you about Restructuring in Nigeria, ask him what he means and what form he wants it to take”.
Putting aside the Unfortunate Condescending Haughtiness of describing the Protagonists of Restructuring as Lazy and Clueless, and for the purpose of Clarity, the elaborate Queries embedded in these Comments credited to Mr President could be Summarized into Two Broad Questions:
(1) WHAT EXACTLY CONSTITUTES A RESTRUCTURED NIGERIA?
(2) HOW PRECISELY SHOULD THE RESTRUCTURING EXERCISE BE UNDERTAKEN?
Let us note that QUESTION-1 relates mainly to the CONTENTS of Restructuring in terms of what should emerge as the Structure of Nigeria after the Restructuring Exercise while QUESTION-2 relates mainly to the PROCEDURAL PROCESSES by which the Restructuring Exercise could be successfully Prosecuted.
Before engaging these Two Broad Questions, a few preliminary remarks would be necessary to establish the baselines for this Intervention with a view to dissecting and bringing Clarity and Perspective to the entire Restructuring discourse, in a manner that is capable of advancing the difficult dialogue to the Threshold of Actionable Common Ground:
(i) Let it be recalled that after many years of Government’s prevarication on the subject of appropriate Constitutional Arrangements for Nigeria, a critical mass of Thought-Leaders who had a thorough grasp of what the real issues of the Sick Nigerian State are and what Potent Remediation Options are available for its cure, came together from across the Ethnic and Geopolitical Divides in Nigeria, (including some of your Contemporaries in the Nigerian Military), and took upon themselves the daunting task of mobilizing the Peoples of Nigeria towards a Consensus that would generate more workable and more acceptable Constitutional Arrangements for Nigeria in place of the unworkable Unitary Constitutional Order that was unilaterally foisted by Military Fiat between 1966 and 1999, on a Nigeria that was designed to be a Federation.
(ii) The said mobilization efforts led to the Convocation of the Peoples’ Sovereign Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria by the Enahoro-Led Pro-National Conference Organisations, PRONACO, 2005-2006, which successfully brought together Delegations from the various Ethnic Nationalities across Nigeria, Civil Society and the Leaderships of the Various Regional Self-Determination Agitations of that period (some armed), including the Oodua Peoples’ Congress, OPC as Led by Gani Adams, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Buafra, MASSOB as led by Ralph Uwazuruike, the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteers Force NDPVF as led Dokubo Asari amongst others.
That Conference after almost two years of exhaustive deliberations in an unfettered atmosphere successfully by-produced The Draft Peoples’ Constitution in August 2006, anchored on the Regional Drafts of the Various Regional Delegations within the Self-Determination Rights of the Nationalities, being the Constituent Components of the distressed Nigerian Federation.
The Processes that produced the said Draft Peoples’ Constitution had and still have the potential to peacefully guide Nigeria’s return to its Federal Basis had the Federal Government of that time engaged with the Processes (Former President Obasanjo had actually declared that we were committing Treason for Convening A Sovereign Conference of the Peoples of Nigeria).
(iii) Having been a part of the wider spectrum of Leading Political Actors from Northern Nigeria involved by way of Consultations in the PRONACO Pocesses, Mr President would recall that I had in a Meeting at Ikeja between Yourself, Myself and Chief Enahoro, handed to you the Hard Cover Edition of the aforementioned Draft Peoples’ Constitution in February 2007, when you came to intimate the arrowheads of PRONACO of your bid for the Presidency of Nigeria in the 2007 Electoral Round. If there be any need for reminders on the events 2005-2006 as outlined herein, Mr President, I have no doubt that your current APC Compatriots, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, (then Governor of Lagos State), Babatunde Fashola (then Chief of Staff to Governor Tinubu) and Yemi Osinbajo (then Attorney-General of Lagos State) will readily be available to refresh your memory.
(iv) Let it also be recalled that Post-PRONACO, the arrowheads of PRONACO including Chief Anthony Enahoro and Prof Wole Soyinka and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, amongst other Plaintiffs, had, under the aegis of the implementation phase called the Movement for New Nigeria, MNN and in furtherance of the PRONACO CONSENSUS, Instituted Suits between 2007 and 2009 at both the Lagos and Abuja Divisions of the Federal High Court, Challenging the Legitimacy of the 1999 Constitution on the Grounds of Fraud and Forgery, seeking the Termination of its Operation and the immediate initiation of a Transitioning that would distil the successor Constitutional Arrangements, just as South Africa had to do to ease itself out of the obnoxious Apartheid Constitutional Order between 1990 and 1994 under the Leadership of Courageous President Frederick W De Klerk.
(v) Further implementation steps followed in 2011, when by the MNN LAGOS DECLARATION OF JUNE 30, 2011 the MNN Alliance Partner-Organisations Jointly Repudiated the 1999 Constitution as the basis of Nigeria and Mandated the said Regional Partner Organizations to help galvanize the Various Peoples of Nigeria into Regional Constitution-Making Processes ahead of the inevitable Constitutional Reconfiguration of Nigeria (Restructuring).
Those Regional Processes have since advanced the Constitution-Making tasks and have between 2015 and 2018 yielded Formal Regional Proclamations across the Southern and Middle Belt Territories of Nigeria, Repudiating on behalf of the Peoples of each Regional Bloc, the 1999 Constitution as the Basis of the Federation of Nigeria and respectively Declaring their Desires to Explore other available Options for the future of their various Peoples within context of their Universal Right to Self-Determination, since Nigeria had for over 50 years (from Aburi of 1967), refused to address the Self-Determination Questions arising from the Grave Constitutional Grievances of its Constituent Components.
This review of recent and ongoing actions and exchanges amongst the Peoples of Nigeria on the subject of Restructuring is to assure Mr President that there is a body of knowledge and know-how which the distressed Federation of Nigeria can immediately leverage to salvage itself from the free fall and debilitation it now finds itself as a viable Political Union, and that contrary to Mr President’s charge that the Proponents of Restructuring are Lazy and Clueless, it is the Federal Government of Nigeria that has been mystifying and obfuscating the straightforward subject of returning Nigeria to its Federal Basis, and presenting itself as Frightened and Confused every time the word “Restructuring” is mentioned, with many failed attempts by Federal Government to short-circuit the requisite Processes by way of the Unitary-Style National Conferences in 1994, 2005 and 2014.
HERE IS A FURTHER HISTORICAL BACKGROUND FOR THE ANSWERS WE ARE PROVIDING TO QUESTIONS 1 & 2 AS CRAFTED.
A FEDERATION IS A UNION OF CONSTITUTIONS and Nigeria became One Country at Independence in 1960 when the Three Regions of the time (Northern, Eastern and Western Regions), which already had their own Constitutions made out between 1957 and 1959, Met, Negotiated and AGREED to Federate themselves into One Political Union at the Lancaster House Conferences of 1959.
The Crux of their AGREEMENT and the Federation Model it Produced was the High Degree of Autonomy it guaranteed for the Federating Regions in which each Region Owned and Controlled it’s Assets, Contributing an agreed percentage of its income (15%) for the upkeep of the Center (Federal Government), to finance the limited functions jointly delegated to the Center by the Regions, meaning that the Center was a Creation Of the Regions to Service Specified Collective needs.
It will be recalled that when in 1953, Anthony Enahoro moved the First Motion for Independence, the Northern Delegates Opposed, Blocked and Defeated the Motion, on the Ground that the Northern Region was not yet ready for Independence. It will also be recalled that following the collapse of the said Independence Motion of 1953, the 8-Point Demand raised by the then Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello as Conditions for the Northern Region to join the other two Regions as One Country into Independence, had to do with the Degree of Regional Autonomy which the North wanted and these took between 1953 and 1959 to emplace and eventually Defined the Autonomy Level Adopted in what became the Independence Constitution in 1960.
The Coups of January 15, 1966 and the Counter Coup of July 29, 1966 which brought the Military to the arena of Political Power, resulted in the toppling and jettisoning of the 5 Constitutions that Defined the Federation of Nigeria (4 Regional and 1 Federal) and the imposition Of Unitary Constitutional Instruments by Military Decrees one of which by May 27, 1967 broke up the erstwhile 4 Regions into 12 States and swept away the Autonomy of the Regions whilst Hijacking and Confiscating the Assets and Rights of the Regions. Most Governmental Powers and Responsibilities of the Regions were forcefully taken over by the Federal Government in this Period.
From that point in May 1967, Nigeria ceased to be a Federation. It became and has remained a Unitary State to date, fractured into 36 largely impotent States that grovel at the feet of an omnipotent but grossly inefficient Federal Government, holding to itself 68-Items on the Federal Exclusive Legislative List as encapsulated by the Imposed 1999 Constitution (which is a wholesale carry-over of the equally Imposed 1979 Constitution, despite the bogey called the 1977 Constituent Assembly since the 17 Amendments introduced by Obasanjo’s Supreme Military Council in September 1978 overrode the Clean Draft of the Constituent Assembly of 1977) and that is what has brought Nigeria to the sorry pass it currently is in, becoming the leading Global example and case study of a Failed State and also emerging the Poverty Capital of the World despite its huge endowments in Human and Material Resources.
Mr President Sir, these failures of Nigeria, characterized by Gross Insecurity, Pervasive Corruption and Infrastructural Decay are the Direct Consequences of the aforementioned distortions of Nigeria’s Federal Constitutional Arrangements since 1966, now fueling the trenchant demands for Restructuring and outright exit from what has become a Union of Attrition for the vast majority of frustrated Citizens and the Peoples of the Constituent Components of Nigeria who now feel Entrapped in an unworkable, Imposed Union enframed by a Constitution the authorship of which is falsely credited to them in the Preambular Text which pretends that “We the People”, enacted our own damnation.
It is therefore Self-Evident Mr President, that the Countrywide demands for Restructuring are quite simply, demands for the Returning of Nigeria to it’s Federal Foundations as there can be no viable mechanisms for sustainably keeping such a diversity of Peoples, Cultures and Civilizations as Nigeria Presents, in One Cohesive Country otherwise than as a Federation. All Honest Stakeholders ought by now to have reached this inescapable Conclusion, especially by looking back at the Tragedies of Unitary Nigeria since 1966.
Let us also point out that the Legislative Mandate of the National Assembly does not include the Constituent Powers required to make or remake the Constitutional Arrangements of the Federation as such Constituent Powers are the Exclusive Preserve of the Federating Constituent Components, flowing from their Sovereignty, currently suppressed by the Suzerainty Nigeria had been since 1966. Any Lawyer who tells you otherwise Mr President is either ignorant or dishonest, whether he be a Senior Advocate or Professor of Law.
Having outlined these Backgrounds, we now Proceed to Providing Specific Answers to QUESTIONS 1 & 2.
(1) WHAT EXACTLY CONSTITUTES A RESTRUCTURED NIGERIA?
Shorn of all embellishments, a Restructured Nigeria in terms of CONTENTS of outcome, is that Structure of Nigeria that would emerge:
(a) When the Sub-Nationalities being the Constituent Components of each Federating Bloc decide the Geographical Formation in which they would be Relating (Federating) with the rest of the Union, having first Agreed Internally on what would best Guarantee Internal Cohesion in their Bloc within the context of the Universal Right of Each Sub-Nationality to Self-Determination.
(b) When the Federating Blocs Decide what Items of Governmental Responsibilities/Rights they would Cede to the Federal Government, What they Keep Exclusive to themselves and What they may Concurrently undertake with the Federal Government, with all Residual Powers (i.e. anything not Listed under any of the aforementioned 3 Categories) preserved for the Federating Units.
Referendums and Plebiscites are to be deployed as Ratification Mechanisms as appropriate at each Stage in Keeping with and in a manner consistent with the Imperatives of Self-Determination for each Sub-Nationality.
The number of Federating Units will also have to be a function of the Consultations Agreements of the Sub-Nationalities (in Stage-1 of the Two-Stage Process outlined in Question-2 below) and not by the kind of whimsical dictates that brought Nigeria to the current 36 States quagmire.
(2) HOW PRECISELY SHOULD THE RESTRUCTURING BE UNDERTAKEN?
Guided by the fact that a Federation is Union of Constitutions, and looking back at what truncated the Basis of Nigerian Federation, the Logic of the Situation dictates a Two-Stage PROCESS undertaken in a certain sequence.
(a) Stage-1 would be to distill the REGIONAL CONSTITUTIONS of the Proposed Federating Units (as outlined under Question-1) that would Federate in the Second Stage (as was done by the 3 Regions between 1957 and 1959 ahead of the Lancaster House Conferences of 1959).
(b) Stage-2 would be for the Proposed Federating Units, already armed with their respective Regional Constitutions as distilled from Stage-1, to Meet, Negotiate and AGREE on the Terms of Federating themselves into One Political Union (as was done in the Lancaster House Conferences).
Referendums and Ratifications are to be deployed as Ratification Mechanism as appropriate at each Stage in Keeping with and in a manner consistent with the Imperatives of Self-Determination for each of the Sub-Nationalities.
May we point out Mr President, that it was the failure of all the Governments of Nigeria since 1970 to abide by this simple LOGIC OF A FEDERATION, that is responsible for the failure of all attempts to rework the Constitutional Arrangements of Nigeria, starting with the Constituent Assembly of 1977, to all the National Conferences of 1994, 2005, and 2014 and so anything short of this Two-Stage Process is bound to fail yet again, no matter how well intentioned the Conveners may be.
Now that we know in broad outlines WHAT Restructuring Means, Mr President may be asking: But HOW do we begin, from where we are now especially with the 2019 Elections so near?
The best guide on HOW to proceed from where Nigeria is right now is to look at how South Africa eased itself out of the quagmire of the Apartheid Constitutional Order between 1990 and 1994 under the Courageous Leadership of President Frederick W De Klerk when the Apartheid-era South Africa arrived at the very situation Nigeria has now arrived at under the Imposed Master-Servant 1999 Constitution that has been Repudiated and Rejected Countrywide, but to which a tiny band of Political Merchants across Nigeria hold tenaciously, for skewed humongous personal and group benefits, even as the People, the Country and the Society sink deeper into misery, decay and retention.
The Government of South Africa saved and began the healing of their dying Country by telling itself the Truth in 1990 : namely that the Apartheid Constitutional Order could not carry the South African Society any further and therefore it announced a Definitive Plan to Terminate the Operations of the Apartheid Constitution, and immediately set in Motion the Transitioning Process called CODESA, which midwifed the Processes that birthed the wholesale replacement of the Repudiated Apartheid Constitution. Nigeria is in that Station at this time that require this turnkey Constitutional Reengineering, Reconfiguration and Reconstruction which has acquired the street name of “Restructuring”.
Mr President, Nigeria is very sick and we present this Memorandum to you as Concerned Statesmen who have taken the trouble to fully DIAGNOSE the actual ailment of the sick Nigeria, and to locate the most potent PRESCRIPTION for that ailment and now invite your Government and other Stakeholders to commence the emergency TREATMENT to the life-threatening ailment of Nigeria over and above the ineffective palliatives that Partisan Politicians had offered the dying Union for over 50 Years now including Elections that only throw up new drivers to steer the Vehicle with a Knocked Engine which Unitary Nigeria has been since the 1966 collapse of its Federal Foundations.
Whether we admit it or not, Nigeria is now a thoroughly disputed Project Site and Further Construction is not only a monumental waste, but makes a Peaceful Resolution much more difficult and much more costly. We were encouraged to raise this Memorandum to you by the part of your Comment in Paris in which you stated, concerning the Restructuring demand: “Let them Define it, and then we see how we can Peacefully do it in the Interest of Nigerians”.
This is a much better tone and language than the previous dismissive and unnecessarily combative disposition of Mr President to the demand for Restructuring.
We have defined it. The ball is now in the Court of Mr President and as Custodians of the body of Knowledge and Know-how required to Undertake this Inevitable Reconfiguration and Reconstruction of the damaged Constitutional Foundations of Nigeria, we will stand by to offer our guidance to the Process.
With every sense of responsibility, and as already being campaigned for by the LNC and it’s MNN Alliance Partners, it is our Conviction that the situation calls for a Public Acknowledgement by you, that the 1999 Constitution is the source of the Misery of Nigeria and Nigerians and this should be accompanied by a Formal Announcement deferring the 2019 Elections, as well as the immediate Initiation of a Timelined Transitioning Process with the balance of your Tenure along the Paradigms outlined in this Memorandum, in place of further National Elections in 2019 under the Repudiated 1999 Constitution which can only worsen the situation of Nigeria as was the case in the 1964/1965 Elections that landed Nigeria in the catastrophes of 1966–1970.
May God Grant you the Wisdom and Courage required to steer the troubled ship of the Nigerian State in the present turbulent waters.
By Tony Nnadi
A lawyer, wrote from Lagos.