Fashioning A Workable & Realistic Constitution For Nigeria

Ambassador Adegboyega Ariyo

Ambassador Adegboyega Ariyo

By Ambassador Adegboyega Ariyo

Commendable efforts have been made to restore the country to the path of sustainable development, where unity of purpose and vision decide every activity in the scheme of governance. The fact that there has been less participatory relationship informed by supportive activities on the canvass of shared vision has put the ship of the state on a seemingly stormy sea. This is demonstrated by the Boko Haram saga, activities of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, kidnapping and general poor state of infrastructure in the country. Governance has been  commercialised. The type, form and style of governance and the Constitution – the grundnorm for administering the country – contributed significantly to this state of affairs. Governance is no more on the basis of egalitarian principles . The Executive Presidential system of government in a polity like ours has proved not helpful. The fight for Aso Rock has become too dangerous to the fragile country under this presidential construct.  It is costly, cumbersome and does not help well coordinated activities even in the strategic management of Nigeria. There is need for a new construct that will allow more political gladiators to have more relevance and self fulfillment. Many Nigerians who could contribute to the overall development of the country through their various disciplines abandoned their vocations and joined politics.

There are many options that readily come to mind. However, because of the complexity of Nigeria, the lack of understanding of the word ‘power’, the warped  knowledge of the essence of living by Nigerians, the lack of understanding of what development should mean to a country like Nigeria, the erroneous assumption that a nation could be formed out of a country like Nigeria with multi ethnic national histories and cultural affinities that are yearning for perpetuity, and because of the need to assume our responsibility towards the black race early, the present Constitution still pretends that Nigeria can still be efficiently and effectively administered with a Unitarian Constitution. There is need for a dramatic departure from this and return Nigeria to the Republican Constitution. It is therefore gratifying to note that decision has been taken to review the Constitution of our country. My case is to return the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Parliamentary System of governance, with distinct separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Executive.

Executive: President Of The Republic

In this regard, it is proposed that there should be a President elected by the whole country as a father of the Nation. One-term tenure of six (6) years should be sufficient for a President to put into effect  his  well thought-out policies, programmes, projects and tasks – the basis for his election  – to advance the country on the trajectory of positive development. He/she will perform all the ceremonial duties of State. The President will appoint the Prime Minister upon election from the party with the majority in the House of Representatives. He/she shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The President shall appoint and receive Ambassadors, High Commissioners as well as appoint the heads of all the Security Services based on their meritorious services to the country and assent to the approval of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Prime Minister And Government Of The Republic

There shall be a Prime Minister. He/she will be the Head of Government, HOG.  He will appoint Ministers and swear them in. There shall be six (6) Deputy Prime Ministers, DPMs.  The Prime Minister, his Deputies and the Ministers will come from the elected Representatives.  They shall be selected from each of the six (6) geo-political regions.  There shall be two (2) Legislative Houses.

The Legislature Of The Republic

The House of Representatives shall meet for a maximum of six (6) months in a year. The remaining six (6) months shall be at their respective constituencies. The various Ministries shall be grouped under these Deputy Prime Ministers, using relatedness of their portfolios. The House of Elders or State Counsellors composed of two (2) elected and one (1) selected and appointed by the President and Prime Minister – because of their professional background from each of the present states of the Federation – shall meet for one week in a month to deliberate on and where deemed necessary amend defence, foreign affairs, security and Judiciary-related bills passed by the House of Representatives before recommendation to the President for assent. All other bills on matters of state once passed by the House of Representatives becomes law.

The Life Of Government

The government, formed essentially from the leading party in the House of Representatives, shall have a life time of four (4) years unless it suffers a vote of no confidence and an election is called in order to form a new government.


The Judiciary shall be separated from the Executive cum Legislature. It shall remain as it is now, independent of the government. The funding of the Judiciary shall be done independent of the Executive and the Legislature.  The funding shall come from the consolidated fund of the Federation with an automatic annual increase of about 5 per cent.

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Central Bank Of Nigeria

The Central Bank of Nigeria shall be independent in all aspects from the President’s and government’s control.  The Governor of the Central Bank shall be nominated by the Prime Minister, approved by the House of Elders/State Counsellors and assented to by the President. He shall have a maximum of 12 years term and cannot be removed unless through impeachment by the House of Elders and assented to by the President. He must not be less than 50 years old.

Regional & Local Government Administration

The six (6) regions earlier recommended by well informed groups in the country must be implemented to further reduce the cost of governing the country, so that more fund could be channeled to the development of the country and Nigerians through the provision of the infrastructures required to meet the basic needs of Nigerians and reduce the cost of doing business by entrepreneurs, the growers of the Nigerian economy. There should be limited space in government for people to struggle to enter.  The people now struggling for political offices should engage in productive activities in order to produce goods and services to increase the share of Nigeria in world trade. The arrangement suggested above on the management of the Federal Government should inform the management and activities in the regions. Cognisance must be taken that the regions have no responsibility for Defence and Foreign Affairs. Security and Judiciary matters will have arms at the regional level that will still be responsible to their federal Heads. Though, there will be a measure of autonomy for policy in the regions.  The regional State Security Service apparatus shall have less authority than the regional police but shall report to the Federal authority with a copy of its report submitted to the Regional Governor.  There shall be a Regional House of Assembly as well as Regional Council of Elders/Traditional Authorities.  The duties and function of these bodies shall be similar to those at the Federal level.

There shall be Local Government Administrative set-up in the regions that are more or less self-sustaining financially, though some capital development funds from the Federal Government shall accrue to the Local Governments. This will be for the purpose of basic infrastructure development as well as major economic projects. All local governments must be able to finance within its borders, the provision of electricity, water, postal services and good roads.

Effecting The New Structure

The process to constitute the above structure would involve an amendment of the 1999 Constitution through the current National Assembly and approval of the amended Constitution via a referendum in a general election.

Directive Principle Of State Policy And Management

Apart from the structure above, the directive principle of State in the kernel of the social contract between Nigerians and their country and government must be refocused.  The concept of the vision of the evolvement of an egalitarian society, though on the canvass of market economy woven on political engagement, must permeate the soul of the Constitution and be crystal clear and realisable by all Nigerians. The crazy and immoral ways that some Nigerians are pursuing their so-called essence of existence must be checked constitutionally.  The Constitution must not allow some Nigerian to achieve their so-called essence of existence through the destruction of others’.  The living of all Nigerians and their environment in an ambience of peace and dignity amongst all other peoples must be very fundamental in goals to be achieved by any government of Nigeria.

 Nigeria In The World

Internally, so far, we have failed to achieve the goals set for us by the country’s founding fathers. We departed from the reasoned plank for the achievement of a united, prosperous, vibrant, strong and egalitarian society that should have earned us an enviable place in the sun in the comity of nations. The moral authority which Nigeria earned in international circles because of the golden voice of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the intellect and wisdom of Nnamdi Azikwe (Zik of Africa) and the humane essence of government of Obafemi Awolowo (Awoism) has almost been wiped out because of our obduracy and arbitrariness in the manner we have been managing ourselves.  This has led to the under-development of the totality of what we inherited from the founders of Nigeria. The situation of cognisant dissonance – seeming arrogance to accept that there are problems – and the scientific solutions to them, which the deviation from the path charted for us to follow, has also not helped our acceptance as leader of Africa because we are under-performing. The sharp practices many Nigerians embarked upon, both at home and abroad, to make ends meet because of the failure of governments in Nigeria, further dented the image of the country in the international system.

Therefore, for Nigeria to earn respect in the international system she has to face the reality of international politics as correctly assessed by our founding fathers. The strength of Nigeria to achieve in the international system lies in herself.  She must do things correctly and set best practices in achieving the strategic management of her political, economic, social and cultural matrixes of her developmental goals.

–Ambassador (Prince) Adegboyega Christopher  Ariyo, a retired career diplomat, is Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to Namibia.

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