A former junior minister of defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, has identified citizen apathy as the major problem facing the country.
Mr. Obanikoro stated this at a public lecture ‘Constitutional Restructuring: An Exercise in Perpetuity?’ organised on Tuesday by the United Action for Change in Lagos.
Reacting to an earlier comment that Nigerians should see themselves first as Nigerians before their ethnic groups, Mr. Obanikoro said there is a need to differentiate between a citizen and a resident.
“In Lagos, for instance, if you want to be a Lagosian, I think there’s an admission process like living here for at least one year, paying your tax, and so on.
“On this issue of ethnic nationality, I want to say that I’m a proud Yoruba man and it does not belittle the fact that I’m a Nigerian, so don’t let us bring confusion here.
“The number one problem in Nigeria as far as I’m concerned is citizen participation. The British, when they were here, played by what suited their business here, and since their departure we are worse off.
“If the citizens are more alive to their responsibilities, I believe the society will be better for it.”
Nsongurua Udombana, the guest speaker, while delivering a lecture titled ‘Constitutional Restructuring in Nigeria: An Impact Assessment,’ said Nigeria cannot have an enduring Constitution until issues like shared common values are resolved.
“A Constitution cannot be foisted on a people, any more than one can force a marriage on two incompatible partners, or take an unwilling horse to a river bank and force it to drink water,” said Mr. Udombana, a professor of International Law at Babcock University, Ogun State.
“A people must mutually agree to live together and mutually agree on the terms of that compact before translating that agreement into a written code.
“When we invoke ‘We the people’ in a Constitution, there is an assumption of a commonality of purpose and destination. What holds people together is not the thread of a Constitution, but certain beliefs common to most members of a society, what the Germans call the ‘Volksgeist’ or national consciousness.
“Thus, the making of a constitution is based on, or presupposes, a priori agreement on some fundamental principles which, even if unwritten, make possible and precede the people’s consent to the written code.”
Mr. Udombana said one of Nigeria’s major problem is that the 1999 Constitution does not have its origin from the sovereign will of the people.
“These dictatorial tendencies probably explain why the political class find it difficult to respect the sovereign rights of Nigerians to determine the country’s political leadership through free and fair elections,” said Mr. Udombana.
“It is an open secret that elections in Nigeria have historically been akin to organised crime, with multiple actors pursuing pre-determined outcomes through common enterprise.
“When rigging answers to the name of election, it casts a big showdown on our republic.”
Earlier, Muiz Banire, the Convener of the United Action for Change, said the need to restructure Nigeria is a discourse that has perpetually dominated the public space.
Mr. Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, described the country as an amalgamation of various ethnic compositions “the type which is doubtful if it exists elsewhere.”
“The 1957-58 Constitutional conferences paved way ultimately for the independence of the nation in October 1960 and since then several efforts have been made to bring about a constitutional structure that would be satisfactory to all,” said Mr. Banire.
“This has rather been a mirage and it seems the more we try, the less we succeed.
“The more recent effort of the 2014 National Conference aimed at producing a fair balance has hit the rocks.”