Nigeria's 419 Constitution

by Bode Eluyera

  “You see, the fact of the matter is that the politics of today has been monetised and this can not give the chance to produce good leaders, because if we need a good leader, the type of leadership we need may not have the resources to fight bad leaders and win elections to run a good government. This may give chance for the bad ones who have the money to come and buy elections. That is the most unfortunate thing in this country and these unfortunate situations started during the era of the former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida. And you see, once politicians used money to win election, the next thing is to plan ways of stealing the public funds earmarked for the progress of their states or local government areas. If we really mean development, there must be adequate check and balances…”
             Senator Abba Ali from Katsina state.
             excerpt of an interview given recently.

   The constitution of any country is the most important document that is used in governing its citizens. It also serves as a guideline as regards to how leaders are to be chosen. A good constitution is not only supposed to protect its citizens, but should also give them equal opportunity to realise their potentials, irrespective of whether they belong to the majority or the minority. It is of utmost importance that a good constitution should be written in such a way that every citizen, most especially the minorities will not only be full of pride to identify themselves with it, but will be ready at any moment to take up arms and defend it, if necessary. In addition, the political system is supposed not only to produce good leaders, but as well level the playing field for all.

 For many African countries, including Nigeria –  unlike most European countries that are homogenous in structure,  that are made up of hundreds of nations, with the minorities consisting a significant proportion, the importance of having a good and fair constitution, even becomes very important, sensitive and actual. Many bloody civil wars in Africa, and Nigeria in particular, were fought, and are still being fought by now simply because the constitution was lopsided, and gave  undeserved and unfair advantage to a particular ethnic group, who perhaps sole handedly drew up the constitution, without consulting or taking into consideration the interests of other ethnic groups, including the minorities. The Ndi-Igbos alone lost more than 1 million of its able-bodied and very talented sons and daughters in the civil war.

 The essence of an effective political system in a truly democratic society is to produce quality leadership – patriotic, law-abiding, competent, honest, morally upright and impartial leaders. A political system that ignores the yearnings and aspirations of other ethnic groups, most especially its minorities, sooner or later is bound to fail the test of time and face serious crisis.

 Today, it is obvious, even to an apolitical layman, that the Nigerian constitution and political system are in serious crisis. The unrest in the South-East caused by the activities of MASSOB; the circulation of Biafran currency in Onitsha market; the uprising in the South-West by OPC-led by Adams; the regular kidnappings of foreign oil workers and the sporadic bombings of oil rigs and installations by MEND in The Niger Delta, the imbroglio between the president and his embattled deputy; the reinstallation, by the courts,  of governors previously impeached for corruption by the state parliament and the highly tensed atmosphere surrounding the April 2007 elections in general are more than enough evidence that the country’s constitution together with its political system are at cross-roads. Today, nobody can predict what will happen to the country between now and May 29, talk less of in 1,2,3,5 or 10 years time. Undoubtedly, the whole country is tensed up, and could blow up into pieces or fragments anytime from now! The way things stand now, if care is not taken, the 1967-70 tragic event in the history of the country may repeat itself again.

 It will be recalled that The Nigerian Constitution was drawn up by the military, all of whom are from the north – the most backward and poorest region in the country. Obviously, the opportunity that they were in charge of drawing the constitution was used to the maximum, but to the detriment or disadvantage of the rest of the country, most especially the minority oil producing states. We are reaping the fruits of the labour of the khaki boys, thanks to all the crises the country and the citizens are both painfully going through now. Judging from the way events are unfolding now, it is sad to admit that we have not learnt any lessons from the civil war. But, the question is “Are we going to fold our hands, and watch helplessly how a group of people will make us massacre ourselves again because of their stupidity and selfish interests.

 Needless to say that the type of constitution and political system operates or adopts is very important for its development, unity and stability.

 What is a system? A system is a sort of methodology, rules, process, procedure or guidelines for doing things. When we are talking about a political system, it is a procedure on how leaders of a country are  chosen,  the power or authority bestowed on them by the constitution to rule the country and its citizens. A system is an indivisible part of development. Take for example the former east and West Germany, same people with the same culture, language and values, but with two absolutely different constitution and political systems. I had the opportunity to witness the glaring contrast between the two countries while crossing from East Germany to West Germany in 1991, before the unification. What about  South and North Korea? You don’t necessarily have to visit the two Koreas to know that the difference between the two countries is like the sun and the earth. High quality products of South Korea’s  companies like Daewoo, Samsung, Hyundai, e.t.c. sold all over the world, and the high esteem the country and its citizens  are held in the world, are evidence of what a good constitution and political system are capable of achieving.

 Nigeria’s constitution together with its political system are not only ineffective but are fraudulent, unjust, evil and makes mockery of democracy. It is a system that robs Peter to pay Paul. Our constitution and political system are fraudulent and ineffective for many reasons. In this article, I will share my observations, findings and the result of my unbiased analysis with you.

 The purpose of a free and fair election is not only to make sure that competent, honest, law-abiding and morally upright candidates are presented to the electorates, but it must also ensure that the best among them is eventually elected. The system that we presently operate allows the least competent presidential candidate from the most backward region in the country to be the President.

 Take for example the 1979 Presidential election. It was obvious that Shagari was the least competent among the contestants, nevertheless, he eventually went on to win the election. The southwest overwhelmingly voted for Awolowo. The southeast overwhelmingly voted for Zik. Unfortunately, these votes were not enough to make either of them the president. The country had to make do with Shagari – a school teacher. Although, it was obvious to the northern voters too that Awolowo and Zik were the better candidates, nevertheless, they voted for their man.

 In the lights of this, it will not be out of place to ask about the purpose of election and democracy, if all it is capable of doing was to elect the worst candidate. After the death of Awolowo, even The Ikemba of Nnewi, chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, admitted that Papa Awo was ‘The Best President’ that Nigeria never had. Our political system, invariably, had denied us the opportunity of having the best president for Nigeria.


addition, Shagari, a hausa/fulani man had total control over the vast oil resources of the minority groups in the Niger delta. The revenues from their oil were used to build houses, hospitals, roads, power stations, factories, e.t.c. in the north to the detriment of the bonafide owners of the oil. Despite the fact that they are surrounded by water, nevertheless, they have no clean and portable water to drink. Despite the fact that they are surrounded by oil and gas, nevertheless, they have no access to electricity. Since their land is polluted, they could not cultivate it. Since the water is polluted, there are no fish to catch. In other words, they have no means of surviving. They have a high mortality rate due to constant exposure to polluted air and lack of adequate medical facilities. In short, they live in abject poverty.

 Let us analyse the 1999 presidential election too. When it was agreed that a Yoruba man will be the President, the Yorubas presented Falae as their candidate, but the north lobbied Obj for its own selfish interests. Obj eventually won, despite the fact that Falae was the much better candidate. The worst and annoying part of the whole exercise was that Obj did not only woefully loose the  election in the southwest, but he was even unable to deliver both his state and local government. A man who did not have the support of his own people; a man who is not held in high esteem among his own people; a man who is detested and considered an opportunist by his own kinsmen, nevertheless,  went on to win the presidential election! The question I want to ask is this: “Will it be politically correct to say that The Yoruba produced the president?” My own answer is CAPITAL NO! What about you? To me, that is a total mockery of democracy. How will you define it? The Yorubas, unfortunately, were denied the opportunity to produce ‘quality leadership’ that would have benefited  the whole country – both the north and the south respectively.

 The same constitution goes on to say that Obj has the full right to be the president and hold the position of minister of petroleum simultaneously. My understanding of this is that our constitution does not consider the job of  the President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria that too difficult. Therefore, to save the President from the boredom of ruling a very simple country like Nigeria, he is allowed to combine with his first job as the president with the second; the post of petroleum minister. I was just wondering, what does Obj know about petroleum? Did this man ever study chemistry talk less of having the ability to write the chemical formula of common water, that he drinks everyday. Why did he choose to combine the petroleum portfolio with his very demanding job of ruling such a very complex country like Nigeria and its people?

 As we all know, Obj, all his life, was taught how to kill, give orders and shout at people in public. It will also be recalled that after his retirement from the highly corrupt and disgraceful Nigerian Army, he went into farming which later went bankrupt. Despite the fact that he stole the country’s money to set up this farm – by deceiving millions of Nigerians that he was operating Operation Feed the Nation (O.F.N.), when in actual fact, the abbreviation stood for Obasanjo Farms Nigeria. Does it mean that by combining this petroleum portfolio, Obj could not find any competent, trustworthy and honest Nigerian professional in the field of oil and gas  worthy the post of petroleum minister?

 One of Nigeria’s serious problems and nightmares are security and electricity. Everyday, in their houses, on the highways and in the streets, Nigerians are attacked, robbed of their properties and killed in broad daylight by armed robbers. Why didn’t Obj take up the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and take the bull by the horns, as far as security is concerned, more so, taking into consideration his military background.

 Assuming that our president is afraid to lock horns with the dreaded Nigerian armed robbers, what about the power sector? Why didn’t he combine the power ministry with his presidential post?  But, that was not to be. He preferred to go for the ministry that lays Nigeria’s golden eggs. After all, it is much more interesting and profitable for him to distribute oil wells to both Nigerians and foreigners, based on their loyalty to him, and how much he gets paid for it. It is much more fun signing checks that worth billions of dollars, from the oil revenues, to be deposited in foreign banks than engaging in gun battles with hardened armed robbers, who together with the federal government terrorize Nigerians, day in day out. The constitution empowers Obj to manage the petroleum portfolio without the former approval of neither The Senate nor The House of Representatives nor   the oil producing states and without any obligation to give any account of his activities to  Nigerians! Our ‘military constitution’ – that is what it is indeed – allows another man from another ethnic group to have a total control over the resources of the minority, and the latter is helpless. Billions of dollars have been spent in power generation but without any result. The irony in the power sector is that today, the country generates less energy than before Obj took over power in 1999!

  That is not all. Our constitution has what is called ‘immunity clause.’ I guess you know what that means. For those who don’t know, what it means is that if during the term of a president, there is more than enough evidence that he has embezzled billions of dollars of our oil money, or gave order to murder his political opponent(s) or antagonist(s), nevertheless, we must fold our hands and wait for him to complete his term before bringing him to justice. For example, our constitution says that even if we can prove beyond reasonable doubts that Obj ordered the murder of Bola Ige, or aided and abetted it, nevertheless, we must wait till May 29, 2007, when he will  hand over power, so that he will have enough time to buy over, intimidate or  kill key witnesses and accomplices  before the case comes up for hearing, if at all it will. Furthermore, our constitution, with the immunity clause does not allow us to bother Obj even if we have waterproof evidence that he has stolen and mismanaged The Petroleum Fund, directly under him for almost 8 years, in the capacity of petroleum minister. The constitution asks us to wait, so that he will have enough time to clean all available evidence of his atrocities. My own interpretation of this is that the constitution is saying that it is better Nigeria continues to have a thief and murderer as its president than declaring the seat vacant, or handing over his responsibilities to The Vice President or The Senate President.

  Have you ever heard or seen a former Head of State or President being prosecuted in Nigeria before? Definitely, not in our lifetime or generation, simply because they are covered by ‘the immunity clause’ defacto till they kick the bucket. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that Ribadu has been collecting evidence for the past 8 years to prosecute the evil genius for looting our treasury of billions of dollars! Even, a boy conceived today, but to be born or delivered in 9 months from now, know from the womb of his mother that ibb murdered Dele Giwa, that the former dictator was a drug pusher, that he has stocked billions of dollars of Nigeria’s money away in foreign banks. Our corruption fighting Ribadu is still busy collecting evidence! To Ribadu, evil genius’s 53-room mansion, with marble covered walls are not enough evidence for Ribadu. He needs more solid evidence. He is probably waiting for ibb or one of his friends to tell him which foreign banks – and the account numbers – the evil genius is keeping his loots. So, who is really fooling whom? Why can’t Ribadu simply tell Nigerians that he was not appointed by Obj to prosecute omo -esu (a.k.a. evil genius), or that he is too big a fish for him to catch. We would have understood and bear with him. After all, we are

understanding people. Why is Ribadu playing on our collective intelligence? 

 The EFCC recently published the list of corrupt politicians. When Ribadu was asked why the names of other politicians known to be very corrupt were absent from the list, his reply was that the constitution says that only corrupt candidates are not eligible to corrupt, and that the focus was not on corrupt politicians who are not vying for posts. Interpretation: if you are a politician and known to be very corrupt , you can enjoy your loots quietly as long as you are not taking part in elections. What have you got to say about Tofa’s case, the former Inspector General Police who was found guilty of embezzling millions of dollars? He served a ridiculous and incredible 4 months not even in prison, but in a hotel or rest room, where he was managing his vast business empires,  underwent medical check-up, had access to the best food money could buy and was in regular contact with his family. The man is now completely free to enjoy his loots. It is just worth mentioning that hundreds of thousands of Nigerian have been  languishing in Nigerian prisons for years for minor offences. Don’t you think that this is a 419 constitution? Isn’t this a mockery of democracy?

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