Professor Ben Nwabueze, a constitutional lawyer and a former education minister should be ashamed for being a part of the team that drafted the 1979 constitution which metamorphosed into the 1999 constitution. The constitution which has been faulted by many law experts and which is being reviewed by a Joint Committee of the National Assembly was unfortunately branded as a legitimate document by Prof. Nwabueze in his bid to defending the immediate past president Olusegun Obasanjo’s decision to head the Ministry of Petroleum during his tenure. In his (Nwabueze) words “Obasanjo did not violate any section of the constitution by appointing himself the substantive Minister of Petroleum during his tenure as the president.”
The former education minister who was part of the drafting of a failed constitution does not have the temerity to correct a notion as a result of the interpretation given to the section of the constitution which the House of Representatives cited to buttress its argument.
Although, Prof. Nwabueze is a constitutional lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), he is not in a position to tell Nigerians what the true constitutional position is in this matter owing to his (Nwabueze) involvement in the drafting of a constitution that suffered many problems in the Second Republic and which was adopted as the constitution of the current republic on May 29, 1999.
The Nigerian constitution which is the basic instrument of government has provided the basis for nothing but political instability, poor economic growth and social progress. It is neither simple nor flexible and hence, it is weak. Furthermore, the constitution does not serve the needs of over 140 million Nigerians. This shows that the 1999 constitution is illegitimate and its amendment by both the lower and the upper houses is long overdue.
One would have expected the amendment to have commenced before now but this was not meant to be. Finally, a Joint Committee on Constitutional Review (JCRC) was constituted on November 23, 2008 for the amendment of the constitution and work commences January 2009 but the involvement of concerned citizens and organisations in the exercise is one question that remained unanswered by the Senate President, David Mark, who constituted the committee for the review. Some of the constitutions we have had in the past are usually nothing more than the ideas of the party or unscrupulous people in power, hence, this must be checked.
Those that should be involved in the review of the 1999 constitution are outstanding leaders; people that will represent a wide range of interests, background and stations in life; people that will create a structure of government that would work for the present and future generations as well as people who are ready to correct the flaws and make the constitution a better instrument for public good. Also, the state legislators should not be left out in the discussion of the amendments for the constitution.
But barely four weeks into the constitution of the review committee, there have been reports on the disagreement between members of the committee, the jostling for leadership of the six sub-committees and dispute over which of the two chambers is superior over the other. This report is definitely a bad omen. The 44members of the JCRC ought to see their involvement in the amendment of the constitution as a call to serve rather than an opportunity for self-enrichment. If the vested interest of the committee members and the frequent change in leadership of the National Assembly is anything to go by, then, the proposed amendment might just be an exercise in futility and a sheer waste of resources. The planned acquisition of new cars and office equipment by the secretariat of the Joint Committee from the N1billion earmarked for the exercise is the bane for the legislator’s disagreements and unless the 44 members remain selfless, the constitutional review may not give Nigerians the desired results besides constitutional review since independence has failed.