Current 4th Republic Democracy Is an Indirect Military Rule – Says Mark Olise of Lower Niger Congress (LNC)
The Nigeria military establishment hijacked the nation’s political economy in past 50 years since it arbitrarily abrogated the region-based federal parliamentary democracy on which the country’s self-rule was based at Independence of 1960. Without consulting with anyone, officers of the Nigerian armed forces trashed the five constitutions which produced the stability and relative prosperity of the immediate post-Independence era in the 1960’s and replaced them by creating 12 states through the issuance of decree. The military, over the next three decades had transformed the post-Independence Nigerian federation into a unitary “monolithic” entity governed by a strong center operating through 36 vassal states and 774 local councils. Each step in the evolution of this administrative contraption was accomplished through the issuance of decrees written by whichever military strongman was at the helm of affairs. In 1999, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who was in-charge at the time, produced a governance document for Nigeria which was baptized as the 1999 Constitution with the issuance of yet another decree – Decree No 24 of 1999 – to put it into effect.
In run-up to scheduled handover from military rule to civilian-led democracy, the same army strongmen went on the limb to make sure that the emergent 4th Republic still remained under its firm grip by stage-managing the partisan political formation that produced one of theirs, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, to become first “civilian” President of the Fourth Republic. The Obasanjo administration’s primary task was to make the 1999 Constitution, which was forced upon the Nigerian polity with a military decree, to work as intended by its authors. Six geopolitical zones were the imaginative creation of seasoned politicians who sought, through their various partisan platforms, to streamline the mechanics for operating the immutable 1999 Constitution without going through the impossible drudgery of attempting to amend the document. Obasanjo served out his two-term tenure and was replaced a non-military Shehu Umar Yar’Adua. His death while in office led to succession of President Goodluck Jonathan who was replaced by incumbent retired General Buhari who won the 2015 presidential contest. With Buhari’s return to the seat of power, 30 years after his ouster via a military coup, the militarization of Nigeria’s 4th Republic’s democracy became complete as originally designed.
Restructuring Versus Devolution: What Does Nigeria Need?
The master plan of those who designed, created and enacted the 1999 Constitution was to let serial modifications of the document, in subsequent decades, become the preferred conduit for gradually allowing Nigeria’s constituents to take ownership of the arbitrarily imposed constitution. What a trick, or should I say, scam!
The 1999 Constitution, as originally written and deployed, was absolutely centrist in form; all powers are concentrated in Abuja and the periphery must take its cues (political, economic etc) from the citadel at the Aso Rock. To buttress this central control, the 1999 Constitution contains 68-item Exclusive Legislative List of matters about which no one or group can make laws beside the center at Abuja. Roads, electricity generation, ports, waterways, markets, business registration etc belong on this lengthy Exclusive Legislative List which can be accessed by clicking on https://goo.gl/X8JFP9.
Devolution is the term used when some legislative powers, which used to be exclusive to the central authority, are transferred over to the periphery. The Yoruba September 7, 2017 in Ibadan “recommended the devolution of 25 items on the Exclusive List in the 1999 Constitution, ranging from customs duties to exchange control, currency, coinage and legal tender, arms, ammunition and explosives, and citizenship, naturalization and aliens among others”, for example. One might argue that seeking the devolution of 25 out of a long list of 68 ought to be perceived as reasonable enough to be easily granted. Minders of the status quo would, of course, beg to disagree. From their angle, even five items can indeed make a world of difference.
Restructuring, as seen through the lenses of self-determinations groups in the Lower Niger, of which civil-war Biafra territory is part, starts with acknowledging that the very sovereignty enjoyed by the Nigerian state originates from and thus belongs to constituent ethnic nationalities who owned their ancestral lands 100% before arrival of the Europeans to establish colonial suzerainty over the country now called Nigeria. Restructuring that can endure must, therefore, returning the sovereign authority over the territories that comprise Nigeria back to their original owners as the first order of business. As the international constitutional expert, Mr. Bruce Fein, had written in 2016, the United Nations had required of the British colonial rulers over Nigeria to return sovereignty back to indigenous owners of their colonial territories as a condition for the granting of self-rule. The imperial government of Great Britain did not do this before “leaving” Nigeria in 1960 in violation of the UN mandate on decolonization.
The Lower Niger Independence Movement (LONIM), a movement supported by leadership echelons of the MASSOB, IPOB, LNC and others, sees that acknowledgement of the sovereign authority of indigenous peoples of the Lower Niger over their ancestral lands and all the natural wealth therein, is the beginning of wisdom for whoever wish to see a peaceful Restructuring of 21st Century Nigeria. This is the core essence of Mr. Mark Olise’s message to his TV host at AIT.
Mr. Mark Olise has lucidly and eloquently explained the essential ingredients the type of Restructuring that Nigeria must have before the expectations of overwhelming majority of its constituent groups can be satisfied. The mistake which must be avoided, at least initially, is to not consider token devolution of powers, which some believe can be accomplished through acts of the National Assembly, to mean Restructuring about which some sort of national consensus is building in recent years.
According to the LNC’s Deputy-Director for Communications, Nigeria has the two choices of accomplishing the inevitable Restructuring through peaceful or violent means. Overwhelming majority of Nigerians and interested parties within the international community would prefer the peaceful option which is universally applicable through the conduct of plebiscites or the Referendum. Even though the Yoruba Summit in Ibadan opted for an initial devolution of 25 items in the current Federal Exclusive Legislative List in the 1999 constitution, the resolution also emphasized the central import of use of Referendum as guide, both as the regional and national levels.
Resort to the imperative of using the Referendum to ascertain the constituents’ true wishes is the recurring decimal in solving any equation that can result in a truly restructured Nigeria.