Fraudulent 1999 Constitution: The Achilles Heel of Unitary Nigeria
by Dr. Okenwa Nwosu
An Editorial Opinion
The most menacing challenge to Nigeria’s security is not the Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen militia, armed bandits, or even the global collapse of crude oil market in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. What has today’s Unitary Nigeria in a chokehold is the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution. What happens to this constitution, in the medium and long terms, shall go a long way to determine whether the other lesser matters like the Boko Haram, herdsmen terrorism, escalating banditry and mass impoverishment/joblessness can ever be brought under control. Another way of saying this is that the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution is the lynchpin on which the future of Africa’s most populous country hinges. This constitution is like a grave disease that ravages many parts of the body to such an extent that those managing the situation focus all they can muster in the mitigation of associated symptoms in order to keep the patient alive. Valuable time, effort and resources are currently being dissipated in attempting to grapple with the morbid complications wrought by the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution on millions of Nigeria’s stakeholders.
Since the constitution embodies the supreme law of the land, the making of this crucial document is usually considered to be the most solemn duty of a democratic state. Since the ethnic nationalities entering into a union must also submit their sovereign rights over their ancestral rights to the emergent state, all stakeholders do first agree to give themselves a constitution. The constitution shall be used to clarify the union being entered into and the legal framework for organizing its governance. This is precisely what was done in the run-up to the Independence of 1960 to be able to write the constitution that transformed colonial Nigeria into a self-ruled sovereign democratic nation-state. In step with the founding 1960 Constitution, the superseding 1963 Republican Constitution was later written to accommodate four regional constitutions of the Northern, Eastern, Western and Midwestern Regions and a federal constitution for the central government. Suffice it to say that the 1st Republic, which was agriculture-based, witnessed the fastest rate of socioeconomic growth in the entire developing world of that era.
The Military & Legacy of Unitary Rule
The sudden incursion by the military into politics Nigeriana on January 15, 1966 was initially seen, at the time, as both aberrant and short-lived. How wrong we were at the time. The first indication of what lay ahead was the Decree No 34 of 1966 that subsumed the governance of the four federating regions under the aegis of the ruling military junta at the center in Lagos. The four-region federation of the First Republic was killed and buried on May 27, 1967 when Yakubu Gowon arbitrarily chopped up Nigeria’s geopolitical space into 12 states by the mere issuance of a decree. Many blame that very irrational and provocative act as the trigger that made the hasty declaration of the secessionist Biafran Republic, only three days later, inevitable. The bait for blood yielded big-time for the Sokoto Caliphate-manipulated ruling military junta in Lagos and their British mentors. The Civil War, which was ignited by the unilateral abrogation of the regional federalism of the First Republic by agents of the Sokoto Caliphate, wreaked unprecedented misery and death on the inhabitants of a once-prosperous Eastern Region. Post-war Nigeria witnessed a systematic endeavor by the military to erase all the relics of constitutional federalism that survived from the First Republic with the intent to transform Nigeria into a Unitary nation-state, going forward.
One of the preparatory steps taken by Nigeria’s autocratic rulers included the making of ordinances like the Land Use Decree of 1978. Nigeria’s Land Use Decree of 1978 abolished all existing freehold systems in the former semi-autonomous regions before military takeover. This audacious move by the military junta in Lagos was ostensibly meant to standardize land administration systems across the entire country, irrespective of the socioeconomic and cultural differences that are evident nationwide. It vested all urban land within a state in the state governor and all non-urban land in the local governments in which they are found. This is a gross departure from the millennia-old cultural practices among the indigenous stakeholders of the South and Middle Belt. This infamous Land Use Decree of 1978 was successfully grafted into the military-imposed 1979 Constitution and now its successor, the fraudulent 1999 Constitution. The word “Decree” was simply replaced with “Act”, just for the optics of it. No constituent body was ever convened to debate and vet the contents of the military-crafted constitutions before they were imposed on the constituents. No Referendums were conducted to enable the stakeholders of Nigeria to agree to unify and clarify the terms for unification.
How Decree No 24 of 1999 Became Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution
This is a story that many Nigerians alive today have never heard and no one is a hurry to tell them either. American politicians would readily engage anyone with solemn accounts of how their founding fathers gathered secretly in the City of Philadelphia to hammer out the fundamental tents of the democracy that the US citizens inherit today. The tale for the archetypal Nigerian political pundit is replete with the shame of how the solemn deliberations and agreements reached by the founding fathers in Lancaster House, London regarding the federal geopolitical structure for post-colonial Nigeria was thoughtlessly upended and hijacked by the same bunch who instead chose to impose the fraudulent 1999 Constitution on all stakeholders as is the case today.
Autocratic military rule was becoming intolerable globally in the 1990s and Nigeria was not an exception. As the pressure to quit was reaching a crescendo, the military junta headed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar decided to establish a commission that helped it to repackage the sidelined 1979 Constitution and position the byproduct as the constitutional order to succeed the era of Nigeria’s military rule. General Abubakar’s legal adviser, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, went to work for his boss and came up with a draft, which was promulgated as Decree No 24 of 1999. This decree was later baptized to answer the 1999 Constitution after President Olusegun Obasanjo’s swearing-in ceremony on May 29, 1999. This is the magical birth of the 1999 Constitution upon which the governance and future wellbeing of 200 million Nigerians are predicated.
The Fraud That Is the 1999 Constitution
The Preamble on the first page of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution is emblazoned with a lie – that “We the people…” resolved to give ourselves the Decree No 24 (a. k. a. 1999 Constituti8on). Many stakeholders have since repudiated and rejected this lie from the mountain tops. Constituent groups, organized under the aegis of PRONACO, for example, had filed lawsuits at the Lagos and Abuja High Courts, as far back as 2007, with a plea to have the 1999 Constitution declared a fraud based on the self-evident false claim in the document’s Preamble. But the imposed unitary system in place has already cast its spell on all the branches of government, including the Judiciary. Till today, the court ruling on this clear-cut matter is still pending while the Nigerian polity drifts toward the deeper end of the stinking cesspool.
Restructuring May Be Too Little Too Late
Some have shown concerns about the 1999 Constitution for a variety of reasons. Some see the document as a mere compilation of decrees, edicts and ordinances issued arbitrarily to achieve the consolidation of unmerited political and economic power under the control of the Sokoto Islamic Caliphate. The incumbent Buhari presidency is instrumental in creating and fostering this viewpoint, especially in the South and Middle Belt. Some see the economic decline as being fueled by the restrictive provisions embodied in the 68-item Federal Exclusive Legislative List contained in the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution. The seizure of sovereign rights of indigenous ethnic nationalities through the instrumentality of a forged document remains a constant cause of restiveness and unease among those who feel enslaved in their own ancestral lands. Even a more significant number of stakeholders are beginning to see the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution as the cause of ALL the woes of Unitary Nigeria. If indeed all the tribulations of Nigeria are attributable to the subsisting constitution, then something fundamental and radical must be done with the document. Mere restructuring and amendments cannot cut the ice.
A Constitutional Force Majeure Is Long Overdue
Nigerians, having survived a bloody civil war in living memory, should know better than to overlook plausible nonviolent means of achieving the same good outcomes for the majority. What exists in today’s Unitary Nigeria is a constitutional imposition similar to what obtains in a colonial rule or foreign military occupation. If the nonviolent approach is the preferred option, then the stakeholders must be adequately instructed about how they can weaponize their understanding of the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution to free themselves from a carefully schemed perpetual enslavement of Nigeria’s indigenous peoples by the Sokoto Caliphate.
A constitution is a social contract between the state and “We the people…” whose ancestral lands constitute the nation. In today’s Unitary Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution that defines it has been identified to be the cause of all the woes of the stakeholders, including killings, ethnic cleansing, mass impoverishment, hunger etc. The imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution has created a governance mantra for Nigeria that many now characterize to be worse than the Apartheid-era South Africa. The South and Middle Belt constituent majority have jointly repudiated and rejected the 1999 Constitution. According to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), ethnic nationalities inhabiting Nigeria’s geopolitical space have an unalienable right to live free on their own ancestral lands without imposition from outside. Nigeria’s constituents are not bound forever to the hand dealt to them by the manipulative Sokoto Caliphate irredentists through military imposition. To preserve our lives and everything we hold dear, we must now boldly and jointly stand up to query our constituents’ continued support for an ordinance imposed for our perpetual enslavement called the 1999 Constitution.
Democracy in modern Nigeria must be a deliberate endeavor to move away from a social construct predicated on the imposition of exploitative feudal governance, as one has witnessed in the Sokoto Caliphate’s 200-year-old history. The Caliphate is not only interested in exercising suzerain rights over the conquered Hausa kingdoms of the Northwest that had provided a territorial foothold for the nomadic Fulani in our part of West Africa. One must never forget that it was, first and foremost, a radical Islamist movement that gained recognition and relevance through jihadist conquests into the Middle Belt and Southwestern Nigeria. In a published article dated October 12, 1960, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, had alerted his political lieutenants to regard the October 1st Independence occasion for Nigeria as a signal for the resumption of the jihad suspended after the arrival of the British at the turn of the 20th Century. Unitary Nigeria imposed through the fraudulent 1999 Constitution is the incarnation of the Ahmadu Bello battle script enunciated on June 12, 1960.
For those who genuinely wish to bring the arrogant imposers of today’s Unitary Nigeria down to their knees, without the need to fire a single shot, put on your thinking caps now and go after the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution. That imposed fraudulent document is the weakest link in the chain of bondage being deployed by the dimwitted minders of today’s Sokoto Caliphate to hoodwink and bamboozle the rest of us who end up becoming their slaves in perpetuity in Unitary Nigeria. There are several simple acts that “We the people…” can undertake in a coordinated fashion and the imposed fraud shall soon come crashing down. That was precisely what happened to the much-hated and despised Apartheid Constitution of White-minority rule before it vanished into oblivion.
The Fulani-minority rule in today’s Unitary Nigeria can be upended by toppling the imposed fraudulent 1999 Constitution just as the Boer-minority Apartheid rule was upended in South Africa. The United Nations, AU, EU and many other advanced democracies worldwide are keenly interested in intervening to assist the Nigerian stakeholders to amicably resolve the emergent constitutional disputations that shall follow a successful nationwide takedown of the fraud tormenting the lives of our folks, as we speak.
All should now get ready for the imminent Constitutional Force Majeure designed to demystify the hoax contrived by feudalistic opportunists for perpetuating our enslavement.