Constitution Review: Before Governors Hijack Our Freedom By Abdull-Azeez Ahmed
Between 1999 and now, it will be difficult to quantify the quantum of money thus far spent on the review of the 1999 constitution. So much has gone into waste with so much motion but little progress.
That much pundits would point out is typically Nigerian. Haven’t we sunk so much money into many white elephant projects with nothing to show for it. In all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, there are abandoned projects that have gulped multi billion naira but left to waste. Today, state governors collect millions, in some states billions of naira monthly in the name of security votes, yet, some communities few metres from government houses are daily terrorised and can’t sleep with their eyes closed due to insecurity.
The eight National Assembly seems to have made a great leap compared to what was obtained in the past with regards to the review of the 1999 constitution, taking on over thirty amendments in one fell swoop. This is unprecedented; considering the pertinent issues raised.
And for the first time in recent history, we saw the lawmakers put on the toga of seriousness by utilising the electronic voting system. This is against the voice votes where the presiding officer decides where the votes swing by pronouncing “the ayes have it” with the hit of the gavel even where and when “the nays” are loudest and more in number.
Even at that, the lawmakers shot themselves in the legs by proposing any bill becomes law once passed by the National Assembly without the assent of the President. That is arrogating the role of executive to themselves thereby abolishing the checks and balances which makes that proposal despotic.
Of course, it is a planned way of rendering the Presidency powerless; targeting President Muhammadu Buhari. But what the Senators are loosing sight of, is the fact that the law maybe self inflicted injury as anyone of them may end up in the presidency sooner or later.
That aside, the amendment votes seem to have taken the wind out of the sail of advocates of restructure. The carpet was tactically pulled under their foot leaving them gasping for air.
But more pertinent is the issue of Local Government autonomy, scrapping of joint local government /state joint account, scrapping of State Independent Electoral Commission; SIECOM, autonomy for State Houses of Assembly, independence candidacy among others. These issues tickled the fancy of many Nigerians, resonating with them and they mince no word in expressing their support. But the reality is, they are not factoring in the class interest, deviants and self serving appetites of the state governors.
Of course, the lawmakers got hit with regards to throwing away the devolution of power which the governors desperately want. This is not surprising considering the number of former Governors who populate the National Assembly, especially the upper chamber. They all know the powers governors wield. They all know to what extent such powers can be utilised albeit to the disadvantage of the masses by marauding governors.
Unfortunately some governors have become despots and demi gods in their state without recourse to law and constitutionality. Devolving more power to them would make some worst than the worst dictator that booted the constitution. Again you ask, of what significance is more power without commensurate financial backing by rejigging the monthly allocation in favour of the states. Here we are with some states owing workers months of salaries, yet demanding for more responsibilities. How ironic.
And this bring us to where the governors would mobilise and fight the National Assembly and Nigerians by hijacking the constitutional review. They would not allow for local government, State Houses of Assembly autonomy, scrapping of joint state/local account and SIECOM. They would do all they can to foil that good move Nigerians are celebrating. A move that would free Nigerians from the jugular of the governors who have become undemocratic despots through the ballot as against the barrel of the gun.
Local Governments have become the conduit pipes through which governors line their pockets. While councils have become appendage of the Governors’ offices, they do as they wish with the finances and administration of the third tier of government that is meant to take development closer to the people.
Unfortunately, even those who were loudmouth and critical of their predecessors, calling them unprintable names for failure to conduct local government elections, today as sitting governors are worst than their predecessors who they criticized.
Most visible infrastructural development at the local government councils that you can point at today, undertaken by the councils, were projects some were able to execute under General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida administration when councils got their allocation direct from Abuja. Though there were some who actually abused that as governors do today.
And the few who today embark on semblance of local government elections, always have the SIECOM in their pockets. They appoint those who superintend the electoral body and determine the election outcome long before the polls, hence landslide victory of the ruling party in such state. Scrapping SIECOM means booting the governors’ despotism utilising semblance of democracy in council polls.
And the last straw is autonomy for the state Houses of Assembly. State assemblies today are nothing but rubber stamps. They act in tandem with the directive of the governors contrary to the tenets of separation of power. State Houses ofAssembly Members are worst than commissioners who are appointees of the governor and often pass executive bills with the speed of light and hardly spell oversight in their functions talk less of carrying it out. That leaves the governors to do as they want, not just with their state finances, but resort to despotic acts and pronouncement with the legislature looking the other way or gazing blindly with eyes wide shut.
These are the reasons the governors would mobilise to ensure these changes in the constitution review are stalled as they are threats to their crude ridership albeit despotically as against leading democratically. They are going to boot what the masses are rooting for and in the process hijack our freedom through the constitution review.
From recent recapitulating statements of Senate President Bukola Satanic on representing the devolution bill, be sure the governors are already at work. It is time for Nigerians to resist this by ensuring their representatives at all levels to the right thing in tandem with their wishes by ensuring the governors don’t have their way, or teach them a lesson they would never forget in their political lives.
But after all said and done, the President have the final say by withholding or assenting to the reviews after the three third of all needed to make it a constitution. So, the buck stops on his table.