If the description of a nation is an entity that comprises a people with common ancestry, common culture and a common language, division of the people, distinguished from the rest by common descent, language or institutions; a race or stock is anything to go by, then Nigeria does not qualify to be called a nation and so chief Obafemi Awolowo was right to say that “Nigeria is a mere geographical expression” or as Hugh Clifford said that Nigeria “is a collection of independent native states, separated from one another by great distances, by differences of history, traditions, ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers.” However, Nigeria is a country that owes it’s origin to British empire-builders who, for their own purpose amalgamated nations of different people into a single entity based on it’s own interests not for unity but for their business interest.
What many nations of the world have which Nigeria will never have no matter how it may be shaped, is what can be called a common purpose or ideology. The style and approach of British administration and governance has it’s own bigger portion of the blame, because in Biafraland, chiefs or elders were spokesmen, powerless to act without the people’s consent, the Biafra system of government was akin to democracy where authority came directly from the people. But it must be said that since independence in 1960, the ambition of one group to predominate over other(s) has been a major clog in the wheel of nation-building. Issues of state creation and census, proper political administration which, ordinarily, would have advanced the cause of national unity, national integration, and development, were viewed from the prisms of ethnic advantage. These have made constitution writing in Nigeria difficult because what is taboo in the other ethnicity is culture in the other, what the other abhors, another cherishes and adores. And so, story of constitution-making in Nigeria has therefore been the story of a post-colonial nation searching for a bearing to hold on.
But one of the questions that would be given a serious attention is the survival of the constitution. So we ask, what does it mean to live under a written constitution? “It means… the polity recognizes or is assumed to recognize certain basic assumptions about the nature of political power in the (area of operation), it’s distribution, it’s exercise and most importantly, it’s limitations. Furthermore, a constitutional government is one in which government has certain powers that are set within more or less well-defined boundaries.”
The constitutional government is not about power, rather it is about a defined process. This process or documentation is supposed to guide the entire citizenry in their daily lives and within a defined boundary. One of these principles is the freedom of speech, association, and belief. Ernest Freud wrote on the New Republic magazine of May 3, 1919, page 13 that: “to know what you may do and what you may not do, and how far you may go in criticism, is the first condition of political liberty, to be permitted to agitate at your own peril, subject to a jury’s guessing at motive, tendency and possible effect, makes the right of free speech a precarious gift.”
One of the primary purposes of adopting the constitutional government in general is to transform a country into a nation of uniform law. The Nigerian constitution was supposed to glue together all the competing interests — ethnic groups, cultural groups, religious sects and people at divergent political spectrum under one umbrella. It is supposed to offer a prescription on how things ought to be done and who should do what, but the case is the opposite. The so-called law makers in Nigeria are the same people who break the law which they make. The poor masses will not ask any question, instead they will even support them maybe because of ethnicity even if they are not going to gain anything.
The constitution empowers the politicians more than the citizenry and that is why they can get away with their all atrocities and nobody will question them. The constitution has enslaved the poor masses and handed power over to the politicians who use the power against the masses. That is why their attitude is not what to write home about, as far as the country called Nigeria still exists, Nigerian politicians will always exploit the poor masses divisiveness to ride to power and impoverish and deplete the citizenry to enrich themselves. And I think the constitution is not the problem but because of diverse ideology which the country is built on, but the worst problem is the citizenry who still accept to drink with the poisoned chalice handed over by the British.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media