At this time of intolerable insecurity including genocide for land grabs, plus countrywide economic woes and the mass exodus of Nigerians fleeing the country, it is necessary to revisit the 16th November 2018 “An Open Memorandum To President Muhammadu Buhari On Behalf Of The Lower Niger Congress And Its MNN Alliance Partners, In Response To The Restructuring Queries Raised In Paris, November 12, 2018”, mentioned in the historic Notice of Constitutional Force Majeure declared by the NINAS Movement on 16th December 2020. In this Open Memorandum lies the pathway to the non-violent ORDERLY PROCESS to fix the injustices and terrible effects brought about by the unitary system operated in Nigeria.
The Open Memorandum replied Buhari, who, whilst in France on November 12, 2018, dismissed the loud clamouring in Nigeria for “Restructuring”, by saying that those who called for it did not even know what they were asking for. This Open Memorandum was written by Tony Nnadi, Secretary-General of the Lower Niger Congress. Quoting profusely at times from that document, here are the key take-home points that will help Nigerians.
A critical mass of diverse thought-leaders who had a thorough grasp of what the real issues of the dysfunctional Nigerian State are, came together, mobilizing the peoples towards a Consensus that would generate more acceptable constitutional arrangements in place of the unworkable unitary constitutional order foisted by the Military between 1966 and 1999, on a Nigeria meant to be a Federation. Their efforts led to the convocation of the Peoples’ Sovereign Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria by the Anthony Enahoro-led Pro-National Conference Organisations, PRONACO, 2005-2006, which successfully brought together delegations from the various ethnic nationalities across Nigeria, civil society and the leaderships of the various regional self-determination agitations of that period. That Conference after almost two years successfully produced the Draft Peoples’ Constitution in August 2006. Buhari had been involved in PRONACO, and prominent others with this knowledge are current APC members, Bola Tinubu, (then Governor of Lagos State), Babatunde Fashola (then Chief of Staff to Governor Tinubu) and Yemi Osinbajo (then Attorney-General of Lagos State).
After PRONACO, its arrowheads including Chief Enahoro, Prof Wole Soyinka and Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, amongst others, had, under the aegis of the Movement for New Nigeria (MNN) and in furtherance of the PRONACO Consensus, instituted court suits between 2007 and 2009 at both the Lagos and Abuja Divisions of the Federal High Court, challenging the legitimacy of the 1999 Constitution on the grounds of fraud and forgery, seeking the termination of its operation and the immediate initiation of a transitioning arrangement that would bring about successor constitutional arrangements, just as South Africa had done to ease itself out of their Apartheid Constitutional Order.
Further implementation steps followed in 2011, when by the MNN Lagos Declaration of June 30, 2011, the MNN Alliance jointly repudiated the 1999 Constitution as the basis of Nigeria and gave mandate they would galvanize the various peoples of Nigeria into regional Constitution-making processes ahead of the inevitable constitutional reconfiguration of Nigeria (Restructuring).
From there, between 2015 and 2018 there were formal Solemn Assemblies across the South and Middle Belt, repudiating on behalf of the peoples of each regional Bloc, the 1999 Constitution as the basis of the false Federation of Nigeria and declaring their desires to seek their universal right to Self-determination, that Nigeria had for over 50 years (from Aburi of 1967), refused to address.
Please NOTE: The process that was followed prior to Independence, is the same to be followed now; now that the Union ended in 1966 so ethnic nationalities are back to square one and need to make a fresh start.
A Federation is a union of Constitutions and Nigeria became one country at Independence when the three Regions of the time which ALREADY had their own Constitutions made out between 1957 and 1959, met, negotiated and AGREED to Federate themselves into one political Union at the Lancaster House Conferences of 1959. ESSENTIAL for their AGREEMENT was a Federation with a high degree of autonomy (Self-determination) and where each Region owned and controlled its assets, contributing 15% of its income for the upkeep of the Center (ie Federal Government), MEANING that the Center was a CREATION OF THE REGIONS.
The coups of 1966 which brought the Military to power, toppled the 5 Constitutions that defined the Federation of Nigeria (4 Regional and 1 Federal), then the imposition of Unitary arrangements by Decrees one of which by May 27, 1967, broke up the 4 Regions into 12 States, terminated the autonomy of the Regions whilst seizing their assets. From that point in May 1967, Nigeria ceased to be a Federation. It became and has remained a Unitary State, fractured into 36 impotent states through the Imposed 1999 Constitution, that has made Nigeria a failure and the poverty capital of the world. This condition fuels the clamour for Restructuring and even outright Exit from the Union by indigenous nations who feel trapped in a ruinous imposed Union designed by the 1999 Constitution, a known forgery, and therefore illegitimate.
Furthermore, the National Assembly does not have the powers required to make or remake any Constitution. Such powers belong to the indigenous ethnic nationalities, flowing from their Sovereignty, currently suppressed by the 1999 Constitution. So, copying the correct pattern used before Independence in creating the then Federation of Nigeria, today these are the steps to resolve the predicament Nigeria is in:
Given that each indigenous ethnic nationality has an inalienable right to Self-determination in their ancestral land, they decide amongst themselves who gets to be included in the culturally-compatible Blocs they can form together (comparable to the Regions of the past).
Once the Blocs have formally agreed their ethnic make-up, and WITH their regional Constitutions, each Bloc would then decide which of the other Blocs (if any), they want to be in a Union with, ie that they will be Federating with. As was done by the three Regions between 1957 and 1959 ahead of the Lancaster House Conferences of 1959.
Thus, already having their regional Constitutions, if the Blocs decide to Federate, they would determine how much Self-determination they keep within their Bloc, and how much responsibilities they would cede to a Federal Government. The Blocs would negotiate and agree on the terms of Federating into one political Union, as was done at the Lancaster House Conferences.
Referendums and Plebiscites would be used to ratify and legitimize decisions at appropriate stages.
It is the refusal by all Governments since 1970 to apply this simple pre-Independence type procedures that is responsible for the miseries coming out of Nigeria’s fraudulent constitutional arrangements. Now, we turn to how to do it.
The best guide is to look at how South Africa ended their Apartheid Constitutional Order when they were in the very situation Nigeria has now arrived in. South Africa’s Government announced a definitive plan to terminate the operations of the Apartheid Constitution, and immediately set in motion the transitioning process called CODESA, which 'midwifed' the processes that birthed the wholesale replacement of the repudiated Apartheid Constitution.
Nigeria is now a Disputed Project so nothing can be built on it. The way forward is a Formal Announcement suspending the 2023 Elections, together with the immediate initiation of a time-bound Transitioning Process using the balance of the present Government’s tenures.
Ndidi Uwechue is a British citizen with Igbo heritage from the Lower Niger Bloc. She is a retired Metropolitan (London) Police Officer, she is a signatory to the Constitutional Force Majeure, and she writes from Abuja.