Constitution Amendment: National Interest, Participation must be Paramount- Ekweremadu

Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has called on Nigerians and the current leadership at all levels of government to show statesmanship and exhibit highest level of patriotism in the on-going efforts at evolving what he described as a “people’s constitution.

This is even as he said that any attempt to reduce any matter up for amendment, to regional or ethnic rhetoric, rather than looking at it on its merits and how it would further enhance the political and economic growth of the country, would certainly not be in the interest of the country.

He made these submissions at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, on Thursday, while delivering a paper, titled: “Strategies for Evolving the People’s Constitution,” at a Presidential Retreat for Civil Society Organizations and Professional Associations, organized by the Presidency, as part of its contribution to the on-going effort at amending the 1999 constitution.

The Deputy President of the Senate, who expressed his disappointment over insinuations in some quarters that to contemplate fiscal federalism as proposed by Nigeria in their submissions to the National Assembly, was to further impoverish some parts of the country, also noted that such insinuation was not only false, but a “wrong and an unfortunate imputation of motive.”

While arguing that every State in the country had no reason to be poor, with graphical details of solid minerals deposits in each of the State waiting to be harnessed to buttress his point, Ekweremadu said “Besides the fact that fiscal federalism was proposed by memoranda submitted by Nigerians, it is also an inalienable feature of federalism.

“More also, the decline of the nation’s economy and development recorded at the time of the nation’s agro-based economy can be directly traced to the replacement of fiscal federalism which engendered hard work and healthy competition with a ‘feeding bottle’ federalism which has continued to churn out indolence, poverty, and underdevelopment”

“….importantly, the table (making reference to the graphical details) shows that every part of this country is too richly endowed to be poor.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review further noted that while the lawmakers as representatives of the people, would do everything within their powers, to ensure that the on-going efforts produced a constitution that would reflect the views and aspirations of all Nigerians, both Nigerian leaders and the followers, must be ready to abide by the spirit and letters of the constitution, even as he insisted that there was nothing like a perfect constitution, anywhere in the world.

Ekweremadu pointed out that the Constitution of the United States of America written by a few of their statesmen at the time remained about the shortest constitution in the world, noting that:

 

“nevertheless, it has survived all the trials and triumphs of that nation’s history, including civil war to steer the USA to number one global force, and a politically, economically, and socially virile and viable nation and above all a reference point in democratic governance.”

 “Like heavens, constitution and democracy help those who help themselves. Even the best constitution in the world cannot yield the best of democracy dividend or drive the lofty dreams of a nation unless there is a general commitment by the leaders and citizens to live by the principles and letters of that constitution.

“So, we must learn to uphold our constitution.

“If we chose which court rulings to obey or not to obey, that is not the fault of the constitution.

“If local governments are run by brazenly undemocratic caretaker committees, that is not the fault of Section 7 of the constitution.

“While the fiscal woes of most of the LGAs across the country could be attributed to the loophole created by Section 162 (6) of the Constitution, it cannot rightly be inferred that it is the spirit or intendment of the constitution to incapacitate the Local Councils in the discharge of the responsibilities which the same constitution has prescribed for them.”

He assured that the National Assembly would make certain that only the views of majority of Nigerians counted in the whole process and final outcome as the  the National Assembly  will drive the constitution review with a view to entrenching national unity, good governance, and prosperity of Nigeria.

  “We have no position on any issues except those taken by the Nigerian people through their inputs, whether through their memoranda, contributions at public hearings, and their elected representatives at both the National and State Assemblies.

 

“We bear no allegiance to any, except that which we owe to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“We have no interest to protect, except that of the generality of the Nigerian people and posterity. 

“We will be driven by the force of superior argument and public will”

What the National Assembly owe Nigerians are leadership, legislative due process, transparency, inclusivity, and popular participation.”

He added that only such would ensure that  the generality of Nigerians own and drive the process to be able to take full responsibility of the eventual outcome.

Uche Anichukwu

Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of Senate

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