Constitutions, like all other human endeavours, need patriotism to properly translate and effect. The elected representatives of Nigerians symbolize the collective voice of our nation. Like every Nigerian, elected leaders should be concerned about the political stability of our Nation.
Most people find it exceedingly easy to identify the issues militating against political stability in Nigeria. In summary, bad politics, bad governance and frequent military interventions have been identified as being responsible for our persistent disruptions and the inability of democracy to thrive on our soil.
Recent events in some African countries should remind us all that soldiers are still there, lurking in the back-yard, waiting for an appropriate time to strike. We must therefore find remedies against military intervention.
The peasants of this country cannot be held responsible for our instability in that they usually faithfully follow the elites who traditionally dictate to them. The elites are to be found among the top echelons of both the civilian and the military segments of our society. There is no doubt that civilian elites have played and probably continue to play bad politics. When, however, we talk of bad governance neither the civilians nor the military can claim immunity or innocence.
Our experience is that the Nigerian military has staged more coups against the military than against civilian regimes. It is also our experience that bad governance has been more brazen under the military than under civilians. They violate human rights with impunity. The argument that coups are inevitable because of bad governance cannot be totally true. Greed, in all its ramifications, would appear to me to be the motivation.
Whereas civilians can only effect change of government through prescribed elections i.e. as it is in the constitution, it is the Nigerian military elites more than any other group that can be held responsible for our political instability and gross maladministration.
In India, the problems of Sikh separatist uprising on a continuing basis exists; one Prime Minister, Late Rajiv Gandhi was openly accused of corruption over purchase of arms from one of the Scandinavian countries, but the India Army has always allowed the parliament to deal with such problems and they remain contented with their constitutional responsibilities.
The Nigerian Army has so arrogantly intimidated our nation to the extent that virtually all our constitutions agree that although coup making is an offence, it is only punishable when it fails. Successful coups are treated as if they are legitimate means of changing governments.
The truth is that section 1 of the 1979 and the 1999 Constitutions did emphasize the supremacy of the Constitution and went further to state that "The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the Provisions of this Constitution". But if and when they do, what recourse?
At every Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Conference, the unending desire of Nigerians to make coup - making a punishable offence has always been set aside and you have a situation where coups are only punishable when they fail. When they succeed, their simple act of suspending the Constitution has appeared to confer legality on a clear treasonable felony in the minds of most Nigerians.
The military has so much intimidated all of us with this idea that" once our Constitution is suspended, no offence has been committed. This temptation and tendency must be reversed. There must be a penalty for every serious offence. Coup-making is one such offence. Suspension of the Constitution is and must also be additionally punishable.
We must go back and take a hard look at the 1989 Draft Constitution in which the popular view of Nigerians was codified thus:“The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution".
The beauty and logic of the 1989 Constituent Assembly's proposal is that it prescribed a penalty for those who unconstitutionally take over or attempt to take over the Government of Nigeria. It says in Section 1 paragraph 4 that "Any take over or control of the Government of Nigeria by any person or persons other than in accordance with the provisions of the present Constitution shall remain a punishable crime at all times under Nigerian Law".
The next democratically elected Government should indeed, by Law, be obligated to bring such aberrations to trial. There are examples - Venezuela and Turkey at different times. Also, the 1995 Constitutional Conference repeated the same popular view of Nigerians in the following way: Sect. 1 subsection 3 says, "Any person or group of persons who, after the coming into force of this Constitution, breaches or attempts to breach the provisions of subsection 2 of this section shall at any time after a Constitutional and democratic government is re-established, be prosecuted and if found guilty, shall be punished accordingly".
If failed coups can be punished as we do in Nigeria, it is only logical that successful coups should be severely punished in view of their disruptive and retrogressive impacts.
I believe, this is a necessary, logical and absolutely essential ingredient of whatever Constitution we finally fashion for our dear nation _ Nigeria. Our fledgling democracy must be allowed to make mistakes, make corrections along the line, and that way, democracy will begin to mature in Nigeria.
In the service of our fatherland, we need to remind ourselves of the warning of the Late Obafemi Awolowo that the most benevolent military dictatorship is far worse than the most despicable civilian regime.
Alhaji MUSA ETUDAIYE, a former Permanent Secretary of Education and Special Adviser, is the Makama of Ebiraland, Kogi State.
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"Coming In From The Cold" California, U.S.A. April 29, 2009
Why do you want to discourage coup plots in Nigeria with animals and nonentities like these in power? Who is not mad at what is going on in this country right now?
They say, experience is the best teacher but I don't think our political leaders have learnt anything from our past experiences in the hands of the military.
How can any group of people survive the harshness of various military regimes, like those of Babangida and Abacha, and still behave this way?
We have not learnt from our experience at all. The military (Trouble) dey sleep now 'jeje', but these civilian rogues (Yanga) wan wake am up. And Yanga is doing a good job of trying to wake trouble up now.
There is no doubt in my mind that It will happen sooner than we can imagine because things cannot continue this ridiculous way. The situation on the ground has not been worse than this ever in this country.
We had hoped and wished that the military would never be part of our lives any more except when we call on them to defend us from an enemy. But this civilian government seems to be inviting chaos into our lives once again with their ways - looting and disorderly conducts
So, let there be coup if anyone is willing and able to execute it. But this time, a lot of people, especially old politicians who don't quit and always disrupting the system, needs to be gotten rid of, if you know what I mean - J.J. Rawlings' way.
They must not be allowed to escape because they always have ways of rebounding as long as they are still breathing.
These old politicians remind me of the old Beetles car ad that says, "there is no killing the beetle", when you really cannot destroy the car no matter what you do to it; short of burning it.
Ghana is a living proof of the outcome of such action. It may sound mean and heartless to say this, but our people in power don't give me any other option.
idris abu missouri city, usa April 27, 2009
It is easy to discourage the coup plotters by doing the right thing....period, monies for infrastructures are spent on infrastructures, monies for education goes to that sector, etc....etc.......etc....... not ending up in the pockets.........i mean the bank accounts of the so called heads of various government parastatals...........okay
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