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Before we shred The ‘Abacha Document’, By Abdulrazaq Magaji

By News Express on 25/05/2018

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•Abdulrazaq Magaji
•Abdulrazaq Magaji

By 2023, each of the six geopolitical zones would have produced a president, a vice president, prime minister, deputy prime minister, president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, for a single term of five-year duration.” 

In more ways than one, late Gen Sani Abacha set the country on the path when he convoked the National Constitutional Conference in 1994. Had the outcome of the Confab ’94 seen the light of day, chances are Nigeria would have been restructured: from a country of contending ethnic nationalities into a modern nation-state, in a matter of 30 years. In a way, the Abacha Document is the best constitution Nigeria never had.

It was expedient for Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) to shred documents that had the tag of Abacha on it. Without any doubt, Abacha - who was nudged into snatching power by the same people who turned round to become his implacable adversaries - was a divisive leader. When, therefore, Abacha died after holding the country together for five impossible years, survival instincts demanded his stop-gap successor to disown the late head of state. The national emergency then was to heal wounds and woo the South-west back into the fold.

Expectedly, Justice Niki Tobi’s Committee that was set up to explore the way forward slammed the 1995 draft constitution, before hastily throwing it out. The committee’s reason was that Nigerians “raised compelling reservations” over the document, being the “product of a disputed legitimacy” and which “suffered a crisis of identity in the public consciousness.” In its place, the Niki Tobi committee recommended some amendments to the 1979 Constitution, which it claimed “had been tried and tested and, therefore, provides a better point of departure in the quest for constitutionalism in Nigeria.”

As things stand today, Nigeria’s official six geo-political zones remain the most enduring legacy of Abacha. In any case, the zones were meant to be the building blocks for the fundamental changes envisaged by the 1995 draft constitution, which made provision for six principal offices of five-year single-term duration to rotate among the zones. The document made provision for the offices of president, vice-president, Senate president, House of Representatives Speaker, as well as the position of prime minister and deputy prime minister.
That document had something for everybody, notwithstanding the author. Had political exigencies not prevailed on Abubakar into throwing away the baby with the bathwater, by now, Nigeria would have experimented with the Abacha formula for 20 of the “30-year transition period”, which aim was to “promote national cohesion and integration”, after which merit and competence would replace rotation in determining who gets what.

In strict adherence to the principle of rotation envisaged by the Abacha document, at no point in time would any of the six geo-political zones have cause to complain of marginalization, since there was always going to be one ‘juicy’ office to be vied for by each of the zones every five years. What this means is that, by 2018, the fifth of the six zones would have produced a president for the country.

It also meant that by 2023, each of the six geopolitical zones would have produced a president, a vice president, prime minister, deputy prime minister, president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives for a single term of five-year duration. This unique provision eliminates the incumbency factor and its attendant abuses. Since the draft envisaged its replication at state levels, the president and other principal officers as well as state governors stand disqualified from standing election for the same office during their five-year single term incumbency.

Two decades after “throwing away the baby with the bath water”, Nigerians are still playing the ostrich, instead of sobering up and overgrowing the prejudices of the Abacha era. Many of those who concede today that Abacha was not entirely evil allude to the uniqueness of the 1995 document. Take time to scrutinise the Abacha document and you will readily admit there would not have been Boko Haram, no IPOB and, most certainly, no Niger Delta insurgency, if the nation was regulated by the provisions of the document.

As a matter of fact, the Abacha document was so comprehensive to have anticipated the untenable and wrong-headed agitation for Biafra (in 1967?) and the hollow talk of marginalisation that comes with it. Now, can and, should Nigerians continue to play the ostrich and allow lawlessness to dominate the political scene? Can we afford to allow virtual bandits to dictate how the country is run? Are we to allow a rambunctious few to continue to stampede us and dominate national discourse?

Of course, the talk of dissolving Nigeria is hot air that lacks substance. Yes, there is need to restructure and this should not be mistaken for a break-up, as some are so lazy to believe. We need to restructure in a way every section of the country will, at all times, be appropriately represented in governance. The Abacha draft took care of these and more. The document suggested a five-year single-term for elective posts. To restructure in a way lawmaking will be proactive, effective, inexpensive, the Abacha draft made provision for part-time lawmaking.

Of course, Nigeria should restructure in a way that treasury looters will not be shielded from prosecution. It may interest Nigerians and their elected representatives that there is no proclamation for the much-abused immunity clause for any public office-holder in the Abacha draft. Not even the president, his deputy and governors and their deputies as is the case now or, for principal officers of the National Assembly, as is being proposed by larceny-inclined lawmakers.

In the midst of the rot at the National Assembly, there are upright and straight-thinking lawmakers who feel genuinely scandalised by the puerility of their tainted colleagues. It is this group of lawmakers that should take a close look at the Abacha document.

It’s all about Nigeria!

Abdulrazaq Magaji is based in Abuja: magaji778@gmail.com234-805-138-0793

Source News Express

Posted 25/05/2018 11:32:58 AM

 

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