Senator Ike Ekweremadu
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has identified ethnicity and lack of political will as major challenges facing constitution making in pluralistic and developing Commonwealth societies.
The Deputy Senate President’s revelation, however, came on the same day the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, restated the resolve of the National Assembly to undertake an all-inclusive process of amending the 1999 Constitution.
But, Ekweremadu made the submission yesterday in Colombo, Sri-Lanka, in a lecture titled: “The Politics of Constitution-making: the Parliaments Role in Relation to the People” at the ongoing 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Conference.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu said the tendency for each ethnic group to seek maximum guarantee against domination by others as well as maximum share of power often tend to downplay national interest.
He said: “When the political elites approach the process of constitution-making with sectional biases and short-sightedness rather than exhibit reasoned analysis and good faith in the examination of the issues, such ethnic sentiments and provocative rhetoric only manage to envenom the polity and significantly diminish the prospects of building a consensus even on most apparently worthwhile matters.”
Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament added that the political will to balance personal, group, ethnic and institutional interests have often proved difficult in many Commonwealth states as persons in positions of authority as well as different levels and arms of government find it difficult to support provisions that will whittle down their extant powers or comparative advantages, even if such provisions would be in the overall interest of their country.
According to him, matters that could be handled through consensus building and administrative means are also subjected to the rigours of constitution amendments.
He, however, said the challenges were surmountable if Commonwealth lawmakers, political elites, and stakeholders put national interest above any other interests and ensured massive participation of the citizens in the constitution-making process.
Ekweremadu insisted that the citizens had moral claims to participating in constitution-making and urged parliamentarians and every stakeholder and institution driving the constitution-making process in various Commonwealth nations to ensure that the principles of inclusivity, diversity, transparency, and accountability were religiously observed to guarantee legitimacy of the final product through wide acceptance among the citizenry.