Restructuring and Chapter II of the Constitution

The Horizon By KAYODE KOMOLAFE, Email: Tel No: 08055001974

The Horizon By Kayode Komolafe 0805 500 1974

It is an important step in the restructuring debate when proponents call on President Muhammadu Buhari to seize the moment and give leadership in the process. At least, there has been a suggestion that the President should set up a commission on restructuring. In a way, that seems to be an expression of lack of confidence in the National Assembly where the business of constitutional amendment is already afoot. This is because on his return from his medical trip, Buhari directed those interested in restructuring to take their case to the National Assembly. The divergent approaches to solving the problem should interest the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.

After all, restructuring is ultimately a constitutional matter. While the proponents of restructuring are pushing for a new constitutional entirely to be legitimated by a referendum, the National Assembly seems comfortable to be addressing the extant issues of the Nigerian federalism by means of amendments of the 1999 Constitution. The huge deficit in both perspectives is that the focus is almost exclusively on the vertical issues of Nigerian federalism – devolution of powers (to the states or regions as the case may be); fiscal federalism, resource control, state police, contents of the legislative lists etc. There is hardly any corresponding passionate argument on the horizontal issues of the socio-economic rights richly embodied in the Chapter II of the Constitution. How many proponents of restructuring are making the case for socio-economic rights to be justiciable in their proposed Constitution of “True Federalism.” Why is there not so much agitation for the socio-economic empowerment of the people guaranteed constitutionally as proponents of restructuring push for greater powers for governors and state and regional parliaments? It is simply because making Chapter II work can only be a pan-Nigerian struggle and not an ethnic, regional or religious effort.

So when proponents of restructuring dismiss the 1999 Constitution as one imposed by the military they are silent on the remarkably humane content of Chapter II. They ignore the material power that Chapter gives to the people while they hanker after the powers of governors relative to that of the President and the powers of state/regional parliaments relative to those of the National Assembly. Even if the British imposed the welfare and humane content embodied in the Chapter II of the 1999 on Nigeria at their departure in 1960, it would be worthwhile for the working people of Nigeria to defend those provisions called the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.” You don’t need any referendum to implement the policies of access to basic education, primary healthcare, social housing, food security, mass transit, water, sanitation etc. in Chapter II.

What is not being said in this debate is that merely redrawing the political map of Nigeria by means of a restructuring legitimised by a referendum does not on its own provide the magic wand for the achievement of the great objectives encapsulated in Chapter II. It requires massive political economy efforts including competent and modern economic management to realise those objectives regardless of the structure that may be finally agreed upon by the ethnic and regional champions. Otherwise, the real marginalisation will persist, that is the socio-economic marginalisation of the poor who constitute the overwhelming majority by the tiny minority of the economic and political elite. The poor and the elite alike belong to all ethnic groups, regions and religions. This is the yet-to-be- unanswered class question in the restructuring debate.

It is important to reflect deeply on the interplay of forces between democracy and federalism in the Nigerian context. Politicians and their publicists talk so much about “dividends of democracy”; yet the meaning of the phrase has become imprecise. Depending on who is engaging in propaganda, the meaning could range from the construction of an expressway to the filling of potholes on a road built 40 years ago. The dividend could also be massive waterworks providing millions of litres of water a day to some communities or simply the construction of boreholes. Similarly, there is a lot of imprecision about the benefits of restructuring as a democratic and federalist proposition.

However, those who at least still harbour some social democratic convictions should insist that the gains of democracy should not be trivialised or perverted. For the real dividend of democracy is freedom including freedom from poverty, disease and ignorance. Therefore, we cannot seriously talk of dividends of democracy in a social order in which the basic human rights are not protected.

It must be emphasised that these rights include the socio-economic rights. So when next a politician tells you his story about “dividends of democracy”, steer away the conversation from propaganda and ask him or her pointedly what he or she has done in terms of policy execution, articulation or legislation to ensure that the socio-economic rights of the people are adequately protected. The struggle for the protection of basic social economic rights guaranteed in the constitution is a legitimate struggle ultimately towards the inauguration of a humane social order in Nigeria.

The proponents of restructuring argue that “true federalism” would make Nigeria more democratic. But their idea of democracy does not envisage the social democracy guaranteed in Chapter II. It is the duty of lovers of genuine democracy and anti-poverty activists to stress the centrality of socio-economic rights to a “true federalism.” A few years back, this reporter made this point on this page when an anti- poverty bill was proposed in the House of Representatives. The bill was aimed at empowering the citizens to sue government officials for failing to provide basic needs in education, healthcare, security, water etc. These are the issues that should be raised with strident voices in the present conversation about Nigeria’s constitutional future. Of course, the social Darwinists in our midst (and some proponents of restructuring are among given their ideological background) would jeer at such a proposition and dismiss it as “utopian”.

The state and society do not owe anybody a living in their limited comprehension of the inherent contradictions in this inhumane social order. To those with this philosophical bent, socio-economic life is all about competition; those who cannot compete may as well disappear from the face of the earth. The authors of austerity budgets and theoreticians of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) abhor social spending. By the way, economic policies in the over 30 years in this country have been consistently ideological mutants of SAP. However, the fact they often ignore is that if the resources lost to massive treasury looting, corruption, leakages and other forms of economic crimes are applied to social welfare programmes, poverty will be reduced and society will be safer.

Inequality is not only regional or ethnic. The primary question is about social inequality. Even in the metropolis of capitalism, theoreticians are having a rethink about social inequality. Nobel Laureate in economics, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, once argued that when policies bridge gaps created by social inequality the economy will grow better. The policy process in favour of people’s welfare would be enhanced when the basic law of the land backs it up. That is why those who are not outraged that more than 13 million children are out of school or that thousands die yearly in remote villages because of lack of access to basic medical care that could cost less than N1, 000 should be reminded that there is a Chapter II in the constitution. It is part of the basic law of this country.

Millions of Nigerians are denied socio-economic rights that are fully guaranteed as “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles” of policy in Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution that is currently under review. However, the weak point in the constitutional provision which those who are cynical about social justice always exploit is that these socio-economic rights are not “justiciable”. A six-year old citizen who is denied primary education cannot go court to enforce his socio-economic right to education.

That has been the obstacle to the advancement of the frontier of this aspect of human freedom in Nigeria. The National Assembly could make their process of constitutional amendment relevant by removing the obstacle in the way of the enforcement of socio-economic rights. The Senate and the House of Representatives should take the initiative of advancing this restructuring debate by deepening the socio-economic rights in the constitution. If the National Assembly toes this line, it would be making a significant contribution towards building social democracy. It is when socio-economic rights are made justiciable that democracy in this land would mean more than calling on the people periodically to queue up to vote for competing candidates in elections.

To be sure, there is no illusion here that the poor will have a better deal in a selfish society by merely amending the constitution to make socio-economic rights justiciable. It would take a greater battle to be waged against the predominant ideology of governance that is opposed to government’s investment in welfare programmes. It takes a genuinely anti-poverty president or governor to focus more on those policies that would democratise access to basic needs rather engaging in propaganda of executing “projects” all over the place. For instance, more than four years ago a civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Right Accountability Project (SERAP secured a judgment against the federal government in ECOWAS on the child education.

The court upheld the right of child to education; but the government has treated the judgment with contempt while not disputing the jurisdiction of the court. As the people’s lawyer, Femi Falana, often reminds his compatriots, even the idea of justiciability in the present situation should be tested.

For instance, the constitution guarantees right to life and that of free movement. But lives are being lost daily on scandalous roads including the so-called expressways because of the social irresponsibility of governments at all levels that refuse to fix these roads. There is constitutional right to life yet thousands of children are dying of hunger and preventable diseases. Yet all what our bourgeois lawyers can tell us is that the citizens who use these hazardous roads and starving children cannot go to court because the rights involved in these instance are not “justiciable”.

Hence, in several public interest cases, Falana has gone to court to test the justiciability of the rights. Such advocacy should be embraced by all those committed to making the people reap the real dividends of democracy.

Although poverty might not be merely legislated out of this land; yet the law could be employed as a weapon in the important anti-poverty war. Devolution of power to states or regions and resource control by governors would not automatically eradicate poverty. The structure of poverty plaguing this land should also interest the advocates of restructuring.

  • Gary

    Kayode Komolafe now wants to defend the status quo for Oando Oul interests by wearing his Aluta mask. Nice try.
    Please name just one country that we can relate that has made your pie-in-the-sky social welfare rights justiciable without a sustainable political-economic structure to guarantee such rights.
    In effect, you are now campaigning for social welfare freeloading by law and all to funded by the continued exploitation of Niger Delta oil? For how long if we may ask? Sorry, your Yoruba comprador has used his divine insight to suggest ten years, conveniently timed for when petroleum would have run its course and value as a major source of energy in the world.
    Your agenda is so transparent as to make the weekly effusions by the Oando columnists at Thisday laughable.

  • Mystic mallam

    There’s such palpable desperation on the part of Komolafe and his fellow tribe of Thisday back-page resisters of restructuring, they go to absurd levels of trite logic and obfuscation, that one is compelled to question their motives. Are they playing for pay, or some other ulterior objective? Kayode and his friends certainly know that restructuring a country is not about constitution amendment. It is about constitution making which is the sovereign right of the people to enable them say with sincerity and in consensus that – ”we the people give ourselves this constitution….”. The amendment they recommend has woefully failed in the National Assembly simply because, the NASS itself, a body that thrives in financial opacity, is part of what needs urgent restructuring. How smart of kayode and his friends trying to persuade us to expect the NASS members to gleefully gut the goose that lays their secret golden eggs, and thereby impeach themselves. They seek to make Chp.11 of the 1999 constitution the core of legitimate agitation, they say we should strive to make those provisions justiceable as if there is any art available to judges to banish poverty, illiteracy and similar welfare challenges, But, ironically, they see no value in resetting the very systems and structures that make the provisions of that chapter near impossible to realise. I have not yet heard any advocate of restructuring arguing that a restructured Nigeria should exclude the peoples’ welfare, which in fact, is the ultimate object of government. I can’t find rhyme or reason in anyone genuinely seeking the welfare of Nigeria’s down-trodden millions arguing against restructuring whose objective is to reset our institutions and systems to enable them facilitate implementation of the provisions for peoples welfare. The welfare of the people is never achieved by decrees, mere legislation or judicial pronouncements as Mr Kayode and friends would like us believe. Mass welfare is more likely to occur when governance is brought closer and made accessible to the people, enabling them to partake in deciding their priorities and the best means to attain them.

    • Don Franco

      Dear Mystic Mallam,

      What you see playing out in the shameful obfuscation of the Fourth Estate is the scramble and partition of posts and position in the Villa or MDAs following the upcoming cabinet reshuffle and post – 2019 Elections.

      How else, and why else, would the Lagos-Ibadan Press that has championed devolution of power and confederacy all of a sudden, and all together make an about face and militate against Restructuring like Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Simon Kolawole, Dele Momodu, Femi Falana; Segun Adeniyi and Bukola Saraki have all done? Do you recall how many cases VP Osinbajo appealed to the Supreme Court, against the Federal Government and won in favour of Lagos State; only for him to do an about turn now and disavow the same principles he fought for while he was Attorney General.

      Because those with the ability to restructure Nigeria are benefiting from status quo, as will their children and grandchildren; I don’t see any realistic hope that restructuring of Nigeria will happen in our lifetime; the chances are better, in my humble opinion that she shall implode with the brilliance of a thousand suns before she’s Restructured; due to the cowardice of the down-trodden millions to take their destinies into their hands.

      • Mystic mallam

        I feel your pain, soulmate.

  • RumuPHC

    Dear Kayode Komolafe,

    Please I will suggest Thisday does a serialisation of the 1999 Constitution. It is obvious many Nigerians especially those clamoring for structural changes have not read this document, or have failed to grasp the importance of some significant provisions of the grundnorm.

    For example, the Constitution explicitly stated that the security and welfare of the people is the primary objective of government. However in reality it appear the security and well being of politicians and public officials is the purpose of all government in Nigeria. No one talks about this yet we blame the Constitution for everything.

    Any good leadership must necessarily put the welfare of the people above all others.

    Why is a Senator or Hon Member of House of Representative entitled to a N70m SUV when their are no schools for children in their constituencies to attend?

    I suppose these are the questions we should be asking and not quarreling with the Constitution or agitating for ethnic autonomy.

    The political class selfishly interprets the Constitution and abuse their powers to make laws for their personal good. Many see nothing wrong with this but condemn the Constitution and argue for restructuring.

    • Country man

      I guess you supported Buhari during the last elections.
      Pertinent questions to answer include the following:-
      If Buhari is a good leader why is Nigeria still pointing downhill on indices of development nation wide?
      If he is a bad leader why support him in the first place then come to complain two years later?
      Can you not detect good leadership?

      • MDG2020

        My Dear CM,
        The reprobate will not reply you.
        Him and his co-travellers especially their sick leader ALWAYS see any Socio-Economic discourse from two angles ‘them and us’ depending on where they stand!
        They are perpetual liars. When trapped, they ask for fair hearing, when their opponent becomes the victims, they seek for jungle justice.

        • RumuPHC

          It is a pity that some people like you are still yet to recover from the shock of the defeat of GEJ in 2015 elections.

          We are making suggestions on constitutional matters and you are there expressing your phobia for a man simply because he defeated your candidate in an election and he is from the north and Fulani of Islamic faith.

          This level of intolerance is rather sickening!

      • RumuPHC

        Yes we voted for Buhari even though we are not pleased with his administration today.

        No sir, you cannot detect good leadership until there is a leadership position and challenges for leadership. One could be successful in one leadership endeavor and a failure in another venture.

        Gen Ike Eisenhower was one of the most successful military leaders of WW2 but was not very successful as POTUS. In a similar vein Ronald Regean who was not even an officer during the war became one of the most successful president of America.

        The search for good leadership is actually complicated but a worthy objective .

        • Country man

          From your ANSWER, it shows you have no yardstick or mapped out plan on how to get what you claim will solve the nations ills.
          YET YOU BELIEVE LEADERSHIP IS OUR MAJOR PROBLEM. Believe that and you will believe anything(apologizes to Chase)
          Building a country takes planning and serious hard work. Its not a guessing game. That’s why you need the right laws and structures.
          America that you pointed out continued on a positive trajectory regardless of who was the leader(Reagan or Eisenhower)
          The same should be the case with Nigeria.

          • RumuPHC

            The pursuit of good leadership is as old as civilization itself. Empires have risen and fallen on leadership . Today the success of nations or any other human enterprise is hinged on leadership. Poor leadership is our greatest challenge in Nigeria.

            It is not for me to figure it out, and yes, google is yet to invent an algorithm for figuring out good leaders. Finding good leadership is akin to betting on bachelor or spinster turning out to be a good spouse. Essentially it is a leap of faith.

            Lack of functional scientific procedures not withstanding, other processes could probably serve to spot a good life long partner or tenured leader. Is a beautiful professional gambler and prostitute likely to make a better wife than a not so attractive church usher and professional banker ? Likewise, will a popular but shady money bag make a better leader than an accomplished professional? . Apparently there are certain ” visuals” that can possibly aid a selection process.

            Undoubtedly making a personal individual choice is easy most of the time; it is when millions are required to decide that the matter becomes more complicated. This is even more complex and unpredictable when 90% of voters in an election to enthrone good leadership are poorly educated and uniformed .

            I suppose you know how to overcome such challenge. Perhaps you can share your idea on how you are going to find the Nigerians that will enact the right laws and design the right structure for Nigeria. If you can name these individuals and Nigerians agree with you then you have found the good leadership we seek.

  • Curious One

    Main stream media is losing it again.
    They continue pandering to the whims of power mongers
    Northerners who are in absolute control of the center are saying that the word restructuring is not clear. they are being economical with the truth…they are just afraid of loosing from the feeding bottle arraignment.

    I am sure Mr Komolafe believes in restructuring but is act out the herd culture tendency is mainstream media.

    • Isiaka Saliu

      I vote for restructuring.In the 60s the regions deeloped in line with visions of our great leaders with the natural endowments of each region.Our leaders are clueless and selfish.They will only go for what benefit them exclusively and not the generality of the people.The fact is that oil is going out of fashion due to advancement in technology.We should act fast and talk less.

  • Olufemi Bello

    The president and the north are looking for oil and gas in northwest. To me, this is a step in restructuring. Every region/state in the country MUST increase ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION to our commonwealth than it takes from it as is done presently.

  • KWOY

    1. “There have been many attempts at obfuscation. We manufacture confusion where there is none just so we could slow down or disrupt the course of change. There has been fear-mongering of the worst kind. A few weeks ago, I was at the annual convention of the National Association of Yoruba Descendants which had restructuring as a theme. While almost every speaker appeared to have a clear vision of what restructuring meant and what social and economic gains might accrue therefrom, there was a holdout. An otherwise smart and obviously learned gentleman expressed the fear of the unknown. “The Southwest had no oil-fields”, he observed. “From where would our wealth come and how are we to feed our populations if advocates of restructuring had their way?”” (Segun Gbadegesin, “In whose Interest is Political Restructuring?”, THENATION Friday Column, October 6, 2017).

    2. “Resisters hide behind such platitudes as “we need mind-restructuring, not political restructuring”, “ we must pursue poverty alleviation not political restructuring”, or “we need constitutional amendment not political restructuring.” Still others continue to ask for the meaning of restructuring, or they dismiss true federalism as nonsensical because, in their confused judgment, there is nothing like false federalism. But pray, how else does one describe a unitary system that camouflages as a federal system?” (Segun Gbadegesin, “In whose Interest is Political Restructuring?”, THENATION Friday Column, October 6, 2017).

    3. So, one can understand why you, Femi Falana, Segun Adeniyi, Simon Kolawole,, etc, etc, argue with your tongues in the cheek. The nearest you have come to being open is when you said that everybody still Needs oil money because there will be anarchy if there is restructuring NOW, as Falana argued in his column & all of you have repeated. BUHARI’S PERSONAL RESPONSE IS DESPERATE SEARCH FOR OIL IN SOKOTO & BORNU!

    • Curious One

      You nailed it.
      Can you imagine if it is the policy/structure of THISDAY NEWSPAPERS that the MD must proof read everything that is to be ever published in paper and a journalist comes up to say that an editor or two can do that on a daily basis; that is restructuring !

    • “Korede

      “The Southwest had no oil-fields”

      This is fallacy. Do more research and you will know Lagos and Ogun have.
      Ondo state is an oil producing state . I think Ondo is still part of south west?

      • Fowad

        You are an intelligent little lad

        • “Korede

          Hoe little can I be?

          • Fowad

            Just joking. You are always spot on and I’m not in any way demeaning your intelligent contributions

      • Mystic mallam

        read him again, appears you’re missing something

        • “Korede

          What should I read again? I quoted the quote from his piece.

          “An otherwise smart and obviously learned gentleman expressed the fear of the unknown. “The Southwest had no oil-fields”, “

          • Mystic mallam

            You’re right, but he seemed to be quoting someone else who had opined that inaccuracy.

  • Cheta God

    The SW press at it again. Now you are saying that we do no longer understand what restructuring means. Remember that the SW, Nadeco, Afanifere were the arrow head of this movement. Are you saying that Asiwaju Jagaban and co did not understand what they were fighting for? Too bad

  • Country man

    Dear Komolafe,

    When you guys make this kind of write ups, I can’t help but wonder what some of you guys want to turn the fourth estate into.

    First, without an EFFICIENT SYSTEM, all this your talk of socioeconomic whatever is never going to work. Nigeria has not yet evolved a system that works for its people.

    Secondly you writers continue to claim, rather disingenuously that restructuring is unclear, has not answered a lot of questions and is no panacea to our numerous problems. That is one big fat lie.
    Let govt implement this underlying principle and watch Nigeria change for the better.
    People will be free to use their God given lands and resources to create wealth and employment, thereby reducing poverty and all its other ill effects.

    You complain about poverty yet fail to see the main enabling factor that causes it.
    Keep in mind too that there is no perfect system.
    No one has claimed restructuring cures all ills. Its gives all the chance to stand or fall on your own terms

    Finally I would like to point you to the USA.
    America was built on CRASS CAPITALISM.
    There was no welfare until FDR became along and diluted their system.
    I doubt they would have gotten to this great heights if they did not use the economic policies they used back then because it spurred people on, to break the next barrier in innovation.

    Poverty will not be legislated out of the land.
    Why these facts that is as clear as daylight continues to elude you guys in the fourth estate is surprising. Unless you guys write so as not to offend the northern oligarchs.