Sunday, July 21, 2024

 

Rotational Presidency And The Future Of Nigeria (2) – Dr.Muiz Banire (SAN)

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Continued from last week

Equally instructive is that the provisions of the Constitution remain binding on all and sundry. Although it is often contended that the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution are not justiciable but the truth is that it mandates all organs of government, not only to uphold it but to promote it. In this regard, the case of ATTORNEY GENERAL, ONDO STATE V. ATTORNEY GENERAL, FEDERATION is instructive. Section 13 of the constitution under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of States Policy states that “ it shall be the duZty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to , observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of this constitution” This makes it mandatory for all persons and entities to uphold and , ensure and enforce the import of the provision. Section 14 (1) of the same Chapter 11 of the constitution equally provides that , “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice while Section 15 (2) states that , “Accordingly, National integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. To foster national integration therefore, it is incumbent that the all public offices must reflect the geographical and ethnic spread of the nation. Pursuant to this , Section Section 14 (3) of the constitution mandates “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.

The chapter further provides that the State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various people of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties”.

The import of the above is that the federal character principle must be reflected in the staffing of all public positions of the country.

This certainly will start with the office of the President which is the number one public office available for grab. However, the provision cautions that in the occupation of such public offices, domination of one section of the country over the other is forbidden, meaning that it must be fairly distributed on the basis of equity, fairness and justice that will foster a sense of belonging amongst the various ethnic nationalities.

This reinforces our earlier assertion that the Constitution itself envisages this reflection of federal character in the composition of the office of the president. This therefore puts beyond doubt the fact of the Constitution recognizing rotational presidency and expecting compliance with it. If it does not, why do political parties not always allow the headship of the party and the headship of the nation to come from the same region or zone? The argument to the contrary, therefore, can only but be mischievous and pretensive.

As rightly put by Udemezue again, ‘Those who try to argue that the idea of “rotational presidency” is not supported by the Constitution either do not fully appreciate the spirit and intendment of the Federal Character Provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution, or are deliberately distorting the same to suit their selfish or sectional interests’. If this contention of the legality of rotational presidency is admitted, then, as put by Udemezue, it then implies “that the office of the President should be spread (which invariably and irresistibly means “should be rotated” since the office of the President is only one) among the various sections/segments of the country in such a manner as to promote and “reflect the federal character of Nigeria” as envisaged by s. 14(3) of the Constitution to afford every section of the country a “sense of belonging” , promote “national unity”; ensure “social justice” as directed by s. 14(1); “command national loyalty” as directed by s. 14(3); to ensure “that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups” as directed by s. 14(3); to “foster a feeling of belonging” as directed by s. 15(4); and to promote “national integration” as directed by s. 15(2)’. Further reinforcing this infallible position is the provision of Section 15(4) of the Constitution which commands all organs of state to ensure that ascension to such public office must “foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation”.

In the words of Udemezue again, ‘to exclude the office of the head of the government of the Federation in any discussion on implementation of federal character is to promote fraud, elevate insincerity to high heavens, advertise mischief, and perpetuate grave violence against the objectives and express directives of the Constitution. Any suggestion by anyone or group to jettison “power-shift”, unless such is targeted at achieving the alternative — restructuring — could and indeed, would politically spell doom for Nigeria!’ I cannot but agree more with the postulation.

The fact remains that the various other ethnic groups are uncomfortable with the status quo and are, therefore, agitating for the restructuring of the country to confer more autonomy on the regions. This, it is believed will allay their fears of domination by the reigning ethnic groups, in their fears of continuous subjugation and suppression.

In view of the constitutional analysis above, one cannot but submit as contended by Udemezue that any idea of “leadership-shift” that fails to recognise the need for power shift to the south in 2023, is, with due respect, lawless, unconstitutional, digressive, evasive, beclouds the material issues, and tantamount to leaving the substance in favour of a pursuit of mere shadows’. Just as we all agitate about the application of federal character to all other public positions in the country, we cannot shy away from recognizing the same thing when it comes to the office of the president which is part of the composition of the government of the federation.

In fact, it is the most important of all the public positions available in the country. From the above analysis, it is indubitable that the Constitution recognizes rotational presidency and must be promoted while not discounting ‘leadership shift’ as contended by the Okutepa, SAN . The truth is that there is no zone or region of the country incapable of raising visionary and missionary leaders as envisaged by him.

This same treatise on leadership has been interrogated by Udemezue elsewhere when he opined: “Nigeria needs a leader who is heart-driven, one who understands what the country needs on every level; a peacemaker; one who unites, not divides; a cultured leader who supports true freedom of speech, not censorship; a leader who chooses diplomacy over war; a leader with integrity; one who says what they mean, keeps their word and does not lie to their people; a leader who is strong and confident, yet humble; intelligent, but not sly; a leader who encourages diversity, not racism.

Nigeria needs a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls; who will invest in books, not weapons; a leader who brings morality not corruption; intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance; stability not fear and terror; peace, not chaos; love, not hate; convergence, not segregation; tolerance, not discrimination; fairness, not hypocrisy; substance, not superficiality; character, not immaturity; transparency, not secrecy; justice, not lawlessness; improvement and preservation, not destruction; truth, not lies and propaganda. Nigeria needs a leader who serves the best interests of the people first; who does not sacrifice human life on the altar of sectional interests and bigotry; a leader who is always open to criticism, and does not silent dissent”.

The inevitable conclusion that can be reached from the presentation above is that ‘there are only two options left for Nigerians and Nigerian leaders, if they must save and sustain Nigeria, stabilise democracy, strengthen unity and accelerate the nations’s peace and development: it is either Nigeria embraces “Rotational Presidency” as an indispensable governance creed or the country should opt for Restructuring as a credible alternative. In the event that the country’s leaders and peoples opt to follow the option of power-shift, in order to respect the Federal Character Provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution, then the best way to talk about or to go about any idea of “leadership shift” is to advocate that, in rotating power down to the south in 2023, Nigerians should be careful to ensure that they do not elect or select any religious bigot, an ethnic jingoist, a clannish, nepotistic extremist and clueless leader; that Nigerians should elect a uniting and not a disuniting personality.

In this way, one would have acknowledged both the urgent need for “power-shift” to the south in 2023 and at the same time, for “leadership shift” to true nationalists’. So says Udemezue and I absolutely concur by way of conclusion. To ensure the unity and stability of the country therefore, it is imperative that the office of the president must be retained as rotational.

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