This Obsession with the Constitution written by : Simbo Olorunfemi

Now, we have all become experts on the Constitution. Such fascination that is clearly beyond me. Every road-side expert is an authority on the constitution, regaling us with tales on the fine details of Clifford, Macpherson, Richard and all sorts of constitution.

Some even say the 1963 one is the best that has ever happened and would simply want us kick in the reverse gear and all will be well.

I am not one of those who see the 1999 Constitution as the source of all our problems. Even the point being made that we technically do not have a constitution simply because what we have was foisted on us by the military in form of Decree 23 is neither here nor there for me.

They say the Constitution says ‘We the people’ whereas there was no point when the people ever came together to write or sanction the constitution, by way of referendum. True. But how many constitutions being successfully put to use all over the world went through this process?

As a matter of fact, a number of well-regarded Constitutions were put together by a few men. So, that cannot be the problem. The 1999 Constitution is almost a clone of the 1979 Constitution that emanated from a Constituent Assembly and the Constitution Drafting Committee shepherded by giants such as FRA Williams.

The I999 Constitution sure has things wrong with it. But that is not uncommon. Indeed, there is no perfect constitution anywhere. There can never be one. The amendment process is deliberately made difficult so that it is one that will be done only on account of deep deliberation and rally across many frontiers.

Constitutional amendment has become a racket in the hands of the National Assembly, billions voted and wasted over time on a process that a few heads will knock together in a couple of days. Unfortunately, our people are getting suck in, with experts mouthing all sorts, to sound knowledgeable about nothing.

Countries have been powered on the strength of unwritten constitution forever. It is less about the constitution than is it about the people and their mindset. All that talk about so-called true federalism, devolution of powers and all that is simply that – TALK.

Do the people at the bottom really care about all of these? Who cares if what we have is a Decree if only we put it to good use? Or is it that defective that no good can come from it?

So you need a new one? Who decides on who gets involved in the process? Representatives of all ethnic groups? Who decides what constitutes an ethnic group? Who decides who represents an ethnic group?

So you have a new document? You are going to subject every section and sub-section to a YES or NO vote in a referendum so it can be truly said the Constitution emanates from the people?

We really need to get serious. Too much time and energy devoted to the minor while the major suffers. Addicted to politics while policy and governance suffer. How do we leapfrog our way over the challenges all around us on the wings of innovation when we are busy debating over nothing.

Nationhood is more about finding ways to accommodate and assuage the fears, unfounded as they might be, rather than forcing down your perspective or timing on others. In fact, Federalism is more of a protection mechanism for the weak within the union rather than a platform for those who think themselves strong or endowed to spread their wings.

We might need to amend our minds so we can see that the fault is less about the constitution and more with us.

Simbo Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy and publishers of Africa Enterprise .

Twitter: @simboolorunfemi

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