Posted by By KENNY ASHAKA, Kaduna on
Former President of the Court of Appeal and Chairman of the 1996 Constitution Drafting Committee.....
Former President of the Court of Appeal and Chairman of the 1996 Constitution Drafting Committee, Justice Mamman Nasir, has warned that the factionalisation of the country along zonal lines over the presidency would destroy Nigeria.
He also raised alarm that "a super clever politician" was at work to strain the traditional and political alliance between the North and the South-South.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Sun in Kaduna, Justice Nasir, who was also the chairman of the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) under the late General Sani Abacha, submitted that Nigeria’s presidency should not be zoned but instead, situated along the line that would ensure a balance of power and interest among the different zones.
He said if Nigeria had adopted the recommendations of the 1999 Constitution drafting committee, which he chaired, there would have been greater unity in the country.
Asked how Nigeria can achieve a peaceful transition in view of the staccato voices over her presidency, Nasir made an indirect reference to the fact that the key to peace in Nigeria is with no fewer than a dozen of the country’s leaders.
‘That is an interesting situation. If you take Nigerian politics, the North and the South-South have always been together. What is happening now is that a super clever politician is trying to put a wedge between the North and the South-South.
‘Now, to the point whether one should have rotation. If you look at it critically, you will discover that rotation is not democratic unless it is written in the constitution.
But I was in the 1995 constitutional conference. In fact, I was the chairman of the drafting committee. In that constitution, we said there should be North/South. We ran away from any other fragmentation in building the unity of the country.
‘But what did we do in that particular draft. We said there shall be rotation, North/South. And in the North, there should be three zones. In the South; three zones. So, if you elect president from the North, next time it will go down South. When it goes there, the three zones will decide the candidate with the help of the political parties throughout the federation. In other words, they must go to the South to get the candidate. Assuming the candidate emerged from the South-East, after him, you go to the North and get a candidate from the North-East. Then you go to the South, you get a candidate from the South-West. Then you come back to North and get a candidate from North Central. You go back South and get a candidate from South-South. You come back North and get your candidate from North West.
‘Now, we put a period of five years for president and governors single term. The logic and the national interest in that is that once you agree to do an experiment with that in the national interest, all parts of the federation will have a taste of leading the country. If it is sweet, sour or whatever, somebody nearer to your area have gone there. But the fundamental quality in the arrangement is that if you do one term, the person succeeding you; one, will not come from your area; two, will not even come from any other area other than an area which has not had the leadership. So, in 30years, each zone will have presidency once. That was one good quality, which people did not appreciate. By then, all the people causing confusion in Nigeria would have been finished up. If you have your candidate from the North-West, for instance, within the next 30 years, all the people in the North-West, who are clamouring to be president would not be there. So, you will get new people.
They will have better ideas, more interest in the unity of the country rather than special or personal interest or interest to fight somebody else. All these are damaging to the country, so, if we had adopted that, we would not have to quarrel over who. The next one would have come from the North. After him, then next one must come from the South. If we had adapted that, the most confusionist of the politicians would have been out of the scene by a question of time and there would have been greater unity in the country.
We put in the draft constitution the fact that after that 30years, the National Assembly should vote whether that system should continue or not. If they say yes, it would go to the states. If they get a simple majority, the system will continue. Otherwise, it will be free for all. You contest wherever you are. But we would have gone through all these people who have been causing confusion in Nigeria within 30 years. Honestly, they will not be there. We had nothing against them but we were interested in having a clean country.
Going by your analysis, would you support the claim of the North that it is now their turn to produce
Nigeria’s next president?
From all I have read in the newspapers, the politicians are saying there was an agreement among themselves that the next president after General Obasanjo will come from the North. That is what they have been saying. If now, they want to change, again, it is for the same politicians to sit together in the interest of this nation. I am absolutely against the interest of individuals. You will never build a nation in the interest of an individual. If you take the United States for example, they get to where they now are, after going through many things. To start with, they had to fight their masters, Britain. Secondly, even where they reverted to their constitution, they had to fight themselves. When the civil war came, among themselves, they fought it. And it took a very long time before they passed the leadership to the south. But today, America is now leading the world. So, with a little patience, we can do a lot.
When we started, without the military coup, we would have been a fantastically progressive Nigeria. So, many things happened, yet politicians were able to sit down and solve their problems. Take an example, There was an agreement between the NCNC and the Action Group in the South that they should not contest elections. But the elections came and the Action Group contested.
They came to the prime minister and explained their agreement and what has happened. The prime minister said, it’s alright. It is part of politics; arrange another time for them to hold their election. Simple. Problems solved without allowing them to be at each other’s throat. There are so many examples that one can give where the leadership in Nigeria was able to solve very fundamental problems. The constitutional conference around 1957/58 in Ibadan was hundred per cent consisting of mainly Nigerians. No colonial Oyibo. They solved the problems of minority, of getting a prime minister, of getting an independent state. But before then, they each went with daggers. Before they entered the conference hall, the daggers fell off.
The leaders went in. That was how they gave us independence; even without fighting the British. When the British thought the North will not make progress, after a year the North said we too wanted self government. Everybody acclaimed that as victory for Nigeria. All of them agreed to independence, 1st October, 1960. They were capable of solving very great problems which could have ruined us as a nation. You can see what has happened in smaller countries like Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia. See how they are killing themselves. Why should we kill ourselves in Nigeria when God has given us the intellectual resources to have a good country? Why?
How can we achieve a peaceful transition in Nigeria?
Simple. Let all of them sit and let each one of them put his axe on the table; honestly. Once they do this, we will have peace in Nigeria. Believe me sincerely. The leaders whom I am not going to tell you are not more than one dozen that can solve this problem. Once our leaders are willing to solve this problem, we will have peace in this country. And honestly, they can do it. We should respect each other. Above all, we must respect this country. Above that one also, we must be grateful to Almighty Allah for giving us a rich country; a brilliant people and a wide country with almost anything you can think of in the world. To do otherwise is being ungrateful and God will punish you.