Law as a Vehicle for Good Governance and National Integration in Nigeria (Part 5)
24th October, 2023
Posted by: Prince Ahmed Hassan (TOHA)
BY: PROF. MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN, CON, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D, D.Litt
In last week’s installment, we x-rayed the features of good governance, including participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, focus, equity, inclusiveness, effectiveness/efficiency, accountability and strategic vision. In today’s episode, we shall focus on five key themes which are constitutionally further aspects or dimensions of good governance, viz: nation building, citizenship, leadership and national disintegration as the inevitable result of lack of good governance and the anti-thesis of national integration, using Nigeria as a case study. Come with me.
Being a pivotal concept in this discourse, there can be no understanding of National Integration and Good Governance without Nation Building. Nation building is a generic term, and encompasses many variables to achieve same. A general definition of Nation building is impossible as attempts have been made, to no avail. Therefore, a glance proffered by some writers would be appreciated.
Erondu and Obasi, have posited that nation building is a process of mobilising available resources, human, and materials and financial, for socio-economic and political developments of a given nation state. It was the desire to establish and build the Nigerian nation that led to the nationalist struggle. Nation building, simply involves the transformation of existing structures through the collective efforts of the citizens of state (country).
Citizenship is determined by parental affiliation, birth within a country, marriage to a citizen, and naturalization.
It is the relationship or status of a person with a state. It is determine by law (McLean, lain (Ed.): The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press). A person with no citizenship is said to be stateless. Citizenship is synonymous with the term nationality, but same bears ethnic colouration when used.
In Nigeria a person is deemed to be a citizen of the country if he/she was born in Nigeria to Nigerian parents or grandparents, if he/she was born outside Nigeria to Nigerian parents or grandparents and registers to that effect, and if he/she naturalizes in the absence of prior parental affiliation (The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) (as Amended) sections 25 – 27.
At the level of the state, citizenship is synonymous with Indigeneship. Therefore, a citizen (indigene) from Nasarawa State, may be referred to as non – indigene in Oyo State. The question that begs for answer is, where is this restrictive meaning of citizenship contained in the Constitution?, Or did the meaning evolve conventionally through daily practices?.
According to a document prepared by the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria ASCON (1992)“The term leadership has several meanings.
First it is designed as an art of influencing the behaviour of a group of people in order to achieve specific objectives and goals” (Module 11, p. 3).
In every society, the need for leadership in all societies cannot be disputed; for it is only with the aid of effective leadership that a society or group of individuals can succeed in attaining their political, economic and social objectives. If you accept the definition of leadership as consisting in the art of motivating people to work together, to attain some agreed objectives, political leadership must be understood in terms of using and controlling public resources towards achieving public goals – be they political, economic or social (Odock C.N. Op. cit. p. 4.).
National Disintegration is the antithesis of National Integration. Where there is no integration, then, there is disintegration. As noted above, the Nigerian story of integration tends to be the persistent battle and survival from disintegration. There is a precious – thin – line keeping the nation, and that line may be the fear of the unknown. Integration has been bullied since the ages, but the urge, determination and endurance to live as one is the cord that binds us as a nation.
The Odyssey Of Good Governance And National Integration In Nigeria
Nigeria was made up of a group of people with sharp and striking ethnic, religious and lingual differences, that existed with no government other than the exercise of rights and living – not to overstep each other bounds. There were empires and kingdoms – Benin, Oyo, Fulani, kanem Bornu, Itsekiri, Opobo, Nri etc.. Upon the incursion of the British colonialists into Nigeria – largely due to the wake of civilization, there was need to cede territories for their sustenance. The city of Lagos was ceded to her Majesty, and subsequently in 1900, Nigeria was annexed as a protectorate to Britain. On 1st January, 1914, without paying attention to the diversity and multi – nature of the contraption, the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated by Sir Lord Federick Lugard, and named by his mistress, Lady Flora Louis Shaw – as Nigeria (This was without due consideration of the challenges engulfed in nationhood. No forecast).
Thereafter, successive governments were established by the crown, and the struggle for independence gained traction through – Africanization, Nigerianization, Indigenization, Nationalization etc. In 1960, Nigeria gained her independence, and became totally served off the umbilical cord of the British in 1963 as a republic. Nigeria later experienced Military interregnums due to poor and bad leadership. The break of a Civil War, from 1967 to 1970 – the military regimes – through the attempt of democracy from 1979 to 1983, to the 1998/99 transition to democracy, the internal issues have been thorny and can make a man grab his jugular in utter disappointment.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered, has been the pillar of our existence, albeit – criticized for it’s chequered formative antecedence as not being people – centric. The Constitution contains some provisions that upholds Good Governance and National Integration, and since, the acting wheels of leadership has failed to utilize same, the law has at least – held the Nation through the decades.
The Preamble to the Constitution, is an opening to the recognition of National Integration in Nigeria. It provides thus: ” We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution. I need not elaborate on the importance of the preamble in the realm of constitutional saccrosancty – for it the fall back of any uncertain as regards the living tree.
By virtue of the 1999 Constitution, (section 2(1), Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Sub section 2 provides that, Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.
The above section reinforces the declaration of unity and National Integration in the preamble above. I would not say much on these.
The Constitution further provides for the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy (chapter 2, Sections 13 – 24). The Constitution makes provisions for acquisition of citizenship in sections 25 to 32. So many issues abounds in this discourse. There is also the principles of separation of power in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution. The principles have been one of the pillars of democratic governance. Nigeria is also a signatory to so many international Charters, Conventions, Declarations, Protocols etc.
The fundamental human rights, including freedom of the Press are elaborately provided in the Constitution. But, how far have we gone in governance?. This largely accounts for low score or outright negative index of Nigeria and other African democracies in the benchmark of good governance as corruption, election irregularities, poverty, unemployment, maladministration, gagging of the press, muzzling of political opponents, emerging one party state, declining per capita income and gross national product, GNP, among other negative signals, have been a bane.
Rousseau equated democracy with the general will of the people, and argued that, inequitable distribution of wealth in any society is counterproductive to good governance. He further argued that democracy will only thrive if the government provide for the materials welfare of the people, as well as remove gross inequality in the distribution of wealth in the society.
Karl Marx has argued that those who control the means of production, distribution and exchange in every state equally control the political power with which they reinforce and sustain their hold on the economy. Chinweizu  shares the above view when he argues that before handing over to the post independent African leaders, the former colonial masters carefully selected those who were sympathetic to the interests of the departing colonial masters and foisted them over the rest as the leaders. These leaders, he argues, are accountable to their paid masters; hence good governance may remain a scarce commodity to them.
For the mass media, they have been active in promoting and sustaining both the rule of law and good governance in Nigeria. The Nigerian journalists have been fearless, consistent and forthright in exposing the ills of both the government and the society.
But despite all this legal machinery put in place, the unity of Nigeria is being cocoon by ethnicity, ethnocentrism, sectionalism, religion, corruption, insecurity etc.
Kola Olufemi captured the enigma thus:
“While the geo-political divide and mutual suspicion between the North and the South have been resilient factors in Nigeria’s political life, at no other time had the structural contradictions in the polity degenerated into multiple fatricidal and seemingly irreconcilable conflicts than in the period of the Fourth Republic since 1999. The depth and dimension of this development are reflected in the rise and popularity of ethnic militias such as the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Arewa Peoples Congress (APC), Egbesu Boys, Ijaw Youths Congress, Bakassi Boys and sundry militant organizations canvassing competing ethnic claims. It goes without saying that this spectre of ethnic militias is a poignant indicator of the level of discontent with the governing formula that many perceive to have worked to their disadvantage” (Olu femi, Kola (2005). “The Quest for ‘True Federalism’ and Political Restructuring: Prospects and Constraints). (To be continued).