An emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Prof John Ayoade, has rejected the ongoing effort by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution.
Ayoade, who is also a former Director of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies, said the 1999 Constitution should not be amended due to what he described as its inherent weakness to guarantee the unity of the federation.
He canvassed these positions in the lecture he delivered at the 2020 Senator Abiola Ajimobi Foundation at the International Conference Centre, the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, recently.
The lecture, which was organised in collaboration with the University Ibadan Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies , was titled, “Nigeria: A nation of states or a state of nations.”
He noted that the 1999 Constitution “is long overdue for replacement. It is not a federal constitution, except in name. It is a constitution that gives insufficient power to the states and uses financial power to neutralise even those powers.
“What we need is a total replacement. Secondly, the constitution is not written in a marketplace. How many people wrote the US Constitution? Was it written by the entire world?”
After a critical review of the country’s constitutional development, Ayoade observed that the 1979 Constitution “is the best constitution we have had so far. A group of 49 selected experts produced the 1979 Constitution.”
According to him, we asked them to decide their salaries. We saw what came out of it. Now, we want them to write our constitution. We cannot forget it. The National Assembly should hand off because they are incompetent
Under the 1999 Constitution, the emeritus professor argued, the Federal Government could over run the states just as the grazing land and the river basin proposals have strongly demonstrated.
He, therefore, said, “It is only a matter of time before the strange amalgam of a unitary federation becomes full blown. The tradition of orchestrating a pandemonium in the name of making a constitution must be avoided.
“Our experience has shown that a small panel of experts who are conversant with Nigeria and the aspirations of the people will be more appropriate to draw up a Constitution than the hodge-podge that are usually empaneled under the guise of representation.
“The best constitution document, which has remained the template for the successive ones, was the 1979 Constitution prepared by 49 expert Nigerians. Constitution making is, therefore, not a job for boys and girls clubs. Rather, it is a job for sober and seasoned minds.
“What is recommended is a slim government, which will permit the states to attain their highest political potential. Federal-State relations must be based on the principle that whatever can be done at any lower level is constitutionally assigned to that level.”