REVEALED!: Forces against state creation, constitution review Jackson Udom
and Taiwo Adisa - 01.02.2009
THE ongoing agitation for new states creation and wholesale amendment of
the 1999 constitution may fail again as powerful forces within and outside
government have restated their opposition to the moves, Sunday Tribune can
Impeccable reports indicated that the moves were considered by elements
around some powerful politicians as diversionary tactics designed to
Yar`Adua administration from the pursuit of the realisation of the Seven
Point Agenda and the Vision 2020. At a meeting reportedly held over the
matter recently in Abuja and attended by power brokers from the North, the
National Assembly was criticised for the way it was going about the
constitution amendment, putting amendment above the prescribed seven point
agenda of the administration.
A participant at the meeting told Sunday Tribune that "constitution
amend-ment is not one of the seven point agenda of Mr. President and for a
Assembly with a PDP majority, we are surprised that the issue is being
accorded so much prominence. This is a misplaced priority. "Is state
creation what is uppermost in Nigeria today? Is the seven point agenda not
more relevant to the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens?," the
highly placed source said to have the ears of the president noted.
Another participant revealed that the meeting also discussed the way and
manner the National Assembly is going about the constitution amendment
chiding the federal lawmakers for behaving as if they have final authority
on the amendment. According to him, 'the states` assemblies have even
greater roles to play.
We cannot afford another long drawn controversy on such issue when we have
power supply, Niger Delta, unemployment and many other challenges to
The system must get its priority right." Sunday Tribune was told that the
group agreed to deploy all necessary strategies to redirect the federal
lawmakers to pursue legislations and legislative measures capable of making
the seven point agenda a reality as ``a way of improving the electoral
chances of the PDP in the 2011 general elections.
Other issues said to have dominated the meeting include what the source
called ``an attempt to weaken the presidency through the ongoing
amendment`` with the meeting raising question on why the clamour for a weak
centre when a Northerner is at the helm of affairs. The meeting was said to
have consequently resolved that since most amendments being proposed are
designed to whittle down the power of the presidency and distract it from
the achievement of the seven point agenda, "it is against Arewa's interest
and the entire process should not be supported by the presidency."
In a related development, the ongoing crisis over the planned amendment to
the 1999 Constitution is not about to abate as indications emerged that a
clique working for the second term ambition of President Umaru Yar'Adua and
that of other governors is behind the logjam.
Sources had confirmed to Sunday Tribune that members of the House of
Representatives who are stalling the work of the Joint Committee on
Constitution Review (JCCR) are drawing inspiration from the group, which
claimed to be working for the realization of the second term ambition of
It was gathered that the recalcitrant attitude of the members of the House
of Representatives in their disagreement with the Senate over the issue of
protocol is being fuelled by elements in the government who believed that
allowing the constitution amendment to take place will disrupt preparations
second term election in 2011.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are locked in a battle over the
control of the JCCR. Members of the House of Representatives had walked out
of a retreat of the committee in Minna, Niger State on January 16, on the
pretext that the deputy Speaker was not addressed as a co-chairman of the
The JCCR is being chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike
Ekweremadu, while the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Usman Bayero Nafada is the Vice
Chairman. But members of the House had insisted that Nafada should be
addressed as the co-Chairman of JCCR in Minna.
Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze has since accused the lower chamber of
dancing to the whims of fifth columnists, who he said were bent on stalling
the amendment exercise.
Sources however confirmed to Sunday Tribune that some elements believe that
they can only secure a second term ticket for Yar'Adua through the current
For instance, a source queried when the National Assembly hopes to conclude
the amendment exercise. When informed that the JCCR has announced that the
first set of amendment will be delivered to Nigerians by March 2010, the
source said that such a date will obstruct planning for the 2011 election.
"By March 2010, we should be in the tick of planning for the 2011 election,
parties should be rounding off their primaries and candidates should be
completing arrangements for their campaigns, it would be difficult to start
a process of constitution engineering at that time," a source said.
It was gathered that those who believe that the plan to amend the
constitution and the electoral law will hurt second term ambition have
reached out to
members of the House of Representatives.
It was equally gathered that members of the House were being bolstered by
the apathy being displayed to resolving the logjam by the presidency and
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In his reaction, the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin described as
untrue the insinuations that the presidency was not positively disposed to
amendment of the constitution and state creation.
Speaking with Sunday Tribune on Saturday, Senator Folarin said, "it is not
true. President Umar Yar'Adua and other stakeholders in the Nigeria project
are in support of the amendment of the constitution. The president has
personally shown interest in the removal of the Immunity Clause and the
reforms, if he was not in support he wouldn't have indicated interest in
the removal of the clause.
He stated further that, "the insinuation that the constitution review and
state creation was to whittle down the powers of the president is far from
truth. As a matter of fact, the people want the constitution to be reviewed
and they also want states. Therefore the face-off between the House of
Representatives and the Senate is not sponsored by the president or any
member of his government. What is happening there is purely politics and we
are gradually settling it."
According to the senate leader, "constitution amendment and state creation
is entirely a legislative affair, which would also involve the state House
The face-off in the natural is not as bad as the press would want the
people to believe. In any situation, there are people that would oppose and
are people that would support any proposal."
On state creation, Senator Folarin said, "the people want it, and as their
representatives we have to do their bidding. There are antagonists and
protagonists in any given situation in life. One thing is certain, Nigerians
want certain things to be changed in this constitution."
Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our
garment; constancy and valor our only shield. We must be united, we must be
undaunted, we must be inflexible...Let us then brace ourselves to our duties
and so bear ourselves that those descendants and their descendants a
thousand years from now will say of us, "This was their finest hour." -