One remarkable character of ours as a nation is that we have a very unique but subtle way of ‘glocalizing’ global terms, policies, treaties, and international covenants. I have at some point had the unfortunate opportunity to watch this play out on our nation’s political theatre. A typical example of this fundamental policy modification is the term ‘democracy.’
This term at the world stage is simply know and addressed as democracy but here in Nigeria, modified and re- christened ‘home grown democracy’. What this prefixes or phrase connotes or aimed at achieving, I am yet to figure out.
Another topical but more serious example of such ‘dilution syndrome’ is accentuated in the nation’s constitution and accurately spotlighted in the second chapter.
This portion of the constitution contains a very long list of what ordinarily could have been very beneficial to the citizenries and at the same time solve the multifaceted challenges bedevilling the nation if it were at par with the provisions and status enjoyed by similar items as contained in chapter four. But, as expected, this portion for no clear reason shares the same body and spirit with chapter four but not equal in essence.
Again, the above well envisioned and perfectly embodied portion has again been incapacitated by the provision of a clause that determines what is ’non-justiceable’ and is deformed by this phrase: ‘the fundamental objectives and directive principles of the state.’ These two attributes made that chapter ‘a fallen angel,’ thereby depriving over one hundred and eighty million Nigeria what they are supposed to enjoy and on the other hands, stunted the nation’s development growth.
While the above chapter is bemoaning her fate, Chapter Four, with the appendage ‘fundamental human rights,’ enjoys all the legal paraphernalia. Comparatively, also, while chapter two handles issues such as access to education housing, health and so on which the constitution described as non-justice able and comes under fundamental objectives and directive principle of the state.
Chapter four on the other hands contains items which includes but not limited to the rights and freedoms of association, expression, right to life, movements just to mention but a few. Secondly, while you can not deprive or deny any citizen of any of the above mentioned rights as contained in chapter four without committing an offence against the individual or the state of which the state or the individual concerned can seek legal redress, such is not the case of all the provisions as made in chapter two.
Going further, if as a citizen, based on the provisions of chapter two, is deprived access to quality education, where and how will the citizen gain the knowledge and education that will expose him to recognizing and eventual claiming of the said fundamental human rights as enshrined in chapter four?
Also, if one is seriously sick and is deprived of access to quality health care, how is he going to access his fundamental human right to the freedom of association? By this provision and arrangement, the basic necessity is treated as mere importance while items of mere importance were treated as essential.
Secondly, the asymmetrical nature of the interpretation as well as implantation of the provisions of the said chapter two calls for a serious scrutiny. If at the electioneering campaign period, political office seekers are allowed to use all the items as listed in chapter two for their electoral manifestos, it is equally germane that citizens use those same items to hold them accountable when defaulting as well as measure their performance against their promises.
This I view from the prism of natural justice while also exploring the social responsibility matrix. Until we have a constitutional framework that will make this chapter workable, our politicians will continue to view the chapter two of our constitution as a ‘ready-made’’ political manifesto.
Sadly, as it appears, all these alterations were done without recourse to the original source where we copied from. A peep into the Constitution of the United States of Africa will reveal a contrary y proposition as their constitution revered with religiosity and paid disciplined attention to what ours referred to as non justice able. What a policy summersault on our part.
Equally important is the fact that this lopsided position of this particular chapter had led to the large scale inactions of our leaders knowing very well that even if they fail in those areas, nobody will take them to task. In the same fashion, the weak position of this chapter as advanced has made nonsense of the school of thought that viewed political leadership as a social contract. If a political office seeker should approach me for my vote, I should also have commitment from him in exchange for my vote. If access to quality education is that commitment, how do I seek redress since it is not justice able?
Strictly speaking, such an arrangement if not amended will forever present our constitution as a mere ‘love letter’ which both the content and the context are not binding on the author or the receiver. Also, allowing this weak structure to exist is a pleasurable welcome to non performance from our leaders and further agitation for the restructuring of the nation. But upgrading it to enjoy the same status with chapter four will mean an invitation to political, social and economic development as our leaders will come to the realization that they are answerable to the people.
In the same token, that the nation records very high scale corruption today is simply because, there is high volume of loose and ideal money littered the treasuries of the federal, state and local government areas of our country. This occurs as a result of the fact that our leaders believe that even if, at the end of their tenure, they fail to build and maintain a quality school and education; nobody is taken them to the court. Such is also our leader’s opinion on the provision of health care related facilities.
Correcting this abnormities calls for more action than rhetoric. It will also involve all. To this end, I would suggest that the hour has come for Judiciary to be alive to her responsibilities. Time is ripped all for cases be won not by should be the prism of technicalities or logic but may need juxtaposition of cases with the revealing realities especially as it affects the violation of the provisions as contained on our nation’s constitution..
By the same token, let the citizens the citizens should urgently raise up and make a demand from our parliamentarians now that the amendment of the nation’s constitution is ongoing. If we are unable to harness this opportunity provided by this window, Chance are that we may continue to contend with the ‘1999 love letter.’
*Jerome-Mario Utomi is a Delta State-based journalist; he can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org