Editor's note: In recent times, the agitation for break away of some ethnic groups from Nigeria, has continued to take the centre stage in the media. But why some people insist that the country should break, others argue that separation is not solution to the problems plaguing the nation.
In this piece, Legit.ng's contributor, Saheed Akinola esq, a legal practitioner, human rights crusader and writer, writes about the agitation for Oduduwa nation by some Yoruba nations.
Saheed gives legal advice on a variety of issues bordering on rights violation and he could be reached via:firstname.lastname@example.org +2348032493960.
There are three major ways by which any group that is agitating can secure self-independence from a country.
a. Through negotiation and dialogue where the constitution of the country makes provision for a section that wants to secede.
b. Secession by force through the civil war
c. Through amendment of the constitution to accommodate secession where there is no such provision in the constitution.
This write-up is interested in the third way stated above because that is the only reasonable way by which any section who is interested in seceding in Nigeria can adopt even though it is a hard nut to crack and as difficult as trying to thread a needle in the dark.
The first mode mentioned above can not work even if the president and the National assembly agree with the secessionists for them to be separated from Nigeria. That will be outside the purview of their constitutional powers because they can not give what they don’t have. It will be foolhardy to be seeking something from those that have it not.
Those who are seeking secession from Nigeria are asking the government to give what they don’t have. This is dead on arrival as far as Nigeria's constitution is concerned.
The second option has never worked and it will never work because it will be suicidal for any section or tribe to try to secede from Nigeria by force. It is going to be disastrous and catastrophic for a section of the country to declare war on a sovereign state which has the wherewithal to prosecute the war.
It is indeed childish for Sunday Igboho and his team to declare a section of the country to be independent. Not only that, he also has the effrontery to declare war against the country and incites people to take up arms against the state.
It is laughable, as sophisticated as Yoruba are, for Sunday Igboho to be asking people to go and buy guns and fortify themselves with charm. It shows the mental state of the so-called champions of the so-called Oodua Nation. Do these people know what it requires to fight a war in modern times?
Most of the people behind the call for Oodua nation are either illiterates or those who are out of the corridor of power and they have no access to the “national cake” (the Nigerian phrase for elite division of national oil revenue). Their ideology is: “either we have access to the soup or we destroy the pot”. They only hide under the guise of love for their ethnic group.
The treatment of those agitating for secession in different countries is largely dependent on the provisions of their constitutions.
There are essentially three approaches the constitution of a country can provide for. It can:
(a) prohibit secession;
(b) remain silent on it; or
(c) allow secession
Assuming, for the sake of argument that the constitution allows Secession, it does not create the egalitarian society its proponents often assume will be created. Nor does secession reduce conflict, violence or minority oppression once successor states are established. Secession is not in accordance with democratic principles because secessionists do not want to accept the rule of the majority in a certain state.
Indeed, when all the main actors agree concerning the dissolution of a country and the procedure to adopt, there is really no reason not to accept this dissolution.
Unfortunately or fortunately, Nigeria's constitution, the one we are operating today doesn’t favour secession and rather emphasizes the existence of the country as one indivisible entity. It is the constitutional duty of every elected president who swears to the oath of office to defend the unity of the country.
Anybody who is a student of history would have read that, in the 1960 republican constitution, when we were preparing for independence on October 1st, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo proposed that in our constitution, there should be a clause that can allow any part of this country to go away.
The Sardauna of Sokoto also supported the move but late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe kicked against it and Azikiwe’s position prevailed and that is what we have in our Constitution today that nobody can move to secede. Any group, state, region or tribe that does so becomes an enemy of the country.
The most fundamental document in Nigeria is the current 1999 constitution as amended. It is sacred and constitutes the parameter of internal and external relationships of a state. It is the GRUND NORM from which all other laws derive their legitimacy.
Let us look at the preamble of our constitution which is to the effect that we all swear to uphold and defend the unity of the whole country called Nigeria:
“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.”
Also going by the provisions of section 1 and 2 of the constitution which is binding on all persons, Nigeria as a sovereign entity is not divisible:
1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) The federal republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
2. (1) Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) Nigeria shall be a federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory.
Those clauses have remained consistent from the independence constitution till the current one, so if anybody is making move to secede, he or she is working against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and whoever is in government at that particular time will have the responsibility of protecting the Constitution and he can move against that person.
The president, being the commander in chief of the armed forces, has the constitutional right of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity and if in his wisdom, and as a professional, consider the actions of some people as inimical to the sovereignty of the country, he should not fold his arms but take necessary actions and move against them.
Calling for secession is nothing but a treasonable felony because the secessionists want to divide the country by force in flagrant contravention of the constitution.
According to the provision of section 37(1) of the Criminal Code, anyone who levies war against the state in order to intimidate or overawe the president or governor of a state is guilty of treason and should be punished by death
Under the Nigerian Constitution, no part of Nigeria has the power to form its own independent government or secede from the country. In fact, the word 'secede' does not appear in the Constitution. The secessionists should know or be informed that if an act is void it is a nullity, you cannot put something on nothing, and expect it to stand, it will definitely collapse.
Some people who are more informed have been calling for a referendum so that people within the region will be carried along in the fight for secession. That can not equally work because such a referendum will amount to a nullity; there is no provision for such referendum in the constitution. The constitution of Nigeria only addresses two scenarios where a referendum is recognized - state boundary adjustment and the recall of a member of the National Assembly.
In Nigeria's case, section 9 (2) and (3) clearly outlines the procedure for amending any provision of the Constitution. It requires the votes of two-thirds of members of both houses of the National Assembly and approval by resolution of two-thirds of the States Houses of Assembly.
The import of Section 9 of the constitution is that the National Assembly can only pass an Act to amend the constitution when its proposal to amend the constitution has been supported by a two-thirds majority of all the members of each chamber and is approved by the resolution of at least 24 Houses of Assembly of the States. This section of the constitution states the procedure to be adopted in amending the constitution.
If two-thirds of each of the Houses passes the proposals without amendment, it would then be transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly by the Clerk of the National Assembly for their concurrence.
A vote of a simple majority of members in 24 states will be required for each amendment to be completed.
When two-thirds of the States approve each clause by simple majority, the amendment automatically comes into effect.
Those who have been following the analysis in this write-up will realize that the third option is equally difficult because of the stringent procedure of amending the constitution in order to include the secession clause that will allow the section that wants to do so.
In my opinion, the best way is to keep demanding restructuring that will allow each region to grow according to its pace and resources without over depending on the federal government.
Our problem is neither ethnicity nor religion; it is the wicked political jobbers that we have at the helm of affairs. They only appeal to our sentiment by employing religion and ethnicity to achieve their personal aggrandizement when things are not working for them.
There is no doubt; things are very tough for the common man. Everything is in a bad state which can turn an ardent optimist into a pessimist. The masses are crying of hunger; the rate of unemployment is increasing; the price of foodstuff and other products are Skyrocketing every day. We all look up to our leaders who pretend nothing is amiss.
That notwithstanding, Yoruba will say ‘Ori bibe ko ni ogun Ori fifo” which is literally translated to mean that you don’t severe your head from your body to cure headache. It will be unconscionable and stupid for us to destroy the country because our elected officeholders are not performing up to our expectations.
There are certain provisions in the constitution that give sovereignty to the people-like the power of the legislator to impeach the president and also the powers to recall our legislators. Which National assembly will impeach the president in Nigeria even if the president is anti-people when they always put their personal interest and party’s interest above the people’s interest?
Where are the people who will recall their legislators for not representing them well? All are after their pockets and personal aggrandizement. Nigerians will only complain when they are outside the corridor of power; once they are within their circle they change the tune and become another Kayode or Abati.
Let those that are genuinely concerned, about the way this country is going, contribute their quota towards the development and success of this country and also learn a lesson and resolve that when next there is an opportunity to choose a leader then we will choose the most qualified and not based on sentiments in all its manifestations.