Home Features LACK OF MERIT AND IMPOSED CONSTITUTION SLOW DOWN NIGERIA”S DEVELOPMENT

LACK OF MERIT AND IMPOSED CONSTITUTION SLOW DOWN NIGERIA”S DEVELOPMENT

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By AdamuFika

 Dr. M. AdamuFika, WazirinFika, CFR and former Secretary to the Federal Military Government of Nigeria delivered a thought provoking lecture at theMallam AdamuFika, former SGF and Head of Civil Service delivered a thought provoking lecture at the Barewa Old Boys’ Association annual lecture on 22nd October 2011. Dr. Fika,in the lecture titled ‘Going Back to Basics:The Past as Prologue’ raised several fundamental issues that are militating against the development of Nigeria. These include: ‘’The unfortunate disrespect for the past and what it represented; and the disdain for the memory of the great personalities who led our country were the result of a series of disastrous events, beginning with the dumping of the people’s Constitution in 1979; discarding of the merit based system in the Public Service, and the abrogation of what he referred to as the People’s Constitution by the military. This valuable piece is indeed an eye opening. Please relax and enjoy AdamuFika’s very penetrating analysis.

DISCARDING THE MERIT BASED SYSTEM OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE

The next casualty of the aversion to any policy establishment by our Founding Fathers was the merit based system of Public Service was also discarded at the end of March 1988. It was replaced by the obnoxious patronage-spoils system. The fundamental objective of a merit-based public service is to insulate it from political interference and influence so that appointments and promotions are based on merit and on merit alone. It should have come as no surprise that a constitution that did not derive its strength and legitimacy from the will of the people would sooner be subverted than be obeyed; and the institutions that derived their own power from it were worse affected, with the public service most adversely so. The basic principles of the service were inherited at independence in a fully-fledged merit system as agreed to by our leaders during the constitutional conferences but this was discarded in favour of the patronage – spoils system.

The question of control of appointment, promotion and discipline of public service arose during the August 53 session of the Constitutional Conference when one of the NCNC delegate wanted such to be controlled by the politicians. To this, the presiding British Minister, himself a politician strongly advised the Nigerian leaders to adopt the British system of merit based public service. He pointed out that “the principles of the British system, which has stood the best of time, are that the Civil Service is recruited by a body completely independent of Ministers and that it has its own machinery for promotions, which except at the highest level, are not even submitted to Ministers for formal approval. Even when that approval is sought, Ministers are, by tradition, guided by the advice of the senior members of the service. There is no question of the dismissal of holders of offices in the civil service, at any level, in consequence of the change of government. The British tradition is the appointment and dismissal, and, with exception, the promotion of the civil servants, is outside the competence of Government. History has shown that no other system works satisfactorily. It will be disastrous to have a civil service under the control of the Executive and for appointments to change according to the turn of the political wheel will lead to instability”.

Our leaders accepted the advice and reaffirmed their acceptance in January 1954 when the leaders – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Malam Aminu Kano and Professor EyoIta issued the following statement committing their respective parties: “We fully support the principle that all Public Service questions, including appointments, promotions, transfers, postings, dismissals and other disciplinary matters should be kept completely free and independent of political control. We hope that the traditional principle of promotion according to qualification, experience, merit without regard to race will be maintained”.

In the constitution, resulting from the deliberations of conferences, section 14 provided that:

“The power to appoint persons to hold or act in offices of the public service of the Federation…..and to dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices should vest in the Public Service Commission of the Federation” In sub-section (2) judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court of Lagos and any police officer in the Police force were removed from the competence of the Public Service Commission and vested in the Judicial Service and Police Service Commissions respectively.

In addition, the power to appoint a person in the offices of the Permanent Secretary, Principal representatives of Nigerian abroad, Director of Audit, Clerk of the Parliament, Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in charge of Regional command was a joint responsibility of head of Government and the relevant Service Commission. Our leaders acted honourably and kept their promise. They acted strictly in accordance with the relevant provisions of the constitution in handling public service matters. The London Constitutional Conference “recognized that in view of the importance and dignity of the position of chief representative of a country overseas – Ambassadors and the Commissioners—it, from time to time be best to fill such posts not by career officers in the Public Service, but by distinguished citizens appointed for broad reasons of policy”. To the credit of our past leaders, they did not abuse that opportunity for between 1960 and 1966 they appointed only twelve non-career heads of missions out of over 100.

In 1922 Sir Hugh Clifford extended the membership of the Legislative council to include the representatives of some parts of Nigeria for the first time. Under the new arrangement there were eighteen officials members in addition to the Governor, and eighteen unofficial members, the majority were Nigerians, including three elected members and elected members respectively to represent the municipality and Calabar respectively. The remaining Nigerian members represented the Colony Division, the Ibo Division, the Niger African Traders, the Egba Division, the Rivers Division, the Oyo Division, the Warri-Benin Division, the remaining seven unofficial members represented British commercial mining, banking and shipping interests in Nigeria. Northern Nigeria were not represented.

In 1947, Sir Arthur Richards introduced a new Constitution by which Northern provinces were represented by Northerners in the unofficial membership of the Council in the legislative Council which increased to 28, 25 of whom were Nigerians and 9 of the 25 were from the North.By the time Sir Arthur Richard left Nigeria in November 1947, the constitution named after him, which had come into effect on 1st January of that year. It was supposed to run for nine years before it would be reviewed in 1956, although minor reviews could be made after every three years, in 1950 and 1953.Sir Arthur and succeeded by Sir John Macpherson who assumed duty in April 1948, barely 15 months after the introduction of the Richard’s Constitution. He immediately embarked on a four-month country-wide tour of Nigeria ending in August of that year. He then convened a meeting of a Legislative Council in the same month, the first under his Presidency.

He briefed the Legislative Council members on the outcome of his tour of the country and stating that he had observed that the Constitution had been accepted by the generality of the people and it was working very well indeed. So well that he thought the Council should consider seriously the review of the Constitution at a date earlier than the nineyear period recommended in the Constitution. He also suggested that if Council accepted his view in that regard the review should start from the grassroots and go up to the highest level.The Council accepted the suggestion by the Governor and appointed a Select Committee of the Council, comprising of all the 25 Nigerian members of the Council, to work out modalities and submit its recommendations to the Council at its meeting scheduled to take place in Ibadan early in 1949.The Select Committee recommended that Nigerians at all levels should be involved in the Constitutional review with consultations to take place from village levels to district and divisional levels. At the Division level participants would select from among themselves delegates to represent them at the provincial conference to take place at each provincial headquarters. The Divisional representatives would submit to the Provisional Conference the result of the deliberation and conclusion as to the Division’s stand on the type of constitutional arrangement should be suitable for Nigeria.

The Provincial Conference in turn would collate the decisions of the various divisions with within the Province and agree on the type of Constitution it wanted Nigeria to have and would also select its representatives to participate at the Regional Conference to take place in Kaduna, Enugu, Ibadan and Lagos.The Regional Conference would collate the views and conclusions from various provincial conferences for onward submission to the Drafting Committee. The Select Committee also recommended that, Regional Conferences, would elect delegates to participate at the General Conference as well as nominate members to represent them on the Drafting Committee which would “prepare a statement setting out draft recommendations for constitutional changes based on the issues of the Regional and Colony and Lagos Conferences and submit the statement for consideration of the General Conference”.The recommendations of the Select Committee were approved by the full Legislative council at its meeting held in Ibadan in March, 1949. Thereafter consultations and conferences took place throughout 1949. Delegates were elected by the Regional, Lagos and Colony conferences to participate at the General Conference.

MEMBERSHIP OF THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
The members of the General Conference representing the Northern Region were the Emir of Gwandu Yahaya, the Emir of Katsina Usman Nagogo, the Atta of IgbirraAlhaji Ibrahim, the Emir of Abuja Suleman, Bello Kano, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, IroKatsina, Aliyu MakamaBida and Yahaya Ilorin, all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were Emir of Zaria Malam Jaafaru, Malam Ahmadu Sardauna of Sokoto, Malam Muhammadu Wali of Borno, Malam Muhammadu Ribadu, ShettimaKashim, Malam Sani Dingyadi, Alhaji Shehu Ahmadu SarkinShanu (Kano), AlhajiAbdulmalikiIgbirra, and Malam Ali Turakin Zaria.

  • Those representing Western Region were the Ooni of Ife Sir AdesojiAderemi, the Oba of Benin Akenzua II, Mr. AkinpeluObisesan, Mr. T. A. Odutola, Mr. Gaius Obaseki and Mr. A. Soetan, all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were Mr. A. E. Prest, Archdeacon L. A. Lennon, Rev. I. O. Ransome-Kuti, Mr M. A. Ajasin, Mr. S. O. Awokoya and Mr. M. G. Ejaife.
  • Those representing Eastern Region were Mr. H. Buowari Brown, Mr. C. D. Onyeama, Mr. A. Ikoku, Mr. NyongEssien, Mr. F. A. Ibiam and Mr. E. E. E. Anwan, all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were MaziMbonuOjike, Mr. E. N. Egbuna, Dr.E. M. L. Endeley, Rev. O. Effiong, Mr. M. W. Ubani and Mr. EyoIta.
  • Those representing Lagos were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mr. AdelekeAdedoyin and Dr. I. Olorun-Nimbe—all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were Chief Bode Thomas, Chief Obanikoro, and Mr. T. A. Bankole.
  • The Colony was represented by Rev. T. A. Ogunbiyi who was a member of the Legislative Council and the additional member was Mr. C. D. Akran.

MEMBERSHIP OF THE DRAFTING COMMITTEE:
Members of the Draft Committee representing Northern Region were Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Ahmadu Sardauna of Sokoto, and Mallam Muhammadu Wali of Borno.

  1. ii) Those representing Western Region were Dr. A. S. Agbaje, S. O. Awokoya and Rev. I. O. Ransome-Kuti

iii) Those representing Eastern Region were Mr. C. D. Onyeama, Mr. E. N. Egbuna, and Mr. A. Akon

  1. iv) The Colony was represented by Mr. Oladipo Amos, Esq and Lagos was represented by Mr. Bode Thomas.

The Drafting Committee met in October and November 1948 and submitted statement of recommendations to the General Conference which met throughout January 1950.The resulting Constitution came into effect on 1st January 1952. It introduced for the first time ministerial and representative system of government. Its main thrust was the creation of a House of Representatives at the Centre, a House of Assembly each for the North, West and East, a House of Chiefs each for the North and West, and also a Central Council of Ministers for Nigeria and an Executive Council each for North, West and East.

The constitution introduced on 1st January 1952 worked smoothly for 15 months up to 31st March 1953. On that day Chief Anthony Enahoro, on behalf of the Action Group supported also by the NCNC moved the motion standing in his name that This House accept as a primary political objective the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956”. Malam Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto on behalf of the NPC moved an amendment that “1956” be deleted and be substituted by “as soon as practicable”. Malam Ibrahim Imam of the NPC dropped a bombshell when he moved a dilatory motion citing a Standing Order of the House which had in effect of delaying further consideration of both the original motion and the amendment to it, which was unacceptable to AG and NCNC and so in protest the members of the two parties staged a walkout leaving NPC and parties to pass the dilatory motion. In effect, the self government motion was never debated.

The incident in the House and subsequently outside the House when Northern members including Chiefs were felted and stoned outside the House created a major crisis to the extent that the North had taken steps including holding a referendum all over the region to opt out of the country. The tense situation in the country made it impossible for any kind of contact between the political leaders in the North and south to meet anywhere in the country. It was left to the British Government to convene a Constitutional Conference in London in July and August 1955.The 1952 Constitution was used as a working document and the basis of discussion to produce the 1954 Constitution, with the enactment of which Nigeria formally became a Federation. An Exclusive Legislative List delimited the powers of the Federal Government, but shared with the regions, responsibility for subjects on the the Recurrent Legislative List. The regions had residual powers, that is, all the legislative subjects which were not included in the two lists were the responsibility of the Regions. An office of Premier was created in each region.

Thereafter, further constitutional conferences were held in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1963. At each conference additional steps were taken towards independence and the attainment of republican status. In 1957 the Office of Federal Prime Minister was created, the Eastern and Western Regions attained selfgovernment status, and the Northern Region gave notice in 1958 and became self governing in 1959.The main thrust of all these reviews was the proper establishment of democratic institutions and a viable, functional and politically neutral but committed and efficient public service in order to formally entrench democracy, the rule of law and proper administration of justice. It could thus be seen that it took our leaders the whole of 15 years to fashion the people’s Constitution.This was the document that was jettisoned and replaced by a constitution drawn up by military fiat. Not surprisingly, matters began to deteriorate with alarming speed. Aside from the fact that the new system was proving too costly, too unwieldy and perhaps unworkable, the so called presidential system of government was just not understood, or practiced or respected; and, even worse, it was at the same time wreaking untold havoc on crucial national institutions that had hitherto served us so well.

In spite of the time and effort painstakingly put in fashioning the peoples Constitution our Founding Fathers believed that no humanly made document would be portent to me. Therefore, the Prime Minister invited the Regional Premiers for a meeting to discuss the state of the nation. They agreed to have the constitution reviewed. The meeting of the Prime Minister and the four Regional Premiers was held in September 1965. A communiqué was issued at the end of the meeting announcing the agreement reached to review the Constitution. They accordingly agreed to set up a twelve-member drafting committee under the chairmanship of the Attorney-General Dr. T. O. Elias. Other members were three representatives of the Federal Government and two representatives of each of the four Regional Governments. They also agreed that the Constitutional conference would be convened to consider the recommendations of the drafting committee to be attended by the representatives of all the Governments in the Federation and major political parties as well as the representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Medical Association, Nigerian Teachers Association, Trade Unions, National Union of Journalist, Nigerian chamber of Commerce and Nigerian women politicians.

The first meeting of the drafting committee was held on 10th December 1965. As soon as the Chairman declared the meeting open, Dr. Kalu Ezara, one of the representatives of the Eastern Region interrupted the meeting and announced that his Premier had told him that the Chairman of the meeting was part of the three Federal representatives. He remained adamant in spite of the clarity of the communiqué issued at the end of the leaders meeting that the five of them jointly appointed the Chairman. He nevertheless insisted that he would not participate in the meeting and would continue to raise the same issue as long as the Prime Minister did not seek clarification from the Premier.The meeting therefore had to adjourn to seek clarification as demanded by the Eastern delegate to resume after the forthcoming Ramadan period. The military struck in January, 1966 during the Ramadan. The Prime Minster and the Premiers of the Northern and Western Nigeria were killed, and so, was the attempt to review the Constitution. (From: Governor Nassir El Rufai’s Records)

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