Suitable Constitution

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

If a national or linguistic group, however large, whose tribal units had not developed and crystallised cultural and social divergencies, were split into a number of constituent States, the tendency to cohere would become operative among such States and social disequilibrium would be generated in the process. Secondly, it overlooks the factor for instance, that of the 11 million inhabitants of Australia, 7 millions live in the constituent States of New South Wales and Victoria.

Apart from these, it is our view that each of the constituent States embracing the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Jbo does not in any way offend against Wheare’s principle. A combination of any two of them does not constitute a majority in the country; and it is inconceivable that the three of them will ever have common cause against the rest. In any case, Wheare speaks of ‘one or two’, not of ‘one or more’. In the unlikely event of two or more of the majority national groups teaming up against the rest, the resulting combination will be rendered impotent and ineffective by the proposals we make in the next chapter.

SECOND: It has also been objected that a federal set-up is di fficult and expensive to operate. There is dual citizenship, so the argument goes; there is double loyalty; and there are as many authorities – each with its own functionaries – as there are constituent and composite States. Our answer to this is straightforward, and is explicit from our analysis and xposition in Chapter 5. It is to the effect that in the circumstances of Nigeria, there is only one safe and sensible choice open to us: a Federal Constitution. Any other constitution wiII be unsuitable and will generate ever-recurring instability which may eventually lead to the complete disappearance of the Nigerian composite State as we know it today.

THIRD: There has been a good deal of controversy as to whether or not a plebiscite should be held to ascertain the wishes of those who are going to be included in new constituent States. There are those — many of them close to the throne of military power – who hold the view that constituent States should be created by Decree and that the wishes of the persons concerned need not be ascertained in a plebiscite. There are those who hold a contrary view.

It must be admitted, quite frankly, that this controversy stems from the fact that, hitherto, there has been a good deal of woolly thinking on this subject on all sides. But if the principles which we have enunciated are valid – and we are satisfied they are – then the question of a plebiscite should be considered with strict regard to the circumstances of each specific case. Four such cases – and no more – can be formulated and provided for in advance.

They are:

(1) Where a linguistic unit constitutes, or forms part of, an existing constituent State, and it is proposed to divide it into two or more constituent States, then a plebiscite should be conducted in the whole of the linguistic unit to determine the wishes of the people in the said linguistic group, as to whether or not they desire to be split into-two or more constituent States as proposed. If the plebiscite were confined to the tribal unit or units within the linguistic group, where the demand for a separate constituent State had been made, a dangerous precedent would have been set which would be bound to lead, in the course of time, to a complete fragmentation of the composite State. This would inevitably and irresistibly be the case, because following such a precedent, any tribal or clan unit could make a demand for a separate constituent State and get it. Since the plebiscite would be confined to the members of the tribe or clan alone, it would not be difficult for any powerful but misguided leader of the said tribe or clan, to muster the required majority to enable his tribe or clan, however small, to be formed into a separate constituent State. There is, however, no doubt in our mind that, in the process of time, the forces of fragmentation thus let loose in the linguistic unit would be arrested and reversed. But, in the meantime, a lot of harm would , have been done, and untold damage would have been caused to the economy and political stability of both the composite and constituent States, by the backward and forward motions of creating and abolishing small and innumerable constituent States.

(2) Where a minority linguistic unit forms part of an existing constituent State, and it is proposed to constitute it into a separate constituent State, a plebiscite is unnecessary. As we have abundantly shown, no minority linguistic group can be truly happy as long as it is made to live in association with a majority national group in the same constituent State. There may be some individuals or groups in the minority national group who are so ‘denationalised’ as to oppose any move to organize the national unit to which they belong into a separate constituent State. It is our settled view that such individuals or groups will always be in the minority, and that they will, in time, cooperate wholeheartedly with their fellow- nationals in developing and strengthening their own constituent State after it has been created.


(3) Where a national group forms part of an existing constituent State which has been created as a result of a plebiscite validly held under the Constitution, then a plebiscite is necessary to determine the wishes of such a national group, before constituting it into a constituent State.

There are two strong reasons for this course of action.

Firstly, let us take the instance where the majority of the national group had previously voted in favour of forrning part of the existing constituent State. Unless a plebiscite is conducted, it will not be known for certain whether or not the majority of the people still desire to continue in association with the other linguistic groups in the existing constituent State. If the majority of the people still desire to remain within the existing constituent State, to constitute them into a separate constituent.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

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