The People’s Republic: Constitutional basis

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

THE most manifest and the most easily recognized cultural difference between two nations is language -the mother-tongue. As we have said in Thoughts  on Nigerian Constitution, ‘language lies at the base of all human divisions and divergences’. Language differences breed suspicion, and generate an unconscious

overpowering urge for separateness and exclusiveness. Whatever view different classes of people may hold about the authenticity of the story, it is worthy of note that work on the construction of the city and tower of Babel came to an abrupt and permanent end when  the Lord did confound the language of the builders. We maintain that ‹you can unite but you can never succeed in unifying peoples whom language has set distinctly apart from one another›. If you tried, you might appear to succeed in the short run, but the ingrained tendency to cohere and assert separate and distinct national identity will eventually overcome any inducement to the contrary.

In other words, while, as we have said earlier on, the tendency to cohere was ingrained at birth and self-sustaining in all the individual members, or tribal groups, of the same nation, there is no such inherent tendency in the members of two different nations. In the latter case, the need to cohere must be objectively recognised by the nations concerned, and the tendency to remain so must be consciously and sedulously nurtured in the members of the nations.

In short, in making a constitution, it is absolutely imperative to make a meticulous analysis of the composition of the State concerned, as well as an accurate and scientific classification of the resulting elements.

When the composition of the State has been correctly ascertained, the next step is to determine which of the three types of constitution is suitable, having regard to such composition.

In this connection, we would like to point out that only two of the three – the Unitary and the Federal types- need be considered. From all available historical evidence, a Confederal Constitution is an unrelieved failure. It has never successfully served any State as a permanent constitution. As a temporary expedient, it stood the United States of America in good stead from 1776 to 1786.

In considering which of the remaining two types is suitable, the composition of each State, as we have said before, must be taken into strict account.

If the State in question is composed of one nation, that is to say, if it is a uni-national or uni-lingual State, the constitution must be Unitary. If it is Federal, the tendency to cohere among the constituent States will strengthen the central authority at the expense of the regional authorities; with the result that the constitution will remain only Federal in name, but Unitary in fact.

On the other hand, if the members of a State, though belonging to one nation, have for a long period of time lived as geographically separate and autonomous groups, each group will insist on retaining a large measure of its autonomy. In that case, only a Federal Constitution will be suitable. This will be more so, if the groups while retaining a common language, have, in the process of their long separation from one another, developed some important cultural divergencies, such as different religions and social ideals.

If the State in question is composed of more than one nation, that is if it is bi-national or bi-lingual, multi-national or multi-lingual, the constitution must be Federal, and the constituent States must be organised on a linguistic basis.

If the constitution is unitary, mutual suspicion and distrust, and the tendency to assert their separate identities, on the part of the different nations or linguistic groups composing the State, will militate against all efforts at unification, however brave and well-meaning these may be.

Indeed, the struggle for self-assertion on the part of each nation or linguistic group may be so violent as to threaten the very unity of the composite State.

Furthermore, if one or more of the nations in the multi-national State has, for a long period of time, lived as a geographically separate and autonomous group, the constitution of the State must, a fortiori, be Federal, and the constituent States must be organised on the dual basis of language and geographical separateness.

Four principles or laws emerge clearly from what we have said, and we would like to state them:

(I) If a country is uni-lingual and uni-national, the constitution must be Unitary.

“For the avoidance of misunderstanding, we would like to state that, in this and

the subsequent chapters, we are using the words NATION, NATIONAL GROUP or UNIT, and LINGUISTIC GROUP or UNIT as synonymou s, unless we make it clear in the context that the contrary is the case.

(2) If a country is uni-lingual or bi-lingual or multi-lingual, and also consists of communities which, though belonging to the same nation, have, over a period of years, developed some important cultural

divergences as well as autonomous geographical separateness, the constitution must be Federal, and the constituent States must be organised on the dual basis of language and geographical separateness.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

 

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