Flashback: The mistakes Rotimi Williams and I made about Nigeria’s constitution – Prof Nwabueze
March 22, 2013
“Quite frankly, there are many flaws and many errors in the content of the constitution. So many errors and I as a person was partly responsible because I was a member of the constitution drafting committee set up by the military government in 1978. I was not only a member but chairman of one of the sub-committees that produced Chapter 2, the fundamental objectives and one of the cardinal flaws in the constitution is the concentration of powers in the centre.
“That is why I accept that I am partly responsible for that because at the time, late Chief Rotimi Williams, a close friend of mine and nearly everybody in the Constitution Drafting Committee were so overwhelmed with this feeling, this patriotic feeling that we needed unity and the most effective way to achieve unity of the country is by having a very strong central government.
“Most of us in the committee shared that idea at the time. Chief Williams shared it because of the patriotism in us and we wanted a united Nigeria, we feel we can achieve unity by having a strong central government. Then, what did we do to achieve our mis-guided objective? We took away 50 per cent of the items on the concurrent list and gave it to the centre.
“We felt by doing this, we were establishing unity. We did not stop at that. We looked at the residual matters, these are matters exclusive to the states, we took a large part of it, more than 30 percent and close to 50 percent; we took it away from states and gave to the centre. And the result is the almighty Federal Government, but what we discover was that instead of producing unity, we produced disunity because of the intensity of the struggle to control the centre.
“The intensity is so much and it is not just in the political power that was concentrated at the centre, much of the money also went to the centre and so by action, we destroyed what is called fiscal federalism. Too much money at the centre increased the struggle for the control of the centre and the control of the money itself and that has remained the feature of the Constitution up till today.
“So when people struggle and agitate for true federalism, for fiscal federalism, they know what they are talking about and they are right, that must be changed and until it is changed, we might not achieve true federalism because the basis of which we did it has proved to be misguided, the unity we thought we will achieve was not achieved and what we achieved was more disunity than unity because of the struggle.
“So I am not sure the rectification of that error is what the National Assembly can do because so much is involved. We have to restructure the territorial basis of the federation. Even if we have to take power away from the centre, whom are you going to give it to?..”