On 18th April, 2013, the Hon Emeka Ihedioha-led Constitution Amendment Committee of the Federal House of Representatives presented the collated results of the Peoples’ Public Session on Constitution Review. This great event is a culmination of the Peoples Public Session on Constitution Review which was flagged off in the House of Representatives on Thursday, November 8, 2012. On Saturday, 10th, November, the actual Peoples Public Session (PPS) took place in each of the 360 Federal Constituencies across the country. It was a day the wind of democracy swept through the nooks and crannies of the nation as the constituents in each constituency hobbled together in various venues in order to participate in the making of history- the first time Nigerians were producing a home-grown constitution they can call their own.
The venues were thronged by constituents from all walks of life and the Honourable member from each federal constituency called the shots and directed affair to the admiration of all. In order to ensure that deliberations were properly guided, result oriented and systematic, the agenda of the Peoples’ Public Session was anchored on a 43- item template which reflected the core areas for deliberation. In the spirit of democracy, the template also made provision for discussions on any areas the constituencies in their wisdom felt were relevant in the search for a home-grown constitution.
The various sessions were made up of human rights activists, members of the various professional bodies, the organized private sector (OPS), gender advocacy groups, dons from the academia, student groups and members of town union/market associations, hewers of wood and drawers of water. The Peoples’ Public Session was the veritable leveller which brought all the social classes under one roof for the love of country in a frank and candid search for a constitution which we can proudly describe as our own. It is pertinent to state that since the amalgamation of 1914, our constitution had always been imposed on us by our colonial masters or they were forced down our throats by the jackboots of the various military juntas that shot their ways to power. In spite of this undemocratic method of imposing the constitution on the people, such Constitutions always had the erroneous preamble of “We, the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly resolved…”
It is in order to extricate ourselves from the clutches and virus of an imposed constitution that the Emeka Ihedioha-led adhoc Constitution Review Committee of the House of Representatives worked assiduously to give Nigeria a constitution that is not tainted by the virus of imposition or militarism. It is against this background that Nigerians must appreciate the herculean task that confronted Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Senate President of the Federal House of Representatives, who also doubles as the Chairman of the House Committee on Constitution Amendment.
In order to enable the citizenry to contribute to the emerging new constitution, the Peoples’ Public Session was anchored on a 43- item template. The template captured a long list of critical topics which were areas of interest to the constituents. Some of these topics include recognition of the six zonal structure, States creation, creation and funding of local government areas, citizenship, Indegenship question, residency, justice, economic and social rights, fiscal provisions, separation of the office of Accountant General of the whole Federation and Accountant General of the Federal Government, Independence of State legislatures, amendments to the Executive list, fiscal federalism, abolition of State electoral Commissions, immunity clause, State police question, zones and power sharing, term of office of governors and presidents, independent candidacy, voting age, Diaspora voting, single National chamber legislature, presidential or parliamentary systems and several others.
One must commend the sincerity of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha when he said that “this process may not be perfect, but I dare say that it is the first time in the history of this country that Nigerians at the grassroots have been made part of the Constitution Review process in a practical and transparent manner”. I concur entirely with this observation and commend the tenacity and sincerity of purpose of the Emeka Ihedioha-led team. Above all, one must also commend the ebullient and indefatigable Speaker of the House,Hon Barrister Aminu Waziri Tambuwal whose managerial acumen and sagacity provided the logistics and enabling environment that facilitated this successful venture.
When this onerous task of producing a new Constitution is successfully executed, the National Assembly (NASS) will have gradually transmuted the country from a period of flag independence to a full blown democratic dispensation. Yes, it is pertinent to emphasize for the umpteenth time that at the end of the joint harmonization with the Senate, Nigeria would have got a constitution which we can be proud to call our own. This is a milestone in our democratic journey to nation State. This development is amazing because If this task is successfully executed, the present National Assembly (NASS) would have achieved a record that is both record setting and record shattering. It is also hoped that the new constitution will guard against the perpetration or perpetuation of injustice on any citizen irrespective of his station in life because in the words of the former United States President, Abraham Lincoln, “No man is good enough to rule another without his consent” and in the same vein it was Martin Luther King Jr who once said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
In conclusion, there is a need to emphasize that on that appointed day of the presentation of the Peoples’ Public Session Report(18th April,2012), the NASS was taken over by a sea of humanity as the optimists and the pessimists of the PPS scheme jostled for space to witness the making of history. While the optimists came to celebrate Hon. Emeka Ihedioha’s trail blazing feat, the pessimists came to mock his perceived ineptitude and eventual descent into the Hall of Infamy. But at the end of the event, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha cut a niche for himself as a politician who does not belong to the clan of talk- and- talk politicians but rather a classic example of a talk-and-do politician, a dependable and reliable ally and above all a man of massive integrity and reputation who should be considered for higher responsibilities. After all, a popular maxim says: “the only reward for hard work is more work”.
It is pertinent to recall that during his annual Constituency briefing to his constituents in December, 2012, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha had announced to an excited crowd that in the first quarter of 2013, his Committee would present the collated result of the Peoples Public Session to Nigerians. This revelation was greeted with a thunderous applause which shook the venue of the Constituency briefing-his palatial country home- to its foundation. Nonetheless, there were cynics and skeptics who turned their noses up in disbelief because they held the opinion that nothing would come out of the Peoples’ Public Session. To such group, the PPS was merely a jamboree,j an avenue for looting the commonwealth.
This line of thought gained momentum when the presentation of the collated results which was earlier scheduled to hold on Thursday, January 31, 2013 was swiftly postponed indefinitely thus causing the cynics to brag that it was a case of de javu. However, such congenital cynics/pessimists became devastated when Hon. Emeka Ihedioha punctured their balloon when he announced that a new date of Thursday, April 18th, 2013, had been fixed for the presentation of the collated results at the National Assembly, Abuja.
In the case of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who has acquitted and distinguished himself in the Green Chamber, perhaps, a higher responsibility may he in his continuing to serve in the Green Chamber where he has excelled in order to move up the ladder and take over the driver’s seat as Speaker. Of course, he may also decide to look in the direction of the Red chamber in order to actualize his political ambition. In the politics of Nigeria, the Green chamber is synonymous with the House of Representatives while the Red Chamber is composed of the Senate, the Governorship, and the Presidency. As 2015 beckons, it is left for Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to pick his choice and we pray that Providence guides his steps aright. In order for Providence to guide him aright, we enjoin Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to strive to sustain his attachment to transparency, diligence, and compassion and total loyalty to his immediate boss, the irrepressible and indomitable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Barrister Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, in his official engagements because this is the only way he can appropriate the Biblical injunction: “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”