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Deconstructing Ben Nwabueze’s New Baby

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Professor Ben Nwabueze, erudite constitutional lawyer, consummate and well-researched elder statesman drafted the unitary constitution thus abolishing the robust regional setup that made each region economically and politically viable. He abolished the regional governance because of General Aguiyi Ironsi who had just seized power after the gruesome murders of the prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and others in 1966.

To ensure his grips on power, Ironsi used Nwabueze’s unitary document to bring Nigeria under one federating unit. It is intriguing that the same person whose document ended our regional experience is the same person crying for restructuring. What has happened that his beautiful policy is no longer an option but an oppressive tool? For us to take him serious, he must first apologise to Nigerians for abolishing the regional template.

Putting it succinctly, Eric Teniola chronicled Aguiyi Ironsi’s unification trajectory thus,

“Of all the decrees enacted in Nigeria, none is more controversial than Decree No 34 of 1966. It was promulgated on May 24, 1966 by then Head of State, Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966). It was called Unification Decree while some critics at that time labelled it the De-unification Decree.

It was the decree that started the death of regionalism – an issue that is still generating controversy till now. Although the next head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, repealed the Decree 34 on August 31, 1966 through Decree 9, a large portion of the Decree is still effective till today.

General Gowon further compounded it by promulgating Decree 14 of 1967, which broke Nigeria into 12 states and provided for military governors for each state. With Decrees 34, 8 and 14 regionalism was finally buried.

On assumption of power, General Aguiyi-Ironsi promulgated the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 1966. Decree No 1 dated January 17, 1966 but not published in the Official Gazette until March 4, 1966. He then issued Public Order Decree No 33 dated May 24 1966, which dissolved 81 political associations and 26 tribal and cultural associations.

At the early stage of his tenure, he appointed a three-man advisory team made up of Chief Francis Nwokedi, a permanent secretary, Dr Pius Charles Nwabafor Okigbo (1924-2000) and Colonel Patrick Anwunah, who later became chairman and head of the Orientation Committee at that time.’

This piece is for those who think the call for restructuring is a new idea, no, we had a well thought out governance template until Prof Ben Nwabueze truncated it with his unitary pooh pooh. This is setting the record straight otherwise he takes the glory of being a champion of a better Nigeria when in real sense he was the architect of a provincial and nepotistic leaning.

History is indeed a pathway to understanding governance templates and the intentions of policy framers. The old man exposed his policy stance decades ago. It begs the question: If it was bad yesterday, why and how is it good today? He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. Prof Ben is required to explain to this nation what he proposed to Ironsi and what was not implemented that necessitated the failure of the Unification decree. And then compare and contrast with what he is promoting now via restructuring. Until and unless this is done we will never know his true intention.

It is undeniable that professor Ben Nwabueze, drafted the ill-fated Unification Decree 34 of 1966 for Ironsi; drafted Decree 61 of 1993 that set up the Interim National Government (ING) headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Thus, Nwabueze helped to scuttle Abiola’s mandate, the same way he drafted Abacha’s Sovereign Conference sham. Conveniently, we can conclude that the elder statesman is a friend of dictators.

In trying to confuse those who aren’t familiar with alternative historical leaning, the well-schooled professor transmogrified into a civil friend of democratic administration when he signed into Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s National Confab this time around with the new song of restructuring, another bait used by some Nigerians to hoodwink the people – just like the second Niger Bridge which has become a sing-song for politicians who ride on the intelligence of the people of South East.

We can’t forget in a hurry how the old man professor of constitutional law gave tacit backing to Nnamdi Kanu during his infamous reign as the leader of the Independent People of Biafra. How he tactically dumped Kanu in support of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party is a study of elderly maverick stunts. Swimming with the convenient flow of the rivers is our elder statesman whose experiences in nation-building should be a resort instead of his endless ties with tribal apron. Having failed in his expectations, prof won’t die unless Atiku wins the presidential race of Nigeria, the same Nigeria Baba Nwabueze joined Nnamdi to call a zoo!

Historically musing.



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