Adaobi on Sunday: Nigeria: Can the winner take it all?


It started like a normal conversation on Facebook with jokes made about the recent elections, and how the different tribes and zones are now putting together their demands according to the quota system as specified by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states WE THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA.

A friend who stirred up the ethnic realities of us -WE THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA drew my attention to a post. My friend contended that Nigeria as a country that stands on a tripod majorly drawn from the three tribes of WAZOBIA should now have a problem with one of the three, because it is perceived the said tribe didn’t support the government-in-waiting. Some of my other friends argued so much for and against why the government-elect must not even attend to any proposed list sent to it by this tribe, as they do not have any right to make such demands. This for me is worrisome. Joining the discussion, I questioned if the victory of the past election was a victory for Nigeria, or one in which the WINNER TAKES ALL.

We have a copy of the 1999 constitution, which my husband bought while stuck in one of those horrible Lagos traffic jams. I must confess it was my first time reading anything from the constitution, even though I am always intrigued by the way lawyers would say “in the Nigerian constitution, section this of sub section that stipulates that only the president has the right to appoint or disappoint…” The more I read, the more I discovered the powers, limitations and rights of the government and the governed. I then wondered how individuals could argue so blindly on Facebook, insisting that the government-in-waiting should punish a tribe because they didn’t vote for them, meanwhile right here in my hands our constitution states in clear terms that no section of Nigeria must be excluded, and in fact that a punishment awaits any government that acts contrary to what the constitution stipulates.

Permit me share my findings relating to the constitution dictates on federal character, and what WE THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA should expect when it comes to appointments into government, which should ultimately deliver good quality leadership to us WE THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (promulgation) 1999 No. 24 section C – Federal Character Commission states:

7. (1) The federal character commission shall comprise the following members:

(a) A Chairman; and

(b) One person to represent each of the states of the federation and the federal capital territory, Abuja.

(2) The Chairman and members shall be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

8. (1) in giving effect to the provisions sections of section 14(3) and (4) of this constitution, the commission shall have the power to:

(a) Work out an equitable formula subject to approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the Federation and of the States, the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force and other government security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the states;

(b) Promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government;

(c) Take such legal measures, including the prosecution of head or staff of any Ministry or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission; and

(d) Carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly.

(2) The posts mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(a) and (b) of this paragraph shall include those of the Permanent Secretaries, Director-Generals in Extra-Ministerial Departments and parastatals, Directors in Ministries and Extra-Ministerial Departments, senior military officers, senior diplomatic posts and managerial cadres in the Federal and State parastatals, bodies, agencies and institutions.

(3) Notwithstanding any provision in any other law or enactment, the Commission shall ensure that every public company or corporation reflects the federal character in the appointments of its directors and senior management staff.

9. It shall be the duty of the Board of Directors of every state-owned enterprise to recognize and promote the principles of federal character in the ownership and management structure of the company.

Dear readers need I say more? So even if it is generally alleged that what we have as a constitution is not as ideal as it ought to be, I personally regard the constitution as an appropriate tool that can establish that change we are yearning for as a people. If only we insist our leaders obey the constitution…

Now to you dear Mr. President Elect, by the power conferred on you by the constitution, you shall rise above political and personal ambition to carry out, without fear or favour, the demands of the holy grail of WE THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA, to minister in fairness and equity the federal character mandate, bearing in mind that failure to do so means you are going contrary to the oath you shall swear soon to protect, defend and abide by the dictates of the constitution of WE THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA, and not WE THE RULING PARTY OF NIGERIA where those who didn’t vote or support the party are cut off from the allocation of appointments.

In my opinion, education at all levels should inculcate in its curriculum a course known as NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION 101. Every day on social media we argue pointlessly, barely accommodating each other’s opinions and dismissing valid alternative arguments. How then can we as citizens and civil society demand good and equitable governance from our leaders if we don’t even know what powers the constitution has given us a people?

Well my dears, I hope you found this piece as interesting and eye opening as it is for me. There is power in knowing correctly.

Please I would very much love to read your comments and thoughts so do leave one at the end of every read.

Till I write again, I love you for reading.


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