The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, CFR has for the second legislative session
running been the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review.
In his first advent between 2007 and 2011, he led the committee in the first substantive alteration of the 1999 Constitution after two failed attempts in the preceding legislative sessions.
The Ekweremadu Committee is again headed towards other fundamental alterations of the Committee before the middle of next year. Senator Ekweremadu, in a session with newsmen expounds on the committee’s positions on some of the issues and juxtaposes his own personal position on some of the issues which he affirms would bring solution on some of the raging issues in the polity.
Ekweremadu who was a key associate of Senate President David Mark in the postulation of the Doctrine of Necessity, in the session suggests the invocation of another doctrine of necessity for the extension of the term of President Goodluck Jonathan and all serving governors for the realization of a single term for executive office holders and then the El dorado he says the nation urgently needs.
When the matter came up at the level of our committee we were mindful of the political atmosphere, we also tried to draw inspiration from what happened in other jurisdictions, especially in Latin America in the seventies where they had circumstances in which the issue of transition from one president to another was a major issue and was causing crises within their region and they decided to amend their constitution at the time to create single term in each of those countries, and it was for a transition period.
This helped to stabilise their democracy and now, some of them are amending their constitutions to go back to two terms of maybe four or five years. So, we felt that it was something we could recommend to our country.
If you look at what is going on in Nigeria, in both the new PDP and APC are based on the issue of succession. We believe strongly that that matter is something that could be revisited.
But I think the mistake we made in our recommendation was when we said incumbents would not benefit from it, and I think there was then some kind of coalition of forces to defeat it.
Yes, I believe that if the players in the polity, that is, the stakeholders are able to come together, I believe strongly that it is one way to deal with the situation.
It could be a win-win situation for everybody and I believe that the one way it could work is…now people have been elected for four years, now let everybody complete the four year tenure for which they have been elected and we can through the doctrine of necessity do some kind of transition of two years in which case, those who are now present occupants like the president and the governors who are finishing their term, could now do another two years that will end in 2017.
You see, some of those who are fighting the president, I hear that their complaint is that if the president gets a second term when they are gone that they may start chasing them. Now if we agree that that could be a way to solve the problem, after two years both the president and those other governors will now exit and the fear will not be there and I believe it will bring down the temperature of politics.
Of course we don’t have much problem with the legislative positions, we can go ahead and hold the legislative elections in 2015. The advantage will be that if we do the legislative elections in 2015, and then we do executive elections in 2017, then we will have two year gap for INEC to have a breathing space to prepare well. You can see what is happening in Anambra now. INEC needs sufficient time to recover from one election to another.
I think it is something that we need to reflect on and see if it is something that can help to resolve some of the challenges that are having now. And I do hope that if we are able to do that and we all agree to it, that it is going to solve even some of the security challenges because I do believe that some of the security problems we are having, some of them are from the tension arising from politically charged atmosphere.
So, somehow, everybody will benefit from it, both the president, the governors and all that and all we need to do is to exercise some patience and give them two more years and they will all exit and we will start on a clean slate and go forward.
If you say it is five years, six years or seven years, we will all agree so that the cost of all these re-elections and all that and all the problems that come with it would have been resolved and people will now know that if I am a president or a governor, I have a certain number of years and when I finish, I am not going to hunt the president or stop him from running again.
Right now what is happening is that if the governor wants a re-election, he will do all kinds of things to stop the opposition and on the other hand someone else will accuse the governor of all kinds of stupid things because he wants to have himself elected, so it causes all kinds of problems.
Even the cost of the election itself, I don’t think that Nigeria can continue to sustain that. I know how much money we have spent on INEC and besides I know that politicians themselves spend a lot of money which most of them don’t ever declare. So, it is a huge cost to the country, but if we say let there be single term especially for the executive positions, some of these costs will have to be reduced.
So, I am sure that it is something that we have to reflect on, it has the potential of dealing with the politically charged atmosphere, it has a way of helping to reduce the cost of election in this country and I believe that it will even help in driving a solution to the security challenges.
Every Nigerian knows my position on this. I have my personal position, I have my official position because I belong to an institution. The Senate at the level of the Committee on Constitution Amendment rejected the suggestion for state police and so we could not take it even to the floor and as a person, it was my job and responsibility to present the report of the committee and I needed to explain to my colleagues why we were unable to make that recommendation and the reason we gave was that though it has its advantages, but that Nigeria was not ripe for it and that it was something for the future. That is the official position of the committee that I head.
Now as an individual, I believe strongly that we can never, never resolve our security challenges in Nigeria as long as we are doing what we are doing now. Never, never! Let’s continue what we are doing, in five years if we meet again, it would be the same problem that we would be having.
The reason is clear. No other country is doing what we are doing in terms of policing. Most countries, especially the federations, have adopted what I call decentralised policing and indeed, the issue of state police is even anachronistic. What is done is multilevel policing or decentralised policing.
You see, the security challenges have become very complicated, so you will have to bring a complicated process to address it. You cant have a federal type of government and then adopt the unitary police system and expect that to succeed.
Even the white men when they came, they knew that a centralised police can not work in Nigeria and so, the kind of police they set up was the Native Authority Police and it worked.
They also introduced the Prisons which were Native Authority based and it was later, I think in 1936 that the Federal Police was set up.
So both the Federal Police and the local government police were existing together until 1966 when the army took over.
Unfortunately, the army had set up a committee, to review that type of policing at the time and it came to the conclusion that people were using it to intimidate political enemies and it was bound to happen because the white men did not bother to set up a structure that would regulate that kind of police. There was nothing like Police Service Commission with clear guidelines on how to structure these Native Authority Police and to be able to determine what bounds they must stop.
But instead of the army finding a solution to reform that arrangement and make sure that there was a level of control or regulation, what they did was that they threw away the baby with the bath water and now cancelled other levels of police and set up a central police system which we have now.
What happened after that? First was armed robbery because armed robbers were now going about their business everywhere because you keep posting policemen from Kano to Enugu, from Enugu to Calabar, from Calabar to Ibadan, so you bring people who do not know the place and the armed robbers are taking advantage of it. So, after the armed robbers have taken over the place, now you have kidnappers, ritualists and all sorts of people coming into the crime business.
The police we have they are not grounded, they don’t know the environment they are operating. Let’s give an example that you send a male Southerner, maybe, a Christian to Sokoto and then in the course of his beat and he starts pursuing the person. Once you run into a house, he cannot go further because if there is a woman who is staying there, he is not allowed to go into the house.
So, there are cultural differences that we have to respect and the only way we can do that is to get a policeman who is part of the culture of the place, who respects the culture and knows the environment and who stays there and as long as he is doing the police work, he knows everybody there.
What they do now in most countries is not state police, but decentralized policing or multi-level policing which means that in Abuja for instance, we will have the federal police, then we will have the Abuja Federal Capital Territory Police, then those of us who live in Apo, will have our own police and then the University of Abuja will have its own police and these are all well coordinated.
So, if there is an offence in Apo for instance, the first police you will call is the policeman who lives on your street and the man appears there in seconds.
So, if he thinks it is something that he cannot handle, then he will call his colleagues who live in other areas of Apo and if it becomes too much for them, they will call the FCT police and if it is still too much for them, they will now call in the federal police and by the time you finish all these, they would have arrested the criminal.
In America they commit crime everywhere and everyday, but the difference is that no matter where you go, they will find you because they are everywhere and they know what happens within the environment they operate.
Are you going to debate the recommendations of the National Dialogue?
What problem do you have with our debating it?
There is a perception that if the people say that this is what they want that you shouldn’t tamper with it?
Legislative process is a time consuming process and it is meticulous. The product of a legislative process is expected to endure for a very long time and that is why it is painstaking. So, if it is brought to parliament it has to go through the whole process because people’s lives are involved and there is no legislation more important than the constitution. So, if some people come together and agree on a constitution and bring it to the parliament, we have to look at it line by line, to make sure that everything is right because after all, they are the duly elected representatives of the people.
There may not be fundamental changes to it, but they are going to be subjected to debate because several heads are better than one. It is critical that it should be subjected to legislative process and when that happens we would be assured that the whole process has been completed.
There is no way you can sit down in Abuja, bring some people together, they craft a constitution together and it becomes law. It doesn’t happen anywhere in the world.
Assuming we had a military regime, it is possible that you can bring people, set up a Constituent Assembly because there is no parliament and so they can agree on whatever they want to be the constitution. But not where you have an institution recognized by the constitution as the ultimate legislative body and you go and duplicate that institution by bringing another set of people by asking them to go and do a constitution. You are asking for anarchy.
We hope that those who will come for the national dialogue will realize this, and know that nobody can escape the necessity of sending the outcome to the National Assembly and even to the State assemblies so that it will go through the whole hog in accordance with the law.
You have been hot and cold on creation of new states?
We have never said that it is impossible, what we have consistently said is that it is very difficult and I still maintain that it is difficult. Because a situation where you have to generate certain signatures and then bring it to the National Assembly, which will then deliberate on it and then send it to the Independent National Electoral Commission for referendum within the area that wants to be a state and after that you will now send it to all the states of the federation irrespective of where the demand is coming from.
If you are requesting for a state in Calabar, you will have to send it to Sokoto and when they finish, in those State Houses of Assembly, you will bring it back to the National Assembly to vote and it is only when it passes through that it now becomes a state. If that is not difficult, I wonder then what is difficult.
We are not saying that it is impossible, but we encourage people to try the process, let’s see how far that they can go.
*Proclaim a Doctrine of Necessity
*Instead of contesting in 2015, President Jonathan’s tenure should be extended to 2017 and he leaves office.
*The tenure of all governors would also be extended to 2015 and they would all leave office in 2017.
*The new president and new governors would serve a single term
*National Assembly, and State Assembly Elections would still hold in 2015 which will give a break between executive and legislative elections
*Introduce Multi Level Policing in the Country.