Sometimes I feel empathy for President Buhari — pity may as well be the right word. He is like a man who the law allows to be the law unto himself, in a sense. And, this is not just about Mr. Buhari per se, it could have been anyone who occupies the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a country which is actually not a federal republic in the real sense of the word “federal,” a matter of which is not Mr. Buhari’s fault, too. For at the core of the inherent stagnation and back-and-forth retrogression that have bedeviled and crippled the robust potentials of the country called Nigeria from manifesting the destiny it is capable of, is the 1999 Constitution, a document bequeathed by General Abdulsalam’s short but eventful regime, and one which was modeled after the defective 1979 and 1989 Constitutions — also documents created by autocratic and undemocratic regimes which didn’t allow the voices of the multiplicity of ethnicities in the country to be properly heard — the same tradition continued in the 1999 Constitution, albeit a couple of alterations or amendments under Mr. Jonathan’s administration.
The 1999 Constitution (as amended) as the supreme legal framework upon which law and justice are based, and upon which the relationship among the diverse ethnic groups in the country is based, can never make way for Nigeria, as it is currently constituted, to achieve the greatness it has the potential to attain. Those who have been referred to as Millennials in popular media — those born between about 1980 and 1999 — must understand this clearly. If we liken Nigeria to a computer, then the 1999 Constitution is the Operating System (OS).
A few Operating Systems include Microsoft Windows, macOS (used by Apple), Linux, etc. The OS is the system software that manages both the computer hardware (such as hard drive, mouse, keyboard, monitor, and even printer) and the software resources such as the various apps. The OS significantly influences the operational efficiency of the computer and acts as a go-between for computer programmes and hardware; and it can also be found on other devices that act like a computer such as mobile phones as well. In the mobile phone sector, Google’s Android is one of the most popular Operating Systems. It’s a fact of recent history that Nokia lost its dominance in the global mobile phone industry because it refused to change its OS for a pretty long time, depending rather on the strength of its hardware.
We have single-tasking operating systems which can only run one programme at a time and we have multi-tasking operating systems also which allow more than one programme to run simultaneously or concurrently and this is made possible through time-sharing, a situation whereby processor time is divided between multiple processes. We also have embedded operating systems, real-time operating systems, distributed operating systems, etc. While embedded operating systems like Windows CE and Minix 3 are designed to operate on small machines with limited options and streamlined number of resources, real-time operating systems may be either single-tasking or multi-tasking; when multi-tasking, it usually utilises specialised scheduling algorithms to the end that a deterministic nature of behaviour is achieved. A distributed operating system is designed to manage a group of distinct computers, making them appear to be a single computer such as in networked computers. They are distinct, yet they cooperate and are linked and can communicate with one another out of mutual respect without diminishing the integrity of each of the computers that make up or form a distributed system.
The algorithms imputed into the 1999 Constitution (Nigeria’s current OS or Operating System) are outdated, dysfunctional and will always produce or achieve a deterministic behaviour that will forever limit, obstruct, and hinder Nigeria as a country (made up of different ethnic nationalities) from achieving greatness in the 21st century, make no mistake about that. What Nigeria needs is a multi-tasking, distributed operating system. Nigeria is too complex and too diverse for the Operating System of the 1999 Constitution to handle. It concentrates too much power in the centre, stripping the constituent parts of its ability to develop and grow faster than other parts if they so choose. Thus, for rapid economic, industrial and social development, the 1999 Constitution is antithetical.
It also concentrates too much power on the executive arm of government, a situation that provides the pretext, by default, for one man to become law unto himself — a situation that has a crippling effect on the nation’s judiciary, rendering the law courts as figure heads and houses of parliament monuments of theatrical arts, all which constitute a very dangerous situation, particularly the intimidation and enslavement of the judiciary and its attendant turn-off to foreign investors who are watching closely, that Nigeria at 59, is still a country with stunted growth in terms of civilised democratic norms, where court orders are serially violated, and aye, sadly desecrated.
Among other vital steps, items on the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists in the 1999 Constitution need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. The vast powers of the executive arm of government as well as the broad latitude given in terms of concentrated centralised power which is very tempting and could predispose a person that lacks restraint to want to crush every organ of government, need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
The independence of the judiciary, which includes its fiscal autonomy, needs to be squarely addressed and strengthened as a matter of urgency. Fiscal autonomy of the different regions or states of the country too, need to be revisited and reactivated. Political positions should be monetarily disincentivised also so that only genuine patriots will come out to contest political offices.
These and many more are the issues that must be acted upon expeditiously without which, in another 20 years — mark my words — Nigeria will not only be a laughing stock in the comity of nations, but also a byword.