Abdullahi Adamu on issues forty-five years ago

By Eric Teniola

Long before he was elected governor of Nasarawa state in 1999, long before he became National Chairman of APC, Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi, the Sarkin Yakin Keffi, represented Keffi, when it was part of Nasarawa at the Constituent Assembly in 1977. He was thirty years old (30) then. On November 1, 1977, he addressed the Constituent Assembly.

He declared on that day “Before I make my observation on the principles of the Draft Constitution, I would like to crave the indulgence of the Chair to enlighten me on the issue of ratification.

I want to get the position clear in relation to the Head of States’ pronouncements during the opening ceremony. I want to know at what stage we would decide or get to know exactly where the final authority for ratification of the Constitution lies.

Still before I make my observations on the Draft, I would like to know also whether the Head of State’s speech during the inauguration ceremony would be debated or not. I have some more observations to make. I would like to comment on the observations made by the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (Chief Rotimi Williams) when he was introducing the Bill.

I want to emphasise the need to follow members to inculcate the spirit of oneness bearing in mind the diversities of our societies. I would like to mention here that it would appear that as a result of the military intervention in the political life of this country over a decade now, a lot of our citizens seem to have forgotten the basic concept of federalism.

We have to find avenues as much as we can, and we must try by all means to accommodate the diversities that are obvious in the plurality of our nation. I would like also to comment on the Presidency as presently provided. I would like to observe that the Presidency as being advocated, new as it is, should not provide avenues for fear simply because it is a new venture in our political process.

I do believe that in view of the diversities that have been inherent in our system, and in view of the fact of our previous experiences before the advent of the military in our politics, we need some unifying grounds, or some unifying authority and I see this type of unifying factor in the office of the Presidency as is presently advocated in the Draft.

We all know that our experiences over the Parliamentary system which we have experimented upon in the past, a lot of energy had been dissipated in unnecessary rancor as a result of which certain fundamental issues had been deliberately ignored for selfish reasons and because of the destructive nature in accommodating one another’s feelings with regard to national issues.

When we get to the Committee Stage, I would want fellow Members to make a critical analysis of the electoral requirements for the Presidency as at present provided for in the Draft, that is, the area that stipulates what percentage of votes a prospective presidential candidate has to obtain from a given percentage again of the State that make up the Federation.

I hope we will give some thinking to the provisions as is contained in the Draft of the moment. I would like to make a comment or two on the Sharia even though previous speakers have made comments on it. I want the idea to be enshrined in the Assembly that the question of Sharia is fundamental to the existence of a citizen of this country who opts to have faith in Islam, and if we want to provide for the right of individual to pursue a faith of his choice, we have to create avenues for the atmosphere under which he would observe the basic injunctions of his religion.

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Here, I would like to observe that the debate or the observation which people have made or have been making in the papers and some of the utterances one has heard this morning with regard to Sharia are, to my mind, not only emotional but very unrealistic.

We are living in a country where it is a reality that in Nigeria today we have at least bearest minimum of forty percent of the entire population in the teachings of Islam. This being the case and these people having accepted the principles enshrined in the Islamic faith are binded by certain very strict requirements that would have to regulate their day to day lives.

If this be the case, there should not be the question of your giving somebody a right to choose a religion and on the other side of the scale only to go back and remove his right to exercise that fundamental provision that you have in the Constitution. I would like also sound a note of warning here on the comments in the papers and some of the views from one or two colleagues in the Assembly this morning.

These comments seem to border on threat. If you do this, it would be this or that. The thing is, short of saying do not follow a particular faith in terms of religious obligation, you cannot stand between anybody and what he believes in.

Also, I would like to touch on the question of the creation of more states. The Draft at the moment touches on the fact that Nigeria is composed of so many states, and in some other sections there seems to be a tautology on the procedure for creating new States where there is need for such creation.

In as much as I cannot oppose the opinion of anybody, having realized the fundamental rights of any section in this country to determine its own political association, I would like to sound a note of caution that we should not be led by some super logics into being sentimental again on the question of States. We have to face it very realistically.

We have to face it, bearing in mind the interest and aspirations of the particular group who want a State to be created for them. Their case should be taken into consideration. I would also want to touch on the question of traditional institutions in this country. I do believe and very honestly, too, that for some time now we have been deceiving ourselves in this country.

We, as a people, have certain norms of life that we cherish. This being the case it is absolutely unbecoming, Mr Chairman, for us to do away with them completely and neglect our traditional institutions which are the basis of our plurality as a people— the institutions on which this country has relied over the past centuries, institutions that have stood the test of time, institutions that we can go to at critical moments of need.

Maybe we tend now to relegate these institutions to a position of neglect. I feel we should distinguish between failures of institutions and the failures of functionaries of institutions.

To be continued next edition

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