Disconcordant tunes is coming from the leadership of the National Assembly on the on going constitution amendment exercise
Three major actors in the process have been credited with varied comments. The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, in a statement on Friday, gave hope to the process and asked Nigerians to join the legislature in the onerous task of producing “a truly people’s constitution.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, who had been quoted in the media a week earlier, also expressed similar sentiments.
Early in September, the deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was quoted as expressing the desire of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review to produce the new law before the end of next year.
Mark, had, in a Ramadan message, declared that efforts aimed at amending the 1999 Constitution are still on course and further asked Nigerians to team up with the lawmakers in the exercise.
He said that there was the need for Nigerians to join hands with the National Assembly to produce a constitution we can call “a truly peoples constitution.”
Mark said that the support of Nigerians is needed for the task ahead of the government and the National Assembly, especially in the ongoing review of the 1999 constitution, which he said would be completed before the end of the tenure of the current administration.
But earlier in the week, Ekweremadu had raised the fears that the exercise was being bogged down by some forces, which, he claimed, were all out to truncate the constitution amendment journey.
He spoke at the interface between the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment and the Civil Society, where the Upper Chamber sought the input of the non-governmental organisations in the process.
The Senate number two man urged the civil society to be more vigilant in ensuring that the constitution amendment exercise was successful, pointedly declaring that some fifth columnists were at work to frustrate the exercise.
He said: “Already, a lot of efforts are being made to frustrate the process. We expect more of this interaction soon; they will start calling us names, levelling one allegation or the other just to distract us from this exercise.
There are people who do not want this constitution to be reviewed; who do not want electoral reform of any kind so that they could continue to benefit from the system. We are ready and determined to complete the exercise.”
While the leaders have been expressing optimism that the constitution amendment process would definitely sail through the rough patches since January 2009, when the bubble burst between the Senate and the House of Representatives, leading to the decision to separately pursue the exercise, there has not been much to talk about.
There was, indeed, standstill for a long while, as the Senate waited for words from the Lower Chamber on the need for a joint exercise. It appears the optimism has been overrated, or perhaps, the statesmen who have continuously given us hope on the exercise were just being patriotic.
The claim by Ekweremadu appears to capture the reality on ground. There are forces arrayed against the success of the constitution review exercise and too much has been done to protect these forces.
There have been fingers pointing in the direction of the Presidency, which is believed to be uncomfortable with the decision to include certain items in the review agenda.
Some of such items are said to have been discovered to be good campaign materials which could boost the administration’s second term aspirations in 2011.
Can these forces alluded to by Ekweremadu be dislodged? Is there any hope for the success of the constitution review exercise and the electoral reform laws sent to the National Assembly by the president? Hope seems to diminish as some have said it would take a miracle to achieve success on that front.
The division already created between the Senate and the House of Representatives will continue to haunt the exercise for a long time to come. With time, we can only wait and watch how things would go.