State Reconstruction in West Africa

The entire West Africa is a region plagued by inept and corrupt leadership, especially military lords who have been exploiting the power of the gun to sustain themselves in power and impose their own will on the people. The strategies are the same: a coup is staged to get rid of a legitimate civilian authority, the constitution is suspended and replaced with military decrees and draconian legislation, a self-succession programme is instituted, some people are hand-picked to craft a document that will end up as the'constitution', the electoral process is militarized and the ruling junta emerges as the head of the new civilian government.

In Nigeria, the so-called'Giant of Africa', all the structures built by General Ibrahim Badarnosi Babangida were tailored towards the actualization of his transmutation plot which eventually backfired in 1993, after the dictator had spent eight years in office. His successor,late General Sani Abacha also began his own process, appointed his cronies to craft a constitution and his selfsuccession plot was in its top gear when the bespectacled General met his doom. Nevertheless, the document he left behind was later imposed on the nation by his successor, General Abdusalami Abubakar on the eve of his departure, and this has formed the basis upon which the present day Nigeria is being administered.

 

Ghana also had her own experience under president Jerry Rawlings who came to power as a military ruler after a coup on December 31, 1981. He later transformed himself into a civilian president in L992 and was only tactically forced to leave twenty years after he bulldozed his way into the political scene of his country. President Gnasingbe Eyadema who came to power througir a coup int967 performed the same political experiment in Togo. Sergeant Samuel Doe became President in Liberia and Years after his ignominious exit, his country is still reeling in the mess he left behind.

The likes of Yayah Jameh of Gambia, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, tejan Kabbah of sierra Leone, Tandja Mamadou and other rulers in the region did not behave differently. More saddening was the case of cote d'Ivoire - a country that has experienc-ed absolute peace since it attained independence from France in 1960 - where General Guei and his co-coupists over- threw the democratic government of President Henri Koran Beddie in the year 2OOO.

Based on the fact that military lords cannot be subservient to civil authority, there has been the rule of force as opposed to the rule of law in these countries. As a matter of fact, maladministration is a common experience and the successive civilian governments have not fared better.

Therefore, from political imbroglios to economic collapse, social problems to ethno-religious upheavals, the people are groaning in pains.

The three-day Sub-Regional Conference on Constitution-alism and State Reconstmction in West Africa was an attempt by the cornmittee for the Defence of Human Rights(COUifl to proffer a workable solution to these myriad of problems that hive made citizenship a risky venture in the region. The Conference was held in Abuja, the capital City of Nigeria between September 13 and 15, 2O0O. It drew participants from human rights bodies and civil society groups, trade-unions, academic coirmunities professional associations as well as political parties in all the countries in the region. Resource persons, well groomed in the art of using the constitution as an instrument of social re-engineering were drawn from different parts of the globe. The opening remarks of senator Ibrahim Mantu, the Deputy senate President in Nigeria who was the chairman of the occasion and Professor Julius Ihonvbere set the tune for the exciting debates which characterised all the sessions. Ambassador yussuf Mamman, chairman of the Nigerian constitution Review committee was there to state his own case. Those present narrated the constitutional experiments in their countriesind the Eriterian situation became a point of reference. All the people present came into the conclusion that the process of constitution-making in the West African sub-region is fundamentally flawed.

A play staged by Optimom Arts Konsotiom, a Nigerian-based theatre outfit presented the sorry pictures ofthe theatre of absurdity in the sub-region and it all bogged down to one thing experimentation with disintegration. A conclusion was reaclied that the drift into abyss must be halted while a reconstruction exercise must start in earnest.

This book is the product of the parley. However, it must be established that the papers are not presented in this book in the order ofpresentation at the conference. Rather, they have been minimally edited and re-arranged to pave way for smooth reading.