Nigerian Youth and Social Transformation

Most contentious of the issues predating the present civilian arrangement was the issue revolving the nation's article of faith or its constitution.

Since Nigeria's independence, organs -empanelled by successive governments have crafted a number of constitutions. Each constitution has, to a large extent, been a product of political engineering embarked upon to protect the elite and further alienate the people'

Being so exclusive, they have failed to reflect the peculiar realities of the Nigerian society. worse still, they have also not drawn typical lesson or experiences from other countries.

 By virtue of the above reality,eachconstitution,the 1999 inclusive, have tended to be utterly legalistic, contextually Complex and predominantly ambiguous on a number of issues. Rather than act as a fillip for democratic consoiidation, the 1999 Constitution has turned out to become a corrientious document, which threatens the fragiie cohesion that exists among the various constituents.

 

These problems are no doubt traceable to the history of the document itself, which began in t994 with a National Constitutional Conference that was least democratic. Apart from the fact that delegates to the Conference were predominantly nominated, the few that were'elected' were selected under questionable circumstances where less than 5% of the total population voted.

If the circumstances of its emergence were questionable, the realities of its approval were even more so, as the document was greatly tinkered with by the Abacha and Abdulsalami  juntas respectively before the final handing over of the constitution to the incumbent civilian administration afier elections had been concluded. Evolving from this background is the fact that most Nigerians are either not aware of or are indifferent to it. Its basic provisions therefore are known only to the political elite.

Hence, barely four years into the current democratic experiment, the contradictions inherent in the1999 Constitution are still far from being resolved. In fact, each Day throws up new areas of controversy and disagreements. Attempts made by the presidency and the National Assembly at reviewing the document have equally been problematic.

It could be said with all modesty that less than 10% of the total population has seen a copy of the so-called 1999 Constitution. Worse stiil, )ess than S% of the students in the nation's tertiary institution have access to the Constitution.There is no gain saying the fact that Nigerian students have no sectoral input in the country's basic laws. It is therefore clear that to attempt a progress without a conscious effort to incorporate students into the democratic consolidation efforts particularly with regards to the constitution, is to create a booby trap for future democratic development. And students being the inheritors of whatever political institutions and structures of today, need to be groomed in the right ways of the demands of democratic re-construction through constitutional means.

 

The three-day workshop on Constitutionalism,Governance and nation building, was the second

attempt by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) under its Constitutional Club initiative to bring together students from tertiary institutions in Nigeria to brainstorm on the 1999 Constitution in a bid to making them (students) appraise their contributions to, and possible benefits from good governance and nation building. The workshop held at the Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan between October 9 and 12, 2oo2. It drew about one hundred and twenty (120) student participants from about fifty (So) tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The workshop received two well researched papers from Professors; Toye Olorode and Julius Ihonvbere, while the greater part of the two days were more of interactive sessions which allowed the students to dissect, as it were, Chapters 1 - 4 of the 1999 Constitution.

In the end, all the participants at the workshop agreed that the various inconsistencies, half truths and outright lies, as in the preambie of the 1999 Constitution could only be rectified through a genuine process-led, bottoh-up, inclusive and embracing constitution making initiative.