A troubling question which may attract diverse answers is whether Nigeria is healthy – politically, socially and economically. This question if posed by an officious-by-stander to a member of the ruling caste is sure to be answered to effect that Nigeria is not only healthy, but great. In act of double-speak he may acknowledge that Nigeria is suffering serious ailments of corruption inflicted on her by some members of elite. They will also admit to sundry criminalities by the common people.
This question if posed to the ruled; that is the poor and enslaved masses would answer to effect that Nigeria has failed as it has been hijacked by special interests that do not consider public interest of any importance and most especially that they have been divested of their basic rights and freedoms since the bulwark against tyranny which is rule of law has been destroyed. In effect, the people of Nigeria (rulers and the ruled) are agreed that their country is diseased and therefore unhealthy. They are only not in agreement about the disease, but rather that the country suffers multiple diseases.
Nigeria condition now is similar to that of Britain between 17th and 18th century when the country suffered debilitating political crisis that rendered it ungovernable. What made Britain politically unstable was the succession of monarchs that claimed “divine right” of rulership starting from 1066 when William, the Duke of Normandy conquered Britain and foisted autocracy and feudalism on her. Before this conquest, Britain, even as a monarchy, had a history of embracing rule of law in its political and constitutional history. As far back as AD 100 – 400 after the Roman conquest and occupation as a colony when it was under the jurisdiction of Pax Romania with its civil law system, the country has been a country subject to law.
After Roman rule, Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes invaded the country and it became a melting pot of cultures, but still under a system of civil laws. But this happy situation was disrupted when William the Conqueror conquered Britain and introduced monarchy and feudalism. Feudalism endured until the restoration of Rule of Law as expressed in the Magna Carta in 1215. However, despite this great charter (Magna Carta) which prescribed rights for subjects, series of autocratic governance system was unfurled against the people by a succession of British monarchs. This autocratic system led to crisis which made parliament broke up into factions culminating into British Civil War of 1642.
Cromwell’s faction prevailed over the King’s faction thereby abolishing monarchy which it substituted with civil government headed by a Committee of Parliament with him as the Lord Protector of the Realm. But despite this overthrow of the British Monarchy during which King Charles I, was captured in 1647, later tried, convicted and beheaded, the turmoil snowballed into riveting crises that rendered the country ungovernable as the society was severely polarized and disunited.
As a result of this prolonged political crisis, Cromwell proclaimed in 1656 a “general fast to consider the cause of the continued distracted condition of Britain.” This National Day of fast and prayers was obligatory throughout British Empire. Do you see any similarity with Nigeria and her condition and the national pastime of Nigeria’s rulers’ obsession with prayers in churches and mosques for God’s intervention over Nigeria’s problems? In response to this Cromwellian proclamation, a former governor of then British colony of Massachusetts, Sir Henry Vane, opposed this proclamation and dismissed it as diversionary because, according to him, the political crisis was self-inflicted having been brought about by the introduction of feudalism and autocracy in the governance of Britain and its colonies.
In counterpoise to Cromwellian proclamation, Sir Vane published a political tract entitled “Healing Question” telling British rulers that their corrupt governance model which abolished the principles of civil and religious liberties was responsible for their troubles. He counselled that Britain can only come out of her troubles if she embraced constitutionality by adopting a method of constitution making by convention which constitution will restore to the people their cherished freedoms and rule of law.
Sir Vane declared that solution was not found in hypocritical national fasting/prayers but rather properly convoked National Convention whereby the people or their representatives would discuss national problems and proffer solutions. And the solution lies in the Convention resolving to restore people’s civil rights and freedoms. The restoration of these freedoms and rights entrenched in constitutional framework with civil government moderated by rule of law with a supreme judicature as the impartial arbiter. Sir Vane further declared that autocracy is an aberration as it is contrary to the rights and freedoms that inhere from natural rights, which rights if allowed “thrive, flourish and increase” for societal development whereas autocracy founded on private and selfish interests will not prosper but rather stifles and degenerates society. This political tract by Sir Henry Vane (now preserved as one of the Historical Documents of America) was ignored by Cromwellian usurpers like their Nigerian counterparts that consist in the military rulers and their civilian custodians from 1966 to date.
Cromwell, of course was frustrated out and eventually died unsung only be succeeded by a line of monarchs who rolled back the civil regime he enthroned. Britain underwent a prolonged political and constitutional crisis until the Glorious Revolution in 1680s when Parliament divested British Monarchy of all real powers and allowed it with only symbolic authority. Parliament having assumed supreme powers of the state also restored rule of law at least assuring the people of basic freedoms. On the other hand, the 13 British colonies endured British autocracy until series of despotic actions forced them to rebel and declare Independence in 1776. The template envisaged by Sir Vane in constitution making was embraced by the United States Independence leaders in convoking a convention which adopted the 1787 United States constitution that remains the world’s greatest political cum legal invention in modern history.
Can Nigerian rulers instead of indulging in endless prayers and fastings in churches and mosques for divine intervention to heal Nigeria’s diseased polity rather embrace Sir Henry Vane’s timeless prognosis and the prescribed remedy to afford Nigeria a healing? Like Oliver Cromwell of 17th Century Britain, Nigerian leaders are adept at prayers which only go to shift their laziness in thinking out solution to societal problems but rather shift their duty to God as an escape from the excoriation from the people. But we can see where Cromwell’s refusal to heed Sir Vane timely advice landed him and Britain in utter frustration and a century-long political and constitutional crisis.
Nobody disputes the fact that Nigeria is seriously sick and requires urgent socio-political remedy in form of constitutional reforms that dismantles the impregnable autocratic constitutional framework foisted on Nigeria by the soldiers that overthrew the state and ordained themselves rulers. It bastardized and turned institutions of state (legislature, judiciary and armed forces) into impregnable bars and impediments to Nigeria’s true national interests. If this remedy is not adopted, Nigeria will continue to lie on its sickbed which it has been consigned since 1966 until date. It is only when it embraces the open society method of organizing and restructuring the polity on objective republican jural postulates that the country will rebound from its death throes to life and the people will have cause to sing: Halleluiah; Free at last!
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