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Need for constitutional review on fundamental objectives

By Ayodele Fagbohun

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The present contemptuous and carefree attitude of government  towards poor implementation of  some defined socio-political objectives like  education, health, etc otherwise and constitutionally termed as fundamental objectives and directives principles of  state policy calls for constant and urgent constitutional review.

Little wonder, there is a palpable noticeable and wanton dereliction,  criminal neglect of obligation of the government to the peace loving resilient and good country men and women.

If  this unpleasant, cheerless  and iniquitous scenario in almost all  facets  of our endeavours, be it in education, social service or in employment is left to fester and degenerate the nation  may adrift as it suffers instability,  holocaust  and great  turmoil.

By definition, social objectives, say like education,  health equality before the law, for instance for which a state is funded, that any government that worth’s its salt, is  instituted as a means for the  pursuit and achievement of these laudable ends.

Constitution is made for the purpose of declaring and  entrenching the ends, prescribing the structure  of government and procedure of  establishing  it. It should be underscored that social objectives should be amply defined and constitutional provisions are made and expressly enshrined for legal enforcement.

This innovation will  enable the practitioners of the constitution  to be more alive to their duties, be more serious, earnest and forthcoming in the science and practice of good and purposeful governance.

According to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, provisions of Nigerian constitution should  not be reduced to worthless platitudes and  hollow admonitions. But first and foremost, a constitution which is a legal document must contain provision that is justifiable and legally enforceable for practical purposes.

For instance, on education,  it provides as follows: The government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy. To this end, subject to the availability of  resources, the government shall provide compulsory and universal primary education, free and compulsory secondary education, and free  Adult Literacy  Programme.”

As at today, it is a matter for regret and a complete drawback on the economy of the country that this lofty provision in our constitution is a  mere paper tiger not worth the paper it was written upon, over some decades.

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The framers of the constitution probably out of sheer indolence and over-estimation of  an average Nigerian politician given to unpredictable and unscrupulous behavior. No Nigerian government deems it fit, on practical purpose or in stark reality venture to faithfully implement free education even  at the basic primary level let alone post-primary  public institutions and the most neglected  forgotten adult literacy programmes across the country.

It is galling that the  government more often than not, conveniently finds lazy recourse to empty, niggardly and pious phrase “unavailability of funds” which is common place in the  constitution.

The law court, the judiciary is not on the side of the people to enforce  provision of mass education and adult literacy scheme throughout the  federation if at all  to curb to the barest minimum, the waves of insecurity, youth restiveness, kidnapping, social gangsterism and other concomitant social vices around the country.   *

To our dismay, the few pragmatic fiery social activists and Non-Government Organisations  now their rank being unfortunately depleted in number owing to old age, death and adding salt to injury the  bizarre commitment of government to faithfully implement the sugarcoated electioneering campaigns.

Inspite of that, they strive to make usual  futile attempts in our law courts when eventually confronted with “fait accompli” of having no locus standi to prosecute care for free education, that it the inherent duty of any responsible  government committed to the welfare and security of the people, the common man on the street.

The second instance  concerns the freedom of the press: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of  the mass media shall at all times, be free to uphold the fundamental objectives in the constitution, and uphold the responsibility and  accountability of the government  to the people.”

To enable the press to effectively perform its statutory functions to the public. It must guarantee access to information and fundamental, individual rights and freedom enjoined in the  constitution.

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The earlier the press, Radio and TV should be insulated from the vagaries of partisan politics, petty imbroglio and  jejune sectarian violence, the better for the  entire country.

Equality, before the law should be open to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, cultural  and  religious considerations.

It must be reiterated that the social objectives as adumbrated in the constitution to say the least are too vague,  pedestrian and leisurely, to meet the aspirations, yearnings and expectation   of the people. This writer respectfully, for once subscribe to the laudable position to Are Afe Babalola a self made public man, erudite legal luminary and proprietor founder of a   private university in his home town,  Ado-Ekiti named after himself. Afe  Babalola university.

His long standing unique and strange position is that “our politicians in  Nigeria should not regard public office as an avenue to amass public funds and living and ostentations public life without work. This is in moral conflict and antithesis, as the Great Abraham Lincoln the former American president put it leading a life of pomp and pageantry and of dissolute, ease and pleasure.”

There is no sense  of discipline or urgency any where in the country since the debut of this on going presidential democracy in October, 1999.

Leaders and our public men and women  especially the men in staggering majority,  only pay lip service to patriotism and mere service even  to defraud fatherland. What  a pity! No national goals if  any at all, is submerged  with reckless abandon. Everybody is seen to operates by himself and  God for all!

This non-challant, and self seeking attitude to public office to raise the evil banner of corrupt practices and corruption in the country must be stamped out in both public and private lives to make life more decent for an average Nigerians.

The provision to abolish unemployment  and under-employment within  5 years, payment of  unemployment  relief allowances shall be introduced for a period of 5 years within which provision of full and gainful employment to the army of jobless graduates and school leavers on the un-employment relief roll.

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In the education sector, the constitution should expressly provide tuition, books and examinations’ fees free at all levels up to the age of 16 years.

On  completion  of  primary school, a child is too tender to be unemployable. He must proceed to other suitable level of entrepreneurial vocations for skills’ acquisition or further academic endeavours, free of charge as the case may be.

Provision of suitable literature for literate adult shall be  introduced to curb act  of loitering or lazying  around for criminal and unwholesome activities.

In the field of health,  there should be  provision for free medical services for all Nigerian citizens and cottage hospitals,  maternity, health clinics and maternity centre and dispensaries in all nooks and crannies for easy access to portable health care especially, the access to primary medical facilities is since  qua non to healthy living  in the country side.

In the sphere of politics,  constitution must make a radical departure from the gargantuan waste on overheads. It is high time  to embark on total overhaul in the radical delimitation of various constituencies, prune down the preponderate  numbers of elected lawmakers, elected governors and over flowing political appointees hanging around as perpetuate drains and cumbrances on the weak economy and calamitous bane of good government.

All things being equal, we must be duty bound to allow democracy to thrive and flourish in Nigeria. We must not lose sight of the dictum inherent in the rich value and  dividends of democracy. It allows more competent hands, the more the merrier in a bide to galvanize democracy as  practiced or obtainable in United Kingdom, US and other civilized democracies.

With speed and alacrity, the obnoxious phrase  “subject to availability  of  funds” must be expunged from the constitution which clearly precludes provision of free education  impossible across the country in spite of the huge resources outrageously wasted and  frittered away on frivolities and inanities

“Penny wise, pound foolish.”

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