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Law With Ehijeme: The Role Of The People In The Nigerian Polity

It is a people’s world. This is a simple concept yet so powerful that it cuts across every field in life. The engineer works on machines to make life easy for people. The footballer plays football to entertain people. The doctor practices medicine to enhance the health of people.

Every field of endeavour has the satisfaction of people as its ultimate end. However, when the people-centric reality of the world is disregarded, things don’t always work smoothly. Because people make the world work.

In the forum of politics, people-centricity has been so neglected that even the people that governance ought to be about don’t know anymore that governance is about them or that they even have the power to influence governance and government. Fortunately, this is not new. Thus, in the 1800s Lord Leonard Courntney stated,

“There is an imperialism that deserves all honour and respect — an imperialism of service in the discharge of great duties. But with too many it is the sense of domination and aggrandisement, the glorification of power. The price of peace is eternal vigilance.”

Taking from him, people-centric governance and government can only be achieved through constant vigilance of the people.

The Preamble to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria

The Constitution of Nigeria begins as follows:

“We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding and to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution.”

The beginning word of the preamble is “We.” It is a very important word. Some other important words and phrases are “firmly”, “resolved”, “promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice.” Everything contained in the constitution flows from a combination of these words and the others that make up the preamble. Regardless of what people say of how the 1999 Constitution came into being, this preamble shows that the most important piece of legislation in Nigeria is a product of the people of Nigeria. It shows that through this important piece of legislation, one of the things “We” want is good government, governance and welfare of all persons premised on the principles of freedom, equality and justice. Anything short of this is a deviation from “our” wishes as a people and must be kicked against. Yet how do we ensure that all we are getting are the things we wish for?

Get the facts

To get our wishes, we must stay informed as a people. We need to learn what legislations say and when we feel these legislations are obnoxious, we need to speak up against them. Nothing will change in Nigeria if we don’t change the way we approach politics. We must take our knowledge of politics beyond the pages of the tabloids and start questioning a lot of the things the media presents to us. We must arm ourselves with knowledge – hard facts – and we must be willing to teach one another what we have acquired.

Conclusion

Robert Frost is credited with writing the poem “The Road Not Taken.” It reads thus:

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Good governance does not come on a platter of gold. It must be asked for and worked towards with diligence and consistency. When all is said and done, what will matter most tomorrow is the boldness today to stand up and act towards the actualisation of “our” aspirations in the preamble of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

 


Feature image source: MasSolutions

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Ehijeme Egwaoje

Ehijeme Egwaoje is a budding lawyer. He runs a law firm called EIE Legal, and through it hopes to offer legal services to the public, improve justice for all through Public Litigation and enlighten the public with the knowledge of the law. You can reach him at ehijeme@gmail.com.

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