Perspective | Was the 1999 Constitution drafted under gunpoint?

By Tony Nnadi

In response to a recent question on whether the much vilified 1999 Constitution was drafted at gunpoint or some influence, I write the following.

Not at gunpoint at all but for a huge fee and other benefits. Shortly after his second Coup in 1975 (he was behind the July 29 1966 Coup) butcher called Murtala Mohammed commissioned Rotimi Williams in 1975, with a Set of Written Instructions, to Draft for him a Constitution that will permanently retain for the Victorious Side in the 1967-1970 War, the humongous benefits of their Victory. Rotimi William went out in search of experts in what we call Legal Draftsmanship who will help him execute the Drafting Contract. A number of Lawyers who were first approached by Rotimi Williams, upon seeing the aforementioned Written Instructions from Murtala, turned down the mouth-watering Payment offer attached to the Drafting Task, knowing what evil such a Constitution would wrought. One of the Lawyers who turned down that dirty job was Prince Tamimose Bankole-Oki (SAN).

It was in this setting and circumstance that Rotimi Williams found a willing ally in one University Law Lecturer at the Faculty of Law in the University of Lagos, by name, Ben Nwabueze who happily joined the task, and almost singlehandedly drew up the Draft.

Just as the Drafting Task was being rounded off, the butcher who commissioned the heinous task was murdered on the 13th Of February 1976, in a Coup that threw up his Second-In-Command, Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria’s Head of State.

In 1977, Obasanjo Set up Constituent Assembly which he handed the Williams/Nwabueze Draft as Working Paper. That Draft was railroaded by Obasanjo through the 1977 Constituent Assembly to emerge as the 1979 Constitution. Many of the important adjustments made to the Original Draft by the Constituent Assembly were expunged by Obasanjo via September 21, 1978 Nationwide Broadcast and so what emerged as 1979 Constitution was essentially an act of the Supreme Military Council over which Obasanjo presided, but that Constitution began with the lie that “We the People” enacted our Damnation.

It was this 1979 Constitution that was exhumed in 1999 by Abdusalam Abubakar and transmogrified wholesale into what we now call the 1999 Constitution (following the sudden demise of Sani Abacha in 1998) again with the egregious Falsehood that “We The People” enacted our Damnation.

Every single calamity we lament today in Nigeria, have their roots in the Rogue 1999 Constitution being itself a carrying forward of the 1979 Constitutional Heist.

Therefore, the answer to your Question is an astounding Yes and the Tragedy of the situation is that he was repeatedly offered the Opportunity to help Take Down the 1999 Constitution by the MMN Alliance between 2007 and 2014 National Conference, he not only turned down those opportunities, but he went on to stand with the Promoters of Unitary Nigeria at the time in 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan put his life on the line to revisit the damaged Foundations of the Defunct Federation of Nigeria.

The onerous Task of Filing and Leading the Prosecution of the 2007 Suit challenging the Legitimacy of the 1999 Constitution and which also sought the Termination of its Operation, at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, fell on me, at the request of the Plaintiffs that included Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief C C Onoh, Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, Yerima Shettima, Ralph Uwazuruike and Dokubo Asari (later joined by Prof Wole Soyinka, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Prince Tanimose Bankole Oki(SAN), and Fred Agbeyegbe at the Lagos Division of the same Federal High Court).

  • Nnadi is an Attorney, Constitutional Law Expert, Co-Convener of Movement for New Nigeria and Secretary-General of Lower Niger Congress.