Between the State and the Civil Society The Politics of Constitution Making in Nigeria
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Since 1999, there has been persistent agitation for constitutional reform in Nigeria. Pressures for constitutional change in Nigeria were inspired by two considerations. The first is the contention that Nigerian Constitution is fraught with several complications and contradictions, which limit its capacity to address the national question. The other consideration is that the Constitution failed to adequately address interests of less privileged social groups in Nigeria. This paper contends that for the controversy surrounding Nigerian Constitution to be settled, and a relevant and acceptable constitution fashioned, Nigeria needs to adopt a more inclusive, participatory and democratic process of constitution making. This paper is arranged in five sections. The paper begins with a theoretical exploration of the question: who should make the constitution? It argues that a synergy between the state and the civil society is a necessary condition for creating an acceptable and legitimate constitution. The next section reviews the history of constitution making in Nigeria. It demonstrates that the state has an overwhelming predominance over the civil society in the process of constitution making in Nigeria. The third section assesses the consequences of state-dominated constitution making in Nigeria. The fourth section addresses the current effort to review the 1999 Constitution and suggests a greater civil society involvement. The final section concludes the discussion.