Merits & Demerits Of 1979 Constitution (Presidentialism) Of Nigeria – 2nd Republic
The constitution which came into effect on 1st October, 1979 was the first post-military constitution in Nigeria. The constitution was prepared and promulgated by the Murtala/Obasanjo Federal Military Government but not until after several futile attempts had been made by previous military governments to implement a transition programme.
Advantages Of the 1979 Constitution Of Nigeria
The 1979 presidential constitution had the following advantages.
- The 1979 Constitution was the first home-made constitution produced by Nigerians for the peculiar Nigerian conditions.
- By its provisions such as the introduction of Federal Character, the Presidential System of Government and the registration of Political Parties, the constitution actively encouraged national unity and integration.
- The introduction of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy showed the concern of government for the welfare of Nigerians.
- The provision of several checks and balances in the constitution (such as legislative approval of top government appointments) and appropriations ensured that the President did not become a civilian dictator.
- The recognition of the local government as the third level of government helped to bring government nearer to the people and, therefore, prevented the complete subordination of the local governments to state governments.
- The declaration of military coup as unconstitutional, at least, showed the commitment of Nigerians to deal with the problems of political instability and enthrone a system of democratic government.
- The rigid procedure for amending the constitution and creating new states helped to strengthen the political system.
- By establishing a code of conduct for public officers and the Public Complaints Commission, the constitution attempted to ensure probity and accountability in public service.
Disadvantages of the 1979 Constitution Of Nigeria
The demerits of the 1979 republican constitution of Nigeria may be summarized as follows:
- Although the preamble to the 1978 Constitution claimed that the constitution was made by the people of Nigeria, several provisions of the constitution did not reflect the interest of ordinary Nigerians.
For example, the constitution did not make it possible for Nigerians to enforce their social and economic rights. Nor did it provide for social welfare programmes such as free education, free health care and payment of unemployment benefits.
- The principle of federal character, though desirable in a multi-ethnic society Like Nigeria, did not stipulate that the best materials in each state should be appointed to public offices.
- The distribution of power in the constitution made the states to be subordinated to the Federal Government and this development negated the principle of federalism.
- The constitution granted too much power to the President. He determined the size of government and appointed ministers subject to confirmation only by the Senate. The ministers were responsible to him and he could dismiss them at will.
Members of federal executive bodies were also appointed by the President. These bodies included the Federal Electoral Commission, Federal Civil Service Commission, Federal Judicial Service Commission, National Defence Council and National Security Council.
Besides, he also appointed the Secretary to the Federal Government, the Head of the Civil Service, the Service Chiefs, the Inspector General of Police, Ambassadors, Permanent Secretaries, the Chief Justice, etc. He also served as Chairman of the Council of State, National Security Council and National Defence Council.
- The presidential system is too expensive to run considering the number of officials that have to be appointed by the President, Governors and Local Government chairmen.
- Given the high cost of electioneering campaigns for the offices of president, governors, local government chairmen, legislators, etc, political equality, as a cardinal principle of democracy, is compromised.
The best candidates may not necessarily emerge in elections that are becoming increasingly expensive.
- The constitution did not provide institutional and procedural arrangements for the implementation of the federal character principle.