Advantages & Disadvantages of MacPherson Constitution of 1951

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Advantages and Disadvantages of MacPherson Constitution of 1951

Sir John Macpherson, became the new Governor of Nigeria after Richards adequate arrangement not to repeat the mistake that led to the opposition and criticism that greeted Richards Constitution.

Sir John Macpherson
Sir John Macpherson

So, in March, 1949, a select committee of the legislative councii was set up to examine problems that may likely face the introduction of a new constitution. The committee agreed that a wide measure of consultation with the people right from the village level, should be followed. Also, this was to be followed by a general conference, membership of which would involve all unofficial members of the legislative council and representatives of each regional council.

Macpherson Constitution was assumed to be homemade.

Merits of the MacPherson Constitution of 1951

The McPherson Constitution had the following advantages.

  • Nigerians were actively involved in making the constitution. This was not like the situation in the past when constitution were imposed on the country.
  • The constitution provided for the decentralization of power to the different regions.
  • The House of Representatives and the Regional legislature were given wide powers to make laws for the good of the country. They were no longer mere debating houses.
  • The creation of a House of Chiefs in the Western Region demonstrated a good understanding of the importance of traditional institutions in the administration of the region.
  • For the first time in the political history of the country, Nigerian were appointed as ministers by both central and regional governments.
  • The appointment of a Speaker to preside over the affairs of the House of Representatives indicated a recognition of the need for the independence of the legislature.
  • The constitution addressed the problem of revenue allocation between diiferent levels of government.
  • The establishment of the Public Service Commission showed that the government attached much impertance to the appointment, discipline and welfare of civil servants.

Demerits of the MacPherson Constitution of 1951

The disadvantages of MacPherson constitution included the following:

  • The widespread discussions preceding the promulgation of the Macpherson constitution further polarised Nigerians along regional and ethnic lines.

For example, while the Western Region insisted, at the General Conference, that the Yoruba people in Ilorin Province of the Northern Region (that is, Offa and Igbomina) should be returned to the region and, that the Igbo in Benin and Warri Provinces should be returned to the Eastern Region, the North held the view that the existing regional boundaries should be sacrosanct. The constitution, however, upheld the position of the North but the debate about whether the decision was the proper one would not abate even today.

  • The constitution failed to provide for the emergence of truly national political parties. The three main parties (the NPC, NCNC and AG) relied mainly on tribal support to win elections. They established themselves as champions of tribal and regional interests.
  • The Council of Ministers was not a true cabinet as the ministers had no effective control over their ministries. Moreover the ministers allegiance was not to the central government but to the regions, which nominated them for appointment.
  • The absurd form of representation in which members of the House of Representatives were at the same time members of the Regional Assemblies encouraged divided loyalty.
  • The composition of the House of Representatives in which the Northern Region had about 50 percent of the total seats implied that there would always be a northern majority in the House. This translated into a perpetual northern control of the central government.
  • The provision that laws made by the House of Representatives could override any law made by a regional House of Assembly encouraged centralization and unnecessary ihterference by the central government in regional affairs.
  • The use of indirect election to elect members of the regional and central legislatures implied that those bodies would be subordinate to local powerful interests.
  • Because service in the regions appeared more attractive than at the center, the leaders of the main political parties were content with staying at home in their regions where “the exercise of power and patronage was unfettered”.
  • The constitution made no provision for the appointment of a Prime Minister to coordinate government activities at the centre. As such, the Council of Ministers was headed by a non-political Governor who could not weld together the various divergent tendencies into a harmonious policy-making body.
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