Emeagwali's discussion of the 1995 Draft Constitution for
Nigeria. The interview took place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in
Washington DC on
December 5, 1998.
EMEAGWALI: The most powerful way to stop the military from overthrowing
elected governments is to punish those who seized power in the past. We
have decriminalized treason.
If we grant immunity to those that suspended
our earlier constitutions then we will be expected to grant immunity to
those that will suspend the proposed constitution. Suspending the
constitution and ruling by military decree has brought chaos, confusion and
lawlessness in Nigeria. We cannot accept this type of conduct from past and
future military leaders.
We have to make coup plotting an unprofitable exercise. We should
confiscate the assets and cancel the pensions of military officers who are
clearly proven under a judicial process to have participated in coups or
are enjoying a lifestyle that is inconsistent with their official salary.
How can a general on $200 a month own a brand new Mercedes Benz and live in
a million dollar mansion? Former corrupt and abusive heads of state have
the freedom to live in Nigeria, travel with Nigerian passport and enjoy
their wealth, with impunity. What will discourage an ambitious soldier from
declaring himself the new president of Nigeria?
Strengthening and creating an independent judiciary will make it difficult
to overthrow elected government as well as reduce election frauds.
We should urge the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Commonwealth of
Nations, and the United Nations to refuse to recognize any military
government that emerges in the future. Other nations should be encouraged
and authorized to arrest and imprison coup planners and their collaborators
whenever they travel abroad.
Nigerians living abroad could bring human rights charges against abusive
dictators. Abacha received a strong opposition from Nigerian-Europeans and
Nigerian-Americans and retaliated by eliminating dual citizenship in the
1995 draft constitution. Augusto Pinochet was arrested because his accusers
Similarly, Nigerians abroad can set the legal
groundwork to arrest a former Head of State who ventures into Europe or the
United States for medical treatment.
Most importantly, every Nigerian has the responsibility to defend or fight
for the restoration of our constitution. School curriculums should include
civics education that includes an understanding of social responsibility to
fight against corruption and suspension of the constitution.
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