Folorunsho Abdulrazaq: Reclaiming His Glory In Kwara, By Eric Teniola
It was at the Constitutional Drafting Committee that I first met Alhaji Ganiyu Abdulrazaq. He is a very simple individual. A gentleman to the core with high intellect, he lives in the world of ideas. I met him at the time he was losing grip on the politics of Kwara State. Then, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) alias Olooye was emerging as the leader of the State’s politics. Before 1974, Alhaji Abdulrazaq was the leader, especially in Ilorin.
On March 29, the Nigerian Body of Benchers honoured one hundred and thirty-two outstanding lawyers in Abuja. It is a statutory body established by the Legal Practitioners Act of 1962, and responsible for the call to the bar of persons seeking to be legal practitioneers, as well as for disciplining erring lawyers. Among those honoured by the body was 91 year old Alhaji Abdul Ganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazaq.
He is number 460 on the Nigerian Legal Practitioners list and the first lawyer from Northern Nigeria. He was ‘called to bar’ on February 8, 1955 but enrolled to practice on April 1, 1955. Among his colleagues at that time were Mr. Justice Victor Orereko Ovie-Whiskey, who was number 437 called to bar on August 6, 1954 but enrolled on December 18, 1954. Chief Michael Adedapo Omisade was number 513 and called to bar on February 7, 1956 but enrolled on March 23, 1956. Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide was number 509, and called to bar on February 7, 1956 but enrolled on March 12, 1956, while Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya was number 535 of those called to bar on June 19, 1956 but enrolled on September 15, 1956. Chief Akin Olugbade was number 402, on November 24, 1953 but enrolled on January 2, 1954; Mr. Justice Francis Ome Nwokedi was number 459, on November 23, 1954 but enrolled on March 26, 1955.
Chief Nabo Bekinbo Graham Douglas (1926-2006), the tall imposing figure from Abonema, was number 493, and called to bar on June 28, 1955 but enrolled on December 3, 1955. Chief Graham Douglas was the second senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) after Chief Rotimi Alade Williams (1920-2005), while Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) was the third SAN. Chief Awolowo was number 168 of those called to bar on November 18, 1946 and enrolled on December 24, 1946. Justice Sir Louis Nwachukwu Mbanefo (1911-1977), the first lawyer from the old Eastern Region, was number 127; he was called to bar on November 18, 1935 and enrolled on August 13, 1937. Justice O. Shomolu was lawyer number 178, was called to bar on January 27, 1947 and enrolled on March 27, 1947. Justice Godfrey Charles Ubaka Agbakoba was lawyer number 303, was called to bar on June 6, 1951 and enrolled on August 7, 1951.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (1910-1966) was lawyer number 262, was called to bar on January 26, 1950 and enrolled on March 31, 1950. Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda (1923-2001) was number 339; he was called to bar on July 1, 1952 and enrolled on July 19, 1952. Chief Olu Akinfosile was lawyer 665, was called to bar on November 26, 1957 but enrolled on May 12, 1958.
It was a deserving honour for Alhaji Abdulrazaq, who because of his health was represented by his first son, Dr. Alimi. But equally deserving was the award given to him by the people of Kwara State, when they elected his son, Abdulraham Abdulrazaq as governor on March 9, which was a collective effort involving prominent people of the State, including Alhaji Lai Mohammed from Oro and others. The governor-elect is the managing director of First Fuels limited and an ex-student of Government College, Kaduna.
Nothing will please Alhaji Ganiyu Abdulrazaq as a proud father than for his son Abdulrahman to perform in terms of governance in Kwara State. There is a wall of difference between winning election and governing well. Elections make fundamental contributions to democratic governance. The main purpose of democracy is not only to win elections but to administer good governance. What the people of Kwara State want is not a mere change from the Saraki dynasty to the Abdulrazaq dynasty but a positive change of the lot of the majority for the better. The OTO’GE movement was a clarion call for good governance. The same forces that drove the Saraki dynasty out of power are still around and more reinforced and alert.
Between 1952 and the early 1970s, two important figures played prominent roles in the sub-region that we now call Kwara. They were Alhaji Abdulrazaq and Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin, who died in 2000 at the age of seventy-five. Chief Olawoyin was an ally of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Asiwaju of Offa. Then came Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the late Waziri of Ilorin. Thereafter came Chief Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo from Okeonigbin in Kwara State, who became a commissioner in the State, got elected as a senator in 1979 and governor in August 1983. He became a minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo. Then also came Chief Ayo Opadokun, the former Secretary of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), and the earlier mentioned Alhaji Lai Mohammed. With the gubernatorial election last month, the torch has now been passed to the Abdulrazaq family.
Public Service runs in the family of Abdulrazaq in Ilorin. Twenty years ago, the first daughter of the family, Khairat Abdulrazaq Gwadabe was elected a senator in Abuja.
Abdulrazaq himself entered politics as early as in 1952. Between 1957 and 1960, he was a member of Northern House of Assembly. He became the Nigerian Ambassador to Cote Ivoire between 1960 and 1962. Between 1962 and 1964, he was a cabinet minister and member of parliament.
Following the creation of Kwara State in 1967, he was appointed commissioner for finance and later for health and social welfare by Governor Femi David Lasisi Bamigboye (1940-2018). In 1975, General Murtala Mohammed appointed him as a member of the 50-man Constitutional Drafting Committee. He was later made the chairman of the sub-committee of the executive and the legislature. Other members of the sub-committee were Dr. E. Eleazu, Alhaji Sule Ganiyu, Dr. I. Ahmed, Dr. Kole Abayomi, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Dr. G. A. Odenigwe, Mr. S.G. Ikoku, Alhaji Shehu Malami and Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe.
It was at the Constitutional Drafting Committee that I first met Alhaji Ganiyu Abdulrazaq. He is a very simple individual. A gentleman to the core with high intellect, he lives in the world of ideas. I met him at the time he was losing grip on the politics of Kwara State. Then, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) alias Olooye was emerging as the leader of the State’s politics. Before 1974, Alhaji Abdulrazaq was the leader, especially in Ilorin. In 1976, I wanted to write a book on him, however he insisted that I should not, pleading that “my story is not yet over”. Because of Dr. Saraki’s dominance in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) at that time, Alhaji Abdulrazaq opted for the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) of Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim in 1979. It was at the Constitutional Drafting Committee that he served the nation best.
He seconded the bill on the presidential system of government in the Constituent Assembly. Nothing will please him today than seeing his son, Abdulraham being sworn-in as governor of Kwara state on Wednesday, May 29. The inauguration will no doubt bring back his glory in Kwara State.
On December 16, 1977, Alhaji Abdulrazaq gave me a copy of his speech which he read at the first reading of the bill on the Presidential System of Government at the Constituent Assembly. I hereby reproduce his speech of that day:
“I announce that I am Alhaji Abdul Razak (CDC). Mr. Chairman, I have a triple role to play in this Constituent Assembly. Firstly, as the seconder to the Federal Republic of Nigeria Draft Constitution Bill ably moved by my esteemed and learned friend, Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams, senior advocate of Nigeria, it is my duty to assist actively in promoting, sponsoring and piloting the Bill through its passage into law. Secondly, Mr. Chairman, as the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Executive and Legislature assists in promoting, sponsoring and piloting the Bill through its passage into law. Further, Mr. Chairman, as the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Executive and Legislature of the CDC, it is my duty to deal with the chapters of the Bill on Executive and Legislature by way of explanation, clarification and education. It is also my duty to answer criticisms levelled against those parts of the Bill by those honourable members of this august Assembly and give reasons why the CDC Draft Constitution as it is before you came to be so.
“Thirdly, Mr Chairman, as a CDC member of this august Assembly, I should play the role of putting a bridge of understanding between the CDC and the thinking of this Assembly.
“Sir, the CDC was guided by, one, the recent history of this country, particularly its traumatic experiences from 1964. Secondly, the public debate in this country on the causes of our failures under the 1963 Constitution. Thirdly, we were also influenced by over three hundred memoranda submitted by the public of this country to the CDC. Fourthly, the absolute desire of every member of the CDC to make a Constitution that will promote unity, solidarity, happiness and prosperity of all Nigerians and, fifthly, the address of the late Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed at the Opening Session of the CDC on the 18th of October, 1975. It is contained in the copy of the Draft Constitution, which is given to every member of this august Assembly. It is a consideration of all these five factors which have combined to produce the Draft Constitution on which we now deliberate.
“The opponents and critics of executive presidency can be classified into six groups. The first group or category I would call copyists. They are those who charge that CDC Draft Constitution is a copy of the American Constitution, which we seek to transplant into Nigerian soil. They charge that it is foreign and that the CDC did not show its advantages over the Westminster system, which has been tried, though unsuccessfully in this country. They argue that it is more sensible to deal with the devil we know, rather than to go into the unknown, into that is alien to our tradition.
“My answer to the copyists is that a constitutional system is judged by its utility and intrinsic value to the particular country to which is applied. Comparison of Westminster and the American systems is inept and futile because they both belong to different environments. I aver, Mr. Chairman, that the Draft Constitution Bill before you is not a copy of the American type. There are important differences, which reflect our history and experiences; differences which are suitable to Nigeria but not to America; differences provide for the future stability of Nigeria. The Westminster model has been tried and failed in Nigeria and, as I have already shown, conflicts of power between prime minister and the ceremonial head of state is a permanent feature of Westminster system in Nigeria, no less in some African countries. Nigeria needs a Constitution which will ensure our economic, political and social development. The Westminster model, which separates the head of government from the head of state, if replanted into Nigeria, would continue to yield the seeds of instability and national disunity under which our national aspirations for development cannot be achieved. Under the executive presidential system, there is little or no conflict of power. The president would run the day-to-day affairs of government in a more efficient manner.
“Mr. Chairman, the second category of critics of the executive Presidential system are those I would call dictators. They see the executive president as a dictator, a master, a pilotical Giant Alakuku who is out to trample on helpless Nigerians and grind them into powder and make them putty in his political hands. They see him as a head of state, head of government, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, and a person who is vested with such enormous powers as the power to declare arbitrarily a state of emergency, the power to veto Bills, the power to spend money the way he likes, the power to appoint the chief justice in order to undermine the judiciary, the power to appoint his cronies as ministers and to other political offices and the power to use the Army and the Police the way he likes.
“The dictators further argue that the executive presidential system makes for overcentralisation of administration; that the checks and balances provided in the CDC Draft are insufficient to prevent a dictator from emerging. Mr. Chairman, my answer to all these allegations and arguments is that they are, in my humble submission, naive and fanciful in the extreme. A careful study of the text of the CDC Draft Constitution will disprove without effort the arguments and false conclusions of the dictators. The presidential power to declare a state of emergency in the country and the power to appoint the chief justice of Nigeria, ministers or members of the various commissions cannot be exercised and, I repeat, cannot be exercised, without the approval of the accredited elected representatives of the people in the National Assembly.
“The president, therefore, is in no way able to undermine the independence of the judiciary nor can he emasculate the legislature nor destroy public accountability. The president has no power to veto Bills. Any person who sees the president as commander-in-chief of the Army using the Army and the Police to suppress the legislature and the country is closing his eyes to the realities of the Nigerian situation. Mr. Chairman, sir, the greatest deterrent to dictatorship in Nigeria is our national experience of military coup de’tat and a decade of military administrations. It will be a very long time before the practical political experience acquired in the past decade by our soldiers can be wiped out of their system. The good people of Nigeria have learnt a lesson that their uprising against a budding dictator can be rewarded with a corrective military regime.
“Consequently, sir, any civilian president who aspires to be a dictator by trampling over the rights of the people, by acting against this Constitution, must remember that the military coup of 1966 can be forced by the people to repeat itself.
Mr. Chairman, the third category of opponents of the executive presidential system are those I choose to call the socialists. They argue that executive power was provided in the Draft Constitution for the executive president and the governor by the CDC in order that the neo-colonialist bourgeois CDC members may through the president feather their own nests by securing their appointments as his ministers. Doctors Segun Osoba and Y. Bala Usman put it in their Minority Report laid before this Assembly, that the ministers, commissioners and other members of the various commissions and corporations thus appointed would become sycophants and lackeys of the executive president. Such a criticism of the Draft Constitution deserves no more than a summary dismissal to impute such improper motives on a body such as the CDC which did not take part in its own selection is uncharitable and it borders on impudence.
“Mr. Chairman, the fourth class of opponents and critics of executive presidency are those I call the inter-party constituents. They argue that if different political parties control the legislature and the presidency, there would be violent clashes between the legislature and the presidency to the extent that instability would set in, paving the way for military coup de’tat or possibly swallowing of the legislature by the presidency. Mr. Chairman, only yesterday, the front page of the New Nigerian newspaper carried a banner headline to the effect that the executive presidential system causes military coup de’tat. My answer to that is this: Was it the executive presidential system which caused the Nigerian coup de’tat of 1966? This type of argument, sir, closes its eyes to the provision of the Draft Constitution which provides on the one hand that the president cannot dissolve the legislature, as he could do as he wishes in the case of Westminister system, and on the other hand that the legislature cannot sack the president unless on impeachment for misconduct. Indeed, a situation in which different political parties control the legislature and the presidency augurs well for the nation because one will be a better watchdog of the other; one will need the other, and a co-operation of the two for the benefit of the nation will be engendered.
Chairman, the fifth category of opponents of executive presidential system are the ones I call the plotters. They argue that the present military government, through subterranean influences, conspired with some CDC members or their outside patrons to impose executive presidential system on the nation in order to preserve and consolidate their interest. The executive president, who is given these powers, together with the vast resources of the nation, will not only appoint his co-conspirators as members of his cabinet but will also be in a position to buy off the legislature and the judiciary. And that having been elected, the executive president will do away with the party which nominated him and rule arbitrarily, as he wishes. This type of argument is being surreptitiously peddled among the uninitiated and the gullible, even in the corridors of the Constituent Assembly. The only adjective which best describes this type of argument is unparliamentary and I will not utter it before this august Assembly. Suffice it to say that the present military administration has so demonstrated its sincerity for the Army to go back to the barracks and to return the country to civilian regime. So, the plotters’ argument does not hold water.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, sir, the sixth and the last category of critics and opponents of the presidential system I call the federalists. They argue that the power and the functions of the federal government is too large when compared with the powers and functions of the States, and consequently an executive president who wields such large powers will crush the States and turn them into mere provinces of a de facto unitary government. Their argument can be simply answered by saying that the nature of executive president does not depend on the division of powers between the federal government and the states. An executive president is still an executive president whatever power you give to the federal government. He is limited to the powers given to the federal government.”
Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.