A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e constitute, what the entity is. When these principles are written into a single collection or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to comprise a written constitution.

Constitution concern different levels of organizations from sovereign state to companies and unincorporated association. A treaty which established an international organization is also its constitution, in that it would define how that organization is constituted. Within states, whether sovereign or federated, a constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are made by whom, some constitution, especially written constitutions, also act as limiters of state power, by establishing lines which a state’s rulers cannot cross, such as fundamental rights. 
The first republic was the republican government of Nigeria between 1963 and 1966, governed by the first republic constitution.
            Features of the 1963 constitution
Both the 1960 (independence) constitution and the 1963 (Republic constitution were the same). The only difference were the provision for ceremonial President (1963) in place of the queen of England (1960) and the judicial appeals system which terminated with the supreme court (1963) rather than the judicial committee of the British privy council (1960).           
This was the first indigenous constitution of Nigeria. It had been noted earlier that Nigeria has never had a constitution. The long title alone defeats the very definition of a constitution. You do not enact a constitution by an Act of parliament or a Decree. It is the other way round. It is a constitution whether written or unwritten, that creates the basis of the political existence of the senate or fashions the political, social and economic institutions and related structures necessary for maintenance of an orderly society. It is a Constitution that creates the parliament of any nation, alongside other arms of government and defines the limit of its powers. A Constitution to worth the name, must be made by the people in a political or constitutional convention or conference and must thereafter ratify, adopt or even reject the draft where necessary. A constitution charter remains a draft until ratified by the people for whom it was designed vide a referendum or some other positive popular act showing adoption or ratification. A constitution properly so-called can therefore not be decreed into existence no matter the degree of the military force which any military junta wields. In the same vein, no parliament can enact into law a constitution that is supposed to have created it in the first place. That enactment is anything but a constitution. Therefore, all the order-in-council of the British parliament  purporting to enact constitutions for Nigeria were theatricals bordering on absurdity. The 1963 republican constitution which the Nigeria parliament purpoted to enact in 1963 following the earlier colonial considerations on the subject is no different (it remains an Act of Parliament and not a constitution). The material different between the 1960 and 1963 constitution is that the latter (1963 constitution) declared Nigeria a “Republic” and changed the designation of the Governor- general to President. The 1960 constitution has 154 sections and 11 chapters where the 1963 constitution has 159 sections 12 chapters. Section 157 (1) of the 1963 Republic Constitution is unique in that it specifically named an individual to be President of Nigeria. It provides; Nnamdi Azikiwe shall be deemed to be elected President of the Republic on the date of the commencement  of this constitution (in recognition of his monumental contribution to the political emancipation and independent of Nigeria). With Military intervention, the operation of the constitute was interrupted, knocked into a comatose state and finally cannibalized by a litany of military decrees that heralded the military take-over of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on January 15, 1966. Section 1(1) of the constitution (suspension & modification/ Decree No.1 of 1966 provides as follows: “the provisions of the constition of the federation mentioned in schedule 1 of this Decree are hereby suspended”. The constitution (suspension and modification) (no.5)  Decree of 1966 abolished the federal structure of Nigeria and created what it called “Republic of Nigeria” and “National Military Government in place of the Federal Military Government, the various autonomous regime were abolished. Groups of provinces were decreed in their place. The Head of state became known as the “Head of the National Military Government” Major General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi Ironsi who headed that government as the supreme commander of the Nigeria armed forces obviously meant well for the country. He sought by this move to stern a plethora of mutually antagonistic forces threatening to fear the country apart. But he misjudged the socio-cultural and hate-filled political chemistry of the various antagonistic forces locked, as it were, in a grim titanic battle of wits, gub, life and death (it was a hydra-headed canker-worm that permeated the country’s armed forces and made nonsense of the otherwise non-political institution of national defence. The North called Ironsi’s move evidence of “Ibo domination”. There were demonstrations and riots in parts of the northern group of provinces. Unfortunately, Ironsi destroyed himself by embarking on an ill-advised national-wide tour to appease the Northerners and convince them that he was not a tribalist. It did not take time before T. Y. Danjuma (on 29th July, 1966, he was then an army captain). led a band of dissident Northern soldiers to arrest the supreme commander at Ibadan and killed him. Said he, “I arrested Ironsi and Fajuyi in a small family lounge where they were. No problems. We took the crocodile and tore it open. There was nothing inside it, just mere stuffing” in an interview he granted Newswatch, November 2, 1992. The counter-coup that ushered in Lt. colonel Yakubu Gowon (now a retired General who ruled Nigeria from 29th July 1966 to 19th (29th) July 1975) as new head of state was led by northern officers. By the constitution (suspension and modification (no9) Decree 1966. Gowon changed the political structure of Nigeria once more to a federation. Section 2(1) of the said decree provides; “As from the appointed day the military government of Nigeria shall again be known as the Federal military government” (the Decree restored autonomy to the region and re-established regional public service commissions, Judiciary and other similar bodies). The crisis of confidence between the Eastern region and the Northern region worsened with the assasination of Ironsi. The Eastern Regional Military Government Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu found himself at odds with Gowon over the assassination of Ironsi by Northern soldiers and the killing of the Ibos in the Northern part of the country. There was an astrosphere of insecurity and bitterness in the Eastern part as well as the question of reparation thereto. Ojukwu, the then military Governor of Eastern region, declared that the basis of the Nigerian unity and nationhood was no longer there. A 30-month civil war broke out between Nigeria and secessionalist state of Biafra (lasted from 6th July, 1967 to 12th January, 1970) the rest is now history. Gowon was removed in a coup d’etat as head of the Federal Military Government on 29th July 1975 by Brigadier (later General) Murtala Mohammed and his colleagues. Gowon and Murtala Muhammad had variously ruled the country vide a military oligarchy which had a complex command system and permitted of no disputation of orders or command. At the apex of each military government was the military Head of state and Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (this was in contrast to Ironsi’s title of Supreme commander of the Armed forces of Nigeria). There was also a Supreme Military Council (SMC) composed of top officers of the army, air force, the Navy and the Police. This body wielded both the legislature  and executive powers. Here, the legislature and executive powers of the federal government were merged, with the judiciary as a distant, helpless third arm of government ( a very defunction of totalitarianism as opposed to constitutionalism. Directly below the supreme military council was the federal executive council. It was composed of federal commissioners or ministers who headed the various federal ministries. Murtala Muhammad, now a General, was assassinated on 13th of February, 1976 in an unsuccessful comp d’etat to overthrow his government. The leader of that attempted coup d’etat was Lt. Colonel Bukar Suka Dimka, a young army officer from the country’s middle Belt. With the death of General Muhammad, the mantle of military political leadership of Nigeria fell on the shoulders of the former chief of staff, supreme Headquarters, Brigadier (later a General) Olusegun Obasanjo. The latter ruled from February 14, 1976 to Oct 1979, when he handed over power to democratically elected civilian provident, Alhaji shehu Shagari. The civilian president had to operate according to the provisions of the 1979 “Constitution”. The “Constitution” was subjected to a series of military decree. Major general Muhammad Buhari (retired) overthrew the civilian government of president Shehu Shagari on December 3, 1983 and moved quickly to suspend the operation of certain parts of the 1979 “Constitution” aided by his able deputy, Brigadier (later, Major -General) Tunde Idiagbon.

Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960 the period between this date and January 15, 1966, when the first military coup d’etat took place, is generally referred to as the First Republic, although the country became a republic on October 1, 1963. After a plebiscite in February 1961, the Northern cameroons, which before then was administered separately within Nigeria, voted to join Nigeria.
At independence Nigeria had all the trappings of a democratic state and was indeed regarded as a beacon of hope for democracy. It had a Federal Constitution that guaranteed a large measure of autonomy to three (later four) regions, it operated a parliamentary democracy modeled along British lines that emphasized majority rule; the Constitution included an elaborate bill of rights; and unlike other African states it adopted one party system immediately after independence, the country had a functional, albeit regionally based, multiparty system.
These democratic trappings were not enough to guarantee the survival of the republic because of certain fundamental and structural weakness. Perhaps the most significant weakness was the disproportionate power of the north in the federation. The departing colonial authority had hoped that the development of national politics would forestall any sectional domination of power, but it underestimated the effects of a regionalized party system in a Country where political power depended on population. The major political parties in the republic had emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s as regional parties whose main aim was to control power in regions. The Northern people’s Congress (NPC) and the Action Group (AG) which controlled the Northern Region and the Western Region, respectively, clearly emerged in this way.
The National council of Nigeria citizens (NCNC), which controlled the Eastern Region and the Midwestern Region (created in 1963), began as a nationalist party but was forced by the pressures of regionalist to become primarily an Eastern party, albeit with strong pockets of support elsewhere in the federation. These regional parties were based upon, and derived their main support from, the major groups in their regions: NPC (Hausa/Fulani), AG (Yoruba), NCNC (Igbo). A notable and more ideologically-based political party that never achieved significant power was Aminu Kano’s radical northern Elements progressive union (NEPU), which opposed the NPC in the north from its Kano base.
There were also several political movements formed by minority groups to press their demands for separate states. These monitory parties also doubled as opposition parties in the region and usually aligned themselves with the party in power in another region that supported their demand for a separate state.
Ethnic minorities therefore enabled the regional parties to extend their influence beyond their regions.
In the general election of 1959 to determine which parties would rule in the immediate postcolonial period, the mayor ones won majority of seats in their regions, but none emerged powerful enough to constitute a national government. A coalition government was formed by the NPC and NCNC, the former having been greatly favored by the departing colonial authority. The coalition provided a measure of north-south concensus that would not have been the case if the NCNC & AG had formed a coalition. Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC) became the Governor General (and President after the country became a republic in 1963), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (NPC) was named prime minister, and Obafemi Awolowo (AG) had to settle for leader of the opposition. The regional premiers were Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region, NPC), Samuel Akintola (Western region, AG) Michael Okpara (Eastern region, NCNC), and Dennis Osadebey (Midwestern Region, NCNC).
Among the difficulties of the republic were efforts of the NPC, the senior partner in the coalition government, to use the Federal government increasing power in favour of the Northern Region. The balance rested on the premise that the Northern Region had the political advantage deriving from its preponderant size and population, and the two Southern Regions (initially the Eastern Region and the Western Region) had the economic advantage as sources of most of the exported agricultural products, in addition to their control of the Federal bureaucracy. The NPC sought to redress Northern economic and bureaucratic disadvantages. Under the first National Development plan, many of the federal government’s projects and military establishments were allocated to the north. There was an affirmative action” program by the government to recruit and train northerners, resulting in the appointment of less qualified northerners to federal public service position, many replacing more qualified southerners. Actions such as these served to estrange the NCNC from its coalition partner. The reactions to the fear of northern dominance, and especially the steps taken by the NCNC to counter the political dominance of the north, accelerated the collapse of the young republic.
The southern parties especially the embittered NCNC, had hoped that the regional power balance could be shifted if the 1962 census favoured the south. Population determined the allocation of parliamentary seats on which the power of every region was based because population figures were also used in allocating revenue to the regions and determining the viability of any proposed new region, the 1962 census was approached by all regions as a key contest for control of the federation. This contest led to various illegalities inflated figures, electoral violence, falsification of results, manipulation of population figure, and the like. Although the chief census officer found evidence of more inflated figures in the southern regions, the northern region retained its numerical superiority. AS could be expected, southern leaders rejected the results, leading to a cancellation of the census and to the holding of a fresh census in 1963. This population count was finally accepted after a protracted legal battle by the NCNC and gave the Northern Region a population of 29, 758,975 out of the total of 55,620,268. These figures eliminated whatever hope the southerners had of ruling the Federation.
Since the 1962-63 exercise, the size and distribution of the population remained volatile political issues (see population, ch.2). In fact, the importance and sensitivity of a census count have increased because of the expanded use of population figures for revenue allocation, constituency delineation, allocations under the quota system of admissions into schools and employment, and the sitting of industries and social amenities such as schools, hospitals and post offices. Another census in 1973 failed, even though it was conducted by a military government that was less politicized than its civilian predecessor. What made the 1973 census particularly volatile was the fact that it was part of a transition plan by the military to hand over power to civilians. The provisional figures showed an increase for the states that were carved out of the former Northern region with a combined 51.4 million people out of a total 79.8 million people. Old fears of domination were resurrected and the stability of the federation was again seriously threatened. The provisional result were finally canceled in 1975. As of late 1990, no other census had been undertaken, although one was scheduled for 1991 as part of the transition to civilian rule. In the interim, Nigeria has relied on population project based on 1963 census figures.
Other events also contributed to the collapse of the first republic. In 1962, after a split in the leadership of the AG that led to a crisis in the Western Region, a state of emergency was declared in the region, and  the federal government invoked its emergency powers to administer the region directly. These action result in removing the AG from regional power. Awolowo, its leader, along with other AG leaders, were convicted of treasonable felony. Awolowo’s former deputy and premier of the Western Region formed a new party. The Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP), that took over the government. The federal coalition government also supported agitation of minority groups for a separate state to be excised from the Western Region. In 1963 the Midwestern region was created.
By the time of the 1964 general elections, the first to be conducted solely by Nigerians,  the country’s politics had become polarized into a competition between two opposing alliances. One was the Nigeria National Alliance made up of the NPC and NNDC; the other was the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) composed of the NCNC, the AG, and their allies. Each of the regional parties openly intimidated its opponents in the campaigns. When it became clear that the neutrality of the federal electoral commission could not be quaranteed, calls were made for the army to supervise the election. The UPGA resolved to boycott the elections. When election were finally held under conditions that were not fee and were unfair to opponents of the regional  parties, the NCNC was returned to power in the East and Midwest, while the NPC kept control of the North and was also in a position to form a federal government on its own. The western Region became the “theater of war” between the NNDP (and the NPC) and the AG- UPGA. the rescheduled regional elections late in 1965 were violent. The federal government refusal to declare a state of emergency, and the military seized power on January 15, 1966. The first Republic had collapsed.
Scholars have made several attempts to explain the collapse. Some attribute it to the inappropriateness of the political institutions and processes and to their not being adequately entrenched under colonial rule, whereas others hold the elites responsible. Lacking a political culture to sustain democracy, politicians failed to play the political game according to established rules. The failure of the elite appears to have been a symptom rather than the cause of the problem. Because members of the elite lacked a material base for their aspirations, they resorted to control of state offices the resources. At the same time, the uneven rates of development among the various groups and regions, invested the struggle for state power with a group character. These factors gave importance to group, ethnic, and regional conflicts that eventually contributed to the collapse of the republic.
The final explanation is closely related to all the forgoing. It holds that the regionalization of politics and in particular, party politics made the stability of the republic dependent on each party retaining control of its regional base. As long as this was so, there was a rough balance between the parties, as well as their respective regions. Once the federal government involves its emergency powers in 1962 and removed the AG from power in the Western Region, the fragile balance on which the federation rested was disturbed. Attempts by the AG and NCNC to create a new equilibrium, or at least to return the status quo ante only generated stronger opposition and hastened the collapse of the republic.

In 1922 a new constitution revoking the 1914 constitution was promulgated under governor Clifford. Under the constitution, a Nigeria legislature council was constituted, but its juricdiction was limited to the southern provinces ie the colony of Lagos and the protectorate of Southern Nigeria. The Governor continued to be the legislative authority for the Northern half of the country. Also an executive council was established for the whole country.
THE 1914 CONSTITUTION                            
The colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the protectorate of Northern Nigeria, were amalgamated and ruled by one Governor General, Lord Lugard. The legislative council of the colony was restructured to making laws for the colony alone, whilst the Governor –General made laws for the whole country.

In 1946, Governor Arthur Richard promulgated a new constitution which came into effect on January 1st, 1946. Prior to this, Nigeria had been divided into three Regions  in 1939, the Northern, Western and Eastern Regions.   
Major feature of the new council was composed of the Governor as President, 16 official and 28 unofficial (the latter including the 4 elected persons).
The Regional Houses were not competent to legislate, even for their own Regions. They could only consider bills affecting their regions, and make recommendation or pass resolution for the central legislation in Lagos to consider.

The 1951 constitution was the one that really introduced fundamental changes into the imperial/native relationship and the relationship between the native Nigerian groups themselves.
  It came in after unprecedented process of consultation with the people of Nigeria as a whole.
 It introduced electoral majorities in the central legislature, to the Regional Houses of Assembly.
It established a federal system for Nigeria for the first time.

In view of the above, it is hardly surprising that the 1960 and 1963 constitution epitomized true federalism. The 1950 National conference had been followed by others in 1953, 1954, 1957, and 1957, in which the practice of true federalism were perfected.
One important feature of the 1960 constitution is the extensive powers granted the Regions, making them effectively autonomous entities of the revenue arrangement which ensured that the regions had the resources to carry out their immense responsibilities.
Under the 19960 and 1963 constitution, a true federal system made up of strong States or Regions and a central or Federal state with limited powers, was instituted. Both the 1960, (Independence) constitution the 1963 (Republican) constitution were the same. The only differences were the provision for ceremonial President (1963) in place of the Queen of England (1960) and the Judicial appeal system with the supreme court (1963)  rather the Judicial committee of the British privy council (1960).
The following features, which emphasized the existence of a true Federal system composed of powerful and autonomous Regions and a centre with limited powers are worth noting.
1.                  Each Region had its own separate constitution, in addition to the Federal Government constitution.
2.                  Each Region had its own separate coat of Arms and motto, from the Federal state or government
3.                  Each Region established its own separate semi-independence mission in the UK, headed by Agents-General.
4.                  The Regional Governments had Residual Power, ie where any matter was not allocated to the Regions or the Federal Government, it automatically became a matter for Regional Jurisdiction.
Share on Google Plus


The publications and/or documents on this website are provided for general information purposes only. Your use of any of these sample documents is subjected to your own decision NB: Join our Social Media Network on Google Plus | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin