The breakdown of the Macpherson Constitution of 1951 can be attributed to several key factors. Firstly, it failed to address the growing demands for self-governance and increased political representation among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups.
Causes of Macpherson Constitution of 1951’s Decline: From the historical development of constitution in Nigeria, there is no doubt that this country has had numerous constitutions in the past, and they all contributed, in one way or the other, to the development of the country. Take for example, most of the constitutions Nigeria had before Independence were drafted solely to foster the principle of federalism. It was also through pre-independent constitutions that Nigeria was able to gain independence and a total self-governance in 1963.
Nonetheless, research shows that all the constitutions Nigeria has had since inception had disadvantages and that was main the reason for the breakdown of many of them. Basically, in this article, we will be taking a critical look at Macpherson Constitution of 1951 with special reference to those factors that led to its breakdown. If you having been searching the internet to know why Macpherson Constitution collapsed, then you are in the right place.
A constitution can be said to be a legal document that outlines how a country is governed. It lays out the country’s rules and regulations. Before Nigeria got her independence in 1960, Sir. John Stuart Macpherson succeeded Sir Authur Richards as the Governor-General of Nigeria In 1948. When he resumed office, he began to draft a new constitution for the Nigeria, which is now known as the Macpherson Constitution of 1951.
He was quite careful in the process of drafting the new constitution because he did not want to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor Richard. Richard’s constitution had been seriously critized by the nationalists because Nigerians were not duely consulted.
Sir. Macpherson made sure that Nigerians were involved in the constitution drafting. On the 9th of January, 1951, delegates from Northern, Western and Eastern Regions of Nigeria convened in Ibadan for a constitutional conference (1950 Ibadan All Nigerian Constitutional Conference).
At the Ibadan 1950 conference, suggestions were made on the Macpherson constitution of 1951. One of them was decided that Nigeria should adopt a federal system of government and Lagos should be autonomous. In 1951, Sir Macpherson finally put into effect, the long-awaited constitution which was accepted by Nigerians to be home made.
Features of this constitution:
1. Central Legislative Council: The Macpherson constitution created a central Legislative council also called House of Representatives. The Legislative council consisted of 148 members of whom 136 were elected from the Regional Houses. 6 members were appointed by the Governor and 6 also were ex-official members.
2. Central Executive Council: This was known as the ‘Council of Ministers’, and was made up of 12 Nigerian ministers, 6 ex-official members and the President (known as Governor then ).
3. Nigeria was divided into three regions: Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region.
4. The Macpherson constitution provided Executive councils for the Regions: The Executive councils were headed by Lieutenant-Governors. The members (5 official and 9 ministers of whom 4 were Nigerians) were all appointed by the Lieutenant-Governors.
5. Regional Legislative Councils: The constitution created a Legislative council for the three regions. The Legislative council was called “Houses of Assembly”. A bicameral legislature (“House of Assembly” and “House of Chiefs”) existed in the Northern Region while the Eastern and Western Regions had a unicameral legislature (“House of Assembly).
6. The constitution for the first time created the position of a Governor.
7. Only male tax payers could voted in the north while both males and females could vote in the east and west.
8. Creation of a public service commission for the recruiting, dismissing and promoting of civil and public servants.
We shall now look at some advantages and disadvantages of the MacPherson Constitution.
1. The Macpherson constitution introduced a quasi-federalism into Nigeria.
2. Macpherson constitution introduced, for the time, a revenue allocation formulae in Nigeria based on the principle of derivation needs and national interest.
3. The Macpherson constitution reflected the minds and aspiration of Nigerians because of the wide rage of consultation before it introduction.
4. The Macpherson constitution introduced a ministerial post in Nigeria.
5. The Macpherson constitution introduced the first legislative principle.
6. The Macpherson constitution improved on the Richard constitution.
7. The constitution had a National outlook and it governed the whole country.
1. This constitution provided Nigeria with a quasi-responsible government instead of a full responsible government.
2. There was no effective leadership at the centre and regional level because the constitution did not provide for the office of a prime minister or a premier.
3. Macpherson constitution led to no team spirit in the council of ministers.
4. Macpherson Constitution was not a true federal constitution because there where still some features of a unitary system.
Factors that led to the breakdown and collapse:
With all the advantages, the constitution did not also served Nigerians very long because of some factors. Below are some of the reasons for the breakdown of Macpherson Constitution
1. There was no political party that had majority in all three regions. The regions were each controlled by a separate political party.
2. The most important leaders at that time were not members of the central Legislative council. These leaders were the likes of Nnamdi Azikwe, obafemi Awolowo etc
3. Macpherson constitution did not provide for the office of the prime Minister or premier. This led to bad and ineffective leadership in the central government.
4. There was a lot of inter regional tension at that time. One of the causes of the friction was because the constitution did not provide for the house of chief in the Eastern region whereas it did in the North.
5. There was no universal suffrage in the country as only tax payers could vote.
So far, we have discussed the merits, demerits, features and factors that led to the breakdown and collapse of Macpherson Constitution of 1951. If you read this work carefully, you will notice that Macpherson Constitution was a great improvement of the previous constitution of Sir Richard. Nonetheless, it had some problems which the people where not wholesomely comfortable with.
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