The NBA Calabar branch law week which held from the 4th to the 10th day of April, 2022, may have come and gone with glitz and glamour, but it is not a law week to be forgotten in a hurry. The theme was thought provoking, the calibre of speakers top notch and members of the Branch turned up in their numbers to actively participate. It was a week of great knowledge sharing.

An aspect of the week that provoked great discussion and which set the tone for all other contributions, was the keynote address delivered by the keynote speaker, Tein T. S. Jack-Rich.

Mr. Tein T. S. Jack-Rich

On his way to Calabar to deliver the keynote address, only to receive news which forced him to forgo the trip, Mr. Tein T. S. Jack-Rich was represented by the Acting Managing Director of Belema Oil, Chief Collins Amadi, who on his behalf, presented the keynote address.

Chief Collins Amadi, Acting Managing Director of Belema Oil
Chief Collins Amadi presenting the Keynote Address

Mr. Jack-Rich through Chief Amadi, commended the NBA Calabar branch for the thought provoking theme, ‘WE, THE PEOPLE: AN AGENDA FOR NATIONAL CONSENSUS’, and expressed great pleasure at the opportunity to participate at the auspicious occasion of the 2022 Bar Week programme. He stated that he considered it a rare privilege in two very significant ways:
The first being the fact that he was before the gentlemen of the most revered and learned profession who have made significant contributions in shaping and defining the trajectory of the nation’s evolution as a country in so many ways, and who have done tremendously great in sharpening our legal jurisprudence.
The second being the fact that the history of Nigeria was not complete without the mention of the ancient city of Calabar replete with its cultural and commercial values, which inarguably served as the first capital of Nigeria; being the first capital of the Southern Protectorate, the Oil River Protectorate, and Niger Coast Protectorate, until 1906 when it was relocated to Lagos. (It was the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorate that gave rise to our great country Nigeria in 1914).
Given the foregoing therefore, Mr. Jack-Rich expressed great excitement to be at the summit and at the opportunity to speak on the theme of the Bar Week which he considered very salient and important not only in understanding the nation’s trajectory from independence in 1960 as a people of one country, but also in defining the future; given the experiences Nigeria has had over the past 61 years of existence.

He pointed out that the theme of the law week is expected to set an agenda for national integration and consensus, and urged Nigerians to draw strength from their collective existence as a people defined by the very underlying ethos and values that have bound them together, irrespective of the distinct and diverse backgrounds.

He further pointed out that the question that needed to be addressed was: To what extent the nation been able to achieve a national consensus as a people, 61 years after our independence. He wondered out loud whether the phrase: “We the People’, in the Nigerian Constitution is a true reflection of the views of Nigerians or whether it is a mere rhetoric or at best an imaginary fiction/cliché created to give citizens some imaginary comfort? He also wondered if there was a national consensus in birthing the Constitution and asked if that assertion could be termed the TRUTH?

Mr. Jack-Rich noted that he was aware that the different speakers will proffer different views, perspectives and responses to these questions, depending on respective prejudices, and submitted that no perspective would be entirely wrong. However, he submitted that from his perspective and from the point of view of the organizers of the law week, the anticipated national consensus for the nation appeared quite elusive.
He went on to then ask what could be done to achieve a national consensus that reflects and underscores the phrase: ‘We, the People’, pointing out that this phrase forms not just the preamble but the underlying spirit behind the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Before attempting to answer the question, Mr. Jack-Rich shared a bit of hindsight into Nigeria’s history, particularly from how Nigeria’s independence as a people was negotiated and gotten.

He pointed out that it is widely believed that our founding fathers collectively fought for and secured the independence of this country, but did this from the convenience of their respective regions in line with the tripodal regional structure of the Northern region, Western region, Eastern region and much later, the Mid-Western region, as was manifest during the first republic. What this meant therefore was that, even though there was a national agenda in the demand for an independent country, the manifest identity did not represent a national consensus from inception.

Indeed, he noted that between 1963 when the nation had the first republican Constitution as a people till date, there has been several attempts at evolving this elusive consensus, evidenced by the various National Conferences and Constitutional amendments all of which point to the desire to redefine and give a realistic identity and meaning to “WE THE PEOPLE” as enshrined first in the 1963 Constitution and re-enforced and entrenched in the 1999 constitution.
He stated out that there have been several agitations and expressions of dissatisfaction in the country leading to several and persistent calls for RESTRUCTURING, implying that there is a wide and yearning gap in the people’s consciousness that needs to be filled. This he noted, further underscores the absence of a national consensus by ‘we, the people’ and calls into question the efficacy of the phrase as the foundational philosophy of Nigeria’s Constitution.

Mr. Tein Jack-Rick added that if he were to consider the issue from another perspective, he could agree with the framers of the Constitution who thought it wise to begin with the preamble, “We the People”, because, they understood that power is derived from the people. This he maintained, is an unarguable fact which everyone concedes to. However, he noted that how that translates into reality, has been an issue of several commentaries and opinions as some have argued that based on our current reality, the phrase “We the People” is a hoax, a fraud, and remains just a mere rhetoric which does not in any way gravitate a national consensus. Whatever the case may be, Mr. Jack-Rich stressed that the fact remains that we have an opportunity to evolve as a people in line with our collective expectations, and which is what needs to be done and quickly too.

Mr. Jack-Rich further maintained that Nigerians need to give meaning to the Constitution they desire and in doing so, evolve a national consciousness anchored on a national consensus. This he maintained will create the platform for unlocking the greater developmental potentials of the country, while also ensuing that the country’s leadership and operators of her system are held accountable and responsible to the yearnings and aspirations of its citizenry. He noted that while there are several ways of doing this, what will ensure effectiveness, is the right political will and audacity of everyone to get involved politically and make the right call.

He pointed out that while some Nigerians underscored the need for us to tinker and rework the Constitution (members of the National Assembly who recently voted on 68 amendments in the 1999 Constitution are on this table), others believe that we should jettison the present Constitution for a brand-new Constitution arguing that the 1999 Constitution was imposed on the people by the Military Government as such does not reflect the will of the people. Mr. Tein T. S. Jack-Rich recalled that foremost Constitutional Lawyer, Chief Mike Ozokhome (SAN) had at the recently concluded 61st Annual General Conference of the NBA held in Port-Harcourt with the theme “Taking the Lead” advocated a homegrown Constitution, made by the people, subjected to a plebiscite as was done in 1963; a process which led to the emergence of the Mid-West Constitution.

He further pointed out that interestingly, some Nigerians have also called for the adoption of the 1963 Republican Constitution to replace the existing 1999 Constitution where Nigeria would become a federation of four regions with each having its constitution. One such proponent of this position, Prof. Itse Sagay, (SAN), the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC), had on National TV clamored for the scrapping of the present 1999 Constitution noting that all that is missing in the said Constitution was provided for in the 1963 Republican Constitution. He asked to know which position was best?

Indeed, while all these positions point to the desire and aspirations of Nigerians to have a Constitution that will evolve the spirit of a national consensus, Mr. Jack-Rich pondered on the question of whether they was really a perfect Constitution? He submitted that there was no perfect Constitution. He however went on to argue that, 61 years after independence, the nation ought to have at this time, evolved and developed a body of laws that will reflect the collective aspirations of her people with an identity that resonates with her national consciousness. This he maintained, is pertinent and indeed is what is needed to unlock the huge potentials of our economy. He maintained that it is within our powers as Nigerians to have a widely acceptable and sustainable Constitution that would uphold fairness, equity, and justice for all, while gravitating the people towards a national consensus anchored on ‘We the people’.

Mr. Jack-Rich reminded all participants that we all have a role to play in the rebirth of the nation of our dream, whether it is with an amended Constitution or a brand-new Constitution, both as leaders and followers. He stressed that what matters is our eagerness and determination to cause a change and a paradigm shift from the identified grey areas in our present 1999 constitution. He urged Nigerians to endeavor to strive to recreate and generate our country for our future generation.

The keynote speaker noted that if for 61 years Nigeria has been unable to find a national consensus on her identity as a people, then the time is now ripe for all to act in that regard and regenerate a country that would resonate this consciousness today for tomorrow.

Mr. Jack-Rich urged Nigerians to strive to have equitable and right representation at all levels of governance by creating and evolving an electoral system that reflects our national consensus and speaks to ‘We the people’. He stressed the need for Nigerians to create a political economic system that provides equal opportunity to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or origin, reflecting our national consensus and which speaks to ‘We the people’. He further maintained that Nigerians must create and support the existence of functional institutions of government that will outlive us and become the bedrock of our national consensus which speaks to ‘we the people’.

Mr. Jack-Rich further maintained that Nigeria must evolve a holistic security architecture that underscores her collective consciousness, irrespective of any region, reinforcing our national consensus while speaking to ‘we the people’.
He also submitted that the nation must evolve a political economic system that allows every Nigerian to live in any part of the country and be seen first as a Nigerian before being an indigene of the State, Local government or community. Nigerian citizenship he maintained, should be devoid of our State of origin and enable all to have a national identity that reflects us as Nigerians who we truly are. He pointed out that when these primary fundamentals are addressed by us all, then we would be able to say to ourselves, indeed ‘We are the people’.

The keynote speaker underscored the need to build a national consensus amongst ourselves as Nigerians; he further pointed out that the necessity to foster peace, unity, good governance and sustainability of our future as a country cannot be over-emphasized. He noted that this was the time to achieve all of this as we are stronger and greater together as a people, and our diversity is our strength; not our weakness.

He warned that without a national consensus, Nigeria cannot sufficiently harness and develop her local resources, produce more, invest more, save more, and consume less for the greater good of her children and the future generation. He pointed out that a national consensus on ‘we the people’ resonates with an egalitarian society where there would be mutual respect devoid of hate, acrimony, and ethno-religious insensitivities; a society which eschews all divisive tendencies, promotes peaceful co-existence, resonates love, even in our diversity.
Mr. Jack-Rich also spoke on the place of good leadership. He stressed the need for good leaders who understand the nation’s historical sensitivities and are willing and ready to work to align same with the current reality; leaders who can captivate our unique diversity and ensure greater inclusion for all; leaders who transcend the tides of ethnocentrism, cultural antagonism, and religious boundaries, who instead use these as tools for evolving a more inclusive Nigeria. He pointed out that with the correct leadership in place, Nigeria would be a nation where ‘We the People’ will no longer be a mere rhetoric, but the driving philosophy for egalitarianism, massive wealth creation, technological advancement, mutual interdependence of States based on comparative economic advantages, peaceful coexistence, and global relevance. This is the Nigeria of our dream.

Mr. Tein T. S Jack-Rich expressed his strong belief in the unity and greatness of our county Nigeria pointing out that this underscores his passion to reach out and impact the lives of Nigerians across the country in his little way, because he believe in the true meaning of ‘we the people’. He noted that he also believes that Nigeria is the economic trigger and strength of Africa and indeed the world across all frontiers and that we are better together, greater together, and stronger together. Indeed, our togetherness is not an error, what has been erroneous is our inability to define ourselves as ‘we the people’, within the context of creating a real identity that resonates our national Consensus.
In closing, he urged all participants to work the talk ahead of 2023 with a collective determination to create a national consensus that will resonate with the people of this great country.

Mr. Tein T. S. Jack-Rich is the Founder/President of a fast-growing indigenous oil company in the Niger Delta, ‘Belemaoil Producing Ltd’ which was incorporated in 2012 to efficiently explore, develop, and produce hydrocarbons for national wealth creation and direct impact in the lives of the Host Communities.

Reputed as an indefatigable philanthropist, Mr. Jack-Rich is executing and commissioning humanitarian projects across Nigeria with his NGO, “The Jack-Rich Tein Aid Foundation”, and “The Belema Aid Foundation” to bring urban life and joy to forgotten communities.

As a true son of the Niger Delta, his acts of philanthropy and magnanimity traverses the entire Niger Delta region to the hinterland of Nigeria, from Rivers to Katsina, Enugu to Borno, Akwa-Ibom to Bauchi, Bayelsa to Gombe, Kano to Gombe, and several other States.

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