In 1948, Sir John Stuart Macpherson succeeded Sir Authur Richards as the Governor-General of Nigeria. Soon after he (Macpherson) resumed office, he began to draft a new constitution for the country. He was very patient and careful in the process so as not to repeat the mistake of his predecessor, Sir Authur Richards. Sir Authur Richards’ constitution, also known as Richards constitution of 1946, was severely criticized by Nigerian nationalists on the ground that it was imposed on Nigerians and operated without prior consultation. Sir Macpherson ensured that Nigerians were involved in the constitution drafting, thus, 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 and decisions were generally made on the constitution, for example, it was decided that Nigeria should adopt a federal system of government and Lagos should be autonomous. In 1951, three years after resuming office, Sir Macpherson eventually put into effect, the long awaited constitution which was accepted by Nigerians to be home made.
Here are the Features of Macpherson Constitution of 1951
1. Central Legislative Council– The Macpherson constitution made provision 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 called the ‘Council of Ministers’, and was made up of 12 Nigerian ministers, 6 ex-official members and the President (Governor).
3. The country was divided into three unequal regions- Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region.
4. Regional Executive Councils– The Macpherson constitution of 1951 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)
5. The constitution created the position of a Governor
6. Only male tax payers voted in the north while both males and females voted in the east and west.
7. Creation of a public service commission for recruiting, dismissing and promoting civil and public servants.
8. Election is direct and indirect
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