By Okey Ndiribe
Yinka Odumakin, the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere Renewal Group and a delegate, speaks on National Conference.
I think this is a make or mar conference for Nigeria. I appeal to all delegates to understand the urgency of this period. Our country is falling apart. We need to put things right. Nobody should come to this conference with any sense of arrogance. We must not negotiate out of fear. We must come as equal partners to the Nigerian project and shed all our prejudices.
We should focus on how to build a country that works; a country where human life is not cheap as it is now. For now, Nigeria is not just in a state of war; we are at war. This is because if you look at the number of corpses we pack every day, it has surpassed that of Afghanistan and Iraq. In those countries, we hardly hear of 100 or 200 deaths in a day. We must find a lasting solution to the problems of this country. We should adopt an attitude of give and take, not my way or their way. An attitude of my way or their way will not solve the problems of this country. Let us come to the conference table as brothers and consider the interest of Nigeria.
Let us find ways and means of building a united and equitable country based on a foundation of justice.
I came to this conference as a federalist. I would be pushing a federalist agenda. It is only a true federalism arrangement that can get this country out of the woods. We have travelled on the wrong path for a long time. There is no way you can run a country like Nigeria which has a multi-ethnic composition as a unitary state.
That is the problem we are having now. We need to de-amalgamate. Amalgamation means that you cobbled entities together without looking at the content or properties of what you are amalgamating. This time around, we must sit down as the nationalities of Nigeria to negotiate our unity; not towards disintegration but towards building a lasting country.
I know countries that refused to discuss their unity. They have already disappeared.
But in a country like Ethiopia where the differences of the nationalities which make up that country were discussed, their unity was strengthened and they eventually adopted a constitution which endorsed the rights of the component nationalities to self-determination up to the point of secession. Yet, nobody has attempted to use that clause in Ethiopia. It is better for us to discuss in an open manner without inhibitions. I would like to convince other delegates that the path to follow is the path of true federalism.
The preamble to the 1999 Constitution which states that the people of Nigeria adopted that document is false. The constitution lied against itself and that is perjury. So, the constitution lied on oath. Nigerians were never involved in the making of that constitution. We knew how that constitution was imposed on the nation.
Former military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha organised a Constitutional Conference which produced a report. He set up another body which reviewed the report of the Constitutional Conference. One of his ministers called Yadudu did his own review.
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo came on board, he did his own review. As at the day Obasanjo was sworn in, in 1999, he had not even seen a clean copy of that constitution. Even after Obasanjo had been sworn in, they still secretly amended the constitution. The people of Nigeria were never involved. The constitution was promulgated into law through Decree 24 of 1999. To me, the 1999 constitution is a military decree. It is not an autochthonous constitution. It is only if we rise from this conference and produce a constitution which goes through a referendum, that the preamble could truly state that the people of Nigeria have adopted the document.