By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Charles Kumolu
Tony Nnadi is the Secretary General of Movement for NewNigeria, a group that exclusively advocates for the restructuring of Nigeria. In this interview, he declares that the 1999 constitution does not reflect the yearnings of the ethnic nations in Nigeria. Hence, he is strongly advocating for the creation of a new constitution. Nnadi also frowns at plans by another group, National Consensus Group to convene a forum on a proposed constitution, without inputs by various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. He also speaks on other national issues. Excerpts:
There have been some agitations from most quarters and even from the National Assembly that the 1999 constitution is not sustainable. What is your position on this?
The constitution simply means to constitute. The agitations are from those who were lumped into Nigeria, especially the ethnic nationalities, who have been complaining that they do not subscribe to the arrangement that was imposed on them by the 1914 amalgamation of North and South Protectorate. Even before independence in 1960, there were discussions, which ended on some certain level of autonomy as the basis of going into the union. And each of the federating regions came into the union with their own constitution.
The one of Western region came in 1967. Eastern region followed, while that of Northern region came in 1959. It was those three constitutions that gave each of them control over their territories and they were making contributions for the upkeep of the centre. All of them got truncated in 1966 and the soldiers, who came on board, swept them away. And they started ruling by decree, it was from one decree to the other.
Those regions got emasculated and all functions of the regions were hijacked by the central government which is now called the federal government. And things have been going from bad to worse. In 1999, we had the Decree No 24, which is now called the 1999 constitution. The agitation is basically on the faulty constitution. You saw the Ijaws, who came as form of MEND. There is OPC carrying guns and we have MASSOB flying Biafran flag across eleven states of the federation. Now, there is Boko Haram in the north. They are all rejecting the constitutional arrangement. At the level of our self determination organisations, of which the Movement for New Nigeria has become umbrella body, we started with calling a meeting with the owners of Nigeria in PRONACO. It was for the discourse for the first time on how they wanted to relate. It succeeded in producing a draft constitution which has gone through an informal referendum and we are now at the point where we insist that the 1999 constitution cannot be the basis of our union, because it is under that constitution that what we are suffering are orchestrated. The three million barrels of crude oil that are being sold in Abuja is on the basis that they have submitted themselves into the Nigerian Union. In 2007, the movement for New Nigeria, led by Enahoro, who is late now, instituted a case in federal high court in Abuja to say that the 1999 constitution is a fraud in its claim that “we the people” actually agreed to live the way we are living. To that extent the document has been rejected by all of these ethnic nations. And the Boko Haram has raised the bar with their activities recently. But remember that the 12 governors of the northern states had passed Sharia law since 2000 and have been implementing it. Sharia law is mutually exclusive with constitutionalism and democracy, meaning that they have opted out of the Nigerian union. .. Our position is that we have not made a constitution, it’s better we make one now or everybody will take his portion. There is also another case that we instituted in the federal High Court Lagos. We have Ojukwu, Wole Soyinka, Asari Dokubo, Uwazuruike and others as our members.
We have some lawyers and civil rights activists like Agbakoba, who are advocating all these changes in the constitution and they are meeting this weekend in Port Harcourt. Can’t there be a meeting between the groups in order to save the Nigerian Project?
In the cover memo that advertised the meeting, they accepted our position for the first time, because many of them had been arguing against our position. Tthey have accepted that the constitution did not come from the people and therefore will have to go. They also accepted that the National Assembly does not have the constituent power to make a constitution for the people and that the sovereign power to do that lies with the people. With those fundamental positions, they have agreed with the diagnosis that we have had so far. But in their prescription, instead of the sovereign meeting of the ethnic nationalities which the situation demands, they are trying to circumvent they need for the ethnic nationalities to sit down and work out the basis of their union, which is what we call the constitution. If they are now going to gather in Port Harcourt, it is a pity because we have approached the NBA national executive on this issue. And we have invited them to please come and take a position in the issue because the lawyers in the land must be in the forefront of how this matter will be resolved. South Africa found itself in this kind of situation where a minority imposed the apartheid constitution that took away the assets and liberties of the owners of the land. But South Africa was lucky to have one honest lawyer called Nelson Mandela, who told the people that their problem was not those in government house, but with the apartheid constitution that made them slaves in their land and therefore that constitution had to go They were at it for many years up to the point in 1990 when the sitting government agreed that the document had to go so that they can get another constitution. They also had one honest man of God, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, who collaborated with them on how the people will become free. But what we have in Nigeria is that the lawyers in the land have refused to lift hands on these all important issues. I saw them raising a cry about the rule of law that is now suffering because the Chief Justice and NJC are messing things up, but they have refused to join us to arrest the fountain through which the failure of rule of law arose, because the entire legal system should be based on the constitution, because if the constitution is destroyed like ours, what can the righteous do? They are not doing what they are supposed to do. They have not raised the matter that we have not made a constitution. All of what have gone wrong in Nigeria flows from the constitution and nothing will change unless the constitution is brought down. For them to gather in Port Harcourt without involving the ethnic nationalities, it shows that they want to build on the fraudulent foundation that created the states and the so called geo-political zones. We are insisting that the owners of this land must have an input The owners of a company are the ones who make an article of association. The owners of this land are insisting that they will determine the terms under which their sovereignty will be surrendered to Nigeria. If that discussion does not take place, they are getting ready to disperse.
Why would the National Consensus Group dilute your position?
We suspect that it is a mischief for personal gains. I think it is for personal gains because if not for it, why would they make their publication without disclosing their identity. Apart from Prof Oyebode and Ben Nwabueze, who are going to speak, who are the rest people? Why can’t they name themselves as the authors of that publication? It shows that something is wrong somewhere. And now they are piling up names of credible people like our own Uncle Sam and Kanu as people they think should come to sit side by side with them. Let them name themselves to hold on to this position so that we can know who we are talking to.
Are you saying that it is a faceless organistaion?
Well , you can see with me that they have authored a beautiful cover except for the blunder that the ethnic nationalities will not be involved in the discussion or will not be the basis.
Would it be acceptable to you if all the ethnic nationalities are involved in this project?
Of course, it will because it is their exclusive business, because we saw that they said that it is on the basis of Nigerianity and citizenship. We are asking what is Nigeria? It means that they are telling us that Nigeria is not negotiable and that we must accept what all of those, who have done things by decree did. And we are saying no that all of that must be in the past. All of us who must remain in this marriage will have the right, as declared by the United Nations on self determination in 2007 to decide how we submit our sovereignty. If that discussion is going to be postponed further, be assured that they have the right to exercise their self determination right.