BY DAPO AKINREFON
CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze has been in the forefront in the agitation for a national conference to address the multifarious problems facing the country. In this interview, Nwabueze, who is also the convener of Project Nigeria re-echoed the call for a national conference just as he asserts the impracticability of the South East region producing the president come 2015 owing to the current power sharing formula. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians agree that it is time to reclaim Nigeria but what are the steps to be taken before this can be achieved?
In Project Nigeria manifesto, we have mapped out the steps to be taken. Like I have said before, the important thing is to hold a National Conference. The first step that we have taken is to make available the booklet for the Save Nigeria Project.
The second step is the mobilisation. We have set up a committee headed by Prof. Pat Utomi to mobilise and organise the civil society groups. The third step we are going to take is that very soon, we will be announcing a date for a rally we are going to organise to present the booklet; and after that we will take the copies of the National Conference and Referendum bill to the National Assembly and the presidency.
The fourth step is that we will march to Abuja to present the booklet and the bill to the presidency and the National Assembly. If they fail within the prescribed time to convene the National Conference, the people of Nigeria will convene it.
But will that not be a direct confrontation o f the Federal Government?
We are not confronting them, we are only asking them to convene a National Conference. If they refuse to do that, then we will take the next step. It is for government to do what is best in the interest of everybody to convene a national conference.
If they refuse and you go ahead with the national conference, will the bombs and activities of the Boko Haram come to an end?
Boko Haram is part of the National Conference. There are indications that they (Boko Haram) will be part of the national conference.
Analysts have identified corruption and bad leadership as the major problems with Nigeria. Do you agree?
All of these: Corruption, rottenness, decadence, the plunder are the problems and above all the 1999 constitution is thoroughly defective. And that is why all ethnic nationalities must come around a table to discuss and dialogue. The country is too diverse, we cannot govern this country under a unitary system of government.
Do you think the Igbo people are ready for the presidency in 2015 because there are suggestions the president would also contest?
That is why we need a national conference to agree on a system of rotation of power. So that when it is the time of the Igbos, we will know that even if there are 20 aspirants or more, it will make no difference because we are all Igbos. We cannot go on like this denying a large population of the country the right to the presidency, that is the bone of contention. I see very little chance of an Igbo man emerging as president in 2015. I cannot see it in the current system.
The Boko Haram sect has threatened to bring down the government of President Goodluck Jonathan in the next three months. What is your position on this?
They will be brought to the conference table. We have indicated that they will be part of the national conference where everybody will sit down and agree on how the country is to be governed.