By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA—LEGAL luminary and Elder statesman, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to convene a Sovereign National Conference, SNC, as a panacea to the myriads of problems threatening the unity of the country.
Babalola made the call to Buhari while speaking on Newsnight programme on Channels Television on Monday night.
He said the conference and change of the constitution would be the way out of the precarious situation Nigeria and Nigerians found themselves.
He said the present situation needs urgent attention to address it by bringing together well-meaning Nigerians to talk and proffer recommendations that would solve the problems.
His words: “We had tranquillity and growing economy. People were saying that it will be difficult to catch up with the Western Region, with the rate of development. Unfortunately, the army took over.
“We now have what we call the federal constitution, which is a lie. A lie in the sense that the preamble says ‘the constitution given to the people by the people’, but that is not correct. It was made by the army and they centralized everything.
“Unless we go back to something similar to 1960-65 modifications, we will never get there again. I believe we need it urgently. What I want is a Sovereign National Conference. In other words, the decisions there will not be available for amendment by any legislature or anybody.
“The legislature and presidency can, together, convene the National Sovereign Conference. It is simple; it can be done. What is the purpose of lawmakers? To make laws, and they can make the law to convene a National Sovereign Conference. So simple. And the President, who believes in developing a nation out of nations, will readily agree.
“Those who are benefiting from the mess we have now are those we have asked to make the law. We have come to the same decision and that is: ‘Are we likely to have a legislature that will move for a Sovereign National Conference? Are we likely?’ The answer is no. But for the pressure that is going on now, they should. That is why I am happy about the pressure from the East, West, and Middle Belt and everywhere, as well from the youth.
“The youth must not keep quiet because the future is theirs. I am over 90 years and what else do I want? For them, they have to fight for themselves.
“We should not wait until we have situations as we have in Sudan, where a 23-year-old girl led the revolution. When people are hungry, they become angry, and when people become angry, they become violent.”
Hunger, poverty, and insecurity
“There is hunger, poverty, and insecurity in the land. I write regularly in newspapers and I have written about this.
“I have no problem in coming to the right decision that we need a National Sovereign Conference to solve our problems and I believe the time will come. I believe we should not allow it to come after when there will be anarchy in the country.
‘I know the problems you are talking about. I know the number of telephone calls I receive every day. You can imagine a mother of three called and said: ‘since morning, we have nothing to eat please help me with what you can’. Things are really bad.
“The National Assembly is also going through the pains in the country, and they should be able to find a solution. President Buhari can also initiate it as it happened with Olusegun Obasanjo and he initiated and asked them to pass it into law. It is not a difficult thing. If he has the political will.
“The only sustainable change that can change this country is the change that changes the constitution. I appeal to Nigerians to join me and others to bring about a change without bloodshed.”