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STATE OF THE NATION: Nigeria on the brink — Eminent Nigerians

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President Muhammadu Buhari

…Osoba, Anyaoku, Nwabueze, Galadima, others proffer solutions

By Olayinka Ajayi & Stephanie Oziwo

LAGOS—Some eminent Nigerians, yesterday, dissected the state of the nation and returned a grim verdict: Nigeria is on the edge of the precipice.

To save the country, the eminent Nigerians, including former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba; former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; legal icon and elder statesman, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN; Dr Mike Ozekhome, SAN; and Alhaji Buba Galadima, urged all hands to be on deck, going forward.

They spoke in Lagos at the presentation of Nwabueze’s two books: ‘’President Buhari’s Distinctive Legacies to Nigeria,’’ and ‘’Further Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution and Polity.’’

In his welcome remarks, Nwabueze said what is happening in the country was heart-rending and called on democrats like Osoba and others to save Nigeria.

This is not Nigeria of our dream – Nwabueze

‘’What is happening to our country today is disturbing. This is not the Nigeria of our dream. None of us including Chief Anyaoku would have thought that Nigeria would turn to what it is today. The younger generation may not understand what I am saying. I am in tears, as this country must be saved. We must do everything within our power to save this country. Our chairman is in a position to save this country and I am charging you our chairman (Osoba) as a leading light and as a man of great integrity to help save Nigeria. All of you should do something to help save our country,’’ he said.

Nigeria going down, may take 50 years to recover – Ozekhome

In the same vein, Chief Mike Ozekume commended Professor Nwabueze for his contribution to the legal profession.

He said:  “He is bent with age but his pen is not bent. He is an icon of Nigeria with no small intellect. He can never die again. In Africa, there is no single lawyer that emerged without reading Nwabueze’s materials.’’

On the state of the nation, Ozekhome said: “A Constitution that does not emanate from the people is bad and cannot be repaired. Nigeria is rated 15 among the failed states globally. Our rule of law is in recession. Nigeria is going down the drain and may take 50 years recover.”

Nigeria on auto pilot – Galadima

Adding his voice, Alhaji Buba Galadima said: “For those of us who admire intellect, Professor Nwabueze is the best gift Nigeria ever had. Death does not respect age. Even if he dies today, his marks will continue to outlive him.

‘’That I am still walking on the streets with my head on my neck is a good fortune. Forget about the houses (his houses that the government seized two days ago through AMCON). I cracked a joke when I came that after all, if they seize all my houses, was Chief Osoba not part of those that brought this man (President Muhammadu Buhari) giving us problem?

‘’So I will rather pack to one of his houses in Lagos or to Egba where he is a high chief. I was at the 1987 national conference,

“AMCOM is not a problem, it’s the least of the issues that can happen to activists like me. From the area I come from, we already know that this is a bus on a long journey, so we have disembarked. As far as people from the North-East and North-West are concerned, they have already disembarked from the bus.

‘’Maybe Chief Osoba and his friends, I don’t know if Chief Emeka Anyaoku is part of the conspiracy. A lot of people are also disembarking from this bus because it is on autopilot, you don’t know if they are taking us to the ditch or the Atlantic ocean or to the mouth of the tiger.”

Return to the structure our founding fathers established – Anyaoku

On his part, Anyaoku said: ‘’I am not in a one chance bus because I am not part of any political party. Our founding fathers, Nnamdi Azikwe, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, in their wisdom decided that for a pluralistic country like Nigeria to exist in peace and stability it must have true federation.

‘’So, the Constitution which we began our independence on, was a Constitution of true federation that allows the country’s respective regions to develop at their own pace and each region strengthened it’s lateral unity because no region failed, was marginalized or oppressed.

‘’Some of us who started our careers in early days of independence, I  had the privilege of being a delegate to the  United Nations in New York, we were proud to call ourselves Nigerians and there was no mistake about it.

‘’Nigeria was the pride of Africa at that time. Nigerian Ambassador, Simeon Adebo, was in demand to give lectures in the United States, that is why I have remained in the camp of those who are urging that we should return to the structure of governance which our founding fathers established for us.

‘’I believe that the current challenges our country face, challenges that justify Ozekhome’s words that the country is descending, the challenges of insecurity, of weakening sense of national unity, of collapsing infrastructure in education, health and above all the challenge of insecurity.

READ ALSO: Nigeria sliding into bankruptcy – PDP

‘’These challenges I believe can be more effectively tackled by restructuring governance as obtained in the early years of our independence because then regions were making phenomenal progress.

‘’I believe if the military had not intervened in the government of Nigeria in January 1966, and sustained themselves thereafter, with few interruptions from civilian governance, Nigeria today would have been far more advanced.

‘’At independence in terms of social indices, Nigeria was at par with South Korea and slightly ahead of Malaysia but today, South Korea is generations ahead of Nigeria and Malaysia is at least a generation ahead of Nigeria. The only reason for that is that we have mismanaged and misgoverned our country because of the structure of governance that we have.”

Blame individuals not the system – Osoba

Responding, Osoba, who is an elder of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC,  said the beauty of democracy was freedom of speech and urged critics not to point fingers at individuals but the system.

In a speech titled: To Restructure Nigeria, engage the National Assembly,’’ Osoba said: “Professor Nwabueze demonstrated the power of the human intellect in addressing issues of concern to the growth and development of our country, Nigeria, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his patriotism, for his sense of history and for his prodigiousness.

‘’I am happy that the author has also given us another opportunity to reflect on the challenges of our democracy. As members of the elite class, much is expected of us in finding workable answers to these challenges and it is my hope that the books would stimulate further reflection from all of us. It is from the continuous contention of ideas that we can approximate what is best for our people.

‘’One issue that continues to dominate our national discourse is ‘restructuring.’  We talk of political restructuring because we want something better, smoother, more effective, more responsive and more efficient in addressing our challenges of governance. We talk of restructuring because we care about Nigeria and we want her to occupy her destined place in the comity of nations by doing what ought to be done so that we can realise what we ought to have.

What we ought to have is a land where the welfare of the people remains the paramount end of governance, where security of life and property is protected. To ensure government’s timely response to these challenges, we want an arrangement where true federalism reigns, where power is shared more equitably among the different tiers of government, which will promote greater security and productivity. Where we differ is how to reach this destination.

‘’Today, the All Progressives Congress is the government at the centre. In the constitution of the APC, there is ample provision for restructuring. Since assumption of office in 2015, the APC has restated through the Nasir eL Rufai Committee its commitment to restructuring.

‘’What then is stopping us from going ahead with it through legislative action in the National Assembly where we have a comparative advantage?

‘’Some analysts have said there should be an executive bill towards that end. That is one way. Where that fails, what options do we have?

I suggest we, the believers in political restructuring through devolution of power, should focus our attention on the National Assembly as theatre of action for this noble cause to be realised.

‘’The Assembly consists of our elected representatives, who must be wooed, lobbied, engaged and persuaded to understand that the agenda web table is a patriotic one that is development focused, and requires urgency to rescue our political and economic future.

‘’It is one that can help us manage our diversity better and free our resources and talents for effective deployment where they are most needed.

‘’The primary centre of development cannot be the Federal Government. We need to free the Federal Government to concentrate on the three critical areas: finance and Customs union, defence and foreign affairs.

‘’We need to let the state and local governments drive those development efforts that touch our people such as agriculture, education, health.  In engaging the National Assembly, we need a bipartisan approach that appeals to the patriotic chords of senators and representatives on what Nigeria stands to gain from ‘restructuring.

‘’To the credit of the 8th Senate, the following constitutional alteration bills were passed under its watch:

*Alteration of the Constitution to provide for timely passage of laws (assent)

* Alteration of the Constitution to provide for funding of the State Houses of Assembly directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

*Alteration of the Constitution to include former beads of the NASS in the Council of State

* Alteration of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the President or Governor may authorise withdrawal from the CRF in absence of an appropriation act from 6 to 3 months

* Alteration of the Constitution to provide for immunity of legislature in respect of words spoken or written at plenary…

*Alteration of the Constitution to abrogate the State Joint Local Government Accounts and empower each local government council to maintain its own special account

*Alteration of the Constitution to strengthen local government administration in Nigeria.

*Alteration of the Constitution to provide the INEC with sufficient time to conduct bye-elections and grounds for de registration of political parties.

*Alteration of the Constitution to delete the Public Complaints Commission Act from the constitution

*Alteration of the Constitution to delete the National Securities Agencies Act from the constitution

*Alteration of the Constitution to delete the National Youth Service Decree from the Constitution

*Alteration of the Constitution to delete state Independent electoral commission from the constitution

*Alteration of the constitution to specify the period within which the President or Governor shall present the Appropriation Bill before NASS or SHA.

* Alteration of the constitution to reduce the age for the qualification for the offices of president, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly.

*Alteration of the Constitution to reflect the establishment of ISA in the constitution

*Alteration of the Constitution to remove law making powers from the Executive Arm of Govt.

*Alteration of the Constitution to provide for the procedure for passing a Constitution alteration bill, where the president withholds assent.

*Alteration of the Constitution to reflect the establishment and core function of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

*Alteration of the Constitution to provide time for the determination of pre-election matters.

*Alteration of the Constitution to further strengthen the judiciary for speedy dispensation of justice

*Alteration of the Constitution to establish the AGF and separate the office from that of the minister for justice (likewise in the states).

*Alteration of the Constitution to establish the office of the accountant general of the Federal Government separate from the office of the accountant general of the federation.

*Alteration of the Constitution to make the office of the auditor general of the federation and states financially independent by placing them on the CRE (states).

*Alteration of the Constitution to disqualify a person sworn-in as president or governor to complete the term of the elected person from being elected to the same office for more than a single term.

*Alteration of the Constitution to change the name of the police from the Nigerian Police Force to the Nigerian Police

*Alteration of the Constitution to provide for independent candidature in elections

* Alteration of the Constitution to provide for a change in the names of some local government councils.

*Alteration of the Constitution to provide for the appointment of a minister from the FCT to ensure FCT is represented in the FEC

* Alteration of the Constitution to require the President and Governor to submit names of nominated ministers or commissioners within thirty days of taking the oath of office for confirmation

‘’Who says the National Assembly cannot be made with the concurrence of various state assemblies, two thirds of which we need to pass the amendments into law? Since the Senate has announced a constitution review team, let us help them to make a success of it by engaging them productively. Our situation demands urgency and not unproductive hair-splitting Where there is the will, there is a way.’’

Vanguard

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