…Say only restructuring can save youth agitation for self determination
…Describe Tanko Yakassai’s stance on restructuring as hypocrisy
…Note Nigeria operating military constitution
President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nwodo, elder statesman and Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, have asked the Federal Government to take advantage of coronavirus pandemic to restructure the country, saying Nigeria was currently operating an illegal constitution foisted on the people by the military.
Speaking at the opening session of a video conference organised by Governance Index, tagged, “Coronavirus Pandemic: is it time to reevaluate the political structure of the country,” Nwodo said the constitution was given to Nigerians by the military government, which was not elected by the people.
He added that in 1999, politicians went into the election without knowing the parameters that will guide the democratic process.
According to him, the military wrote the present constitution for the country after abandoning the agreement the nation’s forefathers had with the British before the independence, which was to operate a regional government.
Nwodo said Nigeria’s political parties operate like companies owned by shareholders where there is no freedom to choose the candidates of your choice, stressing that the Nigerian electoral system was the most corrupt and the judiciary the most compromised.
Noting that Nigerians had no confidence in the electoral process, the Ohanaeze leader said: “We have never made constitution for Nigeria, it was given to us by the Armed Forces Ruling Council of the military government, which was not elected. The composition of its legislative body was not chosen by any parameter known to anyone.
“They wrote the constitution and abandoned the agreement our forefathers had with British when we got independence, for a regional based government in which every region has its security, its own economic development, with each exercising sovereignty over its resources and paid taxes to Federal Government to run common services for the federation, but today it is no longer the case.
“Boko Haram has completely paralysed our military and rendered them incapable of fulfilling their constitutional obligation to defend our sovereignty. There is mutual distrust between the South and North, I mean far North, excluding Middle Belt.
‘’Working through your farms in any part of Southern Nigeria or the Middle Belt has become a very frightening phenomenon. Our children who take up self-determination exercises without carrying arms are called terrorist organisation, but herdsmen who are on rampage, who loot, kill, and rape are treated with kids gloves, while their leaders threaten us in the social media.
“98 per cent of heads of security personnel in the South East are non-indigenes. As a consequence, there is poor security in the region. Some of us that were trained in Europe and America, we know that in global parlance, local policing is the basis for any territory security.
‘’You have to know your territory, you have to speak the language, but if you post people to our area who do not know the terrain of the place, cannot speak the language, the situation is threatening the very fabric of our nation.
‘’That is why I am very happy to be part of Southern and Middle Belt Forum, which is saying we don’t have a very valid constitution in Nigeria. We have got to restructure this federation and return to a constitution that is top notch, a constitution made by the people, validated by a plebiscite, and voted for by the people.”
On his part, Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, did not only agree with Nwodo but also stressed that if Nigerians were serious about keeping the country together, it was time to restructure and embrace true federalism.
He said: “The present constitution is an imposed constitution by the Muslim military in the North. Nobody contributed to it. Even General Abdulsalami said he did not know what is in the constitution before he swore in former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“I will say without any hesitation we are all deceiving ourselves. President Buhari is not interested in keeping this country together, that is why we are having this problem, that is why we are putting square pegs in round holes, and that is why we tell him to keep to the constitution by the appointments he is making, but he said no.
‘’I can only work with people I have confidence in, which is against the federal character principle that the whole country is talking about. Buhari simply turns deaf ears to the agitation for restructuring that has been on for over five years.
“Buhari ignored the recommendations of the 2014 constitutional conference, he ignored the manifesto of his own party, and even ignored the recommendations of his own party, that is why I say we are not practising democracy in this country.
“There is no sincerity on the part of the far North in putting this country together.”
He said there was nothing in Nigeria’s Constitution that created 774 local governments in the country, adding that that was the beginning of the fraud as majority of the local governments were in the North, while the minority were in the South.
He explained that what was in the independent constitution was for each federating unit to be autonomous.
He noted that through the independence constitution, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to do a lot for the people in the western region, especially in the areas of free education and free medical services.
Adebanjo rips at Yakasai
Adebanjo accused elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, of hypocrisy for saying proponents of restructuring had not explained to Nigerians what restructuring entailed.
Recall that during last week’s 4th edition of the video conference also organised by Governance Index, Yakasai had said the agitators of restructuring should come up with modalities for their proposal for proper scrutiny.
But Adebanjo said that Yakassai was at the 2014 constitutional conference where the case for restructuring was carefully marshaled out, adding that what they were asking for was a country where everybody there would be equity and justice.
Adebanjo, who noted there could be no peace where there was injustice, said: “Once there is injustice, there can be no peace and when there is no peace, no equity, there will be no development. All the things we are doing now is to play up to an individual.’’
He wondered how the country could be said to be in a democracy when the power ibn power was not democratic, citing the issue of Ondo and Edo governorship elections where the expression of interest form costs as much as N22 million.
In his contribution, former governor of Ondo State, Dr Mimiko, concurred with both Nwodo and Adebanjo, saying if the country must be kept together, there was need to restructure.
“I associate myself with the positions of former speakers, and whether we like it or not in this country, restructuring is an idea whose time has come,’’ he said.