By Aare Afe Babalola, SAN,
This week’s edition will be dedicated to some of the adept readers of this column who have, over the years, consistently lent their views to some of the topical issues I have discussed.
It is essential to allude to comments from the readers, particularly to have a benefit of their opinions on the topics already discussed. While there are very many readers’ comments to choose from, I have, however, decided to air the following:
In June 2020, I discussed the topic: “The George Floyd killing: Dissimilarities between Nigerian laws and US laws”. In both editions, I gave a dispassionate opinion on the distinctions between the American and the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence, including what constitutes the elements of a crime in both countries, how crime is proved, and more specifically the fact that all the police officers involved in the death of George Floyd would rightly have been charged for the offence of murder in Nigeria.
Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade on the George Floyd Killing
On July 13, 2020, I received a mail titled: “Ejooo on your great articles on the George Floyd killing in Vanguard!” from one of our readers, Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade. In the said mail, she noted as follows: “Ejooo you comparing the U.S. and Nigerian Law systems was very enlightening on police brutality. And it opened many Nigerians eyes to the reality of racism in Amerikkka, ‘the promise land’! We all learned a lot! Don’t forget us at your Centre, ‘The Afe Babalola Rural Community Services Building’, at the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre, Adeyipo Village, Ibadan! E se gangan o! Owo a ma roke o! E mi ni, Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade. Chief Librarian”.
I particularly received the above mail with a certain sense of fulfilment that the eyes of Nigerians are being opened to the fact that not all that glitters is gold. The United States of America which many of our youths aspire to relocate to is not all it seems as that society is bedevilled by unchecked police brutality and a large measure of racism. I hope the Nigerian youths take a cue from the unfortunate death of George Floyd and countless others.
Deacon Dapo Omotoso on Club for restructuring Nigeria welcomes Obasanjo: SNC before 2023 elections
In my latest article, that is: Club for restructuring Nigeria welcomes Obasanjo: SNC before 2023 elections which I discussed in the course of four editions, I gave an insight as to the establishment of a regional government in the early years of Nigeria’s independence, particularly between 1960 to 1966, and the fact that Nigeria witnessed her greatest and fastest economic, political, social and educational development under this system of government.
I ended the series by calling for a Sovereign National Conference to effectively discuss and resolve issues of resource distribution, insecurity, effective political representation, among other contentious matters. It is also paramount that the conference considers the inefficiency of the 1999 Constitution in addressing the ethnocultural and socio-political diversities in Nigeria’. Reacting to this, Deacon Omotosho sent me the following mail on July 11, 2020:
“Sir, I enjoy reading your popular column. Your piece on the above subject matter is heart-warming to any patriotic Nigerian. Many Nigerians in different walks of life have persistently called for the restructuring of the country. However, the present Federal Government has ignored the numerous calls.
I don’t believe that we should wait for the sword of Damocles to fall on Nigeria before we hurriedly embark on restructuring. One of my pieces on restructuring follows this opinion. Cheers, and remain blessed sir. Deacon Dapo Omotoso, Ado Ekiti”.
In addition to this comment, Deacon Omotoso also sent me an insightful write-up titled: “A Call for a Completely New Constitution for Nigeria.” It reads, in part, thus: “If a country is unilingual, the constitution should be unitary. On the other hand, if a country is bi-lingual or multi-lingual, the constitution should be Federal. In the First Republic, this country operated a truly Federal System of Government.
The Military came in January 1966 and gave us the Unitary System of Government which has remained with us up till now. Having operated this horrible system of government for 54 years with its attendant problems, it is time we had a re-think on the former system which gave us more succour than the unitary system of government we are now practising. The enormous challenges facing us in this national call for a thorough re-evaluation of our life politically, economically and socially as a united country.
For this country to develop in tune with our expectation, we should revert to a purely federal system of government where the constituent states will develop at their respective paces. The states, in a purely Federal system of government, should provide all the services which the defunct Eastern, Western, Mid-Western and Northern Regional Governments provided in the First Republic…
We cannot continue to operate the 1999 Constitution for Nigeria and expect the country to attain greater heights politically and economically. Nigerians in different walks of life have clamoured for a new Federal Constitution.
Therefore, the executive and legislative arms of government should accede to the clamour in the overall interest of a united Nigeria. From the government archives, there are substantial materials for use in producing a new people’s constitution from the National Conferences held during the Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations between October 1999 and May 2015.”
I totally agree with Deacon Dapo Omotoso in respect of the foregoing. In addition to the comment I received from Deacon Dapo Omotoso via his e-mail of July 11, 2020, he sent me another e-mail on July 25, 2020, as a follow-up to the third edition of my discussion on the call for a Sovereign National Conference. In the third edition, I specifically highlighted how the decentralised and the people-oriented 1960 and 1963 Constitutions were arrived at. I noted as follows:
“Our forefathers spent over 10 years deliberating on a people’s constitution that would accommodate the nation’s diversity. They came up with the 1960 Constitution which was later substituted with the 1963 Constitution. But would this constitutional framework accord significant respect to the derivative principle? The areas which produce the bulk of the nation’s resources have the right to a significant proportion of the revenues extracted from the region. Under the 1963 Constitution, the Federal Government was entitled to pay to each region a sum equal to 50 percent of the proceeds of mining rents and royalty in respect of minerals derived from each region.
The Federal Government was obliged to credit to the Distributable Pool Account 30 per cent of the proceeds of the royalty and mining rent received by the federal government after it had given 50 per cent to the producing state. The Federal Government was only entitled to keep for itself 20 per cent’
In his reaction to this edition, Deacon Dapo Omotoso rightly noted as follows: ‘Sir, I have enjoyed reading your serialised thesis on the above subject matter. When you complete the serialisation, I suggest that a copy of the entire thesis should be sent to the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari for his information and further action. The Professor will understand the import of the thesis. It is interesting to observe that you, as a nonagenarian, has always wished to leave Nigeria better than you met it. This cherished wish is also concomitant with the wish of many Nigerians who are younger than you in age. I sincerely wish you more power to your elbow sir”.
In a follow-up write-up, Deacon Dapo Omotoso opined thus: “After our amorphous amalgamation for over a century and about 60 years of independence, Nigeria has now become more sharply divided than hitherto. If urgent attention is not taken in restructuring our polity, the major blocks of the country will fall apart and it will be difficult and costly to pool us together again. In order to avert the Sword of Damocles from falling on us now, we should move fast on the restructuring of the country.
Before the collapse of the First Republic, Nigeria had four Regions: East, West, Mid-West and North. The General Sani Abacha administration gave Nigeria, six geo-political zones – East, West, South-South, North-East, North-Central and North-West. As a step to move the country forward, let us now agree that the current six zones should perform the same functions hitherto performed by the defunct four Regions.
The states in each zone should pool their resources together to make their respective zones attain greater heights in all aspects of governance. At the national level, let us revert to the status quo of the First Republic. The above-suggested model will stimulate competition among the six zones and the entire country will be better for it”.
I also agree with these submissions.