Opinion

By Nwabueze Akabogu The 9th Senate of the National Assembly recently constituted fifty-six members Senate Committee to carry out further review or amendments of the military imposed 1999 constitution. The members of the Senate Committee drawn from the six geo-political zones and headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege as its chairman was inaugurated by the Senate President Ahmed Lawan with the mandate to immediately carry out extensive amendments of the 1999 constitution that will reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people. It will be recalled however, that previous attempts to amend the military contrived constitution had always ended in fiasco or monumental disaster due to political intrigues and glaring insincerity on the part of the political class. The first attempt to amend the anti-people constitution was carried out during the former President Obasanjo Administration when the 5th Senate under the leadership of the former Senate President Ken Nnamani outrightly rejected the lofty amendments based on the alleged 3rd term ambition of former President Obasanjo, thereby “throwing out the bath water with the baby”. There was yet another attempt to amend the constitution during the 8th Senate when the immediate past Senate President Olusola Saraki constituted Senate committee on constitution review headed by the then Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. Although that committee carried out extensive work on the constitution amendments including conducting public hearings, and yet the exercise was later aborted as its recommendations never saw the light of the day. Again in 2014 former President Jonathan constituted a high powered constitutional conference tagged “2014 confab” which was made up of eminent Nigerians headed by the erudite jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Late Justice Lutigi of blessed memory as its chairman with the renowned Professor and former Nigeria Foreign Affairs Minister Bolaji Akinyemi as the Vice Chairman. That noble committee was mandated to fashion out a brand new constitution for the country that will satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigeria people. After about three months of intensive debates and political horse trading, these eminent men and women finally produced what could be described as generally acceptable document as the country’s new constitution which was later submitted to former President Jonathan for immediate implementation. It is a matter of deep regret and national calamity that the envisaged new constitution which would have offered Nigeria a new lease of life and by extension the consolidation of her unity did not see the light of the day but had since been gathering dust at the Presidency without being implemented for the common good of the Nigerian people. There was again another committee set up by the Buhari administration on restructuring during his first tenure. The report of that committee which was headed by the Governor of Kaduna State El-Rufia is yet to be made public up till this moment. One could go on and on ad inifinitum on the previous attempts by successive administrations in the country to further amend the 1999 anti-people constitution. However, there had been persistent clamour for a brand new constitution that would satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people and which would truly be called the people’s constitution. It is needless to emphasize the point that for Nigeria as a nation to record any meaningful progress in her socio-economic cum political development, the country urgently needs a brand new constitution through a Constituent Assembly whereby the people of Nigeria from all shades of opinion and diversity would participate in fashioning out a new constitution to be truly called the people’s constitution. The current military imposed 1999 constitution has obviously outlived its usefulness and must therefore be jettisoned to make way for the people oriented constitution that will satisfy the wishes and aspirations of the over two hundred million Nigerians who had been subjugated by the anti-people constitution for many decades. If Nigeria must join the comity of advanced democracies in the world and stop her current retrogression, our present crop of leaders must rise to the occasion and quickly create the conducive political environment for the enthronement of true and genuine democratic principles and norms within the frame work of the people’s constitution. In fashioning out a new constitution, the current unitary system of government being operated under the guise of Federalism must be totally abrogated to make way for true fiscal Federalism as obtainable in advanced democracies such as the U.S from where Nigeria borrowed her federal system of government. The country must therefore be restructured in such a manner that regions and not the present states would constitute the federating units while the states or provinces as the case may be would operate under the regions and those regions would also determine the number of states or provinces as well as their statutory functions. The envisaged constitutional arrangement would obviously engender healthy competitions among the regions and they must be allowed to develop at their own pace based on their individual peculiarities and natural endowments. The Central or National Government would only be assigned with such functions namely: National Defence, National Currency, Foreign Affairs among other functions as may be prescribed in the new constitution. Again in order to further strengthen national unity, cohesion and integration, Nigerian citizenship must be based on place or state of residence rather than the current archaic and primordial policy of state of origin which had greatly impeded the orderly growth and transformation of the nation as a modern state. The above patriotic recommendations for a brand new constitution are the only panacea for the survival and continued existence of Nigeria as one united country. The only alternative to the envisaged new constitution is the disintegration of the country which now seems inevitable given the prevailing extremely dangerous and precarious situation in the country. In the circumstances therefore, Nigeria could be allowed to disintegrate peacefully by giving effect to the formal abrogation of the infamous amalgamation treaty of 1914 by the erstwhile British colonial powers. The diverse ethnic nationalities that were forcibly lumped together in an unholy union by the British Imperialists could now go their separate ways as was the case in the former powerful Soviet Union or USSR where the fifteen Republics that were originally forcibly brought together by the former Soviet dictator Stalin in 1922 and the union was later dissolved by the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1992. Consequently, every constituent Soviet Republic declared its independence from the defunct Soviet Union following the end of the cold war in 1991. Nigeria could as well take a cue from the experience of the former Soviet Union and peacefully dissolve the rather unwieldy and unworkable union and later work out the modality for economic co-operation between or among the various independent nations that might eventually emerge after the dissolution of the Nigerian union. Nze Nwabueze Akabogu (JP) is a Regular Public Affairs Commentator and Analyst.

Remarks of The President Of Catholic Bishops’ Conference Of Nigeria (CBCN), His Lordship, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze, at the Peace Protest by the CBCN In Abuja, 1st March 2020

Today, we the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria and with significant support of priests, consecrated persons and our beloved lay faithful embark on a peaceful protest against the high level of insecurity in every part of Nigeria.

We are on this peaceful protest on behalf of the over 22 million Catholics and over 100 million Christians in Nigeria. We are protesting against the brutal killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram and terrorists’ herdsmen who are invading people’s farmlands forcefully.

We are gathered here to register our protest against the kidnapping for ransom in every part of Nigeria. We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies, and men who have been killed by the terrorists. We are gathered to let the Federal Government of Nigeria know that we are tired of hearing from them that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated” even when they still attack with impunity. Many local and international security experts have concluded that the terrorists use weapons that are very sophisticated.

Our protest is part of our religious obligation to speak prophetically against whatever is against God’s commandment. The killing of God’s children is evil. The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil. The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil. Our Government’s response to terrorists attack is for lack of better words, far below average.

There have been too many mass burials, too many kidnappings of school children, too many kidnappings of travelers, invasion of peoples’ homes, invasion of sacred places like Churches, mosques, seminaries, etc.

We sometimes read of our government sending condolence messages to western countries when there is a terrorist attack that may have led to the death of one or two persons. We commend the Federal Government for doing this. But we are utterly surprised to discover that the same Nigerian Federal Government will not even send a condolence message to families who have suffered fatalities in the hands of Boko Haram.

We have seen that our president rarely visits or even speaks to Nigerians when there are terrorist attacks in Nigeria. The several attacks on the lives of Nigerians appear normal to the government. Our government seem completely insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. A government that totally ignores the cries of those who elected it is set up for a fantastic failure. It doesn’t matter which party is in power.

Only recently we have seen that some of those in the Presidency have discovered that they can no longer go to some places where they campaigned before election. They are being booed by those who once supported them because these Nigerians felt disappointed.

To Mr President, Your Excellency, we are here to let you know that we pray everyday for the success of your government in dealing with insecurity in Nigeria. We pray daily for the government you lead to bring Nigerians together and make every Nigerian feel that they are equal in the country irrespective of their ethnic or religious background.

We want you to know that we pray to God to help your government realise that loyalty to Nigerians, loyalty to the unity of the country should be the priority in the choice of persons for sensitive top security positions in Nigeria. Such sensitive positions as security chiefs should not be given to people from one section of the country who shared one religious belief. This is a recipe for disaster in a multi-ethnic and multi-diverse nation such as Nigeria.

To President Buhari we say, please listen to the cries of Nigerians. Listen to the National Assembly when they, in a unanimous voice call on you to change the security chiefs. Listen to Muslim leaders who call for more government proactive actions to prevent terrorist attacks in Nigeria, and especially in North Eastern Nigeria.

Mr President, please ask for help from international communities to stop this over 12 years of terrorist attacks on Nigerians. Mr President, stop those who work with you from politicising the killings of Nigerians. The bombs of the terrorists do not know who is a member of APC or PDP. Mr President, Nigeria is a secular State, act to reassure Nigerians that there is no agenda to Islamize Nigeria.

Your silence is breeding and sowing seeds of mistrust and the longer it stays this way, the more you lose those who could have given you benefit of doubt. Only few Nigerians can defend you with reasons. Only few Nigerians can argue that your silence is not an endorsement of the barbaric actions of the terrorists.

We as a Church do not support any political party. We condemn any form of social injustice perpetuated against the people. The lack of significant actions to prevent and secure the release of those being held in captivity by Boko Haram is unacceptable to us. We cannot understand why the Government is not able to secure the release of the rest of the chibok girls, the release of Leah Sharibu and others are still being held in captivity.

We cannot understand why the Government reaction to the beheading of Reverend Lawan Andimi has not shown that there is going to be any consequences upon those responsible. Nigerians are tired of reading of the killing of an orphan (a seminarian) who was just eighteen years old. Nigerians are tired of hearing of the inexcusable actions of the Government in their response to these and many other sad cases.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, call on the international communities to come to the aid of Nigeria. We must see ourselves as a global family in the world. The tears and pains of the helpless persecuted Christians in Nigeria should be well reported in the West. Western Journalists and Western Political Leaders should give Boko Haram the attention they give to other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, and ISSIS. If the Western media give comprehensive and steadfast coverage of the atrocities happening in Nigeria, they will discover that people are dying daily in Nigeria from the hands of Boko Haram about the same way people are dying in Syria.

As we march and protest today, we want all Catholics in Nigeria not to be hopeless. We want Catholics and other well-meaning patriotic Nigerians to stand together to fight this terrorism. We must speak out against government inaction and poor response. We must work and pray for change to happen in Nigeria. As we entrust our country Nigeria to God, let us also entrust the terrorists into the hands of God.

We are hopeful that God can change their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Let us pray for their conversion. Let us pray to God to help our leaders to have the wisdom and courage to do what is good for every Nigerian. Let us eschew every form of hate speech, or incitement of violence. Only Love can conquer violence and hatred. May God bless Nigeria.

Thank you for your attention.

A section of the Catholic faithful during the prayer protest led by the Catholic bishops in Abuja, March 1, 2020.

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