Chief Guy Ikokwu, has picked holes in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s call that the South-East should be allowed to produce the President of Nigeria in 2019, saying it would suicidal for the Igbo to do so in the prevailing unitary structure of the country.
TVC N. Second Republic politician, lawyer and one of the pioneer members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,
Going forward, he told news men, in this interview, why and how Nigeria should be restructured urgently to unleash economic development in the country, among other issues. On Obasanjo’s call for Igbo presidency in 2019 Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s call for Igbo presidency at the next opportunity for election is rather belated because he had a golden opportunity in 2005 when he convened his National Political Reforms Conference, NPRC, to restructure Nigeria and return the country to true federation with fiscal federalism but he bungled it. That would have meant devolution of power to the states and regions, which would have given Nigeria a very strong economic base and we would not have been in recession that we are now. Obasanjo knows that the Igbo nation wants Nigeria to return to true federalism, which can be done this year. Therefore, Igbo prefer restructuring of Nigeria to presidential ambition under the present unitary system.
The last Igbo man, who ruled Nigeria under the unitary system was General Aguiyi Ironsi. He was murdered in the July 1966 counter-coup. Why will another Igbo person want to assume presidency of Nigeria under a unitary system as we have today when the last person was murdered? Ndigbo are not ready to make the same unsavoury mistake again. Majority of Ndigbo are not interested in the Nigerian presidency in our skewed and dysfunctional constitutional system, which is presently unitary instead of truly federal. Therefore, the Igbo are at the fore-front of the quest for justice, fairness, equity and equilibrium for all parts of Nigeria and the six geo-political zones, which will make Nigeria to become the pride of Africa and no longer the ‘big for nothing’ entity we are referred to in West Africa and the rest of Africa. The restructuring of Nigeria can be done this year because all the documentation has been done by all stakeholders and groups in the country. It should not take more than two months, between now and Easter and there will be a referendum by June.
The moment that is done, the economy of Nigeria will be turned around immediately because there will be renewed hope from everybody. Let the best thing for the country to be done now. We should no longer postpone the evil day. What about the 1999 Constitution and amendments embarked upon by the National Assembly? The 7th National Assembly had proposed several amendments to the 1999 constitution after a committee of the House had gone round the states for various testimonies. It is a well known fact that former President Goodluck Jonathan did not execute the proposed amendments of the constitution before he stepped down from office. The current 8thNational Assembly has also set up a constitution amendment committee which has been working on the details of various amendments which had been the subject of the political, media and other legislative discussions such as the separation of office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney General of the federation, true independence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and the judiciary, etc.
There are lot of the piece meal amendments, which have been proposed in the current 8th Assembly that are matters which had been discussed and recorded in some of the resolutions of the 2014 National conference. Some of these proposed amendments are definitely relevant and acceptable but such a piece meal method of constitutional review may not be endorsed as the proper means of introducing a totally new constitution for the country. To start with, the issue of the introduction of a new constitution for the country was not part of the electoral mandate of the election of 2015. Constitutional lawyers aver that “sovereignty belongs to the people” and a new constitution for the country can only be promulgated by the people of Nigeria by virtue of the referendum. It is quite clear that the 1999 constitution of Nigeria was promulgated with a “lie”.
It was not the people of Nigeria who promulgated the constitution. This lie had been emphasized by late jurist Rotimi Williams, SAN and our constitutional Icon Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN, likewise other living jurists because it was only endorsed by the ruling military class not by the Nigerian people. The revision of the Nigerian constitution must certainly underline the frame work under which the details are being worked out. The present constitution of 1999 is certainly a “unitary” constitution and not a “federal” constitution. Therefore, the detailed work of the 8th Assembly has to be done with regard to the system of democratic governance we are to return to. Flaws of past amendments, conferences The previous conferences and consultations under the military and under the presidential government of Obasanjo NPRC 2005 and Jonathan National Conference of 2014 did emphasis the return of Nigeria to a truly federal democracy with fiscal federalism and responsibilities.
It must definitely be such that the powers of the regions and states which had been aggregated upward and whittled down to the exclusive list of the central government in Abuja must be devolved back to the regions or states or federating units of Nigeria. Gains of true, fiscal federalism With true federalism and fiscal federalism, Nigeria would definitely be out of recession within one year and ensure a growth rate of not one per cent but a minimum of five per cent. With a return to parliamentary democracy massive corruption which has been enthroned by the military for 50 years will be drastically reduced ensuring a drastic reduction of unemployment, high wages for the working populace, increase in education and the diversification of the economy with increased productivity and increased foreign reserves from our exports as well as in coming foreign currencies from Nigerians in the Diaspora as well as Foreign Direct Investments, FDI.
There must be a sense of emergency in Nigeria. The judicial system must be reorganized with multiple and diverse courts to speedily deal with such matters as corruption. The British Supreme Court has just speedily ruled in favour of their parliament discussing and agreeing to the operation of Art 50 of the European Union Treaty before Prime Minister Theresa May initiates any action on the matter A lot of the agitations which imperil the rule and the quiet habitation of our kit and kin in various parts of the country, killings by herdsmen or religious killings such as the affairs of the Southern Kaduna, agitators in parts of the country such as the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and the unnecessarily and illegal incarceration of Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues, and other agitators in the North or in the Niger Delta would definitely be severely curtailed as the federating units who will be incharge of their internal securities will take care of a lot of the problems. Need for meeting of critical stakeholders
In consideration of the system to be adopted for the future governance of Nigeria, a lot of the leadership of various cultural unions such as Ohanaeze with the new President General of Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the Afenifere with the leadership of Chiefs Reuben Fasoranti and Ayo Adebanjo and the Yourba elders committees, the Arewa Consultative Forum current leadership, the Ijaw National Congress and the PANDEF leadership under Chief Edwin Clark and others, the religious leaders such as the Sultan of Sokoto, the Christian clerics such as Anthony Cardinal Okogie and John Cardinal Onaiyekan and the leadership of the CAN, the Muslim cleric Dr. Ahmad Gumi as well as other eminent Nigerian elite from the political or professional classes should be invited for a review of the constitutional amendments suggested by the 8thNational Assembly for deliberations before their final submissions are put to the nation by way of referendum. All these can be completed by June 2017, as time is of the essence. Nigerians cannot afford to stall at this time, otherwise the resultant effect may be very tragic for the nation. A conference of notable Nigerians should be summoned by President Buhari by end of February to confer for 30 days to review the papers of previous conferences and national assembly amendments in order to proffer the best options for a national constitution, for a Nigerian referendum by mid-year of 2017.
Such a positive attitude would engender an attitudinal hope and change of heart for our immediate restructuring of One Nigeria and mitigate our current economic inabilities. Personalities for such a conference should include ex officio notable representatives such as Hon. Justice Idris L. Kutigi, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Justice S. M. Belgore, Justice Mohammed Uwais, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Sen. Femi Okurounmu, with 20 persons of note representing each of the six zones of Nigeria, etc. What about autonomy for local governments? The issue of autonomy of Local Government Councils can only be analysed within its proper context.
Local Councils exist either in a unitary or in a federal constitutional set up. In a unitary system the local governments are the appendages of the unitary central government, whereas in a federal set up local councils are under the direct control of the federating units such as the regions or states. For the central government today to be allocating funds and dealing with some matters such as primary Education and Health Care, which are local government matters is clearly an adulteration and mix-up of their cardinal roles.
For the current state governments to have joint Local Government and State Government accounts largely operated by the state governments today is clearly another mix-up because it is still not clear whether Nigeria is operating a unitary or a federal system of government. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, surely misunderstood the current mix-up when he told the visiting executives of National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, recently that “it is the desire of the National Assembly to grant financial autonomy to local councils in the ongoing move to amend the 1999 constitution.”
The amendment of the constitution can only be legalized with its adoption by the constitutional majority of the states and National Assembly. If the states assembly in Nigeria today are for the enactment of a truly federal constitution for Nigeria then such a proposed amendment will fail. It is quite clear today that the use of the word “Federal” in our current constitution of 1999 is not only illegal but a fallacy. Nigeria operates a unitary form of government today because since 1976 most of the items in the Concurrent List of the 1963 federal constitution had been transferred to the Exclusive List of the centre by military fiat.
Therefore, what the National Assembly should do without hoodwinking the Nigerian populace and the states, which are currently mere appendages of the centre in Abuja is to reverse the militarisation of Nigeria, from a unitary to a federal democracy as was inherited from the British and our forefathers at independence in 1960. Our Governors, Legislators, Legal and other Professionals should be very watchful and ensure that Nigeria moves forward rather than ignorantly racing towards the calamitous precipices of no return.