Call for return to regional government heightens
• Eya, Okorie Query 1999 Constitution
• CAN Seeks Return To 1963 Era
• Constitutional Review Meant To Distract Nigerians— Middle Belt Leaders
As Nigeria marks 22 years of unbroken democratic rule, there is growing call for a return to the 1963 era premised on regionalism. Many, who spoke to The Guardian, believe that such would douse the tension generated by secessionist agitations, quest for restructuring and State Police, among other national concerns.
A former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya, yesterday, however, expressed disappointment with the 22 years of the country’s civilian rule, stressing that the constitution foisted on the people by the military in 1999 has made the country unworkable.
He added that President Muhammadu Buhari’s penchant for ethnicism has compounded the problems of the country, saying his leadership style has brought the country to its knees.
Speaking with The Guardian in Enugu, Eya stated that unless the 1999 Constitution was amended, the country would continue to totter, adding that the myriads of problems facing the country were because certain elements benefitting from the lopsided constitution would not want it to be amended.
“If we continue the way we are going, I doubt if this country will survive. So, let us see these 22 years as a period of learning and agree to do something to change the ugly situation,” he said.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said Nigeria’s democracy has been checkered, manipulated and exploited.
He said: “At the commencement of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, the outgoing military administration led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, in conspiracy with some retired military Generals, decided who they preferred to become elected president of Nigeria.
“The moment they settled for retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was then serving prison terms for purported accessory to a failed coup d’état, processes were quickly put in place for his eventual victory at the polls, which was largely manipulated and contrived.
“That election marked the beginning of the continuous shortchanging of the Nigerian electorate of their inalienable right to choose legitimately elected leaders at all the strata of our elections.
“This fundamentally flawed process of leadership recruitment instituted in 1999 and consolidated over the years have been largely responsible for the poor and corrupt political leadership that has adversely inflicted Nigeria and Nigerians with retarded and scandalous political, economic and social development and growth.
“However, Nigerians began to recover, albeit slowly, their right to elect their leaders democratically, beginning with the 2015 general election.
“Again in 1999, the outgoing military government foisted on hapless Nigerians an obnoxious constitution, which concentrated political powers at the centre and denied the federating units the latitude to explore and exploit their comparative advantages for economic growth and expansion.
“The constitutional amendment process currently embarked upon by the 9th National Assembly provides the country with a last ditch window to address the several ills of our federalism.”
He stated that a comprehensive amendment of the Constitution, including the Electoral Act, was about the only hope for the sustainability and stability of Nigeria as a sovereign nation.
In the same vein, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) called for the review of the 1999 constitution in such a way that it would return the country to regionalism, as was the case in 1963.
It stated that Nigeria was too big for a single president to preside over, noting that the country needs a constitution that would a provision for vice presidents from the various regions.
Presenting the body’s memorandum at the Public Hearing on Constitution Review held in Enugu, CAN National Legal Director and Public Affairs, Mrs. Comfort Chigbue, stated: “We support the constitution review. We will want the country to return to regions like in 1963 constitution where we will have vice presidents. One president cannot rule the country; we need assistance from the regions. The revenue that accrue from the regions, 70 per cent should be used by the regions to develop their regions while 30 per cent should be sent to the central.”
Chigbue said that CAN was in support of empowerment of Nigerian women through education and inheritance.
“We are also asking for empowerment of the women in terms of education and inheritance especially. There are some areas where women are looked at as ordinary citizens, but as Christians, from our own teaching, women and men are the same before God.
“No girl should be given in marriage or considered to have given consent, who is not up to 18 years. Women should also be inclusive in social and political affairs and they should have a voice wherever they go,” she said.
CAN also demanded for a constitutional provision that would guarantee the enforcement of fundamental human rights, with Chigbue saying: “It is not enough to enact laws that call for fundamental human rights. There should be provision that will bring implementation; if I breach then there will be consequences.
“We are asking that immunity be removed from everybody. Whether civil or criminal, everybody should be equal before the law; whether you are anybody in the country or anything, so far it is the law, it should be adhere to.”
According to the Chairman of CAN in Enugu State, Rev. Emmanuel Edeh, other areas the body wants to be addressed through the Constitution Review include giving recognition to traditional rulers and religious leaders; constitutional backing for the operational decentralisation and regionalisation of law enforcement agencies and financial autonomy/independence of judiciary, among others.
The people of Middle Belt region faulted the constitutional review exercise, saying it was intended to distract Nigerians from the current woes and challenges facing the country.
Leaders of the Middle Belt states, in a memorandum to the constitutional committee, through its spokesman, Mark Jacob, said: “There is the need for a national conference where ethnic nationalities will have equal opportunities to sit on a roundtable and discuss the basic terms which Nigerians can live together comfortably,” noting that any refusal to this proposition would bring chaos and dismemberment of the country.
Jacob lamented that the current constitution is a fraud, because it is not meant for the people and not prepared by the people.
He described the entire process of the constitution review as a jamboree, stressing that it is not the first time Nigerians are undergoing the review of the constitution.
“l don’t believe anything good will come out of the entire exercise of the review of the 1999 constitution.”
Jacob, a former attorney general and commissioner for Justice in Kaduna State, emphasised that the Middle Belt region is demanding for restructuring as a means to open up the space for ethnic nationalities to discuss the terms under which Nigeria should continue to exist as a country.
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