Let constitution amendment reflect populace’s wishes, Jonathan tells National Assembly
•Nwodo, Adebanjo, Jega urge restructuring
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, called on the National Assembly to reflect the wishes of Nigerians in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.
He made the call during the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, declaring his support for the restructuring of the country.
Jonathan recalled his experience in The Gambia where constitutional review just commenced, urging Nigerians to prevail on the Red Chamber to amend the constitution in line with their yearnings and aspirations.
The ex-President, who chaired the dialogue, themed: ‘Restructuring, why? when ? how?’, argued that beyond the issue of physical restructuring, Nigerians should restructure their “minds” towards tackling the myriad of challenges confronting the country.
Jonathan, who convened the 2014 National Conference, inaugurated on March 17 of that year in Abuja, identified nepotism, ethnic and religious differences and lack of patriotism as some of the teething challenges plaguing the country.
He urged continued existence of Nigeria as a united and indivisible country.
“As a country, we have our peculiar challenges and we should devise means of solving them, but we should not continue to vent our spleen on the amalgamation.
“As Shakespeare in Julius Caesar said, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. My conviction is that discussion on restructuring will not help except we restructure our minds because some of the challenging issues at the national level still exist at the state and local levels,” he said.
He likened leadership and nation building to giving care to a sick patient, saying that just as patient would receive different phases of treatment regardless of which doctor on duty until the he or she recovered fully and is discharged, nation building would follow different stages under different leaders.
Immediate past President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nnia Nwodo, argued that the 1999 Constitution forced on Nigerians by 24 officers of the Supreme Military Council, chosen without recourse to geographical representation, overthrew the sovereignty of the old three regions – a product of the 1960 and 1963 constitutional conferences – endorsed by Nigeria’s founding fathers, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo.
He maintained that the document eroded the sovereignty of the regions over their national resources and domestic security and imposed in the process an unprecedented fall of educational standards, domestic security and economic wellbeing.
On the way forward, he called for the restructuring of the country before the 2023 general elections.
Afenifere chieftain and elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who spoke virtually, called for a return to true federalism as defined in the 1963 Constitution.
Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, said the call for restructuring is driven by incompetent, inept, inefficient and self-serving leadership, at both federal, state and local government levels, failure of governance to satisfy the needs and aspirations of citizens, increasing devastating poverty and deteriorating socio-economic conditions of the citizens as well as political brinksmanship by some elite, especially politicians and/or ethno-religious ‘war lords.’
On how to restructure the country, he said: “The best way to restructure the Nigerian federation is to pursue systematic, incremental positive changes and avoid ‘once for all’, wholesale undertakings, because they are time-consuming, energy-sapping, and constraining. The National Assembly’s efforts to do constitutional amendments since 1999, “all at a go!”, consequently with little value addition, have lessons for us to draw from.”