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Afe Babalola seeks new constitution before 2023 general election

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Afe Babalola

Legal luminary, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) has canvassed a new constitution before the 2003 general elections, noting that the 1999 Constitution foisted on Nigerians by the military is the cause of myriads of political, socio-economic crises bedeviling the country.

He also called on all patriotic Nigerians who want the country to remain united to join hands to reject the 1999 Constitution to save the country from disintegration.

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To Afe Babalola, the new constitution must jettison the Presidential system of government and adopt a Parliamentary system of government and true federalism like the 1963 Constitution suspended by the military in 1966.

The nonagenarian spoke while delivering his goodwill message at the 5th Ife Institute of Advanced Studies, Summer Institute programme, where he traced the challenges facing the Nigerian education system to a defective constitution.

He said, “I have said it over and over again that the problem with Nigeria is the 1999 Constitution foisted, on us by the military when it wanted to exit the reigns of governance in 1999, instead of reverting to the 1963 constitution which Nigeria’s founding fathers bequeathed to us. After all, the Military merely suspended the 1963 Constitution when it seized power on January 15, 1966, it did not abolish it.

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“It is lamentable that instead of bringing back the 1963 Constitution, which was suspended; the military went to America to import the Presidential system of government to install an all-powerful President and weakened the constituent regions (now States). The all-powerful President wields so much power to the extent that when the National Assembly invited him on security matters, he ignored the wishes of the representatives of the people by refusing to show up at the National Assembly

“It is the constitution that allows Nigeria to be running the most expensive democracy in the world with government functionaries earning exorbitant salaries and allowances in a country riddled with unemployment, poverty, insurgencies, kidnapping, ferocious terrorist acts, killings, murder, robbery, and widespread destruction of properties.

“It is the constitution that breeds transactional leaders instead of transformational leaders like the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

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“It is the same constitution that makes the opinions of those outside government to be irrelevant to those in government.”

To solve the problem, the founder of the high brow Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), Ado Ekiti said: “Those who wish this country to remain an indivisible entity, and I am one, must unite to ensure that we replace the present 1999 Constitution with a truly federal constitution and a parliamentary system of government which is more involving and less expensive

“It my considered view that a new constitution must be in place before the next election, otherwise we will be recycling the same failed leaders that have brought Nigeria to where it is today.

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“The proposed constitution will spell out the number of political parties and percentage of women representation, among others. It will also enable knowledgeable, selfless, patriotic, and non-tribalistic Nigerians to emerge as leaders and make governance less expensive. In addition, it will discourage politics from being the most lucrative business in Nigeria.

“It is common knowledge that money plays a dominant role in winning elections in Nigeria today. Hence no salary earner such as Medical Doctors, Engineers, Bankers, Lawyers or Lecturers can dare contest an election unless he/she embraces an all-powerful deep-pocket Godfather in Nigerian politics.

“The constitution must prevent transactional businessmen from contesting elections.

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“The constitution must make provision for Independent Candidates to contest and win elections.
“In considering this new constitution, priority attention must be accorded to the multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic nature of the country made up of over 400 ethnic groups speaking over 295 dialects. Particular attention must be paid to the issue of poverty, reduction of population by limiting the number of children per couple. This will prevent the present untoward situation where the offer of a mere N5,000 could induce poor Nigerians to vote against the dictates of their conscience.”

To avoid money playing a dominant role in the country’s election, Afe Babalola suggested that the new constitution must contain the following provisions:

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“The National Assembly shall consist of 60 per cent of Nigerians elected by Professional Bodies including the NBA, NMA, NSE, Civil Society Organizations, NLC, ASUU, TUC and NANS each of which will be allocated a particular percentage out of the 60 per cent to elect into the Legislative Houses.

“The remaining 40 per cent shall be contested by all qualified voters. This way, we will have a parliament consisting of 60 per cent of elected members by professionals and opinion leaders whose election will not be affected with votes bought with as little as N5,000.

“Nigeria does not need two Houses in the National Assembly. All we need is one House with the number of Legislators reduced to 50 per cent of what it is today.”

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