Nigerians deserve fresh constitution before 2023 elections, says NINAS
The Coordinating Secretary of the National Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), Tony Nnadi, was in The Guardian, where he spoke on the 2023 election and why it should not hold without changing the 1999 Constitution to reflect the aspirations of different nationalities that make up the federation.
Heading to the 2023 general elections, what are your concerns and why do you think the country is not stable enough for elections?
YES, the organisation I speak for, NINAS, had proposed since December 16, 2020 that the elections should be deferred, so that we can reconstruct the damaged constitutional basis of Nigeria. And that proposition didn’t just drop from the sky. We called it constitutional force majure, because we were declaring an emergency around the question of the union agreement that has been more or less toppled since 1966 and replaced by something totally strange to our original understanding.
So, we ceased to be a federation, we ceased to be a secular union since 1966 and the 1999 Constitution that has now turned our lives upside down is what we are rejecting. And when I say “we” I mean the nationalities, the constituent components, and the owners of the sovereignties that are aggregated as Nigeria.
You know who ought to make the union agreement and who made it. We made the agreement with the 1960 Constitution and got toppled in 1966. An Illegal Federal Government emerged in 1967 and truncated the federating constitution. What I am saying is that the federation of Nigeria died in 1967 after the accidents of 1966, and so, from that point to date, two constitutional instruments by which the union is held together and managed, have been in position, the latest of which is the one that came in 1999 under the code name 1999 Constitution.
But we all know the story of how it came; the military, by decree, imposed an instrument that toppled everybody and our sovereignty.
So you are asking for a fresh constitution?
Yes, we are asking and insisting on it. It is actually our right to insist on what we want. It is called the right to self-determination; it is inalienable, as the owners of the sovereignty that will become that Nigeria. Our signature is put on a document we never made. When you go back to Decree 24 of 1999 by which they imposed that constitution, you will see that it was just the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) of General Abdulsalam Abubakar that told the story of how they came about the document. They said they formed a committee that went around and people wanted a return to the 1979 Constitution.
So, as the ruling Military Council, they added and subtracted from that report and put forward what they have made out to be called the Constitution of 1999 and that is how we got to where we are; a federation of four regions to 36 states that are now listed in that Constitution as the federating units. 774 local governments that must be financed from the centre every month, 68 items on the exclusive list that seize everybody’s assets; the oil and gas of Niger Delta, the port of Lagos and you now put all the guns in the hands of that Federal Government that has, in turn, being hijacked by an ethnic group in the country; the Fulani who are also now openly in collusion with the invading herdsmen that have been adjudged the foremost deadly terror group on earth by the global terror index, with our Commander in Chief and President, a Fulani man presiding over all of it.
And we said we have been having elections since 1999. We had one in 2003, 2007, 2015 and 2019, what has it added to our lives, other than degeneration and you know where the country has gotten to on all indices.
And we said as statesmen, let’s put this proposal on the table, having worked out all of what will replace what we agitate, we are not anarchists. We said let us go to transition now and begin to rework the damaged constitutional basis of Nigeria. Because on the basis of this 1999 Constitution, the owners of the constituent components, the owners of the sovereignty; Yoruba can be a country of 60 million people, the Eastern side, the South-south and the North can determine how they want to live.
And we have been organising since the emergence of this Constitution in 1999, you heard about PRONACO, you heard about NIM, you heard about when we went to court in 2007 to say that this Constitution was not made by us and that the document is illegitimate and it cannot be the basis of our union. You saw the solemn assemblies by which the constituent components told international continents, the global communities that they will no longer be willing to submit themselves to that Constitution that ruined their lives.
It took their assets, it took all the guns from them and put them in the hands of people who are determined to exterminate them and take their lands. So, it is a combination. This constitutional force majure, which we activated as a mechanism for enforcing the consensus of the majority and I am talking about a solid majority that has been in excess of 80 percent of the country’s population.
The whole of the South and the whole of the Middle Belt who have been at the receiving end of this invading force, we say instead of going to elections, especially now that it has been established that our President and Commander in Chief is at the centre and is complicit in the terror that we have been suffering. So, instead of elections, why don’t we branch out as South Africa did in 1990 to go to resolve this long-standing issue that is taking Nigeria as already a failed state, everybody has acknowledged that.
But it has gone beyond that, Nigeria is a poverty capital of the world and this is a country that sells three million barrels of crude oil every day, a country with the human resources. We insist that we cannot proceed to elections to revalidate and reinforce this instrument the fifth time, we have had four rounds already.
Your impression of the President, don’t you think that that is an assumption?
Let us examine it. He is a Fulani, into cow breeding, being the grand patron of Miyetti Allah for many years. You saw when he went to molest the late Lam Adesina, former governor of Oyo State. So if he is the grand patron of Miyetti Allah, he hasn’t told us he has ceased to be, he is still, this cattle breeders association, you see them every day proudly taking responsibility for the activities of the Fulani herdsmen. This President whose sympathy is with the Fulani herdsmen and the Miyetti Allah, you saw when he went into the treasury to pull out an N100b, which he gave to Miyetti Allah at the peak of the brigandage.
That is subjective; you don’t have the fact…?
It was on national TV at the time. Everybody was looking for answers to the invasion of Fulani herdsmen. What he did as President and Commander in Chief was to examine their request. They demanded N160b to avoid the frequent clashes with owners of farmlands.
Your group is disputing the 1999 Constitution, rejecting it outright, you need to have a legal basis to do that knowing full well that there is a process to reject, reorganise and amend Constitution. You cannot just deny it that without having a replacement there will be a vacuum, so what is your basis?
The basis is our sovereignty, Nigeria is made of lands and people that could have been countries of their own and it took a lot of discussions and agreement, meeting in the Lancaster House, the agreement of 1959 from the point of motion for Independence was moved in 1953 by Chief Anthony Enaoro and it was opposed and defeated by the Northern delegation that insisted that they needed a higher level of autonomy to commit to being in union with the rest of Southern Nigeria.
And so from that 1953, the eight points demand raised by the leader of the Northern delegation, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello became the basis of the depth of autonomy that will be enjoyed by the federating regions. And that became even the basis of becoming one political union, otherwise, those three regions could have gone off into independence as different countries. You remember that they each had their Constitution; Western region got its Constitution in 1957, East followed but they did not put them together until 1959 when the North was able to put its acts together for self-governance.
It was these three Constitutions that went to Lancaster House to unionise, federate, and distil what they mandated as the union office, which is the Federal Government. Everything was going well, you saw how the West faired under Chief Obafemi Awolowo; East faired under Chief Michael Okpara, the fastest growing economy of the developing countries of the world at the time ahead of this Asian Tigers.
Even the North didn’t fail woefully; they had their own economy and built some of the things other people were building including universities. And so things were going relatively well until 1966 when some idealistic officers felt that the politicians were doing all kinds of things and they struck.
Then by July, there was some kind of reprisal coup in which things now progressively degenerated to where the union itself collapsed because people could no longer go to the other parts to discuss, they went to Aburi to try to restore the unit that collapsed. And then they came back, one side rejected it and it turned to war. About 3.5 million got killed on the battlefield of Biafra, so what then emerged from 1967, as I said earlier was an illegal Federal Government operating flawed Constitution, first collated in 1979 and carried forward in 1999. We are saying that we do not accept the further reinforcement of the Constitution by way of elections at this time,
NADECO fought soldiers to leave the Government House and succeeded but the soldiers dumped on everybody the Constitution they first put together in 1979. The task now is to do the unfinished business of NADECO by calling a meeting of the owners of Nigeria, which we called PRONACO. When we convened the meeting of PRONACO in 2005, it was for the purpose of getting the nationalities to decide two questions, one; whether they want to continue in the union of Nigeria and two, on what terms if the majority want to continue.
It lasted for years and we had 164 ethnic delegations in attendance. We sat in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Jos, and Kano and came back to conclude it in Lagos. And it was a delegate from Katsina that moved the motion for the adoption of the finished product. Buhari, the President now was part of the Fulani delegation that came to that process. Abubakar, who is now Sultan was a Colonel in the Army and was part of the Fulani delegation that came. So, nobody was left out.
All the groups that were angry enough to carry arms against the Nigerian states at that time were persuaded to drop arms. We persuaded them to believe we can fix this thing, because the Nigeria we have was imposed on us by the British. The soldiers have come in and made their own mistakes, let us now take responsibility and sit down and discuss how we can continue to accommodate everybody because nobody had security, nobody had electricity, education healthcare or housing.
So why can’t we now just within the context of our right to determine how to live in our space, it is called the right to self-determination.
At the time of PRONACO there was a civilian government in place ….?
We are not anarchists. I am a lawyer of many years and the people who convened PRONACO, you know some of them like Chief Enahoro, Professor Wole Soyinka, Dim Ojukwu, Bishop Gbonigi, all kinds of people across the country.
We had everybody who was involved in saying Nigeria must work well. When we announced in 2004 that we are going to have a meeting of the owners of Nigeria to decide the terms of the union afresh, Obasanjo went on national TV to say that it will amount to treason if we did that. Of course, we told him to get ready to put everybody in prison if he is the one that has become Nigeria. Nobody needed to tell him to let off the threat when he saw the kind of people that turned up from everywhere.
We went into that process. It lasted two years and sat in preliminaries. We succeeded and had a consensus draft, acceptable to all sides. The only people that refused to come were the government of the day, but we knew that if we held on and pushed on, it will come to where they will have no alternative. If it goes to a referendum today, it will go to 90 per cent and if anybody is in doubt, let’s go to that referendum. But if anybody is hoping that it is this Constitution that lied that we the people submitted our sovereignty, that will remain the basis and every four years they will go and renew it by-election, such a person is in great error.
Don’t you believe in the ongoing efforts of the National Assembly to review the 1999 Constitution?
Let’s not waste time on that. The mandate of the National Assembly is for law-making, Constitution-making is far outside their mandate. They are committing treason against all of us for hanging on to a Constitution we didn’t make and assuming our sovereignty. They are assuming our sovereignty by pretending they are the ones who now have to make Constitution for us.
But Nigerians elected them?
We elected them for the limited purpose of making laws go and see section three of the Constitution. We elected them for a limited purpose for four years to go make law according to the Constitution. Is it not what is written down there? That is their mandate. If you want to know who has the power to make Constitution, go to section 14(2A) of the Constitution.
It says: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice. It is hereby accordingly declared that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority.”
The meaning of this is that only the constituent components have the power to make a constitution. The power required to make a constitution is called “constituent powers.” The National Assembly doesn’t have constituent powers, they are only stepping into the shoes of Abdulsalam Abubakar and his gang of 1999 to now become the owners of our sovereignty to sit in Abuja and begin to dictate to us the terms by which we live in union.
When you go to the preamble of the constitution, you will then see the gravity of the offense we are talking about. It says that “we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity as an indivisible and divisible sovereign nation”, do you understand it is a false claim? It is false. So, in the attempt to pretend that what we read in 14(2A) has happened, they lied that we the people submitted our sovereignty and also wrote the articles to manage our union.
It was assumed…
No, no, no, they knew they were lying. If it is an error, they will treat it as one but the Decree 24 by which they imposed this Constitution in 1999 told the story of how they came about the constitution. That is where they got into this trouble from which they will not be allowed to recover. That decree 24, as we see here is the story of Abdulsalam Abubakar.
Former administration under Obasanjo said the country’s unity is non-negotiable…?
Who are they to believe and speak for me? I don’t believe that our unity is non-negotiable.
Looking at what is happening with IPOB and the likes, do you see this conversation ending in an amicable manner without force because now we have seen different groups coming up and what eventually happen is that it becomes a treasonable offence?
There is only one treason on the table now, the people that gathered in Abuja to swear to defend and uphold this fraud that seized my sovereignty with my signature I didn’t append, standing on the document as the basis of authorisation, they are the ones committing treason against me.
It is only one group of people that are shedding blood in the East, West and Middle Belt. It is only one group of people killed in Zamfara, Niger and Benue states. What is going on in the East is now a mixed-up situation and it is so minute that you can’t bring it to this level of discussion. We have engaged all of them including the IPOB.
To your question about whether this matter can end amicable, the proposition we have on the table and when I say “we”, the NINAS constitutional force majure proclamation, which was published in The Guardian newspaper on January 20 in 2021, four pages and signed by 128 people representing all the blocks in the country at the highest possible levels. It was a proposition for how to end this matter without bloodshed. We have been through bloodshed the first time; you saw how the processes involved all the people on the two sides of the war, Enahoro that was the spokesman of the Federal government, Ojukwu that was the organiser of the Biafran side. All of them were involved.
The whole world is watching, we have gone to engage the international stakeholders both at the UN and the Security Council, including the US.
You saw when the UN sent a mission in August of 2019 to come to investigate why blood was flowing all over Nigeria and that mission came out with a verdict that the constitutional arrangement of Nigeria was like a pressure cooker for injustice and under that Constitution, Nigeria has become a threat to global peace, especially because of its population. Nigeria is bound to snap operating that constitution if we do not find answers early enough. And if Nigeria snaps, 200 million people will be looking for where to run to.
The global terror networks are already converging here; ISIS is here working with Boko Haram, and Al Qada is already here, so the UN itself has raised the alarm that the constitutional arrangement of Nigeria is the reason all the blood is flowing everywhere. Whether is the terror we see or the agitations we see, poverty and what it can bring.
We went to the US and told them the terror network they were fighting in Middle East has converged in our sub-region and that our government is complicit in how they are being reinforced to become stronger. And that if nothing happens to stop them that the US itself will pay in blood because these terror networks are going to find an unlimited number of people to proceed with their campaigns.
You have the political class to deal with, some of the people you have mentioned who you know were in PRONACO and somehow, some are governors. From the outside you cannot proclaim a conference, there is no weight of any law so to say. So are you going to be using the instrument of the UN?
Everything available will be used.
And then how do you overcome the political class?
Those who went to do party as they were dropping off, we gain them back, for every one person that dropped off at least a 1000 persons joined us. If you put your ear to the ground now you will see that the whole country wants a new Constitution, you heard Afe Babalola saying it.
So, if that level of consensus has been built and the few people are going about waving the party flag of say APC and PDP, whose turn it is, we are not going to pay any attention to them.
The masses are the people whose lives are being ruined, the people who are being slaughtered from across the length and breadth of Nigeria by the same group of people, those whose assets have been detained in Niger Delta oil and gas, and those whose port assets have been detained in Lagos by this constitution that seized those assets, the limestone of Benue that has been seized from Benue and allocated to somebody who then becomes the richest man in Africa, these are the things that are being orchestrated under the Constitution.
And so, we say let us accept that we have a union dispute, we have grievances that have now manifested in forms of all kinds of agitations, let us accept that we can’t proceed on the basis of this country that is being rejected. You saw the solemn assemblies that happened first in the East in Port Harcourt on April 27, 2015, you saw it replicated in Ibadan, and the governors of South West were all there in Ibadan. The Ooni of Ife was there and all kinds of people from the Middle Belt.
These are the things we have done to create consensus around this question of what to do with this imposition, the tiny minority including the people from the South and Middle Belt who swear to defend and uphold this abomination that is responsible for the killings and impoverishment of others. I tell you, they are going to find themselves in head-on collusion with this mass of people whose anger is building up.
You saw what happened in #ENDSARS? We are actually the only peacemakers left everybody else is pointing guns at others and we said look we can fix this. We have a preposition on the table and I can quickly run through the five points of the preposition. We said; one, a formal announcement from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria acknowledging the constitutional grievances and sovereignty disputes now declared by the people of the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria.
The NINAS is an alliance with all of those who are suffering from this Constitution and are against that Constitution and the perpetuators of it because our signature is sitting there as authoring our damnation. At that first, we said let us do as South Africa did in 1990 to say yes there is a problem and we can solve it.
Secondly a formal commitment by the Federal Government to jettison the 1999 Constitution as the basis of the Federation of Nigeria as was done by the government of the apartheid-era South Africa in 1990 to commence the process by which the apartheid Constitution of the then South Africa was eased out. It began with an announcement to say we cannot continue this deceit.
Thirdly, a formal announcement from the Federal Government suspending further general elections under the disputed 1999 Constitution since the winners of such elections will swear to and govern by that Constitution, that is to put a time frame you know people have been shouting about the sovereign conference and all kinds of things over the years. We have come to the point where we have to put a time frame on when it will happen, it has to be undertaken.
Four, that is where people need to pay serious attention now because we are not anarchists. We said a formal initiation of a time-bound transitioning process to midwives the emergence of fresh Constitutional protocols by a two-stage process in which the constituent regional blocks will at the four states distil and ratify their various constitutions by referendums and plebiscite. And then the second stage is to negotiate the terms of federating afresh as maybe dictated by the outcome of the referendums and plebiscites.
Unlike Afe Babalola that talked about interim government and all of that, he agreed with the first three, let me say the fifth one and summarise how they all relate and what we can do now. A formal invitation to the people of the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria to work out and emplace a transitional authority, which has specified the modalities for the transitioning processes, including the composition and mandate of the transitional authority as well as the time frame for the transitioning and other auxiliary matters.