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Postpone 2023 elections: Six-month Interim Government after Buhari’s tenure

By Afe Babalola
20 April 2022   |   2:54 am
Recent events in the country have confirmed that many political gladiators from APC, PDP and other political parties have been warming up for the 2023 elections.

Afe Babalola

Recent events in the country have confirmed that many political gladiators from APC, PDP and other political parties have been warming up for the 2023 elections.

The development is not surprising because the constitution foisted on Nigerians by the Military in 1999 has made politics not only very attractive but the only lucrative business in Nigeria today.

Being the only lucrative business in Nigeria today, it has therefore given birth to many politicians who are in fact transactional leaders. Now the country Nigeria is on the tip of the precipice arising from poor management of the economy.

In fact, Nigeria is on the brink of bankruptcy. The Naira, which was N199 to $1 in year 2015 now exchanges for N570 to $1 today. The external debt which was USD$10.7billion in 2015 is now over USD$38billion today. The government is borrowing more, spending more but earning less revenue!!! The worse thing is that the debt servicing level is also rising.

Nigeria today
NIGERIA witnessed great development during the golden era of the First Republic. There was Regional and Parliamentary system of government where sitting was on part-time basis. Legislators were paid sitting allowances only. Legislators were mainly those who wanted to serve free. They did not see themselves as masters of the people.

Since 1999, it is a notorious fact that the economic, political and social conditions of Nigeria are not only worrisome, but have assumed a frightening dimension. In 2020, Nigeria was ranked as the poorest country in the world with over 50 percent of Nigerians living in extreme poverty while over 7 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life-saving assistance (European Union Parliament Resolution, January 2020)

Concern by Nigeria’s House of Representatives
DISTURBED by these worrisome developments, Nigeria’s House of Representatives last year rightly invited the President to address the worrisome problem of insecurity. The President agreed to honour the invitation. Unfortunately, he later changed his mind.

As a result of persistent deteriorating security situation, including attacks at Airports, bombing of an Abuja-Kaduna bound train where hundreds of people were carted away and whose whereabouts remain unknown, attacks on farms, homes and schools, the House of Representatives again on March 30, 2022 publicly declared that the country’s security agencies have failed Nigerians.

In specific terms, the people’s Representatives therefore contemplated legalization of arms for personal protection, called for the sack or resignation of the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Mongono and considered shutting down National Assembly until President Muhammadu Buhari acts.

In addition, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on April 12, 2022 specifically told President Muhammadu Buhari to “immediately resign over his alleged failure to address the issues of killings, kidnappings and general insecurity in the country”.

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) in a statement by its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the Nigerian constitution allows the President to step down if he can’t solve the challenges confronting the country.

Baba-Ahmed said, inter alia that: “The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari does not appear to have answers to the challenges of security to which we are exposed. We cannot continue to live and die under the dictates of killers, kidnappers, rapists and sundry criminal groups that have deprived us of our rights to live in peace and security.

“Our Constitution has provisions for leaders to voluntarily step down if they are challenged by personal reasons or they prove incapable of leading.

“It is now time for President Buhari to seriously consider that option, since his leadership has proved spectacularly incapable of providing security over Nigerians. Our Forum is aware of the weight of this advice, and it is also aware that we cannot continue to live under these conditions until 2023 when President Buhari’s term ends.

“Killers and other criminals appear to have sensed a paralysing vacuum at the highest levels of leadership, and they grow more confident and acquire more competence in subverting the State and our security.

“Nigerians have shed enough tears and blood without appropriate response from those with responsibilities to protect us.”

The root cause of Nigeria’s problem
IN the recent past, many Nigerians have identified the 1999 Constitution as the root cause of the problems of Nigeria. Worried about the ugly trend, The Guardian Newspaper devoted 78 powerful Editorials to the need for Nigeria to have a true people’s (federal) constitution.

In addition, many leading traditional rulers, former Presidents, Governors and lawyers have since supported The Guardian Newspaper Editorials and pleaded with the Government and National Assembly to convene a Sovereign National Conference for a new Peoples’ Constitution. The APC-led government ignored these pleas/ suggestions and instead insisted on going for a new round of election under the same constitution.

In my own case, as far back as November 4, 2001, when I delivered a Lecture in Port/Harcourt at the First Memorial Lecture of His Majesty, King Abbi Amachree IV, the Amanyanbo of Kalabari, I have been advocating for a new people’s constitution to replace the 1999 constitution. Since 2020, I have gone further to advocate that there should be no election in Nigeria unless a new constitution is put in place to ensure that Nigeria does not recycle the same failed leaders again. All of these appeals have been ignored by the Legislators.

The big question
THE big question is: Should another election be conducted under the same 1999 Constitution, which has brought us to the lowest ebb economically, socially and politically?
It is understandable why the Government and the Legislators do not want to change the constitution despite the loud and persistent agitations by most Nigerians.

To save Nigeria from nose-diving into irretrievable bankruptcy and poverty, irreparable economic and political damage brought about by the 1999 Constitution and its beneficiaries, a new constitution is imperatively necessary before any election. I therefore strongly advocate that we should postpone the 2023 elections until the Interim Government put in place after the expiration of Buhari’s government has put in place a new truly People’s Constitution.

I am not in doubt that any election conducted under the 1999 Constitution and under the prevailing economic depression and insecurity will lead to a return of most of the failed leaders who are responsible for the near bankruptcy of Nigeria today.

Suggestions
ON account of the foregoing, I would like to proffer the following suggestions:
President Muhammadu Buhari should be allowed to complete his term; There should be no election in the country until we have a new people’s constitution which will focus on the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, which will provide for part-time legislation and no Executive President; An Interim Government should be put in place for six months after the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure. Members of the Interim Government should be drawn from all living former Presidents, all living former Vice Presidents, some selected Ministers and Governors, Delegates of Professional Bodies like NMA, NBA, ASUU, NLC, NUJ and Civil Society Organizations elected on Zero party basis to chart a new course for Nigeria,

The new Constitution should spell-out rules and regulations on the qualifications of those who are qualified to contest elections. The qualified candidate should possess the following qualifications: Age: not be more than 60 years old; good and sound health; sound education; sound knowledge of current affairs; good work ethics, experience, good human relations, vision & mission for Nigeria, belief in the need for a new constitution, oratory power, kindness, friendliness and firmness, previous contributions to development, economic standing, readiness to serve and proven ability to solve problems.

The new Constitution should provide for part-time legislators and not full-time legislators and the attendant wasting of resources,

The new Constitution shall also provide that there shall be no salary but sitting allowances only.
The new Constitution shall provide a true Federal System of Government instead of the rather expensive Presidential system of government. I suggest Parliamentary system of government with a Unicameral Legislature, and

The new Constitution shall provide for a Screening Body at Local, State and Federal levels, which will screen aspirants on their sources of wealth, means of livelihood, criminal record including pending suits (if any). This is more so, in that former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently said that most of the aspirants are those who should be behind the bars and this was corroborated by EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa.

Being text of the press conference by the Founder and Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN.