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Tony Nnadi: The problem with Nigeria’s constitution (3)

On Tuesday January 8, Tony Nnadi was guest on The Daily Report. This is a transcript of his responses to questions asked by programme host, Ify Onyegbule.

Our prescription is that the journey to the 2019 elections must be halted. The politicians who will win in the elections will have to swear to defend and uphold that constitution; that translates to swearing to defend the servitude, the misery, the source of all the suffering and the killings and everything that everyone is crying about.

Anybody who is willing to contest election and govern Nigeria with this constitution is participating and making himself a part of an ongoing crime. Those who imposed that constitution and put our signatures to it already committed a crime and those who are keeping it going are joining in that crime.

But they are going to account to their people who are being killed in the Middle Belt, who are being slaughtered in other parts of the country, and the poverty that is grinding everybody to a halt while the politicians go to the banks with the billions they share every day.

This was how we landed in the coup of January 1966. The constitution that brought Nigeria together suffered heavily on 29 May 1962 when the federal government suspended the constitution of the Western Region. Instead of solving that problem, they limped on to elections. It was the elections that was held in the midst of a disputed constitution that landed Nigeria into the Wild, Wild West which snowballed into what the soldiers came to solve in 1966.

We are on that trajectory again: the constitution is being disputed and people are hurrying to elections; they are only going to come to an inferno. It doesn’t matter who wins the election. Let us stop and repair the vessel, otherwise this ship will sink. And all of us are trapped in that vessel. If we have to save Nigerians, we will have to give up Nigeria of a fraud and go back to a Nigeria we agreed upon.

And we are not quarreling with those in government, we are not anarchists. We are saying let those in government remain while the rest of us go into a meeting so we can form a union that we can call our own. Unless we resolve the issue, the politicians are on a gamble of their own.

The problems of Nigeria cannot be solved by going into elections. And so what to do from where we have arrived is to acknowledge what the problem is. Like doctors would do, we need to carry out a diagnosis that will then lead to a viable prescription and a treatment that would work — in that order.

What is it that is wrong with Nigeria? Or is it that we are still arguing whether Nigeria is sick or not, when we have become the case study for failed states among leading researchers in the world, when we have become the poverty capital of the world — with 3 billion barrels of crude oil that is sold every day and all the potentials that remain potentials from the beginning?  

We will recall that 20-30 years into that experiment by Frederick Lugard in 2014, those who had to take over the management of that Nigeria had no confidence at all in the union that had been put together. Ahmadu Bello called it ‘the mistake of 2014’; then Awolowo had cause to say it was a mere geographical expression.

From all that has happened so far, have we moved forward from these impressions? Nigeria has become a disputed project. Imagine on a construction site, more than 70% of the workforce are not interested in building as you want, they are disputing the ownership of the land and whatever you try to put together, they try to knock it down.

What we need to do is look at what South Africa did with the apartheid constitution, because there is no difference between what they resolved in Apartheid South Africa and what we have to resolve now in Nigeria.

Therefore, let us do like South Africa did, let us agree that we have not made a constitution and then go into a meeting in which the constituents can, in keeping with their sovereign powers, begin to put together what will become the replacement for that instrument which is being rejected.

And we only need to ask two simple questions: do we want to remain in this union? If we find answers to that, which only a referendum can resolve, for many of the groups, then we go to the second one of ‘On what terms?’

How do we do that today? If we accept that we have not made a constitution, because the one existing was toppled and replaced by imposition, we have not agreed to be in the union going by that reality.

Tony Nnadi

If anybody thinks it is by going to the National Assembly to resolve the issue, let me tell you who would be making the amendment: the 36 states that came to be the federating units already created a lopsided situation; from a federation of three regions that became four and now 36 states.

So we have three senators from each state. When they go to the place of decision making,with all those things created by brigandage and decrees, have now become the law we must abide with.

If there is any lawyer in this land, whether a Senior Advocate or a professor of law that tells you that it is the National Assembly that will undertake this reconstruction of the constitution, that lawyer is either ignorant or dishonest, he doesn’t know what he is saying.

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Ify Onyegbule

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