Posted by Kunle Oderemi | 9 January 2020 | 1,549 times
Elder statesman, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to send a bill to the National Assembly for the convoking of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) in order to rescue the nation from its current quagmire.
He said the constitution to be produced by the conference must serve as the roadmap for the conduct of the 2023 general election if the country must survive.
In a special New Year message for the country titled, ‘Convocation of Sovereign National Conference before the 2023 General Election’, the legal luminary said the conference and the sanctity of the outcome remained the road to travel by the country if “we are to make it as a nation.”
He said the country was in a dire strait because of an avalanche of frightening challenges, among them, unpaid salaries, pensions and other emoluments, spiral unemployment, different shades and shapes of violence, armed robbery, poverty, grossly underfunded institutions, and poor infrastructure.
According to Afe Babalola, no cosmetic approach can resolve the real problem facing Nigeria because they are deep-rooted in a warped constitutional framework foisted on the country.
“Truth be told, Nigeria cannot afford the extension of the warped 1999 Constitution and the attendant sufferings it has imposed on majority of Nigerians for another four years.
“The consequences can only be imagined. I would therefore like to personally appeal to President Buhari to follow up on what he began towards the end of last year by surprising Nigerians with a Bill to the National Assembly asking for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference.
“There is an urgent need to replace the 1999 constitution with a people’s constitution. But unfortunately, this cannot be achieved by the present crop of legislators in the National Assembly being the major beneficiaries of the rot.
“To maintain the status quo, what the present caste of legislators have been doing is to amend, re-amend and further amend the extant 1999 constitution.
“They should appreciate that no one can successfully mend a skyscraper which is devoid of pillars: such a skyscraper will simply fall like a house of cards.
“In the circumstance, what we need to solve the multiplicity of problems is the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC),” he declared.
Aare Babalola noted it was part of those existing inadequacies in the existing constitution that were being exploited by some individuals and groups already scheming for the 2023 general election.
Therefore, he said: “The proposed Sovereign National Conference must conclude its deliberations before any election. It follows therefore that there should be no election before the outcome of the proposed Sovereign National Conference.
“The 2023 general election should be conducted using the new constitution which will be the outcome, indeed the product, of the Sovereign National Conference.”
The erudite lawyer and philanthropist gave a vivid clarification on the concept, as well as the condition on the process and conduct of such fundamental conference to ensure equity, justice and fairness.
Maintaining that the conference must not have ‘a no-go area,’ the elder statesman said it would address all issues relating to the normal relationships that should exist among the various ethnic nationalities making up the federating entity.
But he warned that there has to be an enabling law for the convocation of the conference that would ensure that the outcome would receive the status of a draft Constitutional Reform Bill to be sent to the National Assembly without any amendment.
“A Sovereign National Conference is one convened to reconsider the country’s political future. It is designed to carry out political transformation, in other words, to chart a new course.
“It is appropriate where the economic, political and social structures seem incapable of solving the problems of the country as it is in Nigeria today so that instead of resorting to arms, a peaceful and orderly change can take place.
“The distinguishing word ‘sovereign’ in a Sovereign National Conference, therefore, connotes that the body is not merely advisory or consultative.
“Rather, it is an assembly of elected representatives of the Nigerian people, backed by an enabling law, with the mandate and power to fundamentally restructure the political, economic, social and constitutional future of the country.
“A Sovereign National Conference will not have any ‘no-go areas or non-negotiable issues.’ Rather, it will have the broadest mandate to determine the political, economic, social, judicial, legislative and security structures of the Federation, which will include issues of state police, fiscal federalism; multi-religiosity; separation of powers, bicameral legislature or otherwise, salaries and emoluments of legislators, fundamental human rights; and fundamental objectives and directive principles governing the coming together of different parts of Nigeria as a Federation.
“The enabling law would ensure that the outcome of the Sovereign National Conference will receive the status of a draft Constitutional Reform Bill which will be passed by the National Assembly without any amendment.”
Part of the statement by Aare Babalola read: “I joined millions of Nigerians in commending President Buhari for obeying court orders thereby firing the hope that this government believes in the Rule of Law. It is trite to emphasize that the Rule of Law is the solid pillar on which democracy properly so-called stands.
“Identification of Nigeria’s problems:
“But no matter how well-placed the intention of the President and other Nigerian political leaders to tackle the problems highlighted above may be, such intention might come to naught unless Nigeria identifies the root causes of the problems and proffer workable solutions to them properly and quickly too.
“There is this time-tested Yoruba aphorism, to wit: “Ebikiiwonu, kioromiranwo” which translates roughly to “when a man is poor, he becomes hungry, when he is hungry, he becomes angry and when he is angry, he can engage in any vice like kidnapping, larceny, outright robbery and all forms of violence that were alien to our land in the days of yores”.
“Those of us who are over 80 years old will recall that there was no poverty in Nigeria in those days. This was simply because everybody was gainfully employed. Even those who were engaged in other vocations like bricklaying, barbing, trading and carpentry still engaged in agriculture if only to feed members of their immediate families. That was the trend in those days. It is my humble view that it is only when our problems are identified that we can proffer solutions to them.
“Knowing that Nigeria contains more than 250 ethnic nationalities with different cultures, languages, religions and customs, Nigeria’s founding fathers, after sitting together in Lancaster House in London for almost 10 years, fashioned out a constitution that united the different ethnic nationalities. This was one of the main reasons why both the 1960 Independent Constitution and 1963 Republican Constitution worked well before the Military made a forceful incursion in governance following the military coup of January 15, 1966.
“In essence, when the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions were in operation in Nigeria, poverty and other problems afflicting Nigeria today were virtually non-existent in the country.
“The real problem:
“The real and main problem Nigeria has today is the Military Constitution which was christened 1999 Constitution and foisted on us by the Military. Unless the 1999 Constitution is properly addressed and jettisoned in a place of a truly people’s constitution, we shall continue to groan in pain as a nation.
“The 1999 constitution should be jettisoned because it encouraged indolence, lack of creativity, greed and avarice, wanton struggle for positions in the Central Government and the untoward attitude of begging for monthly allocation from the Federal Government. It is common knowledge today that politics has suddenly and lamentably become the only lucrative business in the country.” (Nigerian Tribune)
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