A former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, has revealed that a new constitution is the only way forward to address the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Nigeria.
Anyaoku who stated this while delivering the 2023 Convocation Lecture of Afe Babalola University, Ado Eki on Friday, noted that to achieve the desired transformation for the better, the country needs a system of government that not only addresses Nigeria’s diversity but also based on a constitution that can correctly be described as the Nigerian people’s Constitution.
He said, “The essence of the new Constitution should, in recognition of the crucial principle of subsidiarity in every successful federation, involve a devolution of powers from the central government to fewer and more viable federating units with strong provisions for inclusive governance at the centre and in the regions as was agreed by Nigeria’s founding fathers.”
The former Commonwealth scribe who spoke on a topic titled, “Management of diversity: A major challenge to governance in pluralistic countries,” said Nigeria successfully managed diversity in the early years of independence when “Nigeria’s diversity was perceived by all as a source of strength and inspirer of national unity.
He said, “But all this changed when the military intervened in the country’s governance in January 1966 and changed the existing constitution.”
He noted that under the Constitution before military intervention, there was security of life and property, and there was a faster pace of economic development in the regions, saying that healthy competition among the regions promoted rapid development across the country.
“In contrast, today if truth be told, the situation in our country is lamentable. There is an unprecedented level of divisiveness and a declining sense of national unity; the economy is in the doldrums, with 133 million of our population in multidimensional poverty.
“There is great insecurity throughout the land as we hear every day of killings and kidnappings by unknown gunmen and marauding bandits; all our infrastructure, including power supply, roads, and educational and health facilities, are in a poor state.
“Added to all this, there is a complete bastardisation of our society’s ethical values and an unfathomable level of corruption evident in the often reported massive looting and mismanagement of the country’s resources, including the continuing unbridled theft of our crude oil,” Anyaoku said.
He added that, “I believe that Nigeria is still salvageable. The country can still be restored to greater peace, greater security, a renewed sense of national unity, greater political stability, and a more assured pace of economic development.
“To arrest the ongoing deterioration of the situation in the country and to achieve the desired transformation for the better, we need a system of government that not only addresses our diversity but is also based on a Constitution that can correctly be described as a Nigerian people’s Constitution.
“Accordingly, I call on the Presidency in consultation with the National Assembly, instead of continuing to tinker with the 1999 Constitution, to acknowledge the urgent necessity of a new Constitution to be made by the people of Nigeria.”
The former Commonwealth scribe however advised the Federal Government to immediately “convene a National Constituent Assembly of directly elected representatives on a non-party basis whose task would be to discuss and agree on a new Constitution,” taking into account the 1963 and the 1999 Constitutions and the recommendations of the 2014 national conference.”
He added that “The Constituent Assembly should be given six months to produce the draft new Constitution. The agreed draft constitution should be put to a national referendum for adoption by a majority of the voters, after which it should be signed by the President.”
In his part, the ABUAD Founder, Aare Afe Babalola, hailed Anyaoku for the lecture, which he said was in tandem with his (Babalola’s) calls over the year for a new constitution to address the country’s ills.
Babalola noted that the Nigerian leaders’ perception of politics as a lucrative business rather than a service to the people was among the things the new constitution would address.
The legal icon said, “Until we change the constitution, there is no way we can achieve what we ought to achieve.
“With what we are doing here in ABUAD, a new Nigeria is being nurtured. ABUAD is producing special leaders who can change Nigeria. They are contended, reliable, kind and they believe in giving and making things better,” Babalola said.