Some eminent Nigerians rose from a meeting in Lagos yesterday, demanding a new constitution as a precursor of restructuring.
To the Leaders of Thought, restructuring cannot be implemented by an amendment of the 1999 Constitution. A new constitution approved by the people at a referendum is necessary, they said.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, the group’s chairman, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, noted that while the clamour for restructuring was sweeping across the country, “the National Assembly is still regaling us with talks about constitution amendment, buttressing its position with the erroneous assertion that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended or altered”.
Nwabueze said: “The view that the 1999 Constitution cannot be completely abolished and replaced by a new Constitution is erroneous because the National Assembly fails to take into account the fact that the 1999 Constitution is only a schedule to Decree 24 of 1999”.
He argued that the Decree is an existing law under section 315 of the 1999 Constitution and, like all existing laws, can be repealed by the National Assembly.
“We think the way for Nigeria is for the people, in exercise of the power inherent in them as a sovereign people, to make, through a referendum, a new Constitution, consisting a new political order. The process must be led by a President, as the elected leader of the people imbued by an ardour for change.”
The chairman said the group believed “that negotiated restructuring, implemented under a new constitution, is the best assurance for the realisation of our desire for one Nigeria”. “We members of Southern Leaders of Thought are committed patriots, imbued with an abiding faith in one Nigeria, and the belief that the majority of Nigerians share the same faith.”
Nwabueze urged the Federal Government to give the people an opportunity to negotiate changes in governmental structures needed to accomplish their desires, believing that appropriate structures must be put in place for good governance.
He told reporters that the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, had mandated him to tell the Federal Government that he (Kanu) would caution his followers to slow down or call off the struggle for actualisation of Biafra if the government accepts the Leaders of Thought’s position on restructuring. According to Nwabueze, Kanu also promised to back down on the threat to disrupt the 2019 elections.
Nwabueze said in a country with a vast expanse of territory, with diversity of ethnic nationalities, with divergent interests and outlook, a federal system is the most appropriate for us. We, therefore, demand the kind of federalism that existed under the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions, he stated.
According to him, the essential purpose of restructuring is to enable the component ethnic nationalities grouped together by affinity of culture or language or territorial congruity to govern themselves in matters of internal concerns.
He identified the factors that negate true federalism in Nigeria as over concentration of political power and resources at the centre. A way out, according to him is to revisit the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists with a view to devolving power to the States.
At the meeting were Prof Kimse Okoko, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), Prof Sola Ehindero and Prof Akin Oyebode.
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