The Bishop oF Church of Nigeria, Diocese of Akure (Anglican Communion) Rev. Simeon Oluwole Borokini, during the third session of the 13th Synod of the church speaks about the lopsidedness of the 1999 Constitution, corruption and ethnic agitations in the polity and proffered solutions to the myriads of problems facing the country. BABATOPE OKEOWO was there
What do you think is the way out of the ethnic agitations across the country?
It is difficult to predict what the people at the top have in mind. To be honest, it seems as if the authorities are insensitive to what is going on in Nigeria.
The 1999 Constitution needs to be revisited. It was done to favour certain ethnic parts of the country and the Constitution does not favour some parts. I will suggest that the Constitution should be revisited so that it will bring unity among the people, it should not be a constitution that favours certain ethnic groups. This constitution is not practicable.
What is your view about the 1999 constitution?
One of the most discussed topics in Nigeria today is the Constitution. It is the grand norm from where the laws we use to guide our socio-political activities in the country are derived.
It is the pillar upon which true democracy rests. However, the consensus of opinion is that the present 1999 Constitution which we are using is a toxic and fatally flawed document, contrived and deliberately skewed to favour a section of the country.
Some have even been more unforgiving by describing it as a fraudulent piece of codified work because it started with the phrase ‘we the people’ when the people referred to as ‘we’ were not consulted when it was put together.
The implication of this is that those who produced it planned for us minus us.
Because it was adjudged to be a defective document, a school of thought felt that it should be totally rejected and a new one prepared that would be fair to all concerned in our union.
The other school of thought recommends that we should keep amending the existing 1999 constitution until it meets the yearnings and aspirations of our people.
What is the way out of this dispute on the Constitution?
With the current level of acrimony, bitterness and lack of mutual trust in the country, the most reasonable option is to shift the monologue of those favoured by the existing constitution to a convocation of an inclusive national dialogue of our ethnic nationalities to resolve contentious areas in this important document.
All the national conferences held to date up to 2014 and the latest, which is the Nasir El-Rufai committee recommendations which are aimed at addressing the fault lines in the present constitution should serve as useful resource materials which could be tapped into to produce a Nigerian Constitution of our dream that will be all inclusive, acceptable and functional to make our democracy work.
As regards the issue of insecurity in the country, what will be your advice for those in authority?
The primary responsibility of the government is to provide security for its citizens and guarantee their welfare. Nigeria cannot be described as a safe and secure country with the spate of criminalities like terrorism, banditry, incessant kidnapping and scourge of herdsmen who kill, rape and willfully destroy farmers’ crops for their most insensitive and selfish ends that we are currently experiencing.
With the serial kidnapping of students in all tiers of our schools and colleges, mindless killings and dastardly acts all over the country, Nigeria is definitely under siege.
No responsible government will fold its arms and allow these criminalities to continue unchecked more so that it now seems as if kidnapping has been elevated to a business concern where huge sums of money are demanded to perpetuate such a circle of evil.
Much as government is making efforts to combat these scourge, I will suggest an inclusive security summit at community and all tiers of government level, involving all stakeholders such as traditional rulers, religious leaders, road transport workers, politicians, youths and market women be regularly convened to discuss ways to check the criminalities in our society. We should not leave security for the government alone.
Like we always read in the papers that there is not enough ammunition to attack enemies of the country. So anything we can do as individuals, groups, societies, churches, we should try to do it so that insecurity will be minimised. We don’t need to deceive ourselves and leave it for the government alone. They are trying their best but their best is not good for us.
How can these criminalities be reduced?
The deployment of modern technologies like drones, and CCTV especially in the red light areas of our cities help in mitigating crimes. Enlightenment jingles on radio and television will help to create awareness amongst our people that security is everybody’s responsibility. Amotekun, the state’s security, has come to stay.
Government should fund this important outfit very well and its cops are adequately motivated to get the best out of them.
What would you recommend for those who engage in these criminalities?
Evil persists due to lack of appropriate and severe consequences, stiff penalties that are backed by law should be meted out to offenders who perpetrate such dastardly acts.
Job creation and provision of enabling environment by government for businesses to thrive should not be ignored because of correlation between idleness and predisposition to crime and criminality especially amongst the youths.
There have been suggestions on the Constitution that should be adopted, what is your position on the constitution that can be adopted as a way forward?
I will suggest that we revisit the one that the colonial masters handed over to us and make sure that those who will be in that committee would be sincere and do the right thing because this 1999 Constitution does not favour some parts of the country.
What sections of the 1999 Constitution do you suggest should be removed?
There are many that I will want to be removed actually. I want the Islamic agenda that creates room for Sharia Court without giving Christians their own ecumenical court removed. The law gives the Muslims lots of preference above Christians too should go.
Also, there are many things that favour some ethnic groups which do not favour others. Many things like the catchment area policy and resource control. We discovered that even those who control the economy of Nigeria don’t really benefit but some parts are the ones benefitting.
There have been agitations for the restructuring of the polity. What is your view about this issue?
Restructuring has dominated our public discourse in recent times with so many perspectives on its interpretation. To some, the country should practice true federalism, fiscal federalism inclusive. Others feel that teasing the constituent nationalities into ethnic groups will stand all of us in a better stead since, according to them; this will be a panacea to our problems.
And yet, others are of the school of thought that a combination of both is the cure to all our political problems.
What in your view is the best way to go? Whichever decision we arrive at through dialogue and consensus building, if we fail to restructure our attitude, as Nigeri- ans, all these ef- forts will be null i t y.
T h e av- erage Nigerian’s attitude to life and living is contrary, poor and always unpatriotic. It is true that leadership demands bearing the brunt of inadequacies in any system. However, must we blame the President for the mindless looting in NDDC that we read about in the papers?
And these were by the people of the region who were members of their board and contractors from the same region who are indigenes of the area. Why should we blame the President or governor for the rash of corruption and kleptomaniac instincts in our public services, churches, on our highways and byways?
We should search our minds and not keep blaming our leaders for all venial sins we commit daily in the closets of our hearts and space. Indeed, for the sad and unfortunate experiences of the times, we contributed to make Nigeria, a land of promise, one broken promise.
This is why we should move away from the blame game and refocus to make Christ the canonical model of our being.
We must not forget that our society only magnifies our individual and collective shortcomings. It is only righteousness, which exalts a nation, that can save our country from the present quagmire we find ourselves in.
What is the observation of the Diocese on the economy of the country?
The synod observes with great concern the dwindling state of the economy of the nation, especially the runaway inflation that is ravaging the country at the moment, which has increased the cost of living with the attendant rise in the poverty index.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics in a recent report, 33.3 per cent of the labour force in Nigeria or 23,189,389 persons either do nothing or work for less than twenty hours a week.
There have been arguments for and against borrowing by the Federal Government, what is the position of the synod on the rising debt of the government?
On the rising debt, the Synod notes with rude shock the sporadic rise in Nigeria’s Public Debt to N32.9trillion in recent times as published by the Debt Management Office (DMO). We therefore urged the government as a matter of top priority to reduce the frequency of borrowing, which might lead the country into bankruptcy.
The Synod urges governments at all levels to take drastic measures at taming this ugly trend. Government is urged to tackle seriously the issue of poor electricity supply, which if addressed, will help to generate more employment particularly for our teeming unemployed youth, and thereby improve the economy of the nation. Synod further urges Nigerians particularly the leaders to embrace the political will that adopts a problemsolving mindset in dealing with the economic issues that confront us as a nation.
What is the Diocese position on corruption raving the polity?
The Synod notes with concern the persistent issue of corruption ravaging our nation, which has affected all strata of our national life with the attendant consequences. We, therefore, urge the government at all levels to take the fight against corruption seriously if this country is going to survive.