Politics

2023: 1999 Constitution won’t engender desired change – Opadokun

Ayo Opadokun is the General Secretary of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). In this interview, he speaks on the 2023 general election and why there should be a new constitution before the polls. ANAYO EZUGWU reports

 

What do you make of the possible presidential shortlist from the South-West in relation to the argument on whether the presidency should be zoned to the South or to North?

 

If I must confess to you, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) for all intent and purposes considers these so-called permutations and ambitions of those characters who are seeking to be something in 2023 as misdirected and misguided.

 

 

What concerns NADECO and what we believe that concerns Nigeria is that the country must return to federal constitutional governance.

 

That is the constitution upon which Nigeria secured its independence because it was negotiated by the ethnic nationalities and our political leaders at that time. It is very appropriate for a political geographical space like Nigeria, where you have heterogeneous people of about 300 characterizations with their different languages, different cultures, traditions, customs, religion, folktales, artifacts, morals and the likes.

 

The consequence of military insurrection against the civilian administration of Abubakar Tafawa- Balewa and the replacement of that negotiated constitution with series of military decrees, and have centralized and unitarized Nigerian governance, have been the major disaster that has befallen Nigeria because they have arrested the growth that we witnessed from 1951, when the Macpherson Constitution eventually gave Nigeria the opportunity to govern themselves.

 

There was sufficient critical and enduring developmental progress that we were witnessing in all the regions. But the military came and subverted that and held us to ransom from then till now. Until we return to that constitution, all these so-called selfish and unproductive agitations and ambitions to want to govern Nigeria in one form or the other does not seem sensible to people like us.

 

You can ask yourself; all the elections that had taken place since 1999, what is the positive impact have they made on our people except that those of them who got into offices because of the nature of the decree called the 1999 constitution, which has retained all our commonwealth to the centre.

 

And it has enabled those of them, who got themselves into office through whatever means to have the key to the store of the riches and wealth of the state and the country and use them to our detriment.

 

How do you reconcile what has happened to us as a people, a country at one time the sixth largest exporter of crude oil, at a time the eighth largest exporter of crude oil and because oil is a wasting asset, fossil fuel is no longer in vogue. All the money that we made through oil for at least 20 years because since 1970, when oil became our major source of revenue, at least for 20 years we are exporting two million barrels of oil per day at an average price of $100 per barrel. Where is the huge sum of money we realized from that?

 

What the military has taught us is that it is possible to use public funds to get what does not belong to them and keep them permanently.

 

Honestly, some of us also lost our lives to force the military back to barracks but those who have taken over have not had the public spirit to organize economic and development policies that will uplift the quality of life of our people.

 

So, when they are talking about ambition to govern Nigeria, the question is: Which country are they governing, what did they do with the opportunities they had before? All of them, either as a former governor or as present governor have been disappointments I must confess to you. I don’t want to waste my time on them and from whatever part of the country they will come from.

 

You called on the United Nations at a time to conduct a referendum in Nigeria, what is the response to that call?

 

The response that we got so far is that in accordance with the processes of UN protocols, the various committees that ought to meet, the various bodies that ought to have some meetings for a review of our request are organizing the processes.

 

For all intent and purposes, I’m aware that the Senate of the United States; its Committee on Foreign Affairs and that of the Congress are already taken up our matter.

 

There have been closed up Zoom conferences more than three times since our letters were received. We are glad about that because we know that the process is not as fast as we want but we are happy that they are doing something because anyone who cares for the peace and progress of all places in the world particularly in the United Nations should be concerned that any upheaval in a place like this country, where they said that we have over 200 million people will be very negative to the sub-region and to the continent itself.

 

Wherewill200millionpeoplegoto and you know the consequences of migration and what is happening today in the world?

 

So, we believe that it is in the best interest of the global body and the African Union to do what is expected of them because that is the purpose there was set up; to ensure that peace is guaranteed. What our people desire here consistently is to have a legitimate right to self-determination.

 

Under the United Nations human rights protocols of 1948 and the African Charter of peoples right in 1999, everyone is entitled to selfdetermination and it is a role under those organizations and protocols that no one has a right to control or dominate the other person.

 

The current Nigerian government is busy pretending as if nothing is happening or as if they can still do what they did when they were in full military regalia but let them be reminded that it is impossible because the world has moved on.

 

The world is now a global village and self-determination is the anthem of this millennium. We cannot be kept, subdued, humiliated and terrorized as they have been doing. This is an unsustainable state and it cannot continue.

 

But the belief is that before we get to self-determination, we have to hold elections because even if you want a restructuring, it can’t be done between now and 2023…

 

I regret to tell them that they are building on a false premise on the basis that we cannot do anything unless we hold an election. That is a false premise and it is a very doubtful suggestion. It is the attitude of dictators to pretend as if election solves all problems.

 

The Nigerian setting would not be an exception. The election is not the answer to the crisis we have at hand. You are asking us to endorse the false document they presented as the 1999 Constitution, which was presented to Nigerians via Decree 29 of 1999. We say that document is a false document and every institution under it remains an aberration, illegality and we don’t want to have anything to do with that.

 

And I dare say that you are still under that false belief that they will hold an election and they will hold us to ransom because those of them who would be so-called elected will swear allegiance to that false document and we will sit down again and watch them. It is a false belief and it is a false hope. Nigerians will not sit down for that any longer.

 

We are saying that we are fed up with the false document they presented to us because we have been governed by decree in whatever name they call it, even the 1979 and 1999 constitutions are decreed camouflage as our constitution.

 

They do not represent our will because the popular will of the Nigerian people must prevail. What the Nigerian state must do today is to call on ethnic nationality leaders, who are the building blocks upon which Nigeria was constructed that it is time for us to sit down together to  answer one basic question.

 

That one question is: Do you want to belong to Nigeria? That question has not been asked because the colonial masters forced us into cohabitation without our input, without our preference, without our choice and that is how they handed us over to the internal colonial masters. And they kept on doing that but time has passed and that cannot continue.

 

This situation is unsustainable and anyone who cares to listen should know that they cannot cow us any longer the way they have done before. Let anyone who is in power with their supporters know that Nigeria has suffered enough. We are a failed country and we have failed our people.

 

The size of our country makes us the biggest black nation in the world and we are supposed to provide leadership for the rest of Africa. They look up to us for leadership but we have failed them abysmally. We are a giant from the pit of clay; let that be understood.

 

Is self-determination the same thing as separatism, secession or dismemberment of Nigeria as we know it?

 

And you talked about the constitution; are there specific aspects of that constitution that you consider so obstructive that we need to change? What you are asking us to do is to commit suicide because we cannot be speaking from two sides of our mouths. We believe very strongly that the 1999 Constitution that was brought into effect by Decree 29 is a false document.

 

That document in its preamble says ‘We the people,’ who are these we the people. Not the Nigerian people because it is the military that composed a committee to consider what they presented to us. And for those who contested the 1999 elections, they never saw the document until they were sworn-in.

 

So, you are now asking us to go to that so-called parliament, which we regard as illegality. They must recognize that they cannot force themselves on us. They have done it over time and they have messed up the entire society. Look at the gamut of thievery, corruption and perversion that is on the land to the extent today that we are taking Chinese loans that would have a negative impact on us.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari does not have the right to tell us any longer than those who governed before him messed up the system because he saw it before contesting.

 

He knew that some people have messed up the economy and the political process and even at that he wanted to run. When he did not win, he called for revolution but anyone who calls for revolution now would sbe descended on by the Department of State Services (DSS).

 

What I’m saying, therefore, is that we will not submit ourselves to what they are doing and asking us to now go for any election, which is under a false document and those who will emerge from that will swear allegiance to the same document. They will not be able to do anything.

 

A new constitution is our request. Let us go back to the 1960 Constitution upon which Nigeria secured its independence. Let nobody deceive us any longer and we are not prepared to be deceived any longer.

 

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