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Ex-Commonwealth Sec-Gen Anyaoku makes case for new constitution


 

Former Secretary- General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has called on the Federal Government to come up with a new constitution to address diversity, which is a major challenge working against a pluralistic nation like Nigeria.

Anyaoku made the call on Friday, in Ado-Ekiti, at the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) 2023 Convocation Lecture with the theme,: ” Management Of Diversity: A Major Challenge to Governance In Pluralistic Countries”

The event was part of activities lined up for the 11th convocation and 13th anniversary ceremony of ABUAD.

In his speech, Anyaoku who said Nigeria is a diverse country
whose main component parts had lived separately for centuries in their respective areas with their different cultures, was able to successfully manage the country’s diversity in the early years of her Independence, lamented things started to change when the military intervened in the country’s governance.

” It is an undeniable fact that Nigeria’s diversity was more successfully managed in the early years of the country’s independence. During that period, Nigeria’s diversity was perceived by all as a source of strength and inspirer of national unity. There were no inter-regional tensions, and in the perception and conduct of its citizens the country had begun to evolve into a nation that was credibly aspiring to realize its huge potentials. But all this changed when the military intervened in the country’s governance in January 1966 and changed the existing constitution.

“Under the Constitution of fewer and more viable federating units that we had before the military intervention, there was security of life and property, and there was a faster pace of economic development in the regions.

“During that halcyon period, the regional premiers and federal government officers were utilizing their limited resources more efficiently and effectively.

“The regions also engaged in healthy competition which facilitated rapid development across the country. When the Eastern Nigerian Government built Nigeria’s first autonomous university in Nsukka in 1960, the Western Region followed by establishing the University of Ife at lle- Ife in 1962, and the Northern Region built Ahmadu Bello University at Zaria, also in 1962.”

He said since the intervention of the military in governance, “there is unprecedented level of divisiveness and declining sense of national unity, the economy is in doldrums with 133 million of our population in multidimensional poverty, there is great insecurity.”

He added, “there is complete bastardization of our society 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.”

“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. To this end, I invite Federal Government to immediately embark on the following practical steps.

“First, convene a national Constituent Assembly directly elected on a non-party basis representatives whose task would be to discuss and agree a new Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria taking into account the 1963 and the 1999 Constitutions as well as the recommendations of the 2014 national conference.

“The elected representatives should number 362 with 10 each from the existing 36 States and 2 from the FCT, and they should be assisted by 37 Lawyers drawn one each from the 36 States and the FCT.

“The management of the work of the Constituent Assembly should be entrusted to a six-member Steering Committee of equal individual powers (possibly the 2 co-chairmen, 2 vice- cochairmen,2 joint-secretaries) elected from each of the six geopolitical zones by members of the Assembly themselves.

“The Constituent Assembly should be given 6 months to produce the draft of the 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 my view, 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..

“I want to call attention to the need for our country stopping to punch below its weight in the global arena. As the largest black nation on earth, our country would need always to act in cognizance of its manifest destiny. I would recommend that after putting our domestic situation right, the Presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should work especially hard to elevate Nigeria’s standing within the comity of nations, and that the citizens by their behaviour should join in earning for the country a deserving international reputation as well as membership of appropriate global organizations.

” I would like to stress my belief that properly managed, Nigeria’s diversity will become an asset and not a liability, and thus prove that Nigeria is a tapestry, a beautiful mosaic, and above all, a miracle waiting to happen.”

In his remarks, the founder of ABUAD, Aare Afe Babalola, commended the Anyaoku for sharing his thoughts on the need to transform the country through a new constitution,

He said the provisions in the 1999 constitution has made Politicians to regard Politics as a business enterprise, hence the urgent need for a new constitution.

The Senior Lawyer noted that he has been advocating for the change of Nigerian Constitution for three decades, adding that diversity in a pluralistic country like Nigeria can be difficult to manage if the Federal Government and the National Assembly don’t come up with a New Constitution.

“What is the mindset of Nigeria today? People believe that the only lucrative business today is politics.

“If it is politics, what is involved? It’s the constitution which has made Politics the only lucrative business, not law, engineering.

“For 30 years, I have been writing for a new Constitution. Unless we address it, that mindset will remain.

“We have to make people understand that politics is all about service to the people, and not for making money.

“It should not be regarded as business and we need a new constitution to do that.”

Credit: Daily Sun

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