Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku on Friday declared that the way forward for Nigeria is a new constitution if the country truly desires to end the “unprecedented level of divisiveness and declining sense of national unity” among its people.
The former Commonwealth scribe made the call in Ekiti State while delivering the 2023 Convocation Lecture of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, titled, “Management of Diversity: A Major Challenge to Governance in Pluralistic Countries”.
Anyaoku said to achieve the desired transformation for the better, the country needs a system of government that not only addresses Nigeria’s diversity but is 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.
“Nigeria successfully managed diversity in the early years of independence when “Nigeria’s diversity was perceived by all as a source of strength and an inspiration for national unity. But all this changed when the military intervened in the country’s governance in January 1966 and changed the existing constitution.”
According to him, 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, adding that healthy competition among the regions facilitated rapid development across the country.
Anyaoku said, “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.
“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.”
To this end, Anyaoku 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.
“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.”
ABUAD Founder, Aare Afe Babalola, who hailed Anyaoku for the lecture, which he said was in tandem with his (Babalola’s) calls over the years for a new constitution to address the country’s ills.
Babalola said that 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.
Babalola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, 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 contented, reliable, kind and they believe in giving and making things better.”
Gbenga Sodeinde in Ado Ekiti