The message underlying our statement at this press conference is that negotiated Re-structuring, implemented through a new Constitution, is the best assurance for the realization of our desire for one Nigeria. We, members of the Group 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, but wish to be given an opportunity to negotiate changes in our governmental structures, needed to accomplish their desires believing that appropriate structures must be put in place for good governance, another of our vital needs, to take place.
In our circumstances as a country, with a vast expanse of territory, comprising a great diversity of ethnic nationalities, with divergent interests and outlooks, it seems generally agreed that a federal system, truly so-called, is the system appropriate to our situation. We therefore conceive Re-structuring as requiring, modified as necessary, the restoration or re-establishment of the kind of federalism that existed under our 1960/1963 Constitutions. That is the central object or purpose of Re-structuring.
In more explicit words, the essential purpose of Re-structuring is to enable the component ethnic nationalities, grouped together by affinity of culture/language or territorial contiguity, to govern themselves in matters of internal concern, leaving matters of common concern, not overwhelmingly extensive in their range, to be managed under a central government constituted in such manner as to ensure that it is not dominated by any one group or a combination of them, and above all, to ensure justice, fairness and equity to all in the management of matters of common concern. It assures an optimal measure of self-determination or self-government consistent with the territorial sovereignty of the country. Self-determination connotes essentially, not independent government, but the right of each group, within the territorial sovereignty of the country as one state, to govern itself in matters that concern it alone, as, for example, local government matters which is an example par excellence of a matter of local concern (local government in a village in Hausa land should not be the business of an Igbo man); the election of elective public functionaries in a Region or Zone – governors and members of legislative assemblies and local government councils; etc.
The term “self-government” expresses the essence of Re-structuring in our understanding of it. To reiterate, self-government requires that the ethnic nationalities, grouped together by reference to culture/language and geographical contiguity, should be enabled to govern themselves in matters that concern them alone, within the sovereignty of a central government common to all, with powers appropriately circumscribed. Self-government connotes therefore true federalism.
We high-light the factors that negate or impair the objective of true federalism in Nigeria, the most crushing of which is the over-concentration of political power and financial resources in the Federal Government far beyond what they were under the 1960/63 Constitutions.
The result of the accretions of power to the Centre, either by direct grant by the Constitution or by perverse interpretation of its provisions, is to alter the power relations between it (the Centre) and the States so significantly as to change the character of the system quite substantially from a federal to a unitary system. The system remains federal largely in name.
Re-visiting the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative Lists under the 1963 Constitution we think that the powers of the Federal Government thereunder should be further reduced in the several respects, indicated in our Position Paper.
The over-concentration of financial resources and relations in the Federal Government affronts true federalism in no less a grievous degree. An arrangement whereby every
month officials of the state governments, including quite often the state Governor himself, go, cap-in-hand, as it were, to Abuja for their share of the money in the Federation Account disbursed or paid out to them by officials of the federal government as paymaster is a negation of true federalism; it simply caricatures true federalism.
Re-structuring is not a matter that can be implemented by amendment of the 1999 Constitution. It imperatively requires a new Constitution adopted or approved by the people at a Referendum. It is sad that, while a clamour for Re-structuring is reaching a crescendo and is sweeping across the country, the National Assembly is still regaling us with talks about constitution amendment, and is buttressing its position by the erroneous assertion that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended or altered (sections 8 and 9), but cannot be abolished and replaced by a new Constitution. By taking this untenable position, the National Assembly makes itself a big obstacle in the way of Re-structuring.
The view that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended or altered but cannot be completely abolished and replaced by a new Constitution is erroneous because it fails to take account of the fact that the 1999 Constitution is only a Schedule to a Decree, Decree 24 of 1999. That Decree is an existing law under section 315 of the 1999 Constitution and, like all existing laws within federal competence, can be repealed by the National Assembly. Upon the repeal of the Decree, the 1999 Constitution completely disappears from existence.
We think the way forward 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, constituting 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 Paper presenting the Position of our Group on Re-structuring ends with the rallying words: LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA. May we all rise and say LONG LIVE A RE-STRUCTURED FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
Professor Ben Nwabueze
For and on behalf of the Southern Leaders of Thought whose names appear below:
Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Chief Ayo Adebanjo
Professor Kimse Okoko
General Alani Akinrinade
H.E. Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu
H.E. General Ike Nwachukwu
H.E. Chief Donald Duke
H.E. Obong Victor Attah
10.H.E. Chief Gbanga Daniels
Solomon Asemota SAN
Dr Kalu Idika Kalu
Professor Pat Utomi
Mr Elliot Ugochukwu-Ukoh
Professor Tony Killa
Chief Harry Akande
Comrade Promise Adewusi
Professor Sola Ehindero
Professor Akin Oyebode
Mr Adewale Adeoye
Mr Chigozie Ubani
Mr Olawale Okunniyi – Secretary/Member
Statement on re-structuring by the Southern Leaders of Thought at a press conference in Lagos, Nigeria on August 24, 2017.
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