Sunday, 20 December 2009

News Release: Gathering Storms: Comments On The State Of The Country By Change Nigeria (CN).

For almost a month now since the start of the animated debate around the health of Umar Yar’Adua, Nigeria’s President and its constitutional fall-outs, CHANGE NIGERIA (CN) had consciously refrained from the fray, either on the side of those calling for an immediate recourse to constitutional provisions in which the Vice-President assumes the role of the President or on the side of those in government who insist that there is no reason as yet to even contemplate the invocation of the now famous Section.144, how much more seek a resignation. Some insist we must embark on prayer and fasting to prevail on God to heal the man that is our President. Should such supplication fail to pull off the miracle of healing, the Deputy Senate President arrogantly assures us that President Yar’Adua can remain in his medical retreat for a year or more and that the heavens will not fall. It does not matter if the Affairs of State fall into consequential, compassionate coma.

CN’s perspective to the unfolding constitutional circus is to situate the contrived jigsaw within the larger context of the unitarism we have, (undisguised even by the pretentious name ‘federal’) as dictated by the present constitutional arrangements. The dynamics of the current drama have their roots in this false federalism.

There is no doubt that Sections 143-146 of the ‘1999 Constitution’ amply provide for what should be done. The question is: why would the Federal Executive Council and the Senate leadership bluntly refuse to obey the ‘Constitution’ they swore to defend?. This question thrusts at us yet an older question of whether Nigeria does indeed have a Constitution that regulates its affairs and which commands the respect and loyalty of all:- the government and the governed.

CN’s position is that the ‘1999 Constitution’ is no constitution, does not and cannot command such respect and loyalty for the simple reason that it is an imposition by military fiat for which it is being vehemently rejected by large segments of the Nigerian society who do not feel bound by the document. Examples include the armed insurgence of the Niger-Delta (MEND), the Biafran-flag-wielding MASSOB, the OPC, the 12 sharia States of the North, a Lagos State that created and runs 57 local council administrations, the suits in court by eminent citizens seeking to terminate the operation of the ‘1999 Constitution’ on account of its fraudulent origin etc.

All these are overt acts of rejection of the imposed ‘1999 Constitution’ , though the document still enjoys a limited measure of recognition obviously for the sake of order and the avoidance of anarchy. Our concern is that even this waning, limited recognition is now being viciously repudiated by the government and its henchmen by their act of refusing to uphold the document from which they purport to draw authority. This shows that at heart, those in government do not feel bound by the document either.

This creates a very dangerous situation because it could rapidly precipitate a widespread, indiscriminate, unilateral rejection of the further operation of the ‘1999 Constitution’ by those who are just grudgingly tolerating it. The situation can easily degenerate into a violent disintegration of Nigeria.

Already we read in the press of a threat by some militants of the Niger-Delta to pull out their region from the Nigerian Union should their kinsman Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice-President be forced to resign as was being speculated.

Just last month, a rumoured manipulation to procure the governorship of Anambra State through a Court of Appeal judgment that would upturn a Supreme Court ruling had attracted a stern warning of a possible civil war from an angry Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Only recently, the Danjumas of this world also sounded or is it sang warnings about civil war.

From the international circuit, a worried United States through its Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has emphatically declared that Nigeria has abandoned the federal foundations upon which it was built and that there was no political will to address this (despite widespread demand by its federating nationalities}, reason for Nigeria’s continuing downhill plunge on all positive developmental indices. The earlier US Intelligence Report predicting the disintegration of Nigeria flow directly from these issues.

Driven by same concerns, the recent Chinua Achebe/Brown University colloquium on Nigeria attended by three former US Ambassadors to Nigeria, State Department officials, the Foreign Relations Council and eminent Nigerians including Prof. Wole Soyinka and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu called for an urgent national dialogue ( popularly canvassed as Sovereign National Conference in Nigeria).

CN fears that in all these, Nigeria is consciously drifting towards anarchy and possibly a violent disintegration as predicted, having already entered the deep waters of a failed state by the latest global country stability rankings.

We reiterate our call for an urgent recourse to a Sovereign National Conference to re-establish the constitutional foundations of our union which currently lie in ruins. This was how South-Africa overcame its apartheid nightmare. It was not by the amendment of the rejected, inapplicable apartheid constitution. Any ‘amendment’ by the National Assembly will go down with the substantive document.

Without prejudice to the imperative of abiding by the so-called 1999 Constitution in this matter, CN is of the view that it will be more profitable to invest the rest of the current administration’s tenure in the enterprise of working out a fresh, negotiated constitution instead of bickering over who will resign, who will take over or which zone’s turn it is to preside over the tottering edifice called Nigeria.

We call the attention of all to the CHANGE NIERIA Declaration of 8th September,2009 which we elaborately diagnosed the sickness of Nigeria to be, in the main, the abandonment of the federal foundations upon which it was originally built. The Declaration also outlined how we can return to a consent-based federation .(see Change Nigeria website full text). The alternative is too grim to tell.

The move to return to a consent-based federation is on. To have a country, Nigeria to exist at all or to continue to exist, change we must.

Tony Nnamdi
Protem Secretary General