By YINKA OLUDAYISI FABOWALE
Amid growing popularity of the calls for the restructuring of the federation, frontline legal luminary and educationist, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) yesterday urged the Nigerian authorities to strike the iron while it is still hot by convening a sovereign national conference towards restructuring the federation now, not only to keep the nation one and prosperous, but also to propel it’s long arrested growth into a world power.
The legal icon spoke against the backdrop of recent backing for the clamour by
former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, whom, he said, deserved a 2017 National Peace Award for his surprise change of heart.
Babalola, an unrepentant advocate of restructuring, who has championed the idea for almost three decades, suggests that the outcome of the confab be not subjected to the approval or confirmation of the National Assembly, but only ratified by a national plebiscite, which would give birth to the people’s constitution. His reason was that the lawmakers would not take kindly to some recommendations likely to affect their interests such as earning only sitting allowances.
Aare Babalola lauded General Babangida for embracing and “joining the ever-growing band of those of us from the North, West and East who have been clamouring for restructuring as the panacea for the myriad of problems afflicting the country today.”
In face of the current tension and nation’s gradual slide into anarchy with the acrimonious ethnic agitations, Babalola said: “I salute his (Babangida) courage and brilliance and his ability to position his mind having regard to the situation on ground, adding: “To say that the retired general is a different person to different people is like stating the obvious. However, what cannot be denied is that he is a courageous, fearless, highly cerebral elder statesman who could equally be controversial and often misunderstood.
The Founder/President of the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), said the best way to achieve our aim and objectives of building a united and prosperous Nigeria was to restructure the polity in such a way “which allowed each component part to remain and practice its own culture and grow at its own pace under one umbrella of a united Nigeria and a befitting Federal Constitution.”
According to him, the1960 Constitution fashioned by the nation’s founding fathers for almost 10 years in Lancaster House, London worked because it took into consideration the fact that Nigeria was a country of nations with about 250 ethnic groups and allowed for healthy rivalry among the regions, which made for the nation to develop at a fast rate.
“Unfortunately, that constitution was set aside by the military who thought they knew better than our forefathers. Again, the same military bequeathed to us the 1999 constitution under which the centre had become so strong and the component parts so weak that there is virtually no meaningful development in almost all the states, unlike prior to the taking over by the military in 1966,” Babalola noted.
He remarked that although, the country may not return to the 1960 arrangement, “Certainly, we need to restructure the country. We urgently need a forum where our problems would be discussed and arrive at a suitable federal constitution for the country. In order to solve the problem of unemployment, falling standard in education, recession, crimes including armed robbery and kidnapping, the country needs to be restructured.
He IBB urged Babangida to go a step further and persuade those still on the fringe particularly some former military rulers to join the campaign for restructuring of the country for a true federalism.