By Chinelo Obogo and Sunday Ani
Yourba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has vowed that there would be no general elections in 2023 unless the 1999 constitution is scrapped and a new one which includes fiscal federalism is agreed on by Nigerians.
Speaking on Arise TV programme, leader of the organisation, Ayo Adebanjo, said the 1999 constitution is skewed to favour a section of the country and was responsible for the agitations for secession by some separatist groups in southern Nigeria.
He said the constitution was written by the military and not what the founding fathers of the country agreed to at independence. He said unless it is scrapped, the country would not make any form of progress.
He described President Muhammadu Buhari as a civilian dictator who is not interested in listening to the voice of the people and at the same time has not presented a credible alternative to the problems bedeviling the country.
“What we have is a fraudulent constitution. It is not the constitution the founding fathers of the country agreed to at independence. This 1960 constitution guaranteed us resource control, state police and all the agitation causing crises in the country today was settled in the former constitution.
“The problem Nigeria has is the 1999 constitution that skewed everything against the South. It is a fraudulent and unacceptable constitution because it was not made by the people, it was made by the military and this assertion was repeated by the late Rotimi Williams. It is a Sovereign National Conference we are asking for, which was attempted in 2014, but Buhari has refused to do and that is causing the problems we are having in the country. That is why some people who feel cheated say they want to get out of Nigeria.
“We are not going to do another election or be in this country where a section of the country would dictate who the president of the country would be. That is why we don’t believe in any election now until the 1999 constitution is scrapped and a new one is agreed to with the principle of federalism strictly observed. We are not interested in any election because any election is a diversion with all the confusion in the country. Our security, economy, education and everything is bad. We don’t believe in having any election until the question of the country is settled. How can an elected president say that he would not listen to what the people are saying and that he must continue with a constitution we say we don’t want? That is why I said we are living under a civilian dictatorship,” Adebanjo said.
He said when former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, was handing over in 1999, he assured the civil society that they could change the constitution as they deem fit.
“When the military said they were going back to the barracks in 1999, Afenifere and NADECO told the military to take us back to the constitution that they met on ground and that is the crux of the matter. We didn’t want to take part in the election of 1999 until we have a sovereign national conference to agree to kind of constitution we have. It was former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who persuaded the Alliance for Democracy (AD) that a civilian government can change the constitution because he is in a hurry to leave and does not have time to waste. All the attempts to change the constitution has not been responded to by the government of the day. We were asking for a sovereign national conference to agree on how we are going to live together in peace if you are not returning us back to the constitution of 1960. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo told us that there cannot be two sovereignties and I explained emphatically that we are not talking about the sovereignty of the incumbent president, we are talking about the sovereignty of the conference that agreed on the way we are going to live together.
“Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, he gave us something acceptable and that is the national conference of 2014 which embodies everything that we are agitating for which is identical to what we had at independence. When Jonathan was handing over to Buhari, he told him that the recommendations from that conference is the most important document that he is handing over to him and Buhari said he would put in the archives and that is why we are in trouble,” Adebanjo said.
MBF, Ohanaeze react
However, disagreement has trailed the statement by Pa Adebanjo with the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo preaching a different gospel.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, according to its National Publicity Secretary, Alex Ogbonna is looking forward to 2023 as the Igbo agenda is to seek the support of all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria for an Igbo man to become the president in 2023.
He appealed to Nigerians to have patience as the Igbo would bring about an uncommon transformation after 2023 if they are supported to produce the next president. “The year 2023 is only two years away from now. We believe that from 2023, there will be transformation in Nigeria. The Igbo ingenuity, resourcefulness, capacity to bring about change and the turnaround capacity of the Igbo will be brought to bear. So, we are urging all Nigerians to exercise patience because better days are coming. That is the position of Ohaneze Ndigbo,” he said.
Urging Nigerians to exercise patience because there is light at the end of the tunnel, he said: “When an Igbo man emerges as the president in 2023, there will be wealth creation; there will be prosperity; there will be employment generation and things will start changing. Our Naira will find value and talents will begin to manifest.”
reacting, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, president of the Middle Belt Forum said it was not only the Afenifere that took that stand.
He said the entire Northern and Middle Belt Forum were jointly in agreement with the Afenifere’s position.
“Afenifere just pronounced it. We believe that the 1999 Constitution is flawed and the people in power use it to manipulate everything in their favour; the whole thing is not acceptable,” he said.