In what appears to be the first shot to be fired, the Northern Elders Forum, (NEF) has dismissed the latest published invitation by the Senate ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution as a repetitive initiative of no value and a predictable waste of time, resources and energy of the nation not worth the support of Nigerians.
“Nigeria’s future rests largely on its willingness to address major constraints to equity and justice, a functional structure, consistent good governance, security for all citizens, a credible electoral process, growing understanding between and among all groups and an economy that grows and narrows inequalities between and classes and regions”, said the forum in a statement signed by Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed,(OON), NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy.
NEF is also saying that the above agenda cannot be achieved by what it calls “a process that routinizes wasteful expenditure around false hopes”, adding that the Legislature and Executive branches of government have large quantities of reviews, recommendations and reports from past attempts at amending the Constitutions with which they can embark on any review if they considered a review to be of vital national priority.
In what appears to be the uppercut from the Forum, it says the current National Assembly is merely following what virtually every National Assembly since 1999 had spent huge amounts of Nigerian people’s money on jamborees that give them false hope that the three arms of government respect the overwhelming desire of Nigerians for a holistic and genuine review and amendment of the 1999 Constitution. Nothing fundamental or of any value has come out of these grand schemes to exploit our collective desire to address our political and economic fundamentals and the NASS should, in its opinion, not be encouraged on this path.
They are also not sure that any planned review would produce a genuine effort to address the basic requirements of securing a stable, secure and prosperous Nigeria, because, according to it, both arms of this administration are unlikely to accept to go through a wide-ranging review of the Constitution.
The Northern Elders Forum is, instead, recommending the alternative of leaders of thought, elders, groups and professional organizations and representatives of government “to freely discuss every element of our co-existence as a country under principles of voluntarism, genuine representation, mutual respect and integrity of the process”. As far as the Forum is concerned, a Nigerian Peoples’ Conference on Review of the Constitution will benefit from past work in this direction in addition to contemporary challenges which the country needs to address in a context that allows free and productive engagements without pre-determined ends.
It is further arguing for submission of the outcome of this Conference to the two arms of government which should provide for a referendum in the Constitution so that Nigerians can directly decide on how they want their nation to be structured and function, its own words. The North is willing to discuss other options that will do justice to the current Constitution and the future of our great country, it further stated.
Fixing its gaze on its immediate constituency, the Forum specifically reminds legislators, leaders and other northern groups to be wary of being railroaded into making submissions which the legislature will hold up as input, further justifying waste and deceit. “No northern group should encourage further waste of public funds which should be channeled into battling killers, kidnappers, poverty and poor governance, it warns, pointing out what the North wants: a major review of the Constitution rather than tolerating “attempts to create wealth for a few while it leaves parts of the country to quarrel and blame each other for the state of the nation”. Northerners, said the Forum, are willing to discuss current challenges of the region and the state of the country with any group, anywhere, provided it sees evidence of sincerity and respect for each other.
The Forum is similarly advising the National Assembly to direct its energy and mandate towards convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to bring an end to the insurgency in the North East and killings in most parts of North Central and North West and other parts of the country but not before jettisoning “the wasteful idea of giving Nigerians the impression that it is involved in a serious review of our Constitution”.