…Says conduct of polls under 1999 Constitution unacceptable At This Critical Time
Any election conducted under the “defective” 1999 Constitution will not be acceptable to majority of Nigerians. Therefore, the Federal Government has been advised to suspend the 2023 general elections because its winner will swear to govern by that constitution. This was the position of Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), which insisted the country cannot continue to live under the 1999 Constitution.
It described the constitution as “a fraud” and blamed it for mis-governance, insecurity and other challenges facing the country. Coordinating Secretary of the group, Tony Nnadi, who visited Rutam House, corporate head office of The Guardian in Isolo, Lagos, yesterday, said instead of dissipating energy on an election that will not bring peace and solve myriads of challenges facing the country, government should immediately begin a “time-bound transition process to midwife the emergence of fresh constitutional protocols by a two-stage process in which constituent regional blocs will, at the first stage, distil and ratify their various constitutions by referendums and plebiscites, and in the second stage, negotiate the terms of federating afresh, as may be dictated by the outcomes of the referendum and plebiscites.”
Nnadi, who said time had come to “end the fraud of 1999 and correct the mischief of 1914”, likened the current situation in Nigeria to the period when South Africa operated an apartheid constitution and called on government to begin the process of enthroning a true peoples’ constitution. He criticised the current political arrangement for placing people in the South and Middle Belt at the mercy of Northerners, especially the Fulani.
NINAS directed regional blocs to advance processing and ratification of their constitutions and charters in readiness for United Nations-backed self-determination stay or leave referendum. He said ongoing efforts by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution cannot produce the new charter many ethnic groups are clamouring for, because a new constitution goes beyond the function of lawmakers.
He said the position of the group is in tandem with resolution passed by Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), which convened the Sovereign Conference of ethnic nationalities of Nigeria between 2005 and 2006. He noted that some people in government and top party positions were members of the group that called for re-negotiation of the terms of reference for various ethnic groups to live together under a political union.
Nnadi said the group had, since December 16, 2020, put a preposition before the country that unless the constituent units agree on a new constitution and terms of living together, there cannot be an acceptable election in Nigeria. He said: “That proposition didn’t just drop from the sky. We called it constitutional force majeur because we are declaring an emergency around the question of the union agreement that has been more or less toppled since 1966 and replaced by something totally strange to our original understanding.
“We said, look we have been having elections since 1999. We had one in 2003, another in 2007, another in 2015, yet another in 2019. What has it added to our lives other than degeneration, imbalances and underdevelopment? We are not anarchists. We said let us go to transition now and begin to rework the damaged constitutional basis of Nigeria. On the basis of this 1999 Constitution, I tell you that the owners of the constituent components, the owners of the sovereignty…Yoruba can be a country of 60 million people, the Eastern side, the Middle Belt are good enough to determine what they want.”
He said the Nigerian federation died in 1967 after the military coup of 1966 that suspended the 1963 Constitution. He noted that the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions failed to represent the interest of the people. He said: “You can’t be talking about a Federal Government in the absence of a federation. We all know the story of how these constitutions came. The soldiers, by decree, imposed an instrument that toppled everybody and toppled our sovereignty.”
Emphasising the need for a new constitution, Nnadi said: “It is actually our right to insist on a new constitution. It is called the right to self-determination; it is our inalienable right, as owners of the sovereignty that will become Nigeria. Our signature is put illicitly on a document we never made. “When you go back to Decree 24 of 1999, by which they imposed that constitution, you will see that it was just the Armed Forces Ruling Council of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar that told the story of how they came about the document. They said they formed a committee that went round and people wanted a return to the 1979 Constitution. So, as the ruling military council, they added and subtracted from that report and put forward what they called the 1999 Constitution, and that was how we came to a federation.”
(guardian.ng with adjustment on the headline)