People in the southern part of Nigeria are now agitating for the dissolution of the constitution and the postponement of the 2023 general elections so that the country can reorganize itself to give more power to the regions and states.
The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), whose leaders met in Lagos on December 19, 2021, blamed the 1999 constitution for creating a situation, where just like the apartheid-era South Africa, the majority are marginalized, while a minority is enriching itself on the resources of the whole nation.
According to the leadership of NINAS, whose members are spread across the southern and middle-belt parts of the country, a five-point demand notice has been forwarded to the Nigerian government.
The demands include a formal announcement by the Federal Government of Nigeria acknowledging the constitutional grievances and sovereignty disputes raised by the south and middle belt of Nigeria, where conflicts over land between herdsmen and farmers have resulted in the deaths of hundreds.
NINAS also wants a formal commitment by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the wholesale decommissioning and jettisoning of the 1999 Constitution. There are also demands for the suspension of the general elections coming up in 2023, as these would be organized under the disputed 1999 Constitution.
NINAS’ leadership also says that there should be an initiation of a time-bound transitioning process to midwife the emergence of fresh constitutional protocols. This is to be achieved through a two-stage process in which the constituent regional blocs will at the first stage, distill and ratify their various constitutions by referendums and plebiscites. In the second stage, terms of federating afresh as dictated by the outcomes of referendum and plebiscites would be negotiated.
Prof. Yusufu Turaki, leader of Middle belt Nationalities, speaking on behalf of NINAS alleges consensus among their people that there is a need to decommission the 1999 constitution.
“We want to announce to our people and the concerned international community, the success of our December 16, 2020, Constitutional Force Majeure in precipitating the countrywide consensus required for the immediate decommissioning of the Caliphate-Imposed 1999 Unitary Constitution of Nigeria by which we are in bondage in our homelands and from which all the many miseries, woes and failures of Nigeria and Nigerians flow,” he says.
Prof. Turaki blames the current crisis which includes the ongoing killings in Nigeria, the general insecurity, the seizure of all economic assets including oil and gas, solid minerals like gold and the ports and other maritime assets, on the current constitution and not the quality of leadership currently in charge of Nigeria.
“The monumental corruption we see, quota system and skewed opportunities distribution, the egregious impunity constantly on display, the decay in infrastructure, the lack of electricity and mounting tariffs, the broken-down refineries and the frequent hike in petroleum prices: all flow from the 1999 Constitution,” he insists.
Prof. Turaki adds that the 68-item federal exclusive legislative list is especially problematic and that there is no possible way for the rule of law to prevail when Nigeria’s most important document is the 1999 constitution.
To achieve their objectives, Prof. Turaki and his fellow leaders chose to call upon the current political office holders in Nigeria, to meet the demands of NINAS, since these will not force anyone out of power.
“Our campaign is not to get you out of office nor are we anarchists,” he says. He notes that during the transitioning process the current governance structures will remain in place on an adjusted basis, allowing for the current officeholders to lead the process of getting Nigeria out of its current quagmire.
“We cannot continue to play the role of the Judas Iscariot, luring our own people to deeper damnation, impoverishment, and slaughter every four years when elections are held. We could be statesmen for once even in our own enlightened self-interest as the kind of societal collapse staring Nigeria in the face right now will not spare anyone,” he warns.
To the media, NINAS says, “Nigeria is in distress and the people are dying in large numbers. The task of taking this redemption message to the masses of our people, falls squarely on you, just as was the case during the fight for independence from British Colonial Rule”.
NINAS says the religious leaders should be on the side of light just like Bishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa. He also called upon lawyers to support their cause and that the general population should view the current arrangement as a prison whose gates are now being opened.
“Let us get up and walk swiftly past it to our freedom. All we need to do is to firmly tell the political parties and merchants that we shall not go with them to renew our enslavement yet again in 2023. That choice is one between life and death as failure to stop the vicious cycle only leaves us open to the invasion of those who are on a mission to conquer us and who are being enabled by the 1999 Constitution they imposed on us,” Prof Turaki cries out.
The embattled scholar highlights the successes of NINAS to include a 90-day period notice to the government, where the Federation of Nigeria was required to commit to the resolution of grievances from the peoples of the southern and middle belt parts of the country. He also highlighted a consultation with governors and the international community that ended in August, as well as a small protest during the 76th United Nations General Assembly, which Prof. Turaki and others at NINAS had baptized the ‘One-Million-March’.
According to Prof. Turaki, different actions by NINAS led to attempts at reconfiguring the Nigerian constitution.
“Specifically, the Federal Government of Nigeria in response, rushed to the National Assembly for constitution amendments targeted at some kind of palliative to the grievances raised, but the National Assembly for the first time, confessed it does not possess the constituent powers required to make or remake a constitution for Nigeria,” he says.
NINAS’ Secretary-General, Tony Nnadi declared that Nigeria is on the verge of war which the people will declare on those who don’t want to give way for self-determination, adding that “it has just got to the state that people don’t want to take the injustice anymore.
“Our fight for independence did not just stop with the British handing over the country to indigenous rule in 1960, but it is still ongoing. Whereas we all know that ethnic nationalities own the constitution of Nigeria, why is it that some people now arrogate the power to rule to themselves? The 1999 constitution is the bane of all these anomalies we are experiencing now, and it must go. The constitution sets up avenues for corruption to thrive, as everything is centralized in the federal government,” says Nnadi.
Despite the eloquence of the issues raised and the proposals made, some observers think NINAS’ outing could be exploited by ailing President Muhammadu Buhari to extend his rule beyond 2023 when his constitutional mandate normally ends.