Vanguard (Lagos)

1 August 2012

Nigeria: State of the Nation - Why We Must Talk Now By Babalola, Olumilua and Others

Erstwhile Lagos political operative, Opeyemi Bamidele, now a member of the House of Representatives has in recent times used the opportunity of his birthday to stoke issues of national concern. His 49th birthday anniversary last Thursday was no exception.

PRevious speakers of the Opeyemi Bamidele lecture series include Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State who spoke on the theme: "Moving from activism into politics: Imperatives of democratic transition in the African context"; former chairman, Editorial board of the News magazine, Mr Odia Ofeimum on "how goes the Nigerian state"; Professor Itse Sagay on "legislating for the common good: Contemporary issues and perspective"; and Commissioner for transport in Lagos state, Mr Kayode Opeife "errands of progress: product of collective struggle".

The 2012 edition of the lecture entitled: "Legislating in troubled times: National Assembly and challenges of legislating for good governance in Nigeria", was the 5th annual MOB lecture series in commemoration of the 49th birthday anniversary of Bamidele, held at the Alumni hall, Christ School in Ado-Ekiti.

Eminent personalities present at the event included: former governor of Ondo State, Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua; Mr Biodun Akinfasaye who represented Governor Kayode Fayemi; the Oluyin of Iyin, Oba Ademola Ajakaiye; Mr and Mrs Opeyemi Bamidele, Ekiti state chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Chief Tunde Awe; Messrs Bimbo Daramola and Adekunle Fatai; former local government chairman of Oshodi-Isolo, Chief Ipesa Balogun; the Chief Imam of Ekiti state, Alhaji Jamiu Bello; Dr Sanya Awosan, Mrs Omowunmi Edet, Mr Dayo Akinlaja (SAN); clergymen and traditional rulers.

Babalola chides opponents of SNC: Firing the first salvo was a legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, who stated the imperative of convening a conference to discuss the multifarious problems that have besieged the country.

While flaying opponents of a national conference, especially those within the National Assembly, he asserted that sovereignty resides in the people.

While he attributed the problems of the country to defects in the 1999 Constitution, he noted that the process of constitution making is all-encompassing.

He posited that many of the problems currently facing the country are a direct result of the lopsidedness of the 1999 constitution.

Accordingly, he said " this is itself traceable to the fact that the 1999 constitution on which our democratic government is hinged, was imposed on us by the military without any input by any of us".

Constitution making process

He noted that "as a result of this diversity, it was and is still necessary that the constitution making process should take into recognition all factors aimed at bringing about a true peoples constitution".

Babalola, who was chairman at the event, faulted the amendments effected in the constitution just as he noted that the amendments were only directed at the political process and the resolution of disputes arising from elections.

"These amendments", he argued, " did not touch on crucial matters such as devolution of power, fiscal policy and restructuring of the country or the appropriate type of parliament. The reason for this is not far fetched. Many of the problems afflicting this country today require far reaching solutions which many in the National Assembly and even the State Houses of Assembly may not be able to consider dispassionately".

Restating the case for a national conference, he explained that delegates to such a conference, may be elected without party basis or affiliation adding that delegates will be saddled with the responsibility of coming out with a constitution that "will meet with the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians for a united and developed country.

Noting the resistance to a dialogue, he advised that "members will not however be drawn from geographical delimitation alone as is currently the basis for election into the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly of the states.

He added that "there must be representatives from interest groups. The advantage will be that Nigerians from all walks of life will be represented at the conference".

Backing his claim with Section 14 (2) of the 1999 constitution, the legal luminary said "the sovereign rights of Nigerians entitle them to amend the existing constitution or substitute a new one for the existing constitution".

He was of the view that "it is not for those who were elected under the existing constitution and empowered to govern, rule or make laws and regulations under the existing constitution to deny the people of Nigeria their sovereign right to jettison the old constitution or substitute a new one for the existing constitution. The sovereign right belongs to the people and not to their delegates".

He opposed the Senate President, Senator David Mark's objections to such a conference. "I believe that Nigerians should have the ultimate say as to whether a sovereign national conference is necessary or not. Again, I must emphasize that sovereignty does not reside in the presidency or the executive, the National Assembly or the judiciary but in the people"' he argued.

Our problems traceable to 1999 constitution -- Olumilua

Lending his voice to the continued clamour for a conference to address the anomalies in the nation was former governor of old Ondo state, Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua.

Tracing the problems of Nigeria to the 1999 constitution, Olumilua faulted the Presidential system of government currently being practiced.

"If we trace the problems facing Nigeria, it will be found in the 1999 constitution. To me, the presidential system of government is abominable, it is a big departure from what we expected. Unfortunately, we we did not adopt all that is enshrined in the presidential system, even the so called federal character is lopsided." He further argued that "if we had done the right thing, we would not be in this present situation".

We must convene a sovereign national conference that is drafted by the people because there are absurdities and inconsistencies in our system. We are unequally yoked in this country and so a conference is called for", he submitted.

Govt has failed Nigerians--Prof Ajayi

The guest lecturer, Professor Kunle Ajayi, in his lecture, opined that government at all levels have failed to perform in their respective constitutional responsibilities.

Constitutional responsibilities

Professor Ajayi, who is also the head, department of Political Science, Ekiti State University, blamed the present crop of politicians for failing to provide good governance.

He said: "bad governance rather than good governance is what governments are rewarding us for voting them into power."

Calling on the electorate to hold public officials accountable, the university don said "while the legislators are failing in their over-sight powers over other arms of government with many abandoned projects all over the country and non-performance of the ministries and parastatals, we need to exercise over-sight functions over our parliamentarians".

Speaking on the topic titled: "Legislating in troubled times: National Assembly and challenges of legislating for good governance in Nigeria", the scholar added that "We need to take a register of their attendance at House sittings and how often they visit and live in their constituencies. We must learn how to exercise the people power in democracy."

In his remarks, Mr Bamidele enjoined Nigerians not to give up hope especially on the unfolding events in the country.

The lawmaker said "I quite understand that this is a trying period for our country Nigeria, but with concerted efforts, we can still write our name in gold".

Expressing optimism, he urged Nigerians not to relent in their efforts saying "our future will be better than what it used to be. I will continue to play my own part; I also indulge you to play yours as well".

"Nothing", he said, "can profit the two of us like devoting all of our energies and attention to the struggle for the realization of a near-perfect Nigerian society and this can happen during our time. To actualize this, we must keep faith together and work as one, regardless of our differences".

In his resolve to remain committed, he said "I will not be one of those lawmakers who will not be heard until after four years; indeed, it has been one year of walking my talk on the floor of the House of Representatives".

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