Prof Ben Nwabueze
• Seek convocation of National Confab
By Christopher Isiguzo
Renowned constitutional lawyer and former Secretary General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof Ben Nwabueze, Saturday in Enugu raised the alarm that Nigeria is fast sliding into a failed state, insisting that proactive steps must be taken to checkmate the impending danger.
Nwabueze’s alarm came even as other eminent Nigerians, including former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Alani Akinrinade; Secretary General of the Patriots, Chief Mike Orabator, former governor of old Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Col. Ben Gbulie; Amb. J. U Ayalogu; Col Joe Achuzie; Chief Solomon Asemota; and Prof Mark Odu, among others, equally insisted that anything short of the convocation of a National Conference before the 2015 general elections would spell doom for the nation.
The leaders made their views known at the 14th Annual Convention of the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), with the theme “National Conference before 2015 elections; only road to a greater Nigeria” which held in Enugu Saturday.
Nwabueze, who said the nation’s problem was so deep, also wondered whether current merger of main opposition political parties by some political leaders in the country would be capable of routing the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which he noted is so big.
Nwabueze said the country was already manifesting all the attributes of a failed state and also joined his fellow elder-statesmen to call for immediate convocation of a national conference.
“This country is on the verge of becoming a failed state, there are so many failed states in Africa and Nigeria is on the verge of getting that status of a failed state.
“Before now, we didn’t know about kidnapping, but it has become a way of life. Did we know about bombings before? But today, churches, schools, offices are being bombed on daily basis; the worst is that the bombers are not coming from outside the country, we are bombing ourselves.
“A nation that cannot provide a credible election for her people is a failed state. In 2003, 2011 we had no credible elections, yet we are talking about democracy. A country that cannot secure social and economic rights for her people is a failed state. Read chapter 2 of Nigeria’s constitution and you will understand what I am talking about, they are not leaders but looters,” he said.
Continuing, Nwabueze said corruption was another disturbing issue in the country, noting that “any state that allows this kind of unbridled corruption is failing.”
The professor lamented that the masses are suffering and living in abject poverty while the National Assembly members have all kinds of allowances running into millions of naira.
“Come out and tell me if in all these, this country is not on the verge of a failed state,” he asked rhetorically.
He said to move away from the current situation, a nation conference should be organized very quickly, emphasising that “the conference should not be seen as a way to destabilise Nigeria.”
Nwabueze said: “Let us come together and deliberate; it will lead to peace; it will lead to a constitution whose source of authority is the people, we can’t have any substitute for the people. We are serious about it, we are working to achieve it and we shall succeed.”
On his part, the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi said President Goodluck Jonathan and indeed the federal government was not against the convocation of a National Conference, but that the agitators of such conference should organise themselves and meet with both the president and the leaders of the National Assembly.
“We’ve all agreed to a national conference but at this time, we should be able to go beyond calling for national conference and initiate action towards realising same. Even the president himself has never said he is opposed to the conference but we need the right calibre of men and women to go to Abuja and demand from both the president who is heading the executive and Senator David Mark who is heading the legislature on the need to convoke a national conference.
“We must move towards solving the problem. Let it be said that there is an eminent delegation demanding for the conference; by then, the ball would have been firmly played into the court of the executive and the legislature, who off course are the proper authorities to convoke such conference,” he said.
He further challenged the youths to rise up to the challenge of helping the nation sail out of its present challenges, by refusing being used as thugs by politicians during election, but to ensure that only people with credible and verifiable integrity are elected into position of authority in the next election.
“President Jonathan has put in place machineries that would help in conducting credible elections in the country henceforth; today, votes are counting. We tried it in Edo, it worked; we tried it in Ondo, it worked. It will be tried in Ekiti and Osum where elections will come up in a matter of months. It is now left for you, the youths to equally team up with the president and ensure that your tomorrow is guaranteed.
On their parts, Gen. Akinridade, Asemota and Achuzie said the situation in the country had gone so bad that the present leaders must go beyond rhetoric and seek solution to “what has obviously become a complex problem for the country”.
Akinrinade specifically attributed the problem of the country to the constitution which was handed over to the country by the military.
He was of the view that efforts should be made to prepare and acceptable and workable constitution for the nation by Nigerians themselves.
Asemota on his part called for the convocation of a national conference before the next elections insisting that for a valid elections to be conducted, a new plan of action must be drawn up by Nigerians in order not to repeat the mistakes of the immediate past.
“We don’t want a situation where the error will continue thereafter. The constitution we operate now is defective and that is why the National Assembly is making efforts to review it. The greatest flaw however is that it gives the citizen right to vote and not to be voted for and vote for a political party that is so arranged, built and financed by others without the contribution of the people themselves,” he said, while asking the leaders to properly compare the present presidential system and the parliamentary system to know the more acceptable one for the people.
Former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Col. Joe Achuzia [rtd], said the existence of many nations within the country was becoming a major threat to its continued existence as one nation, explaining that the national conference would help in addressing the challenge.
“Unless we go back and convene a national conference where all the ethnic nationalities will say how they will co-exist, then there will be no movement forward. Something must be done to rescue the situation,” he noted.
He said that though the country is said to be practicing federalism as a result of the “no victor, no vanquished” declaration after the civil war, in practical terms however, the country was being run as if there were some “perpetually vanquished people.”