Gbajabiamila: Ethnicity Not Sufficient to Determine Federal Character

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Femi Gbajabiamila

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday disclosed that ethnicity or tribe was not a sufficient parameter for determining the true definition of federal character.

Rather, the speaker noted that age, gender and religion should be part of the parameters that would define federal character, a principle designed to ensure fairness in appointment into public service institutions.

He made this suggestion at the national strategy retreat of the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF), thus calling for the review of the extant definition of the federal character in the 1999 constitution.

At the retreat, Gbajabiamila said as presently defined in the 1999 Constitution, the federal character “is at variance with the country’s realities as it limits opportunities to geographical location.”

Gbajabiamila, therefore, challenged young legislators to chart a course in preparation for the Nigerian youth taking the mantle of leadership at all levels of government in the country.

He said: “In thinking outside the box, I think we should consider an amendment in the constitution to the definition of federal character because when we talk about federal character within the context of appointments, infrastructure and the rest of it in the constitution, federal character as it is, is limited to where you are from, like your ethnicity.

“In other words, the constitution says that appointments and all those other things shall be based on federal character and federal character as we know it now, we have the Igbos, we have the Hausas, the Yorubas. There should be a geographical spread.

“It is time we expand the definition of federal character because the character of a nation is not just based on your tribe. It is based on religion. It is based on where you are from. It is based on your sex. It is based on your age.”

The speaker, however, challenged the young lawmakers on proffering answers to some pertinent questions while commending the YPF for the initiative of taking up youth matters,

He said: ”This is an inspired choice because we know from the evidence of numbers, that any vision of our nation’s future that does not address the expectations of Nigeria’s youth and fails to meet them at the point of their needs, will fail.

“Therefore, in thinking about the future, we must dedicate ourselves to asking three crucial questions. The first is how do we provide jobs that pay a living wage that allow young people to live full lives of achievement and contribution to our society?

“The second question is, how do we ensure that young people who want to participate in governance, who have valid contributions to make, have a clear path to political participation at all levels.

“And how do we ensure that the systems of justice in our country are sufficiently robust to protect our nation’s young people from exploitation and abuse in whatever form it might take?

“Intricately linked to these three questions, is a fourth, more fundamental question about education in Nigeria. Education is the silver bullet that solves problems and a key that opens doors.”

In his remarks, the Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Olatunde Amos Ojo, while commending the young lawmakers noted that there was no better time than now for the retreat considering the nationwide youth restiveness that followed the Endsars protests.

He also urged the group to chart a result-oriented course that would be of benefit to Nigerian youths.

In his welcome address, the Chairman of YPF, Hon. Kabir Tukura said the forum visited the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Gbajabiamila and it was agreed that the YPF should come up with a white paper to be submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari.