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Nigeria needs a new constitution, says Ezike

By YETUNDE AYOBAMI OJO   |   22 September 2015   |   12:39 am  


How will you assess the first 100 days of President Mohammadu Buhari, vis-à-vis his anti-corruption campaign and allegations of lopsidedness in some of the political appointments?

We are facing very difficult circumstances in the country. I will not say anything about the first 100 days of his administration, the appointments and the changes until Buhari speaks on them himself because what is happening within this period will not only make or mar his administration but also determine the very survival of Nigeria as a political entity. So, until I hear from him and his thinking, I don’t want to talk on these subjects. If after six months, he says nothing, then come back, and I will address more points.

There have been clamours for the creation of special courts to try corruption cases. Do you support that call?

It has nothing to do with reforms or changes that either Buhari or APC talked about. As an English judge said: “ Not all changes are reforms”. I don’t see how creating special courts can be conceivably referred as reform. If anything, that is exact opposite of reforms. It is a vote of no confidence on the existence and operation of judiciary, as it exists. And the solution to it is to reform the judiciary not to create special courts. Special courts never worked. It is always aimed at achieving preconceived results. During the first coming of Buhari as military dictator, we had military courts trying civilians. That is the very definition of dictatorship. Under Abacha and Babangida, we had special judges trying cases dealing with failed banks and other things but did these things change anything? Banks continued to fail! Each time there is a new Governor of the Central Bank, he uproots the existing infrastructures. The only exception is the current governor, who has tried to maintain stability. These changes are not thought through. Do they become reforms? Nigeria needs only one change, it is the reform that we need – true Federation and we need a new constitution. Are you aware that Nigeria and Sudan are the only two countries that practise Sharia? You cannot mention Sharia in Egypt, Libya, Algeria or Tunisia. These are countries that you have Moslems constituting over 90 percent of the population.

I say again, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “This nation cannot long abide in half free and half slave”. In the case of Nigeria, This nation cannot remain one half secular and half Sharia.

Therefore, we have to decide whether we want Sharia in the constitution, if we do, we have to call a national conference. I repeat, Nigerians were never allowed to determine the type of country they wanted to live in. In 1966, when Gowon became head of government, the various regions came up with the same position. They all wanted a confederation. But that was sabotaged and he dissolved the conference. When Olusegun Obasanjo was serving as military leader, he set up a constitutional assembly, the same issue came up but the people from the Moslem North led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari walked out of the conference and Obasanjo dissolved the conference but still gave us the 1979 constitution. The demand for a conference persists. The reason of this was dramatised by the conference organised by administration of Goodluck Jonathan, namely, the conference was not given a free hand. They were given guidelines. We should do what people have done

in other places namely; the conference must be done on the basis of complementarity. I will never stop saying it. Complementarity means that I will never tell an Ijaw man on how he should be governed or how his oil should be applied or tell him that I own the oil in his backyard. I will not have any right to tell any person how he would worship his God. That is to say if they want Sharia, I have no right to outvote them. We have to persuade them to go back to their people and tell them and say look at this way, Sharia is no longer acceptable to even Moslems because it results in backwardness and decadence. They should go back to their people. The national conference should be called Constitutional Assembly, it should not last less than one year. In the same way, we should tell people that produce oil, look, you cannot say you belong to a country and you are taking from it without giving back. Don’t you want a united Nigeria; you must give something to. Get something. But it is not for me to impose on him the percentage of oil revenue he will get.

Why are you advocating for this now?

It is because the Wahhabism we have practised for years in the north which was brought in by Othman Dan Fodio does not necessarily imply Sharia. Incidentally, Ahmadu Bello was more matured. Because under him we have a brewery in Kano known as North Brewery. However he preached extreme Islam. What he preached was also similar to what ISIS is doing in the Middle East. It is a throwback to the era before Wahhabism, which was in the 1830s. In the final analysis, I believe that our brothers from the north do not want the disintegration of this country. I believe they will not say they do, if they do. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and other African countries that practice Islam have done away with their Kings and their Emirs. In some of these places like Niger, they do not carry on as if they are caliphs. In other words, there is a big confusion in Nigeria today. In Islam, they said Islam is the complete way of life. If Islam is the complete way of life, it means that your caliph is your head of state.

But which caliph is the head of Nigeria? In the case of Christians, Christ answered the question by saying; “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is Gods”. Don’t forget that in the Middle East; it is the Kings who are the caliphs, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait: These kings were created by the British way back in 1930s. In other places like Iraq, the kingdom has been abolished by the assassination of the king by Saddam Hussein. Is the Sultan our caliph? Or the emirs? Is Nigeria a caliphate? If it is a caliphate, who then is the caliph? Is it possible for the Sultan of Sokoto, who is appointed by a governor of Sokoto State, to call himself the caliph of Nigeria as a whole? Today, we seemed to have two people, who are caliphs of the North. In that case, we should make up our minds whether the caliph is the Emir of Kano or Sultan of Sokoto, so we know who Nigerians should look up to or talk with. These are problems that are not going away. Above all can you have a caliph in a republic? We are operating a system that dates back to the imaginary Arabian Nights. My heart was broken when the current governor of Kaduna state could not continue in the course of his reforms. I am talking to the Moslem North alone, No, the fact is that what they do up North has affected the rest of the country. After Emeka Omeruah became the governor of old Anambra State, the Southeast ceased to become the same. He introduced a system borrowed from the Moslem north, which impoverishes the people. For example, in one of the southeast states, the former governor has a list of 35 people, who received every month not less than N250,000 and not more than N5million. These are not public servants but “important people”. Some are retired military governors, some former ministers, and some core traditional rulers. At the end of the day, there is nothing left to do anything. That was borrowed from the North. Yes, Anambra state was not affected but it was not much different under Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Peter Obi, in particular refused, to do that. He never give people money that belongs to the government, he was not buying rams for people for Christmas. In other words, we need reforms. It is therefore not an accident that while other states are owing wages, Anambra State increased the salary of its workers by 15 percent. There are 88 schisms in Islam, which one do we practise? Nigeria is too important to be left on the hands of any emir or sultan. The next political upheaval in the north will be the result of the people of the North questioning the importance of the Emirs in their lives.

What is the way out?

Buhari has only one assignment. He should become a reformer. He should create Nigeria. Nigeria has not been created. If he fails to do that, he would have failed in everything. Finally, I want to say that the sharing of cakes is not the basis of governance. It is the overall welfare of the people.

  • ukoette ibekwe

    Mr. Ezeife, you almost had it right. But to bring in Buhari as the one to create Nigeria is negating all the reasonable issues that you raised. You mentioned creating another constitution for Nigeria through a process that is devoid of guidelines and yet you task Buhari to create Nigeria. The creation or reformation of Nigeria has in the past been conducted by single individuals via the 1979 constitution by Obasanjo, 1999 constitution by Abacha and what do we have; a skewed entity called Nigeria. Could be you mean Buhari creating Nigeria in a context best known to you. But I doubt Buhari is the one that will lead Nigeria into an era of genuine constitutional reforms because the steps he has taken so far in his government points to a man who is shallow and threatens others to feel whole and makes a mockery of the rest of us who are not limited as he is.

    • Abubakar Muhammad

      Wonder why you people always base your points on subtle sentiment other than genuine cause for development of Nigeria. You should have given the president enough time to settle thereafter you either commend or castigate him.

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