Fred Itua, Abuja
Elder statesmen and leaders from the South- west, South-south and Middle Belt under the aegis of Leaders of South and Middle Belt Forum (LSMBF) have called for national emergency over the worsening security challenge in the country.
They raised the alarm that the challenges caused by “systemic dysfunction” has placed the nation on the precipice, warning that it might tip over if no urgent step was taken to redress the anomaly.
The leaders who made the declaration while on a courtesy visit to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said a restructured Nigeria anchored on devolution of power and functional fiscal federalism is the only way out of the crises.
Speaking on behalf of the LSMBF, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, said the way out was for the National Assembly to effect the devolution of powers through constitution amendments.
According to him, “systemic dysfunction is the worst of all the problems confronting the country, and, in fact, the precursor of most of the crises in the land.
“Our problems emanate from the constitution being presently run in the country as against the ones operated between 1954 and 1966 which gave room for decentralised federation with attendant development-driven or healthy rivalries among the federating units.
“We have been kept down by the kinds of constitution we run, which to a large extent, provides for over-centralised federation by way of concentrating powers and resources for running the country at the centre alone to the detriment of the federating units.
“In a nutshell, our system makes the tail wags the dog rather than the dog wagging the tail. Escalation of disunity and wanton killings in the land not in anyway matched with required equal reaction by security forces have only one destination, which can only be salvaged by restructuring the country so as not to end up singing the ‘nunc dimitis’ for the nation.”
He noted that the recent invasion of the Senate by thugs that forcefully snatched the mace and the refusal of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to honour the summons of the Senate were clear examples of the Executive’s disregard for the institution of the National Assembly.
“We have come to you at a very difficult time in the history of our country. We are visiting the National Assembly because of its unique position in our constitution. The democratic system we run in our country rests on the three organs of government.
“For these three arms, the other two function in accordance with laws made by this arm. This arm characterises democracy because in a military government you will have both the judiciary and the executive.
“But it is only in a democratic government that you have the parliament. The parliament is a microcosm of the people because every section of the country has by adult suffrage delegated its voice to this parliament.
“So, we believe that by visiting you today, we are coming to speak to the conscience of the country. We ask that these discussions today be as frank as possible because in situations like this, unless the National Assembly rises like one man, with a conscience, commitment and patriotism, to unveil the facade of partisan politics, partisan advantages and face the real issues, we stand of the edge of a precipice.
“We have watched the helplessness of the National Assembly where members of the executive even refuse your invitations to come and make explanations contrary to provisions of the constitution.
“We have found the helplessness of the Senate when you can be invaded in spite of the security adornment in this place controlled by the executive and the seat of the Senate President is almost invaded but for the personal security of the aides of its leadership.
“This is because our system makes the tail wag the dog rather than the dog wag the tail. This cannot be in a fountain of legislative authority for executive implementation, and yet they toy with the system.
“We have come to tell you that it is in our view that it is because we have this over-concentration of Powers in the Federal Government contrary to the agreement that our forefathers entered into for the nation called Nigeria. That governance has failed in our country. That economic development has failed,” he said.
He called for the revisit of the power development clause that was rejected in ongoing constitution alteration process as promised by the National Assembly.
He said: “We believe that many of the problems that we have in our country emanate from the constitution of our country. We know that the National Assembly has had debate on devolution of powers and we know, Mr. President, that you did promise the nation that you will have a revisit to this issue.
“We have come to ask you to bring up the revisit. We consider it urgent and inevitable because we believe that all problems we have today in Nigeria emanate from the fact that our constitution is not right for a country constituted by people of diverse culture, diverse religion, diverse political persuasions as our country,” he said.
Nwodo’s submission was corroborated by Chief Ayo Adebanjo who spoke on behalf of South West, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman on behalf of the Middle Belt and Chief Edwin Clark on behalf of South South geopolitical zone.
Adebanjo said: “A word from one is a statement from all” and added that the National Assembly should use the report of the 2014 National Conference in effecting the required change.
Saraki assured the elder statesmen that the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, would revisit the rejected devolution of power items in its constitution amendment exercise.
“We will consider report on devolution of power immediately after the passage of the 2018 budget as a way of addressing issues raised. We are determined to address the issues frontally because they are very fundamental to the growth and development of our country. You can count on us,” he said.
He, however, admonished the elder statesmen to help in the required consultations and engagement across the various zones in getting the items passed when revisited by both chambers of the National Assembly.
He assured that the National Assembly was ready to play its role to ensure that the country continued on the path of democracy and growth.
He noted that to strengthen democracy, the number one institution Nigerians must defend is the parliament.
He said the eighth National Assembly has been working hard to create enabling environment that will attract investors and that the federal legislature would continue along that line.
He also urged the leaders of thoughts to lend their voices against violation of rule of law and in particular, weakening of the legislative arm of government.
Other members of the delegation were Chief Olu Falae, Air Vice Marshall, Irangate Idongesit, Obong Victor Attah, Sen. Stella Omu, Prof. Banjo Akintoye, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, Prof. Ihechukwuma Maduke, Sen. Basset Henshaw, Air Comm. Dan Suleiman (retd), Mr. Alfred Mulade, Anaba Saraigbe and Lady Maryam Yunusa.