Nigeria: Drop 2015 ambition, Nwabueze urges Jonathan
The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerians, on Thursday met with President Goodluck Jonathan on the state of the nation.
It was gathered that at the meeting which was held behind closed doors in the President’s office in Abuja, the group, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, renewed its call for the convocation of a national conference.
A 13-page memorandum covering issues such as the need for a people’s constitution, the expansion of the agenda for national transformation to include economic emancipation as well as good governance, was presented by The Patriots to the President.
Nwabueze, who took over the leadership of the group from the first Nigerian SAN, the late Chief Rotimi Williams, told State House correspondents after the meeting that Jonathan must shun the urge to seek reelection in 2015 and concentrate on his transformation agenda.
The legal icon insisted that it was practically impossible for the President to combine efforts aimed at national transformation with contesting election.
He said although the President was eligible to contest in 2015, he could become an instant national hero if he summoned enough courage not to do so.
Nwabueze said, “That is not the purpose of our meeting today(Thursday),but that is my view and I still maintain that view. I still believe that the problem of this country is national transformation;that you cannot combine national transformation with contesting election.
“The two are so different because once you get involved in electioneering, you undermine your authority to lead the nation for national transformation and I said if I were the President, I would restrict myself to serving the nation, transforming this country and creating a new Nigeria. These would be my concern and I would go down in history as a hero.
“So, if Mr. President does that, he would become an instant hero in this country; but it is for him to choose. If I were him, I would choose to become a hero to lead the country into transformation and abandon the ambition of a second term. That is what I said and I still stand by it and that is what I would do if I were the President of this country, but unfortunately, I’m not.”
On Jonathan’s eligibility to participate in the election, he said, “That is not an issue. Mr. President is eligible, nobody is questioning his eligibility, the President is eligible. What makes him ineligible? Nothing, he is eligible, that is a personal decision for him to take.”
On the purpose of the meeting, Nwabueze said he and members of the group told the President that the nation was in dire need of transformation.
He said The Patriots position was that the desired transformation could only be achieved through a national conference of the about 389 ethnic nationalities in the country.
Nwabueze said the conference which should be used to discuss how Nigerians could live together in peace and unity must hold before the 2015 general elections.
While arguing that the 1999 Constitution is a schedule to Decree 24, the legal luminary said the constitution would disappear once the decree is repealed.
He said, “If you read Section 1(1) of the decree, they are all preambles to that Decree and the 1999 Constitution that you are talking about is a schedule to Decree 24.
“Repeal the decree and the constitution will disappear and you enact a brand new constitution which would derive its authorities from the people, that was what was done in 1963, when we adopted the Republican Constitution to replace the Independent Constitution.
“That 1960 Constitution was also a schedule to British Order-In -Council just as the 1999 Constitution isa schedule to the Decree 24. In 1963, we abolished the schedule under Section 2 of the Order-in-Council and made a new Constitution called the Republican constitution. That is what we should do now, abolish the schedule and relieve yourself entirely free to make the people’s constitution.”
Reacting to The Patriots’ call for a national conference, the President said his administration had no objection to Nigerians coming together to discuss how they would continue to live together in peace and unity.
Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said although he believed that the issue of Nigerians coming together to discuss their future was not out of place, he was constrained by the fact that the constitution had given that responsibility to the National Assembly.
The President told the group that there had been constant discussions within government on how to create an acceptable and workable platform for a national dialogue that would reinforce the ties that bind the country’s many ethnic nationalities and ensure that their diversity continued to be a source of strength and greatness.
“The limitation we have is that the constitution appears to have given that responsibility to the National Assembly. I have also been discussing the matter with the leadership of the National Assembly. We want a situation where everyone will key into the process and agree on the way forward,” he said.
He thanked The Patriots for acknowledging the Federal Government’s efforts to implement his administration’s agenda for national transformation.
“As a government, we are totally committed to transforming this country. Positive things are being done and by the grace of God, we will get to where we ought to be as a nation,” Jonathan added.
The Patriots delegation included Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Solomon Asemota, Chief Chris Okoye, Chief Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd.), Prof. Kimse Okoko and Mr. Michael Orobator.