Pan-Yoruba Agenda For 2014 National Conference
by Frederick Fasehun
Opening address by Dr. Frederick Fasehun, principal convener of the”Pan-Yoruba agenda for the 2014 national conference,” holding at yard 158 Arena, Cregun, Lagos, on February 20, 2014. We, whom the exigencies of history and destiny have appointed as emblems and foot-soldiers in the YORUBA SELF-DETERMINATION GROUPS, feel honoured to
be here today. Our task here today is both simple and complex. The Yoruba race has gathered its best names and minds here today for that singular task of putting its aspirations, its
dreams and its visions together in one basket, and to make that basket attractive and sellable to the rest of the country. But common sense dictates that we must first convince ourselves and our kinsmen to agree with our presentation before we secure the agreement of the rest of the country with what we are bringing to the table of the National Conference. As our people say: Ile l’a ti nko eso r’ode, meaning CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME.
Whatever name it goes by, whether National Dialogue, National Conference, Confab or Sovereign National Conference, this programme offers Nigerians a rare opportunity to re-evaluate their association and produce a roadmap for their future. And it will do us well not only to grab this opportunity with both hands, but with every fibre in our being. This presents a rare chance to put to rest the ghosts of our country’s dichotomies, its divergences, its differences, its distrusts and its disagreements. This is the chance to build national trust and define a glorious future for ourselves and for posterity.
PAST CONSTITUTIONS OF NIGERIA
In the last one hundred years, the entity known today as Nigeria has been administered through several Constitutional models. With your kind permission, let me quickly refresh our memories to some of these bygone constitutions.
THE COLONIAL CONSTITUTION OF 1913-14 assisted Britain to forge the amalgamation of the Northern Protectorate, the Southern Protectorate and the Lagos Colony under a central administrative system run by Lord Lugard, the Governor-General.
THE CLIFFORD CONSTITUTION OF 1922 was the first pre-Independence Constitution.
THE RICHARD CONSTITUTION OF 1946 followed a series of political and economic agitations by the Nigerian elite, orchestrating workers’ strikes and agitations in the Press.
THE MCPHERSON CONSTITUTION OF 1951 downgraded true Federalism and made regions subservient and dependent on the centre.
THE LITTLETON CONSTITUTION OF 1954 came as a result of the London Conference of 1953 and Lagos Conference of 1954.
THE 1960 INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION was predicated upon the 1958 Constitution Conference held before Independence; and it transferred power from an appointed Governor-General of the Federation and Governor of the Regions to the elected Federal Prime Minister and the Regional Premiers.
THE 1963 CONSTITUTION established the Federal Republican Government of Nigeria, created a fourth region, the Mid-West Region, and sacked the Queen of England from being the statutory Head of State of Nigeria.
THE 1979 CONSTITUTION was drafted by a 49-member committee headed by Chief Rotimi Williams in 1975, ratified by the Constituent Assembly in 1978 and employed in running the Second Republic from 1979.
THE 1999 CONSTITUTION emerged for the purpose of political transition, and is essentially a hybrid of the stillborn 1998 Constitution of General Sani Abacha and the suspended 1979 Constitution.
AGENDA FOR THE 2014 CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE
· This Conference must produce a new, truly people’s Constitution, one that would not be dealing in falsehood when it proclaims itself as a synthesis of, product of and roadmap for “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
· The Constitution will not be subject to ratification by the current Executive, Legislature or Judiciary
· Resolutions from the Conference cannot be subjected to ratification by the National Assembly, neither can the National Assembly be the clearing house for resolutions
· The Constitution must be endorsed by the generality of Nigerians, with the qualification being adult suffrage
· The accent to the Constitution will be a simple majority of YES votes over NO votes
· All no-go areas must be dropped, including that relating to the unity of Nigeria
· The 2014 Constitution must shed the country of its current albatross of UNITARISM and institutionalise TRUE FEDERALISM
· In the spirit of TRUE FEDERALISM, the Constitution must entrench DEVOLUTION OF POWER and SELF-DETERMINATION to the states and the regions
· In the spirit of TRUE FEDERALISM, the Constitution must institute RESOURCE CONTROL
· In the spirit of TRUE FEDERALISM, the LAND-USE ACT, a flagrant heritage from Military Hegemony, must be abrogated from the Constitution
· Meanwhile, in order to douse the mistrust Nigerians feel for each other, understandably, and to prevent mutual acrimony from soiling this historical moment, the National Conference should be steered and supervised by credible figures from outside the country. Such people can be fellow Africans or eminent citizens from the Commonwealth or from the United Nations, including people in the stature of: Walter Carrington, Jesse Jackson, Thabo Mbeki, Jerry Rawlings and Kofi Annan. The neutrality of such eminent figures is guaranteed. And since they have no particular stake in the product emanating from the Conference, they can bestow much credibility on the National Conference
· No one can build a nation in three months. Considering the myriads of contentious issues bedevilling the NIGERIAN QUESTION, the current timeline of three months should be shed for a time-span of between six months and one year
· The requirement that every clause has to have 75 PERCENT CONSENSUS before being passed and adopted is unrealistic, preposterous, pretentious, and confers a non-existent homogeneity on Nigeria. Instead resolutions should be carried through a SIMPLE MAJORITY or TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY votes
· Participation must be broad-based and all-inclusive of Nigeria’s 317 ethnic nationalities, with pre-Conference publication of delegates;
· The Conference must guarantee the enhancement of MINORITIES’ RIGHTS AND IDENTITY
· Yoruba must move for the PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM instead of the Presidential System because the PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM comes with inherent advantages, including:
o Being less expensive
o Enhancing the de-monetisation of politics
o Deemphasising corruptive tendencies
o Promoting easy recall of erring public officers
o Guaranteeing robust discussions before decisions are taken
o Promotion of TRUE FEDERALISM
· Youth must be fully represented
· The National Conference should kick off with CONSTITUTION REVIEW and establish and assign Subcommittees of experts to study and synthesise the best provisions of past Constitutions with a view to adopting such provisions for inclusion in the emerging 2014 Republican Constitution
· Through the various embassies, government should put machinery in place to enable NIGERIANS IN THE DIASPORA to articulate and process their submissions
· TRADITIONAL RULERS should be involved in the process and must assist in synthesising the aspirations and agitations of their people at the grassroots
· THE PRESS must be alive to its responsibility of availing citizens with facts and analysis that can drive informed debates, enhancement of the entire process and guarantee Conference accountability and fidelity.
We have always maintained that whoever brings this dream into reality will have his name written in gold. And for taking this excellent initiative, President Goodluck Jonathan has won himself a well-deserved place in history. And in view of the superfluity of disparaging voices that have been aimed at Mr. President and this noble initiative, this forum will do well to specifically make a statement extolling President Jonathan, a statement that will confer credibility on the National Conference.
However, to guarantee Awa Omo Oodua and Ile Kaaro Ojiire seamless voice and representation at the Conference, we the Yoruba, as an ethnic bloc, must guarantee that we are putting forward our best team, our FIRST ELEVEN.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once more, on behalf of my indefatigable compatriots from the YORUBA SELF-DETERMINATION GROUPS, I thank you for this opportunity.