By Yemi Adeleye
Lagos, Oct. 1, 2020 About 120 Nigerian elders and leaders of thought on Thursday advocated for a new constitution to put the nation on the path of unity, progress and prosperity.
The elders and leaders spoke at a meeting with the topic: “Emergency Virtual National Dialogue on the Constitutional Future of Nigeria” to commemorate the nation’s 60th Independence Anniversary.
Naija247news reports that th virtuale summit, organised by the Nigeria Political Summit Group (NPSG) in conjunction with National Consultative Front (NCFront), was moderated by Prof. Pat Utomi.
The summit, which brought together Northern and Southern elders and leaders of thought, was put together to urgently intervene and set machinery in motion for National Healing and Reconciliation.
In his opening remarks, a northern elder, Dr Ahmed Joda, noted that the fabric of Nigeria could be repaired and reconstructed through a sincere rejig of the nation’s constitution to reflect the will of the people.
Joda, who emphasised the need for a people’s constitution, called for a referendum or constituent assembly to work out a new constitution for devolution of powers for a greater Nigeria.
According to him, there is need for men of goodwill who will go back to the people at the grassroots to work out how the nation wants to live together.
A Yoruba elder, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, noted that all was not well with the country, saying that the foundation of the nation’s problem was in her constitution.
Adebanjo said that Nigeria had jettisoned the constitution that brought about her existence and adopted a military constitution that favoured a section of Nigeria.
“We should not pay lips service to the unity of this country. We should be sincere about the unity of Nigeria.
“We can’t keep this country together under this constitution, it can’t take us anywhere,” he said.
According to Adebanjo, if the nation does not want to reckon with the latest 2014 National Conference, there is an urgent need for a constitutional conference for a new constitution that will provide for equity, justice and fairness.
Another leader, Victor Attah, added that the problem facing the nation was beyond the National Assembly and the President.
Attah said that the nation had derailed and needed to realign herself to what the founding fathers handed over, which was true federalism.
He said that until the nation settled the fundamental problem inherent in the constitution, all her socio-economic and security challenges would remain.
Contributing, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a Northern leader, noted that Nigerians once had a great country at the beginning, and called for a consensus by the elites to move forward.
Baba-Ahmed, who frowned at the constant bickering, insults, abuses and blames among various groups, called for trust among Nigerian people.
“If the constitution cannot solve the problem of the people, then it is no constitution. Nigerians are not stupid, we need to get back to the Nigerian people,” he said.
Former Speaker, House of Representatives, Ghali Na’aba said: “Bringing ourselves together is the way forward. Time has come when we must sit together in this country.
“We should look at our structure and autonomy.
“We must take the bull by the horn and make up our mind to build our country through our constitution.
“We must discuss and bring out a country better than what we have now.”
Na’aba, who noted that all sections of the country were living in fear due to insecurity and poverty, called for restructuring and tolerance.
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, another Northern elder, said that there was the need for wider consultations among Nigerians to provide opportunity and better understanding.
Yakassai said that there had been fears among Nigerians before independence and called for a judiciary that would deliver justice without fear or favour.
Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu said that there had been loads of reports and recommendations to put the nation on the path of unity and development which had been abandoned by the political leaders.
She said that agitations for self-determination and other predicament facing the country were as a result of frustration.
Mrs Iyom Anenih added that secession would not be of maximum benefit to any group in Nigeria and called for restructuring and true federalism to realign and rebuild the country.
Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa said that Nigerians were being hurt deeply and needed a healing, through implementation of various recommendations for devolution of powers.
Dr Bello Falalu, another leader of thought, said that genuine federalism remained the only way to bring justice, equity and peace in the country.
Falalu, who frowned at processes that throw up those leading the country, called for a leadership selection process.
Dr Kunle Olajide, another leader, said that a bill for the establishment of a Constitutional Conference Commission for a new constitution should be sent to the National Assembly.
Cardinal John Onaiyekan said that the situation in the country required an emergency, adding that “obviously a new constitution is necessary.”
Dr Uche Azikwe, Hajiya Zainab Maina, Dr Kema Chikwe, Prof. Mojubaolu Kome, Chief Michael Ajegbo, Kalu Idika Kalu, Obadiah Mallafia and a host of other speakers took turns to emphasise the need for inclusiveness and new constitution.
Utomi, who noted that the elders were committed to a new constitution, said that the summit had constituted a constitution committee being led by 40 eminent Nigerians to provide a way forward for the nation.