A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) has asked Nigerian political leaders to focus on restructuring the country by enacting a new constitution, instead of talking about the 2023 elections.
Olanipekun insisted that if politicians want to have a country to govern in 2023 they must begin the process of engaging the different interests to agree on a working document that has the support of everybody.
The renowned legal practitioner, who spoke to journalists in Lagos, said the country still has two years and three months before May 2023 and that this is enough time to do something to save Nigeria from further degeneration.
He said, “Failure to do that, if an Igbo man or a Yoruba man wins, we will witness the same thing we are experiencing under President Muhammadu Buhari. Then, where are we going? Is that a way to build a country?
“You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. A constitution should be de facto and de jure, meaning in fact and actuality; in practice and theory; in honesty and insincerity.
“I’m familiar with social media to an extent and I listened to Chief John Nwodo, the Minister of Information during the regime of former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.), who foisted this constitution on us. He said the constitution was drafted by about 47 persons, out of which 40 were military personnel.
“Is that the way it is done, for 47 persons to prepare the constitution that governs a diverse nation like Nigeria? Elders of this country must stand up to be counted; do we just want to live by the convenience of today and not think of tomorrow; what happens to our children and grandchildren?
“It is not a question of who is in power, it started since the time of Obasanjo. When I was the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, I led a team of lawyers to the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and among the things we suggested to him stoically and patriotically the overhauling of the constitution.
“We also volunteered to assist him, but he didn’t like it. I told him in clear terms that this constitution would not take us anywhere.
“It’s sad that some people are not even ready for intellectual discourse and that is why once they have a view different from yours, you become an enemy. Why are we treating Nigeria like a bastard? We are being unfair, unjust, careless and ungodly about this country.”
He said that it is being drummed everywhere that there is an El-Rufai committee report on restructuring, and wondered why they don’t want to bring it out.
“Some time ago, I think I heard a respected leader from the North, Prof Ango Abdullahi, said the North was prepared for restructuring and they want a parliamentary system. Then, let us debate it.
“I will key into that because it is less expensive. To me, the constitution as we have it and operate it now constitutes an encumbrance, taking away our resources.
“I want a developed, flourishing and cohesive Nigeria where everybody would live with one another in harmony, a country driven by and anchored on institutions, where the sovereignty of the people would be respected,” he stated.