Southern leaders berate National Assembly over devolution of powers
• Insist on return to 1960 Constitution
• Flay threat to agitators for restructuring
• Obasanjo canvases youth presidency
The Southern Leaders Forum has condemned the decision of the National Assembly to reject devolution of powers in its ongoing constitution amendment.
At a meeting yesterday in Chief A.K. Horsfall house in Lagos to appraise the state of the nation, the forum described the decision of the legislators as a complete disregard for the popular demand for devolution of more powers to the federating units from the overburdened central government.
Among the leaders of the South West, South South and South East present at the meeting were Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Director General of the Department of State Services, Horsfall; former President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. Joe Irukwu; former Minister of External Affairs, Maj. Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd); Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide; Publisher of Vanguard, Mr. Sam Amuka; Senator Stella Omu; Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd), Comrade Joseph Evah and Chief Guy Ikokwu. Also in attendance were Afenifere chieftain, Dr. Amos Akingba and Senator Bassey Henshaw.
In a statement read by Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the forum said: “We do not want a Nigeria where any section will leave as slaves to another but rather we want a Nigeria where all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation, are able to live their lives to the fullest and in happiness without let or hindrance. We hold dearly that anyone who is opposed to this vision is an enemy of Nigeria of our dream.
“Instead of devolving power, the National Assembly has now given us a stronger centre that will now conduct elections in local governments against extant provisions of the federalism.
“It is obvious that the National Assembly has taken itself out of the resolution of the Nigerian crisis by foreclosing devolution of power and unknown to them, they have unwittingly given more ammunition to self-determination forces by attempting to collapse the restructuring column in the battle for the soul of Nigeria.
“The demand for restructuring cannot end with their (lawmakers) decision as Nigeria has reached a terminal crisis from which it cannot recover except it is re-defined.”
The leaders vowed to insist on restructuring. “The restructuring we demand is a return to principles of federalism in Nigeria as obtained in the 1963 Constitution, which allowed the federating units to have autonomy over their local affairs to create a Nigeria that sustains the principles of fairness, equity, respect for all constituent units.
“We therefore call for immediate meeting of well meaning leaders from the South and the North to find a way to save Nigeria from destruction and crisis. An urgent return to the principles our founding fathers agreed as the basis for our independence is the only way out for Nigeria as most sectors of our country have lost faith in the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.”
The forum flayed the threat from the recent security meeting in Abuja against agitators for the re-negotiation of the polity. “Such threats are not taking into account the realities on ground. In Nigeria today, our security forces should note that the crisis in Nigeria requires constructive engagement as against empty and ineffective threats.”
A former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and erstwhile Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Alani Akinrinade (rtd) in one of his interviews with The Guardian published on July 24, 2016 warned that the National Assembly was never in the right frame of mind to legislate anything that would save the country from going into perdition.
Meanwhile, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has described as injustice the minimum age contained in the constitution for presidential candidates in the country.
Obasanjo spoke at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church, Lagos during a programme organised by Torchbearers Society tagged: “God in my life series”. The former president said if the constitution contained a minimum age then it should also have a maximum age.
“If we put minimum age, why are we not putting maximum age? There should be no age limit to be a president.
“General Gowon became the Head of State at 36, I became the Head of State at 39, even in the Bible we have youths as heads of states. I believe there should be no limit, let the people decide if the candidate is mature enough or not or if he is too old or not, because if you put a minimum age then we should also have a maximum age,” he said
Obasanjo also noted that having fought the Nigerian Civil War, Nigeria should never be made to experience another war in its political history.
The former president also advocated that the military should not be directly involved in elections. “They can provide security but they must not be participants in any election.”
Former Commonwealth General Secretary, Chief Emeka Anyaoku described Obasanjo as a man who has escaped death on several occasions especially when he was kept in prison by the late Gen. Sanni Abacha.