‘Current National Assembly cannot restructure Nigeria’
As the debate for restructuring of the Nigerian federation continues amid condemnations for the Senate’s loss of an opportunity, penultimate week, to accept devolution of powers to the states, public affairs analyst and professor of political economy, Pat Utomi, has said that the National Assembly, as presently constituted, is not in the best position to amend the constitution to reflect the wishes of majority of Nigerians.
Utomi who spoke at a public lecture organized by Evangelical Christian Union Alumni Fellowship, with the theme: ‘Towards 2019: Setting the Stage,’ blamed National Assembly for some of the problems the country is currently facing.
The professor also noted that the only reason why the lawmakers are not agitating for restructuring like other Nigerians is because it might rob them of what they consider their share in the oil wealth of the nation.
According to him, “There is this huge fallacy that the National Assembly is the only constituted body that can make for us a new constitution but they do not have that right, because the law on which the Assembly is based is not constitutional because it lied and said “We, the people” whereas it was not the people that made it.
“Moreover, how can you ask somebody to change something that brought him about? The National Assembly is an interested party. One of the biggest problems we have today is the legislature, so how can the problem resolve the problem. So, constitutional reform has to take us back to a Constituent Assembly representing the people of Nigeria, which will say, “We, the people” and put it in the referendum.
“The lawmakers are not supporting because there are many people who believe that they are entitled to a share of oil money and restructuring means taking away their share or the quantum of the share they get from oil and I find that so incredibly ridiculous because of the outcome of ignorance that is involved. “Nigeria has a wasting asset in oil, I mean drilling it every day, in the next 30 years there would be no oil to drill economically. Just recently, most part of the world is now demanding for vehicles that do not depend on oil.”
He also called for a change in the political system saying that the current arrangement does not give politicians the means to adequately address the needs of the people.“The nature and structure of this arrangement prevents the National Assembly from being effective in representing the people because as full-time lawmakers, they all live in Abuja and are disconnected from the people they are supposed to represent.
“In the 1960s they lived in their communities and come to Victoria Island for few weeks and make laws for the governing of the people. So they knew the lawyer who comes from Ibadan and know the problem of Ibadan based lawyers. The farmer who comes from Kwara knows the trouble of his area and when he comes to Parliament, he brings it with him.
“But today, how many of them return to their community after election? They become Abuja people so they are always disconnected from the people. That is a fundamental reason why we should reject the idea that this people can give unto us things that will lead us to progress.”The professor also lamented that the kind of people surrounding the present politicians are non-intellectual individuals compared to the days of Awolowo and the likes.
“Those that hung around Awolowo in those days were intellectuals but today all the people around the present crop of leaders not well informed. What they are interested in is: ‘where is the next party, who will organize the girls’ that is the political class that exists now. So it should not surprising that they don’t have the capacity to see tomorrow and the problems that lies ahead.”
National President of the fellowship, Mrs. Oladele Toyin said the lecture was necessary to address issues that may likely arise in the 2019 elections.According to her, “The discussion for the progress of Nigeria is that which must be of interest to everyone concerned with the country’s development. The leadership structure, engagement and impact, which are normally born out of cycle of elections, must be of interest to us all.
“It is difficult for a nation to develop with a lack of vision and lack of coordinated approach in describing the future of the structures and citizens of that country. The concerns must center around the electoral structure that produces the leadership, the level of awareness among the citizens, an analysis of performance of current office holders and a vibrant people structure that holds leadership accountable at all levels.
“We are interested in this- let Nigeria make progress. Let her come into excellence and development. Let the system work. Let there be an articulated vision and direction for the country with a commitment to excellence.
“Let the Civil Service work. Let there be accountability. Let there be ease of doing business especially in the aspects of company registration, tax policies and capacity to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Let us be free from the choking effect of fluctuation in prices of oil products. Let the level of education improve in general. Let per capita income increase. Let there be good opportunities for people that were unable to have tertiary education to live a good life. Let our infrastructures work indeed. Speed up transportation reformation. Let people feel safe in Nigeria.”