John Nwodo, president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, an Igbo socio-cultural group, has warned that delay in restructuring Nigeria and amending its constitution is a threat to the country’s unity.
Nwodo spoke during a BBC Igbo programme, which held on Tuesday to commemorate Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Biafra declaration that plunged Nigeria into nearly three years of civil war.
Addressing talks bordering on how the current 1999 constitution is impeding development, Nwodo said it’s imperative for the country to return to its former regional system to allow for more autonomy and growth.
According to him, the constitutional framework on which the country was erected years ago lacks a democratic foundation in that no procedure, that allowed all citizens to weigh in their interests, preceded its enactment.
“Lawyers can tell that no constitution is valid unless endorsed by citizens in a referendum. We never did all that. That is why the Igbos in Ohanaeze, the Yorubas in Afenifere, and the Middle Belt Congress rejected it,” Nwodo said.
“We must return to that which we had before independence. Before the 1999 constitution, we had supreme courts in every region. Presiding over certain cases was regionally exclusive. The new system has ruined leadership in Nigeria.
“We must restructure Nigeria and overhaul our police and the court system. Igbos were made Nigerians by the gun and there’s no democratic or legal foundation for our constitution.
“It is imperative that we return to the regional system. If we don’t, it’s like building a house without putting up a foundation. That house will only fall and in no distant time too.
“In Nigeria, we don’t have many Igbo police commissioners, even among intelligence agencies. It’s clear that Nigeria is being cautious because it is known that we didn’t accept this leadership style and the constitution itself.
“During Jonathan’s tenure, there was a constitutional conference. But all that deliberation was put in the fridge. How difficult can it be for FG to bring that document forward and have Nigerians reach a consensus by vote casting?
“But the current administration doesn’t seem to show interest. If the government doesn’t address the development barriers that come with this constitution, time would come when Nigerians may resort to civil disobedience.”
Tony Nnadi, a Nigerian lawyer-cum-activist, while also speaking on the state of the nation, emphasised the importance of addressing the issues that prompted the civil war.
He claimed the country won’t be facing its current security challenges if it ran a regional system as it would be easier to track down erring groups.
According to him, Nigeria might be in another war but many don’t realise it yet.
“The economy of eastern Nigeria was among the fastest-growing compared to its peers. Why has the region become lukewarm in recent times? It’s that constitution that has made it difficult for us to do things on our own,” he said.
“Security, infrastructure, and even the foundations undergirding national leadership have all been held back by it. If we had regional law enforcement agencies, Nigeria won’t be facing the security challenges we have now.
“I was three when the war ended but among those who sought solutions to the issues that prompted it. People like Chinua Achebe and Ojukwu also proffered solutions at the time. But, even at that, the war has not ended until now.
“The same set of people who fought us back then still hunt us today. What plagues us back then continues to plague us today in worse ways. We’re still at war in Nigeria. Many don’t even realise it but people keep dying.”