In recent times, three separate but related events have attracted public attention in Nigeria. The first was the decision of the South-West states to launch a security outfit to combat rising spate of crimes such as kidnapping in the region. This decision attracted a strong reaction from the Federal Government through the Attorney General of the Federation who was reported as having declared the outfit as illegal. The second was the decision of the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) a breakaway faction from the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents to kill Reverend Lawan Andimi, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika Local Government, Adamawa State, who had been kidnapped by them during a raid and in respect of whom the insurgents had entered into negotiations with the Federal Government for the payment of a ransom to secure his release. The third event occurred a few days ago when the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) held a nationwide prayer walk in reaction to the killings around the country. This walk was without a doubt, a direct fallout of the killing of Reverend Andimi and others. Indeed while reporting the decision of CAN to embark on the prayer walk, a national newspaper stated that the body also: “cited the case of Rev Denis Bagauri, who was murdered by gunmen in his residence at Mayo Belwa, Adamawa State, and the beheading of 11 Christians, including a bride-to-be, by Islamic State in West Africa on Christmas Day in Maiduguri to buttress his point that Christians are mostly targets of the attacks…also the case of four seminarians of the Good Shepherd Catholic Seminary in Kakau who were kidnapped along Kaduna-Abuja Road recently.”
As I stated earlier, these events though separate are all related as there are common to them all, questions relating to the security of the citizenry and the duty of governments anywhere in the world to provide it. These events bring sharply in focus the urgent need for the Convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to discuss means of bringing about a true peoples Constitution that will address many of the problems which currently threaten not only the economic development of the Country but also its very existence. If anything, the prayer walk embarked upon by the Christian Association of Nigeria should draw the attention of government to the fact that it must act urgently on this matter.
Link between security and poverty
It is said that the main duty of any government is to provide security to its citizens as the need for a secure environment in which to trade, breed and prosper is one of the reasons for the coming together of people from different background to form one society. Without security no nation can aspire to greatness. No investor will be willing to invest in a country in which the security of his goods and materials cannot be guaranteed. Many factors can contribute to the state of security or insecurity as the case may be, in any country. A country with high rate of unemployment and poverty will no doubt experience an upsurge in crime and other social vices. A large percentage of Nigerians are unemployed. Perhaps also of importance is the fact that a large percentage of Nigerian graduates have not been able to secure employment. A few years back a national daily published a story in which it highlighted what it called the experience and lives of “Okada graduate riders”. The article featured first-hand account of numerous graduates who out of inability to secure employment had resorted to riding commercial motorcycles popularly referred to as “Okada” for livelihood. Many of the persons featured in the article had graduated with degrees in disciplines which some years ago would have assured any graduate of a good job and a bright future. Many recounted how they had filed hundreds of applications for jobs without success before resorting to ride okada, a vocation which in the past was regarded as the exclusive preserve of school drop outs and hooligans. As a result Millions of Nigerians have one reason or the other to be disgruntled with the entity called Nigeria. It is good to expect a man to be patriotic towards his Country. It must be realized that it is extremely difficult for many to feel any sense of patriotism towards a country that they see as uncaring towards them.
Without a doubt, the poor economic situation of the country is itself a result of the lopsided Constitution which concentrates power and the control of resources at the Centre. It is a Constitution that has put in a place a structure that is so expensive to maintain and in which as a result, a large percentage of revenue is dedicated yearly into recurrent expenditure. I have addressed this issue several times. However, now and perhaps more than ever is the time for the government to pay attention to calls for the restructuring of the country. Where there there is economic underdevelopment as is the case now, there will be unemployment. Where there is unemployment, there will be poverty which in turn will breed general discontent. A state of general discontent can and will only bring about social and societal conflagration. It will bring about chaos and disorder. I will end this again with a contribution by a very eminent Nigerian, Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe, a former Vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos.
I have read carefully the submission of Aare Afe Babalola SAN CFR on primarily the matter of 1999 Constitution, raging poverty in our country and the resulting hunger leading to unbelievable crime surge. I want to thank and appreciate him for spending his valuable time giving us and next generations HOPE!. I believe that his treatment of the above subject matter is wholesale(what is to be done to keep us together as we were) and in the interest of corporate Nigeria ie the origin for these emerging issues is imbedded in the 1999 constitution and the need to convey a sovereign national conference(SNC) to revert to pre-military intervention in 1966. It is clear that we were individually and collectively happier prior to 1966 than now. It does appear that the World is just moving past by us-mostly because of our attitude and inability to accept “merit” as the fundamental basis for growth and development. I do support the need for restructuring to ensure that we put forward our ‘best foot’ always. But restructuring by itself will input the evil inherent in the ‘bigger’ body to distributed smaller ones; so the approach is to agree on how and the basis of our association first and cure the those manifested negatives in the current relationship. I am hoping that the SNC would accept merit as the cornerstone for our corporate existence-look for example at Canada and perhaps Australia that have become a haven for our recent graduates? As long as we do not provide an environment that enshrine merit and renounce Federal Character-this issue of SNC and Constitution is unlikely to revert the massive brain drain and unsustainable poverty in our land.
O Ibidapo-Obe FAS, OFR Distinguished Professor January 16 2020
I reiterate that we cannot continue to amend the Military Constitution as we have been doing since 1999. The time to bring about a complete change and adoption of a new Constitution is now. The avenue to achieve this objective is through the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference.
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON