No successful poll can hold under present constitution —Southern, Middle Belt leaders

Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has restated that it is imperative now to restructure the country back to federalism as the condition for a peaceful co-existence, declaring that Nigeria cannot successfully hold another election under the present constitution it operates with. 

SMBLF restated this position on Wednesday against the backdrop of adjournment of the case of constitutional violations filed by it against the Federal Government.

Justice Abang had adjourned the case which seeks to put in the legal arena the worrying issues of constitutional violations especially observance of the federal character in the breach, overt sectionalism, the lopsided appointments into key and sensitive positions in serial violations of a plural society, among others, to Jan 28, 2021.

The Forum, in a statement jointly signed by Mr Yinka Odumakin for South-West, Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt), recalled that the nation’s founding fathers negotiated a federal constitution at independence, but military incursion had over the years damaged the federal principles, saying this had become a heritage for civilian politicians who do not want predictable progress for Nigeria.

“As we have stated earlier, we restate again that the imperative of now is to restructure Nigeria back to federalism as the minimum condition for a peaceful co-existence and elongation of the tenure of Nigeria as a constitution that refuses  to bend will break. 

“Nigeria cannot successfully hold another election under the present constitution,” SMBLF said.

“Whereas our founding fathers negotiated a federal constitution at independence, military incursion has over the years damaged the federal principles in the country and this has become a heritage for civilian politicians who do not want predictable progress for Nigeria by keeping it under a unitary arrangement that has made the country unsettled and spreading the culture of poverty all over the country and promoting conflicts and crises which are natural consequences of running a multi-ethnic country from Abuja,” the leaders recalled.

According to SMBLF, part of the fallouts of this crisis of unitarian system was the recent #EndSARS protests brought about by dysfunctional federalism, declaring that the immediate cause of the crisis was traceable to the single policing in a plural society with serious atrocities against youth by policemen from a different culture profiling youths from a different culture as criminals without serious investigation beyond hairstyles or boys wearing earrings.

The Forum expressed it’s strong opposition to what it described as all fascist measures taken so far against the #EndSARS protesters by those, it said, were negotiating with bandits in their corner of the country.

This was just as it lauded the youth who it observed conducted themselves peacefully until the state introduced violence. It further commended them for “their sense of appreciation on what Nigeria needs by including restructuring in their demands.” 

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“We must attend to those demands instead of blackmailing and hounding them with strong arms tactics,” the leaders said. 

Speaking further, SMBLF posited that it was the absence of federalism that had caused the opposition to Zamfara State mining its gold which it said had been an exclusive preserve of criminals before now. 

According to the leaders, those of them who had campaigned for federalism would ordinarily  not oppose a state benefitting from its resources, saying: “We do not say Zamfara should not have that benefit, but all other states must not be denied equal opportunities as obtains in all federal arrangements if we are equal stakeholders in this project.”

SMBLF chastised those in the core northern states of Nigeria who claimed they do not understand what restructuring means, saying they were “being either too clever by half or downright dishonest and patronizing to the rest of us.”

“If they are in doubt, there are several historic reference documents to assist them, including the Northern Region’s pre-independence 8-point agenda where they asked for confederation; the Republican Constitution of 1963, the 2014 Confab report, the El-Rufai APC Committee report etc. 

“The insensitivity of the core northern elite is encouraging this administration to sustain its deliberate mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity, and the SMBLF is hereby serving notice that this attitude of ‘our way or the highway’ does not augur well for the desired longevity of the Nigerian union. 

“It’s timely to warn that if there’s no comprehensive resetting of the constitutional foundation of this country, there will be no election in 2023, and those who have made a living of resisting commonsensical change would bear the responsibility of history for whatever follows,” SMBLF warned. 

“It is equally astonishing that the Federal Government is wasting resources in pursuit and harassment of the patriotic youths that conceived peaceful protests @#Endsars, while armed criminal herdsmen, bandits, Boko Haram partisans and financiers walk free and unmolested. 

“That probability is being arrogantly and steadily eroded by the apparent determination of the core northern elite to ride the rest component groups of the country as horses. That must stop,” it further warned. 

“We all have equal stakes in Nigeria, and that is why we are consistently calling for fundamental structural constitutional change from the current system of unitary rule back to the system of true federalism for which Nigeria is tailor-made,” SMBLF counselled.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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