Prominent elders in Nigeria under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination, have raised questions on the validity of the Nigerian 1914 amalgamation.
They expressed their displeasure about the current poor state of the country declaring that except a national dialogue to discuss Nigeria’s constitutionality and the 1914 Amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Nigeria is held within 90 days, Nigerians would continue to suffer oppression, stagnation and squalor.
The elders said yesterday, in a communiqué issued in Lagos after a virtual meeting that unless the Constitution was changed, Nigeria may not come out of its present challenges.
According to the Guardian Newspapers, the eminent leaders include former Chief of General Staff, Cmdr. Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, second republic senator, Prof. Banji Akintoye, erstwhile President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo, former Vice-Chairman of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon, leader of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, professor of religion, Prof. Yusuf Turaki, among others.
The eminent leaders numbering 127 further aired their concerns by petitioning the United Nations Security Council, African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United States of America and the British Government. They unanimously described the 1999 constitution as a ‘fraud; an impunity, hijack and a confiscation of the sovereignties, powers and assets of the South and Middle Belt People by those who clandestinely designed it.’
In the communique, the elders expressly stated that the union is to pronounce an end to what they described as a ‘toleration of Nigeria’s Unitary constitutional order’ which was imposed and has been forcefully maintained by a section of the country stating that it negates the federal basis upon which Nigeria became one political union at independence in 1960.
The group in the communique said it resolved “to pronounce an end to our toleration of Nigeria’s Unitary Constitutional Order, Unilaterally Imposed and Forcefully Maintained by a section of the Nigerian country, in negation of the federal basis upon which Nigeria became one political union at independence in 1960, and in brutal subjugation of our collective sovereignties currently being forcefully and fraudulently appropriated by the Nigerian State.”
Citing the history of the colonial beginnings of Nigeria, the group referred to Nigeria has a commercial venture of the colonial masters and that the commercial interest of the colonial masters led into the flawed foundation upon which the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates were laid which culminated into the creation of a lopsided union, “locking the diverse peoples of Nigeria into one political union with two mortally opposed civilizations.”
The elders also stated that through the manipulation of Nigeria’s colonial rulers, the various military coups that plagued the country’s governance in the 1960s and the eventual breaking away of the Eastern region between 1967 and 1970 truncated the federal constitutional basis plunging the country into a civil war.
The leaders also said there is a countrywide consensus against the unitary constitutional arrangements imposed incrementally on Nigeria by a combination of guile, brute force and impunity between 1966 and 1999, now codified by the 1999 Constitution, saying, the countrywide consensus had manifested in several unilateral regional and joint multi-regional actions in repudiation and rejection of the 1999 Constitution.
According to them, “the first indication was when in 2000, the 12 contiguous states of the far North, simultaneously imposed and began to implement Sharia law in their three domains against the express provision of the 1999 Constitution, which in Section 10, forbids the adoption of any state religion. This translates to a unilateral secession from the secular union of Nigeria.
“Between 2005 and 2006, a Sovereign Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria, convened by the Pro-National Conference Organizations (PRONACO), deliberated exhaustively and produced a Draft Peoples’ Constitution 2006, which had the potential of restoring Nigeria to its damaged federal foundations. Though ignored by successive Federal Governments, that draft became the New Federating consensus against the prevailing unitary Constitutional order in Nigeria.
“It is pertinent to note that across all the regions of Nigeria, various socio-cultural and ethnic-interests vanguard organizations have also been vehement in expressing the Constitutional grievances of their people, (some even violently), thus on the Yoruba side, we have the Afenifere, the Yoruba Elders Council (YCE), Agbekoya, the Yoruba Liberation Command, (YOLICOM), YWC and more, including the ILANA OMO OODUA, which now aggregates several Yoruba self-determination initiatives across the world.
“In the Eastern part of Southern Nigeria, we have Ohanaeze, Movement for the Survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND); Ijaw National Congress, (INC); Ijaw Youth Council (IYC); PANDEF, Midwest Movement, the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, (NDPVF), MEND, MASSOB, IPOB, others. In the Middle-Belt, we have the Middle-Belt Forum, (MBF), MBC, SOKAPU, CONAECDA and many others.
“Several notable statesmen in Nigeria including Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Yakubu Gowon, both former Heads of State, have lent their voices to the urgent imperative of the fundamental reworking of the damaged Constitutional basis of Nigeria, warning that any further delay may lead to the catastrophic collapse of the distressed Nigerian union.
“Nigeria’s former Defence Minister, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), had also urged the Indigenous Peoples of Nigeria facing ethnic cleansing onslaught of the murderous invaders to defend themselves and their lands in the face of obvious collusion of the Federal Government and its Armed Forces with the Fulani invaders. In the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSARS protests many, including the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), now insist that Nigeria needs to be renegotiated.”
The leaders touched on specific constitutional grievances concerning the sovereignties of the constituent components of the federation of Nigeria. The leaders said: “The claim in the Preamble to the 1999 Constitution that ‘We the People’ Firmly and Solemnly Resolved to live in One Political Union and that we Enacted and Gave Ourselves the 1999 Constitution, is self-evidently false.
“Even by the admission of the 1999 Constitution at Section 14(2)(a), Sovereignty belongs to the People, from whom, Government, through this Constitution Derives all its Powers and Authority.
“This is the fountain from which all other constitutional grievances flow and there is no other remedy to this particular grievance than an autochthonous process by which the constituent components will submit their peoples and their lands into a union, and also stipulate the terms of that union, to be ratified by referendums and plebiscites.”