By Obinna Nwosu
The subject of referendum is not new. As a matter of fact, President Jonathan, while making his inaugural speech at the National Confab on March 17, 2014, urged the state and national assemblies to “speed up the constitutional amendment process especially with regards to the subject of a #referendum. He said that “to be successful, nation-builders must continually strive to evolve better and more inclusive societies in which every citizen is a proud and committed stakeholder”.
Unfortunately, referendum (The Court of Public Opinion) is yet to enter the constitution as a tool for concluding fundamental national decisions.
Therefore, the popular call for a referendum is surprising whereas it is yet to make its way into the constitution. So why would IPOB recommend “Continuous Civil Disobedience” instead of strategic policy negotiations which is an international practice?
The Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, in his wisdom, has made a major input in the referendum and restructure campaigns by calling on the executive to transmit to National Assembly the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference for consideration in order to fashion out solutions to agitations in different sections of the country. (15th June, 2017).
Why is this major input? Because:
- The Confab recommendation supports restructuring.
- Confab Report, Article 18 supports referendum.
Confab Article 18: “The consent to live together in unity and harmony and the principles and purpose of our national coexistence stated heretofore in this Charter shall be incorporated into our Constitution upon adoption by the Nigerian people through a referendum.”
Interestingly, Ohaneze also made strong submissions on the position of Ndigbo at the National Conference supporting national unity and self-determination. Excerpts of the submissions are as follows:
- On the Unity of the Nation:
(a) That the unity of Nigeria shall be discussed and renegotiated;
(b) That the unity envisaged should be one that guarantees Nigerian citizens opportunities to aspire and achieve and maximize their potentials according to their abilities, regardless of religion, ethnic origin, social class, gender or circumstances of birth;
(c) That we support a united Nigeria based on Justice, Equity and Fairness. It must also guarantee our freedom to live and own property where we choose to without the fear of being the target of wanton killings and destruction at the whims and caprices of any one. In this regard our minimum objective is a broad and inclusive perspective or platform that allows the constitutive parts of this country to develop at their own pace and ability within a framework of citizens who are treated as equal stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
- On Self Determination
(a) That the constitution of Nigeria should recognize the Right to Existence and self-determination as enshrined in Article 20 of African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 2005 and Articles 3 and 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples 2007.
(b) That our government should cease to always see and regard this option as deleterious to its own definition of unity and as a ‘no go area;’ its non-discussion is a major reason for the continuous impairment of justice, equity, peace and unity of Nigeria. We are persuaded that this ostrich approach to the Nigerian project has done more harm than good to our chequered history.
So what do we take out from all these?
The call for a referendum should first of all support the request for the Executive to transmit the confab report to the National assembly for discussion and afterwards, lobby for article 18 of the report be added into the constitution. This must be done before any call for a referendum can be feasible in Nigeria.
Secondly, why ask for a referendum from a government who never promised such an agenda in his manifesto? A president is voted into power based on his political agenda and manifesto which must have been discussed and analysed by the electorates before elections, which is why the Presidential Debate should be institutionalized as a mandatory activity for all aspiring candidates. I believe that it is totally unfair and distracting to request for such a sensitive agenda from a government who already has a four-year agenda and it is battling to even scratch delivery on promise.
It is clear that Nigeria must experience a major change process on or before 2019 and therefore the campaign for a referendum and other agitations should set the agenda for 2019 elections and not for immediate attention and action by the government of the day, putting in consideration that this government is seriously troubled and is overwhelmed by its present challenges and crossroads. Almost a hopeless situation.
Agitation by “Continuous Civil Disobedience” against the government as recommended by the IPOB leader is a #dangerous and wasteful agenda, designed to put more lives of Igbo boys in danger yet achieving no or less results.
Finally, I want to call on all Ndigbo to support the legitimate body recognized by the government to defend and support the interest of all Igbo communities within and outside Nigeria – Ohaneze Ndigbo – the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization. The President-General, Chief John Nwodo, has been working assiduously to bring all Igbo person on board. He has so far shown leadership, doggedness and audacity and we the youths must give him all the support he needs.
The idea that Ndigbo has no leader must end already. As the RESTRUCTURE campaign is gaining momentum by the day, any right and proactive ethnic group should quickly organize themselves and form on single credible front for all negotiations.
The future of Ndigbo starts with unity in leadership.
God bless Ndigbo
God bless the Federal Republic Nigeria.
Nwosu is the Chairman of Ernest & Ibrahim Foundation and organiser of the May 29 Democracy Day programme tagged: #FixingNigeria