There are fundamental issues in the 1999 Constitution, that needs to be addressed – Senator Rilwan Akanbi - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

There are fundamental issues in the 1999 Constitution, that needs to be addressed – Senator Rilwan Akanbi

Senator Rilwan Adesoji Akanbi had represented Oyo South Federal Constituency in the Red Chambers. He also represented his constituency at in House of Representatives. The respected former lawmaker who is the Okanlomo of Ibadan is the deputy chairman, Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), a solid group rallying support for the presidential bid of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

He spoke with Sunday Sun on critical national issues, including Constitution review, electoral act, security challenge, and the struggle for presidency in 2023, revealing why Tinubu is poised to run for the presidency, among others. Excerpt:

Most Nigerians seem to be disappointed with the All Progressives Congress (APC), your party, leadership, especially at the national level. What do you think is actually wrong because the enthusiasm that Nigerians had when they voted for this government appears to have evaporated?

As I have always said, of course, one is not the spokesperson for the government and there is little one can say because you are not well abreast with all the information of the government. Whatever I say may not be cogent enough to properly analyse major problems on why things have not been going as expected, but be that as it may, it is obvious that the Federal Government has some challenges. That is what I can say, so far on the issue because I am not the government’s spokesman.

Security issue has remained worrisome and appears to be degenerating, but the Federal Government insists that they are on top of the challenge despite that the result out there is one that calls for emergency. What is your take on the scenario?

What I can say is that our security challenge is multi-dimensional and we are applying a mono-solution, which I don’t think can solve the problem. The insecurity problems in the country, kidnapping, terrorism, insurgency, banditry, etc, I do not think mono-solution can solve the problems because that approach will overwhelm the government, that is my personal view.

What is your take on this issue of a constitutional amendment by the National Assembly? Do you think the outcome of the exercise will receive the expected legitimacy of “We the people,” which is key in a people-oriented constitution?

I believe that we are all agitators presently, even the rich people are agitated. You are rich and you are not secured, you are agitated, hunger is also making people agitate, insecurity as I have said earlier, Boko Haram, terrorism, etc, so we are all agitators in one way or the other. I don’t know how people are responding so far, but I know our own people are responding well with their papers and options to the solution. You can see the communiqué that came out from the Southwest recently, from Afenifere. You know their position on devolution of power, true federalism, restructuring, more powers to the state, etc. And everybody is condemning the 1999 Constitution due to its flaws and baggage it carries. Some are calling for the adoption of the 1963 Constitution. So, let’s wait for the outcome, but that does not stop the government from rising to the occasion in the areas of insecurity.

You mentioned Afenifere communiqué, but they have come out to say that they are not participating as they contend that the outcome will be another exercise in futility?

Yes, but directly or indirectly, you know their position because after their meeting they issued a communiqué and their views cannot be neglected. So, their communiqué I think should be looked into by the constitution review committee. If the constitution review committee believes that their voice should be reckoned with, they have a communiqué that is everywhere. It is not a communiqué that should be ignored if you ask me. Afenifere has been presenting papers over the years so you know where they stand on such a crucial and fundamental issue. Recall that recently the Southern and Middle Belt leaders also meet and raised issues on the need for restructuring, zoning of 2023 Presidency to South, and the need to change the 1999 Constitution by adopting the 1963 Constitution, among other very sensitive issues like devolution of power. These are critical issues that must be honestly addressed to save this country.

Recently, the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood raised the alarm on the increased attack and burning of INEC’s property …?

(Cuts in) In which area?

In different parts of the country, at different zones?

I don’t think it’s everywhere, there is a particular zone it has been happening, I have not heard of any burning of their office in the Southwest, I have not heard about any burning in the Northeast, I am just telling you the truth. I think the attack is in the Southeast. The truth is that the whole thing is under agitation and people are using a different approach. Some don’t even want the election to hold in 2023. Some believe that there is the need to practice true federalism and they have waited over the years nothing is happening, some say they want to go, that they want secession, etc, as I said, different people have different ways of calling attention. But it is obvious that things seem not to be moving quite well as expected, a blind man can see it, a deaf person can hear it that things are not moving too well.

Do you think there can be any credible election without the signing of the Electoral Act, which is expected to guarantee electronic voting?

Well, it all depends; the electoral act is already on the table of Mr. President. Am I right?

But many believe it has been delayed for a long time than necessary?

I think there is a communication gap between the president and the people. I think the communicators of Mr. President should brace up and address issues that are important, like the issue of the electoral act. They should let the whole world know why it has not been signed instead of letting people get worried over it. In fact, everybody is worried, the spokespersons for the president must address issues. The people will want to know why the signing of the electoral act is being delayed.

Some critics are saying that the Nigerian constitution does not require amendment, but a brand new constitution for the country…?

Yes, some people say so, some also said we need the 1963 Constitution, everybody at the moment condemns this present constitution, so what mode of amendment to be done is what we have not agreed on yet. The truth is that there are fundamental issues in the 1999 Constitution that need to be properly addressed.

Don’t you think constituting a national conference on the constitution will make a better sense for the people?

It also depends on the mode. What is important is that the Federal Government should address the pressing issues whichever way we want to go about it. Conference or no conference, having Nigerians know what they want? Some want succession which looks impossible for now, if that is not possible is there no other direction, true federalism, we don’t need to sit down and be arguing over it. We know what is wrong; we just need to face the facts to ensure peace, unity, and justice. They can look into the 2014 document; any document that will move us forward should be used. Anything that will be acceptable to Nigerians is worth looking into.

You are the deputy chairman of SWAGA (Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju), do you think it is fair for the Southwest to insist on the president again in 2023 when your political zone is believed to have had enough share of the position so far?

In Nigeria, we are talking about the so-called unwritten, accepted agreement between North and South. If the president finally comes to the South all the three zones (Southeast, South-south, Southwest), it won’t be served ala carte, it will not fall on your lap just like that, nobody will beg you to come and take it, you must work for it. When it comes to the South, let the zones come out, nobody is stopping anybody from getting it, but you must show capacity that you are ready, that you can do it, that you can deliver. If our brothers from the Southeast believe that they are interested in the 2023 election, then they should raise their game. Groups should start coming out from that zone too, projecting their candidate, but nobody should go and beg anybody to come and serve, to come and take the position. No, we are preparing and projecting our own candidate, we are just projecting one person that we think is highly competent for the race, for the struggle ahead and nobody can stop anybody from the Southeast or South-south from projecting their candidate.

What is it that stands your candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu out?

He has demonstrated leadership. When he was a governor, he has demonstrated that he has the capacity, and the ability to deliver. He has what it takes to bring people together, he has the wherewithal to bring people together to discuss vital issues, he is a tactician, he knows how to bring Nigerians together in sincerity of purpose. One thing is to have a vision another thing is having what it takes, the capacity to drive the vision. He has the experience; he is a good listener and a hunter of talent. He knows how to discover talents and put them to use. He is not there just to try; he has the action capacity to do it. He is a go-getter, strategist, a unifier, one that has all that it takes to fix Nigeria.

How do you feel when some opponents say he has a lot of burden, for instance, his health challenge etc…?

(Cuts in) This is a man who sleeps around 3:00 a.m, and will be awake before 7:00 a.m, you can confirm from those who know him well. This is a man that you see physically in all events he wants to attend. He travels across the country almost on a daily basis so those talks are expected from those opposing him. At least they are not complaining that he is bereft of ideas, they are not complaining that he has no content. When the time comes we will ascertain their claim by shaming them. But to be candid, is it not God that gives good health? Have we not seen the so-called healthy people that slept and never woke up? There are certain issues that are outside our realm, but known to God who knows our destiny in life.

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