Senior advocate and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, has called on necessary stakeholders to ensure that a new truly federal constitution with provision for parliamentary government to replace the 1999 constitution must be in place before the 2023 general elections.
Babalola said that anything to the contrary would result in “recycling the same failed leaders that have brought Nigeria to where it is today”.
The legal luminary, according to a statement made available by ABUAD, spoke in a goodwill message as the special guest of honour at the Fifth Ife Institute of Advanced Studies, Summer Institute Programme held on July 26.
He lamented that the 1999 constitution “allows Nigeria to be running the most expensive democracy in the world with government functionaries earning exorbitant salaries and allowances in a country riddled with unemployment, poverty, insurgencies, kidnapping, ferocious terrorist acts, killings, murder, robbery and widespread destruction of properties”.
He said one of the reasons why a new truly federal constitution must be in place is that the 1999 constitution “breeds transactional leaders instead of transformational leaders. It is the same constitution that makes the opinions of those outside government to be irrelevant to those in government.”
Babalola urged participants at the summer programme to come out with meaningful and relevant recommendations that would be useful to the government including that “those who wish this country to remain an indivisible entity must unite to ensure that we replace the present 1999 constitution with a truly federal constitution and a parliamentary system of government which is more involving and less expensive.
“The proposed constitution will spell out the number of political parties and percentage of women representation, among others. It will also enable knowledgeable, selfless, patriotic and non-tribalistic Nigerians to emerge as leaders and make governance less expensive. In addition, it will discourage politics from being the most lucrative business in Nigeria
“It is common knowledge that money plays a dominant role in winning elections in Nigeria today. Hence no salary earner such as medical doctors, engineers, bankers, lawyers or lecturers can dare contest an election unless he/she embraces an all-powerful deep-pocket Godfather in Nigerian politics.
“The constitution must prevent transactional businessmen from contesting elections. The constitution must make provision for independent candidates to contest and win elections,” Babalola said.
The ABUAD founder also said that in considering the new constitution, “priority attention must be accorded to the multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic nature of the country made up of over 400 ethnic groups speaking over 295 dialects.
“Particular attention must be paid to the issue of poverty, reduction of population by limiting the number of children per couple. This will prevent the present untoward situation where the offer of a mere N5,000 could induce poor Nigerians to vote against the dictates of their conscience,” he said.
The senior advocate also suggested that the new constitution must provide that the National Assembly should consist of 60 per cent of Nigerians elected by professional bodies while the remaining 40 per cent should be contested by all qualified voters.
He said, “This way, we will have a parliament consisting of 60 per cent of elected members by professionals and opinion leaders whose election will not be affected with votes bought with as little as N5,000.
“Nigeria does not need two houses in the National Assembly. All we need is one house with the number of Legislators reduced to 50 per cent of what it is today,” Babalola said.