The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has called for the removal of the federal character principle in the Nigerian constitution.
Agbakoba stated that Nigeria needs a decentralised and balanced federation as recommended by the National Political Reform Conference in its report, adding that an amendment of the constitution to reflect the change was imperative.
The senior advocate who addressed journalists in his Ikoyi office on Tuesday, argued that expunging the principle as well as quota system in the country, would promote hard work, equity and justice.
He said: “I want the federal character principle expunged in the constitution. In fact, the constitution should be amended. We should have a decentralised and balanced federation. If the recommendations on the system of government recommended by the Political Reform Conference is adopted, there will be no room for federal character principle.”
Speaking on the state of the nation, he lamented that Nigeria had been hit by a wave of big shocks.
According to him, “the first shock is that our oil resources have gone out of fashion as the world moves from smelly hydrocarbon oil to clean shale oil.
“Nigeria produces smelly hydrocarbon oil that is no longer attractive in the international market. We are having trouble selling our oil. The second big shock is that we are no longer an oil economy. We are now in a post oil period. The third shock is that our economy is in danger of running out of steam and cash.”
He added that the third shock would have a profound effect on Nigeria, unless it is well managed by President Muhammadu Buahri.
The vast legal practtioner advised the president to be careful in making his appointments in order to avoid misunderstanding in a plural society as Nigeria.
He also advised him to borrow a leaf from President Roosevelt who ably dealt with the shock of the great depression that ravaged the United States of America when he became the US president in the 1930s.
According to him, the president should as a matter of urgency through executive orders and legislative proposals, touch critical pillars of Nigeria’s political infrastructure such as the political arrangements and agreements that bind Nigerians as one nation.
“We have not lived in peace and harmony. Nigeria is a fractured and divided nation. The amalgamation agreement of 1914 failed. The colonial agreements in the shape of orders in council promulgated by the English crown failed us. The post-colonial constitutions and their military counterparts all failed us.
“The result has been long years of national disorder and disharmony that has impeded economic development and political stability. This is a challenge the president must engage as soon as possible. All that is needed is a comprehensive review of the reports of the national conferences. It will be a very difficult but not impossible task.
“The key in arriving at a new constitution is in isolating what Nigerians will agree to immediately. I believe Nigerians will accept the need for a balanced federation. We must strive for a balanced federation and decentralisation of powers from federal to state governments. The centre is too strong aand can pass responsibility out of the 98 items of power, under its exclusive control, to states,” he suggested.
The activist-lawyer stated that a gradual amendment process would be more result-oriented than the ‘failed holistic attempts to write new constitution in one fell swoop,’ insisting that creating a new national order will be very difficult but not an impossible task.