Saturday, October 1, 2022 10:28 am
By Adejoke Adeleye, Abeokuta
Activist lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has declared that Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar and the 15 others jostling to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 can end the spate of uncertainty, insecurity and hopelessness in the country.
Ozekhome spoke at the 2022 Independence Day Anniversary Lecture organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ogun State Chapter, held in Abeokuta under the theme: Nigeria In Search For An Enduring Political Structure; Imperative Of Structural Reforms.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria maintained that the problem confronting Nigeria is systemic and as such, only a structural adjustment could bring a change.
Ozekhome noted that Nigeria is among others, battling challenges of insecurity, collapsed infrastructure, failure of the public school system, an economy in shambles (epitomized by the free-fall of the value of the Naira, spiraling inflation and insurgency.
On what can be done to rescue the country, Ozekhome recommended that: “Reforms at the meta-level would entail either embracing our discarded Prime Minister system of government or dismantling and re-coupling several of the institutions that help or hinder us, including a serious re-examination of the 36 state structure as federating units via-à-vis their fiscal/economic viability or their consolidation into six or more regions with economies of scale and higher investment rates; multiple vice-presidency representing respective regions other than the region of the president, each with supervising powers over certain ministries to ensure equitable representation at the federal cabinet”
He posited that Nigeria is far from its founding fathers’ dreams, warning that if people in power do not want a change, the nation is likely to crumble.
“The greatest challenge is how to get some of the elite whose privileges are provided by the existing system to support its dismantling into a system that is potentially beneficial to ‘society’ but perhaps disproportionately harmful to their interests in the short term.
“In other words, we are faced with the same kind of conundrum as some western countries with their welfare system. Having designed and implemented it for generations, it has grown into an unsustainable octopus of inefficiency but reforming it is not easy”.
Also, SAN Mike, claimed that the 1998 constitution should be amended in a way to bring about enduring political structure.
“To amend the Constitution relying on the amendment clause in the 1999 Constitution. This option has its own challenges because the military after handing down the Constitution made it so rigid to amend, to the extent that getting an amendment is almost as difficult as getting a new Constitution.
“Despite its obvious short comings, this option is ever more appealing to those at the corridors of power because it gives them room to manipulate and promote their selfish interests.
“No party in power wants to hear about the idea of a new Constitution because they are afraid of losing their existing positions.
“Or we should jettison the Constitution completely in favour of a new one, Nigeria needs a new people-driven Constitution. It is not rocket sign. It has been done before by other countries.”.
While declaring the event open, the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly Mudashiru Obasa who chaired the event lamented that though the country is seen as practicing democracy because there are legislative arms of government, but the governance system is not democratic in nature
He also advised labour unions to pray and focus on the survival of Nigeria, noting that the country can only make progress if various groups and individuals play their expected roles to keep the country’s democracy thriving.
He added that some individuals in position of authority only care about their pocket, while advising Nigerians to protect the parliament.
“We have seen cases where the civil society looked away while democracy faces danger from some individual. We have seen cases where the parliament was closed and where a governor carried out inauguration of legislature by midnight.
“When you have a legislature that is answerable to to a single person,you can’t progress or meet collective goals or say we are practicing democracy. We have heard of a state that already has four speakers in less than four years.
“It is also surprising that even among the elite, you find that there are some people who do not know their representatives at the parliament. Yet, these parliamentarian make the laws that guide their activities and actions.
“As a union, our concern should not be about where we work, our salaries and welfare alone, but we should also protect our institutions. I am not saying you should be partisan, but at least, play a role in guiding our democracy.
“In that way, it would be difficult for individuals to determine how the parliament, which is the true symbol of democracy should operate,” he said
In his own remark, Governor of Ogun state, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who was represented by the state Head of Service, Nofiu Aigoro, promised to focus on the welfare of workers.
Also, in his goodwill message, the Speaker of Ogun House of Assembly, Olakunle Oluomo noted that Nigeria practices civil rule and not democracy.