The leadership of the House of Representatives on Thursday lamented the state of affairs in Nigeria, admitting that things were not rosy for the country as a federation, while Nigerians act as if things were all right.
The leadership led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila stressed the need for stock-taking as the National Assembly goes into another constitution amendment process.
First to note the inadequacies in the country was the Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Idris Wase, who said in his welcome address at the inauguration of the House Special Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution that despite priding itself as a federation, it was evident that the Nigerian nation is far from what ideal federalism entails.
On his part, Gbajabiamila said that the Nigerian nation was in a serious fight for survival as a country and the continuation of the Nigerian project.
“When you ask me what the state of our nation is, the honest answer is this: we are in a fight for the very survival of our country and the continuation of the Nigerian project.
“Recent global developments have exposed all our systemic weaknesses so that we can no longer pretend to ourselves that things are on an even keel and slow progress is enough to get us to where we ought to be, yet are still so far away from.
“The ongoing evolution of our nation’s democracy requires of us that we continually review and update the rules of our engagement.”
On electoral reforms, Gbajabiamila said every election season exposes significant gaps in the process that if left unaddressed, threaten our democracy.
“Electoral reforms are not a party-political issue, they are a matter of loyalty to an ideal that is greater than the party to which one belongs, or the personal ambitions we may each hold. Electoral reforms are a matter of our nation’s future, and the process of setting out systems and protocols for managing how we choose our leaders and representatives begins with the constitution. We must keep this in mind as we begin this process”, Gbajabiamila said.
According to the speaker, “Overcoming our overwhelming national security challenges now requires of us all that we be willing to accept new approaches and consider novel ideas. Neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve our fortunes if properly implemented.”
On his part, Wase said, “Despite the fact that Nigeria prides herself as a federal state, it is sadly evident that it is far from what federalism entails.
“Some have stated that our federal system is more unitary than federalist especially with the number of items on the Exclusive Legislative List where the Federal Government regulates even simple items like primary education and agriculture. Hence, there has been clamour for more devolution of powers from the centre to the states in order to make states more viable and economically sustainable”.
Wase stressed that even though the current state structure in the country has attracted lots of commentary, “It is pertinent to note that the current 36 states of our federation were created via military decrees. Hence the true wishes and aspirations of the people were never considered in such creations.
“There is need, therefore, to examine the subject of state creation (and the associated constitutional rigours and difficulties surrounding it) in such manner as to reflect the wishes and aspirations of homogenous people in a democratic system”.