A former Acting Governor of Kogi State, Chief Clarence Olafemi has described the 1999 Nigerian constitution as evil and the greatest enemy of the nation’s democracy.
Olafemi, in this exclusive interview with DAILY POST on Sunday speaks about June 12 and other burning issues in the country.
What is your perception about June 12?
June 12 was supposed to be the fairest and most credible election we have ever had in this country in which a sizable population of Nigeria registered for that election, participated in it and cast their votes without duress. They cast their votes willingly. It was supposed to be an election close to the people oriented democracy we have been looking for. Unfortunately, the votes were counted but the election was annulled by the military. As we were told, it was annulled under immense pressure by people who do not wish this country well.
Unfortunately, they were never brought to book, except for one or two actors that later had their fair share of one or two punishments. Abiola was seen to be the winner of that election because that election was counted, and concluded. It was the announcement of the final result that was withheld. How I wish Abiola was alive today, he would have been a hero. We may not be able to ascertain the kind of president he would have become, but his courage, determination to govern this country was a symbol of the current day democracy we are witnessing in this country. Unfortunately, that was the only election that was not religious or tribal based. It was a reflection of the people’s wish.
June 12 was a sad event for all Nigerians. June 12 was a day that people like us who cast our votes will never want to remember. I was in Lagos. I saw dead bodies on the road, burning of property, and the hostile nature where an average Nigerian is afraid of going out beyond the street.
What is your take about our current democracy?
Today, we have departed from the goal post of the June 12 election. Our politics has been polluted with thuggery, and killings. In fact, the people’s votes no longer count. It is democracy with might. How much money can you put into the struggle? How many thugs can you recruit to fill in the result sheets? In fact, we are making mockery of the whole concept of June 12. Ordinary councilors election, you will see thugs snatching ballot boxes.
A sitting Governor doesn’t want to lose a single Local Government. He wins all the Local Government because he sits down in the comfort of his zone and gives instructions that, you must deliver all the Local Government in my State. He uses people’s money to suppress people’s will. He uses people’s resources to suppress their will. You can imagine what it is today, Local Government as a third tier of Government is not working.
They are just figure heads. Resources meant for Local Governments are diverted by the States with impunity.
We are really miles away from the goal post of our founding father’s concept of democracy. The people who designed democracy never thought that the human being that would manage it will be the type that we have now, where the spirit, the intent and the purpose will be defeated with impunity. We found ourselves where we are. It is not hopeless. I still believe that there are still some People who have conscience. I governed for three months in Kogi State. The legacies still reign up till today. Anywhere I go, people still speak of my achievement as an Acting Governor in Kogi State. It is better to rule and have honor, than to rule and people will be saying we regret having you.
If we have men of conscience to rule us, Nigeria will be good, because no matter what you do with people’s money, whether you embezzle it, allow corruption to be the order of the day in your government, you will surely die someday. The day you die, you will leave every pin of it. Look at some former Governors that have died. Look at the affluence of life they left behind. I took a look at the edifice they put down, and today grasses are growing in their yards.
Even in my own environment, people that their names ring bell, today after their death, their children don’t come home. The buildings that they put together are forgotten. Trees are growing and I shake my head and say this is the vanity of life. It is better to serve and be remembered for your good service, than to serve and oppress the People. When you leave, what people say about you, your government becomes a permanent stain on you, your Children and your generations to come.
How do you see the 1999 constitution Nigeria has been using since we returned to democracy 22 years ago?
Our greatest enemy today against the true democracy we are looking for is the 1999 Constitution. I met a former Speaker and the Current Deputy Clerk in the State House of Assembly and other notable Nigerians and we started debating on the issue of our Constitution. Even with this present amendment they are carrying out now, the publicity is very poor and below standard. People like me don’t even know that the exercise was in progress. So, I couldn’t have made my own contribution when the public debate for constitutional amendment was hosted in Kogi State.
The Nigerian Constitution was created as a trap by the military to punish Nigerians. They knew Nigerians were saying We don’t want you, you must go. They now said we will deal with these People and they permanently enslaved us with that constitution. Now, how do we change the core area of the constitution that needs to free and liberate Nigerians? We cannot do it.
Many sections of the country have been clamoring for restructuring, how realistic is this?
The President has come out to say restructuring is the duty of the National Assembly. How would the National Assembly restructure when the Constitution did not permit us to create one single Local Government. To get a Local Government created, that will be an addition to what was listed in the 1999 constitution. It has to pass through two-third of the National Assembly and two-third of the State Assemblies which can never be done. All attempts to do it will fail. If you cannot create a Local Government, you cannot create another State.
How do you regionalize Nigeria? How do you restructure Nigeria? It is still the same process. This is the literate part of it that Nigerians do not know. Rather than wasting our time fighting, we should first of all tackle the removal of all those clauses that enslave us in the Constitution. It is then that we can possibly think of how to restructure. You cannot restructure with the present constitution.
It has been enacted, we have accepted it. It has been documented to rule us. Anything done outside it is legitimately illegal. And that is the problem and nobody is looking at that. They will come with some amendments at the peripheral, but it has nothing to do with the core problem of Nigeria. There are only two ways of getting out of this quagmire done by the Military.
They are talking of referendums. Where is the provision of referendum in the 1999 Constitution? It is not there. What is the definition of referendum? Calling people to come and vote, when already the People have mortgaged that right to their representatives in the National Assembly? This is the conflict. The only way out is to have a situation where there is a dominant party that constitutes more than two-third of the National Assembly, more than two-third of the State Assemblies, and controls more than two-thirds of the Governors.
Where then, party supremacy will come and say this part of the Constitution, we want it changed. It becomes a party decision. But today, they don’t have that structure, and the strength in the National and State Assemblies to meet up with the provision of the 1999 constitution. That is the only legalized process of changing the Constitution.
The other one is where you have the People pushed to the wall, and they protest and remove the Government. If they can escape the anarchy that will follow either through a military coup, because when a Government is toppled by the People, somebody must come in to breach a gap for another Government to come in. But a coup is not fashionable. As a matter of necessity, if the people are pushed to the wall, such informal operations will come in. It means many souls will be lost which is totally uncalled for. So when you look at the scenario as it is today politically and democratically, we are in trouble.
Are you in support of Nigeria’s disintegration in view of the prevailing situation in the country?
We must find a way of holding the country without disintegration. Disintegration of Nigeria will lead to a massive war that will take years for the country to recover. It shouldn’t be an option in our table. I don’t belong to those who want Nigeria to disintegrate. Disintegration will create anarchy, and lead the country to war. It deprives you as an individual including you that caused the war.
It is better to be in poverty and have your liberty than struggling for power that will lead your country to endless war like what we are seeing in Syria, Yemen and many more. We shouldn’t forget, these are conflicting interests. These are countries that are not up to one quarter of Nigeria.
Imagine a country with over 200 million being at war. It is like imagining that America is at war, who is going to mediate. Before the United Nations will give attention to the country, devastation has started. It can’t be an option in our table now. All I am asking in the name of June 12 when one man’s life was sacrificed and it became a remembrance day is that let nobody put millions of lives in jeopardy.
What is your take on the current Insecurity in Nigeria?
Of course, we cannot be talking of any form of development under the current insecurity we are witnessing in Nigeria today. Almost all of our economy is collapsing. Farming is becoming a problem. In my area now, to farm, you grow your cassava, the herdsmen will move their cow, uproot your cassava and cut with their cutlasses for their cows to eat all in the name of freedom of movement within Nigeria and grazing.
This is absolute nonsense. My Son invested N30 million in sugarcane. He has already made a market for it. The herdsmen went inside the farm, put fire on it, so that it can start re-germinating, and then drove their cow inside to eat it. The atrocity of the herdsmen in Nigeria, is more than a civil war. Agriculture is killed. Some actions that can be taken, cannot be done until the constitution is amended. Every problem of the country when you intend to drive round it, ends up at the door of the Constitution. We should tell ourselves the truth. That constitution is a Devil and needs to be dismantled at all cost.
If Mr President who has the executive power is now saying that what can save Nigeria from war and anarchy is in the corridor of the National Assembly, if the National Assembly cannot do it, they should all resign and let us confirm that there is no National Assembly. So, let us see how the President would exist.
He knows he cannot exist. This problem is coming, I don’t want it to push the nation into war, so that People take over the Government forcefully without an organized way of doing it. It will end up in war. Property will be destroyed, People will be killed and there will be no control for us as a country. We are very lucky that we still have time to amend things. We must be determined to do that with actions and not mere words of the mouth.