Amendment not solution, Nigeria needs to do away with 1999 Constitution – Afenifere leader, Pa Adebanjo

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Leader of Yoruba socio-political group Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has criticised the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise in the National Assembly.

“There is no sincerity in the amendment,” the elder statesman said on Wednesday on a monitored Channels Television programme, a day after lawmakers voted on more than 60 proposed amendments including granting autonomy to local governments.

Chief Adebanjo, a strong advocate of the restructuring and critic of the 1999 Constitution, has no faith in amendments and in the lawmakers behind them.

As far as he is concerned, the current (1999) Constitution was foisted on the people by the military and only benefits those in power to the detriment of the populace.

“Who are those making the amendment? Those are the beneficiaries of fraud in the Constitution,” he said. “How are you amending a Constitution you didn’t take part in. Did we make it? What is our input? A Constitution that tells lies about itself.”

Until the Constitution is replaced he believes every attempt at addressing the challenges facing the nation, and conducting elections, would be an exercise in futility.

Another problem he has with the amendment exercise is the timing.

General elections are scheduled to hold in February 2023, which means the process may be completed just months if not weeks to the elections.

“When will it come into effect?” He asked, suggesting that there may be a plot to abandon the implementation.

Asked about what it would take to replace the Constitution, Chief Adebanjo placed the responsibility of ensuring it is changed on the people.

“The civil society, the women organisations, the students; everything they are doing is to force (President Muhammadu) Buhari to the conference table to change this Constitution. Until you do that, you are just deceiving yourself. No matter what gerrymandering you are doing, I don’t believe in it and I wish I am proven wrong,” he said.

Chief Adebanjo also has doubts about the President’s willingness to do what he says is the right thing regarding the Constitution and wants the people to force him and the relevant bodies into changing it.

The President has on occasions expressed reservations about issues such as the clamour for state police and Chief Adebanjo believes that shouldn’t be the case.

H said, “People think that freedom can just be handed to them. No, you have to fight for your freedom.

“Buhari can’t say they cannot change the Constitution or that he is going to change the Constitution in his own way. We are the people.

“Let us be fair to ourselves, we are changing the Constitution now and the man who is supposed to do it is now telling you, ‘No, I don’t believe in state police’. And that is the key thing to this Constitution. One of the conditions that make our governors lame-duck governors.”

Reiterating his criticism of the 1999 Constitution, the elder statesman said it cannot be salvaged through amendments.

“What I am saying is that we should rally the people round and compel Buhari to change the Constitution that is causing all the trouble,” he said.

“All these patch amendments. The Insurance (company) says the car is a write off, you say, no, you can keep panel beating it. I don’t believe in it, I don’t deceive myself.”

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