Olisa Agbakoba Faults FG’s Stance on Nigeria’s Sovereignty

Olisa Agbakoba SAN

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) Tuesday faulted the Federal Government’s position that Nigeria’s sovereignty was not negotiable.

At a briefing in Lagos, Agbakoba called for flexibility.

“Nigeria’s sovereignty is not sacrosanct. Government needs to adopt a flexible stance. The attitude should be: ‘How do we bring Nigerians together?’” he said.

According to Agbakoba, in Nigeria’s evolution from colonialism, independence, military rule and “military democracy”, there has been authoritarian governments and “exclusion of the people”. Nigeria, he said, was yet to produce a “home-grown constitution”.

“No serious effort has been made to engage the people and build consensus. The colonial and post-colonial constitutions did not emanate from the full involvement of the Nigerian people. The result is that Nigeria has remained a geographical expression,” he said.

Agbakoba argued that contrary to the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s position, every constituent part of Nigeria has a right to self-determination as guaranteed by Article 1 (2) of the United Nations (UN) Charter and Article 20 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“The Acting President was wrong when he said ‘Nigeria’s sovereignty is not negotiable’. This position is inflexible,” he said.

Agbakoba said self-determination has origins in natural law and fundamental rights which led to the American declaration of independence, the French revolution, the Scottish referendum and Catalan referendum.

“Aspiration for self-determination is not new or peculiar to Nigeria. The caveat, however, is that self-determination must be carried out peacefully and within the law. Nigeria’s situation can be likened to a failing marriage.  To salvage it, the couple needs to make adjustments/changes to make the marriage work,” the former NBA president said.

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Agbakoba believes Nigeria’s problems go deeper than mere restructuring. “The cleavage is deeper than restructuring. We have to agree whether we want to live together. You cannot force sovereignty on a people. You cannot force people to live together. What should be sacrosanct about Nigeria is the agreement for us to be Nigerians.

“Some people have advocated restructuring as the solution. Restructuring is conceptually wrong without reviewing why it is needed. Restructuring will also not work in the context of a military democracy and political elite conspiracy,” he said.

Agbakoba believes most of those championing restructuring have ulterior motives.

He said: “The agitation for restructuring is a political calculation for 2019. Most politicians advocating restructuring today will abandon it when they get power. What Nigeria needs is a new deal and the present political elite cannot deliver it because of entrenched personal interest.

“Going forward, civil society needs to wrest power from this ruling political elite to achieve a new system that is inclusive and works for all and not a few. Nigerians need to determine if they want to stay together and under what arrangement. I believe Nigeria needs federalism,” he said.

Asked whether he was proposing a conference where the agreement to live together would be reached, he said: “The President is the one to initiate the discussion and pull people together. What Nigeria needs is a political system that we all accept. Right now we don’t have it.”

On President Muhammadu Buhari’s long absence, Agbakoba said how long the President stays away due to ill-health does not matter much as long as the Acting President exercises full powers. “The presidency is fractured. The extent to which the Acting President has real power is open to question. The only thing I’d love to see is that the Acting President has full powers to function. Let’s be sure Osinbajo has full powers,”.

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He said agitations for secession as championed by Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) must be “according to constitutional law”.

He said the quit notice issued the Igbo by Northern youth groups was “not politically correct”, but he did not “see what law they broke”.

Source: The Nation

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