Elder statesman and leader of the Patriot, Professor Ben Nwabueze, yesterday reiterated his call on President Goodluck Jonathan not to contest the 2015 presidential election, saying he should concentrate on transforming the country to make it more united and stronger through a conference of ethnic nationalities.
But President Jonathan said his administration had no objection to Nigerians coming together to discuss how they will continue to live together in peace and unity.
Speaking with newsmen after leading members of the Patriot to a meeting with President Jonathan, Professor Nwabueze said though the President was eligible to contest, he should sacrifice ambition for the greater good of the nation and become an instant hero.
He said: “I still believe that the problem of this country is national transformation. You cannot combine national transformation with contesting election.
“The two are so different, because once you get involved in the election campaigns you undermined your authority to lead the nation for national transformation and I said if I were the President of Nigeria that I would restrict myself to serving the nation; to transforming this country; to creating a new Nigeria, creating a new society. that would be my concern and I would go down in history as a hero.
“So if Mr President does that he would become an instant hero in this country, but it is for him to chose. If I were him, I would choose to become a hero, to lead the country into transformation and abandon the ambition of a second term, that is what I said and I still stand by it and that is what I would do if I were the President of the country, but unfortunately, I’m not.
Speaking on the mission of the patriots to the President, Professor Nwabueze said the group was in the Villa to submit its position on the the need for the convening of a conference of ethnic nationalities to tackle the multi-farious problems of the country.
He said: “Briefly, we talked about the transformation of this country, what we said is that this country, the situation in which we have found ourselves today is in dire need of transformation. It’s entire economy, the polity and the society would need to be transformed. We believe that the way to achieve that objective is through a National Conference, a National Conference of ethnic nationalities in this country.
Sovereign National Conference
“We have done our own research and we came up with the fact that we have in this country 389 ethnic nationalities. We need to bring these nationalities around a conference table to discuss how we are going to live together as one country in peace, stability and security as one country with the aim of achieving national unity.
Asked how such a conference would be held when there is a National Assembly in place, Professor Nwabueze said the power granted the National Assembly by the constitution is to alter the constitution and not to change it or write a new one.
He said: “It is important that the National Assembly is putting forward that their powers under Sections 8&9 is to alter the constitution. Power to alter is not as important as power to abolish what you are altering and replace it completely, and we said no, this country, we need the people’s constitution whose source of authority derives directly from the people. Forget about the contents, we will talk about the contents later.
“Though important, but they are not as important as the source. Where does this supreme law derives its authorities? It must be directly from the people and that is the position of at least 85 percent of the countries of the world. So we examined this and we said this is a bogey, there is no problem, don’t confine yourselves to Sections 8&9, because the 1999 constitution is a schedule to Decree 24. If you read Section 1(1) of the Decree there are preambles to that Decree and the 1999 constitution that you are talking about is a schedule to Decree 24.
“Repeal the Decree and the constitution will disappear and you enact a brand new constitution which would derive its authorities from the people.
“That was what was done in 1963, when we adopted the Republican Constitution to replace the Independent Constitution. That 1960 Constitution was also a schedule to British Order-In -Council just as the 1999 Constitution is a schedule to the Decree 24. In 1963, we abolished the schedule under Section 2 of the Order-in-Council and made a new constitution called the Republican constitution.”
Other members of the delegation were Professor. Kimse Koko, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Mrs Bola Kuforiji-Olubi.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has said his administration had no objection to Nigerians coming together to discuss how they will continue to live together in peace and unity.
The President, who spoke after receiving a memorandum from the Patriots, said ordinarily, the issue of Nigerians coming together to discuss their future should not be out of place.
According to the President, there has been constant discussion within government on how to create an acceptable and workable platform for a national dialogue that will reinforce the ties that bind the country’s many ethnic nationalities and ensure that Nigeria’s immense diversity continues to be a source of strength and greatness.
President Jonathan said: “The limitation we have is that the constitution appears to have given that responsibility to the National Assembly. I have also been discussing the matter with the leadership of the National Assembly. We want a situation where everyone will key into the process and agree on the way forward.”
While thanking the Patriots for acknowledging the Federal Government’s efforts to implement his administration’s agenda for national transformation, President Jonathan reiterated that “as a government, we are totally committed to transforming this country, positive things are being done and by the grace of God, we will get to where we ought to be as a nation.”
President Jonathan also welcomed the group’s call for the moral re-orientation of Nigerians, saying he shared their belief that ongoing efforts at national transformation and development would be greatly enhanced and facilitated by the cultivation of better national ethics and attitudes.
The Patriots had in the address presented to President Jonathan by Professsor Nwabueze, urged him to support the production of a new constitution that truly derives its authority directly from the people of Nigeria.