|Barr. Kayode Ajulo|
Olukayode Ajulo, is a prodigious lawyer, civil right activist and a Ph. D researcher at the The School of Law, Middlesex University, London. An emerging politicians in Nigeria having contested the senate seat, FCT senatorial district in 2011, he is also the Executive Director, Egalitarian Mission for Africa and Board Chairman of Ondo State Radiovision Corporation. A renowned legal adviser to Chief Edwin Clark, CON, during the political imbroglio caused by the sickness of the Late President Umaru Yaradua, he was in and out of the court to ensure that President Goodluck Jonathan was made Acting President during which he proposed the doctrine of necessity which was eventually adopted by the Nigerian National Assembly. In this interview, he shares his thoughts on the ongoing Constitutional Conference in Abuja and on what to expect from the Confab.
Q. What in your consideration is a benefit that every Nigerian can look up to reaping from the conference?
A. The contraption called Nigeria is not a one homogeneous country because it has widely differing people, tribes and nationalities. This obvious fact notwithstanding, Lord Lugard decided to amalgamate Nigeria for economic interests. This is the commencement of the tragedy of a country and nothing is done to mitigate this, division we must bear in mind is not the only way to resolve this problem as the root cause of our national tragedies is the fundamental defects that have always afflicted the process of determining every constitutional framework of the polity as all constitution arrangements have never truly reflected the political, economic, social, cultural and religious realities of the country.
It is therefore imperative that opportunity must be sought for a conference to consider and resolve with the sole objective of designing a new dispensational framework for the country to correct some of the fundamental defects that encourage the defect in our country. Therefore the benefits to be reaped from the Conference will be invaluable in the context above, provided we get our act right this time around. Opportunities abound therein, therefore we need to jaw jaw not to war war to articulate aspirations, expectations toward ensuring a great Nigeria we will all be proud of.
Q. The grounds for the National Conference (some call it dialogue) has been shifting, initially, the FG said its outcome will be sent to the National Assembly, now it seems to be caving in to popular pressure to validate it through a referendum. Yet others see the entire thing as a government ploy to buy time and shift focus and pressure away from the 2015 general elections; what is your own take on all this?
A. I want to believe that no ground has been shifted by the government in relation to the National Conference; we need to be sincere, as most of the perceived inconsistencies are centered on interpretations and misinterpretation of the image, President Goodluck Jonathan and his officers are trying to paint in selling the Conference to us.
Our unity is in our diversity and we already had divergent pictures of the Conference before and after the commencement of the conference, remember some of us want Sovereign National Conference, while I believe that it’s not the hood that makes a mock. Sovereign or not, it is universally known that Sovereignty lies with the people, therefore once the Conference is people oriented whatever is resolved will supersede any known conjecture.
On the issue of referendum mentioned, it is all about permutations on the process to validate what is agreed upon at the Conference, I am of the view that it is a misnomer to be thinking of sending the outcome of the referendum to the National Assembly. Although by our extant Constitution, a referendum can only be called in limited cases of state's creation, boundary adjustment and for legislator's recall. I am therefore of a forceful but humble opinion that what should be done by the National Assembly is to invoke the doctrine of necessity to call for a referendum so that the people can have their say about the recommendations emanating from the Confab exercise.
Recall that I canvassed for same during the seemingly constitutional debacle that we experienced during the controversy of late President Umaru Yaradua’s sickness, I approached the Federal High Court, Abuja to canvassed this position and the National Assembly saw reason in the argument, I have a commendation from the Presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Gabriel Kolawole for this undertaking and today we have doctrine of necessity being invoke in an obvious situation of necessity, the imperative of the Conference if well managed is another obvious situation and I see no reason why we should not toe that part since a precedence has been created.
We need to understand this, power belong to the people, even the power of life and dead, if truly the conference is people oriented and the government and the people of Nigeria considered it inevitable, then whatever that came out of it should be treated as of necessity.
Q. Yet others see the entire thing as a government ploy to buy time and shift focus and pressure away from the 2015 general elections; what is your own take on all this?
A. I am yet to see the Conference as the government ploy to buy time and shift focus and pressure away from the 2015 general elections. Frankly speaking, I see it as one of the admittedly few courageous steps, President Jonathan's administration has taken since inception.
Even if, it was meant to be a distraction, people do unwittingly do good because of the many challenges to our nationhood the Confab would of necessity expose and address. I sincerely believe we sometimes need to come out of this politics thing because we did not have to mortgage our future with sheer politics
Since my undergraduate days in the 90's lead by late Alao Ala-Bashorun we have been agitating for the Conference to discuss our being as a Country, the main noise then came more from those now crying blue murder and I believe its quite uncharitable and rude to the sensibility of Nigerians for anybody to make such U turn when our agitation is becoming a reality.
I wanted to believe that majority of Nigerians are now reading between the lines, particularly when there is 3 months time frame for the conference and a genuine effort to adhere to the time limit, for Christ sake the election is still a year away, parties primaries have not even started, mind you, it was even after the 1999 general election that we eventually got a peep of the Constitution used. I am however not canvassing for the same imprudence but Nigerians must talk, it is our constitutional right, Nigeria is ripe for renegotiation and anytime is perfect for that.
Q. Assuming all things are equal: that something good will come out of it at all, what are the contentious issues?
A. I foresee the issue of the right to secession which falls under a no go area as one of the issue that will raised dust, the need to maintain a six regional state structure with some boundary adjustments to accommodate persons of Ekiti stock in Kwara State to join Ekiti State, while those who are of Igbomina and Ibolo stock in Kwara State are to join Osun State as canvassed by some group from the South West of Nigeria as well as choosing the British parliamentary system of government against the present Presidential system as what will form the bulk of contentious issues.
Ditto, full federalism, the derivation formulae and revenue allocation among the tier governments.
As it stands, the devolution of power from the centre to the federating units, will be a strongly issue that will be hotly contested between the pro-States delegates and pro-Federation delegates.
The issue of immunity for elected officials, regional police and indigene ship, has been begging for attention, here is the time to be debated.
Q. Some have identified the so-called no-go areas as the unity of the country; yet others say everything should be on the table for discussion. Is it possible to satisfy all interest in a complex nation like ours?
A. Stricto sensu, I considered it a debasement of humanity and violation of universal human rights regulation to invite some people to discuss but to raise some issue as no-go area for them, the United Nations statutes recognize and make room for secession with some qualification and conditions. It is imperative that everything should be on the table for discussion, if not we will urge for another conference when the present one is concluded.
It is quite impossible to satisfy all interest but what matter most is the amount and larger percentage of interest that is satisfied while effort should be made to address minority interests.
Q. One area where many Nigerians are becoming increasingly critical about is the size and cost of governance. Do you support the notion that we should toe the example of Senegal that abolished its second chamber of parliament on the grounds of cost?
A. Considering all the components, factors, forms and variables that made make up what is known as Federal of Nigeria, I did not see anything wrong in the size and cost of governance, infact there is underutilization of human resources in governance as those involved cannot be said to constitute 0.1% of our population. The problem however is the monster called corruption that made few to overlord in all ramifications others without any effective consequences.
Those in government need to leave up to expectation to justify the resources expended on the operations of government. The reasons for the two chambers of the parliament are well spelt out, all that is needed is to ensure that they are effective for the smooth running of government. Infact some people are canvassing for more as recently stated by one of our revered king, Kabiyesi, the Olowo of Owo on the need for having House of Chiefs as part of creating constitutional roles for our traditional rulers.