Babalola’s interim government advocacy

Legal icon and founder, Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola(SAN), stirred the hornet’s nest when he advocated that the federal government should suspend the 2023 general elections and allow a six-month interim goverment after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure that would give a new constitution that would tackle insecurity, economic, political and other ills bedeviling the nation.

At a press conference on Monday in ABUAD and entitled: ‘Postpone 2023 Elections: Six Months Interim Government After Buhari’s Government’, Babalola declared that Nigeria now faced imminent bankruptcy due to alleged gross mismanagement by corrupt leaders, leading to free fall in naira’s value, adding that no good leader could emerge under the current constitution.

He recommended a new constitution that would peg the age limit of those seeking to be president, governors and members of the National Assembly at 60. The senior lawyer lamented that Nigeria had shed enough tears and blood due to increasing cases of killings, kidnapping and banditry, saying 2023 remained the best opportunity to chart a new course for the nation.

“I decided to talk, because this country is now different from the one I used to know. That is why we need a new constitution after President Muhammadu Buhari that will spell out rules and regulations on the qualifications of those who are qualified to contest elections.

“I believe that whoever is seeking elections as a president, governors and National Assembly members should not be more than 60 years, with good and sound health, sound education, experience, good human relations, friendliness and firmness, vision and mission, among others.

“The new constitution shall provide for part time legislators and not full time and the attendant wasting of resources, who will be collecting allowances and not salaries. Proposes federal system of government rather than presidential system and a parliamentary system with a unicameral legislature”, he said.

Babalola bemoaned the poor management of the economy, saying the naira, which was N199 to $1 in 2015, has marked up to over N570 to a dollar. The external debt, which was $10.7bn in 2015 is now over $38 billion. The government is borrowing more, spending more, but earning less revenues. The worse thing is that the debt servicing level is also rising.

“In 2020, Nigeria was ranked as the poorest country in the world with over 50 per cent of Nigerians living in extreme poverty while over 70 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life saving assistance. I am of the firm conviction that moneybags now control the lever of powers. If we allow the present constitution beyond 2023, what we will be getting is recycling leadership, who will continue the old ways.

“We need a constitution that will throw up young, brilliant, dedicated people to save this country. We can’t get all these under the present constitution. We need a new set of leaders in our nation. Leaders, who will not see themselves as Mr Know-All and who will not see themselves as above anyone,” he said.

Babalola, therefore, added that no good leader could emerge under the present deformed and weak constitution, adding that, the leadership couldn’t afford to toy with the destiny of the nation by conducting elections that would not yield positive results.

However, the senate and some eminent Nigerians including Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo state have poohpoohed the proposition for an interim national government, describing it as undemocratic and capable of creating anarchy in the cvountry.

The Senate Tuesday said through its spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun Central), that it was sad that such a tirade against the National Assembly and belated complaints on provisions of the 1999 Constitution came from somebody of Babalola’s caliber.

“The job of a president is not a bricklayer’s job, it involves intellect and vision for the development of the country. Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution as amended clearly states the procedure for amending the constitution, which Babalola is aware of, as a legal luminary”, he said.

He said Babalola appears not to understand the workings of the legislature, noting that he would have made his suggestions during the call for memoranda, preparatory to constitutional amendment by the National Assembly.

In his reaction, Governor Uzodinma said Babalola’s call was an invitation to anarchy, adding that those who have concerns over the provisions of 1999 constitution should approach the National Assembly for alterations.

He said the 1999 Constitution has no room for an interregnum and that the country’s democratic processes must be allowed to run their full course. “By May 29, if there is no elected government, our constitution has not provided for an interregnum. There shouldn’t be a gap, otherwise you are creating room for anarchy.

Blueprint is of the view that although Babalola may have been driven by patriotic fervour, his call for the suspension of the 2023 elections and the adoption of an interim national government is, in itself, a treasonable felony, as it is tantamount to the demolition of the gamut of constitutional and democratic institutions, which have been operational since May 29, 1999.

We, therefore, advise that rather than take the country backwards, issues bordering on the social, political and economic development of Nigeria, including inadequacies or lacunae in the extant 1999 Constitution, as amended, should be addressed through the relevant statutory channels.

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