Elder Statesman and legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, has said unless a new Constitution similar to those of 1960 and 1963 with necessary amendments is put in place, none of the presidential candidates for the 2023 election or an angel can save Nigeria from total collapse.
“Unless a new Constitution similar to those of 1960 and 1963 Constitutions, with necessary amendments, is put in place, none of the aspirants, and indeed, no angel can save Nigeria from total collapse,” he declared.
Chief Babalola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made the declaration at a press conference on Wednesday, in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti state.
He was reacting to the endorsement of Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“On April 18, 2022, I urged the Federal Government to suspend the 2023 general elections and to raise an interim government of six months that will fashion out a new Constitution for the country.
“I still stand by my suggestion that any election conducted under the 1999 Constitution cannot, and will not produce new leaders with new ideas.
“Any election conducted under the 1999 Constitution will merely result in recycling the same people, who brought Nigeria to grinding poverty, mass unemployment, underfunded education, insecurity and huge external debts,” he said.
Babalola, an educationist, noted that only a moneybag, and not the best-qualified candidates, could win the February presidential election under the present constitutional arrangement.
He explained that the LP presidential candidate’s adoption by former President Obasanjo was his right of expression, and might be a result of the contestant’s acclaimed untainted records of character and sound education.
Chief Babalola said the 1999 Constitution was too lopsided and faulty to produce the type of change agent and developmental leader Obasanjo had in mind.
He added that the 1999 Constitution was not what Nigeria needed at a time like this.
“I am an elder statesman, a SAN, the highest taxpayer in old Ondo State, the highest taxpayer in present Ekiti, owner of the best private university in Nigeria and many more.
“If I contest for political office today, I will fail, not because I am not qualified, but because the system will make me not to win.
“I have no sympathy for any Nigerian aspiring to rule Nigeria in any form, whether as a legislator, Governor or President.
“The fact remains that the 1999 Constitution on a large scale is the root cause of economic, social, political and religious problems in the country today.
“Our experience since 1999 has taught us that we are in urgent need of a new Constitution.
“The new Constitution should provide for stringent conditions in respect of age, academic qualifications, character and personality, as well as family background of candidates, especially for the presidency and the National Assembly,” Babalola said.
Noting that Nigeria’s external debt had risen to N42.84 trillion as of June 30, 2022, while domestic debt servicing rose to N5.24 trillion in the same period, Chief Babalola said any Nigerian aspiring to lead the country ought to be worried about its debt profile and advocated for urgent measures to defray the huge foreign debts.
“In addition, the government should emulate Obasanjo’s example by approaching the country’s creditors, either for total debt forgiveness or for substantial reduction of the debts,” he advised.