2023: “1999 Constitution Won’t Guarantee Emergence Of Credible Leaders” – Afe Babalola

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Afe Babalola says the 1999 Constitution will not guarantee the emergence of credible leaders at the February general elections.

The proprietor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, made the declaration at a news conference on Wednesday in Ekiti, in reaction to the adoption of Mr Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“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 said.

“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,’’ Babalola said.

The elder statesman 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.

He stressed that 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.

He noted also 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.

He said that any Nigerian aspiring to lead the country ought to be worried about the country’s debt profile and advocated for urgent measures to defray the huge foreign debts.

“In addition, government should emulate Obasanjo’s example by approaching the country’s creditors, either for total debt forgiveness or for substantial reduction of the debts,’’ the legal luminary stressed.