The leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Ayo Adebanjo, yesterday, faulted former president Olusegun Obasanjo that oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria, saying, rather, that the resources belong to the people of the region.
Adebanjo also said the Yoruba group will not support any presidential candidate in 2023, until the 1999 constitution is changed.
Obasanjo had said, in a newspaper report, that oil in the Niger Delta belonged to Nigeria.
Adebanjo spoke at a press conference, held in Lagos and attended by Senator Femi Okurounmu, Supo Shonibare, Professor Ebun Sonaya, Tunde Onakoya, Lanre Anjolaiya, Abdullahi Inaolaji, Ms Nike Olujemibola, and the Afenifere spokesperson, Jare Ajayi.
On Obasanjo’s remarks on resource control, the Afenifere leader cited the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, which touched on revenue allocation, saying that the 1963 Constitution allowed for payment of 50 per cent in Section 140, to the region where the revenue was derived.
He said: “I was shocked and highly disappointed that the General was quoting profusely from the constitution imposed on the country by the military. A constitution that has been described as fraudulent and rejected since its introduction.
“The attempt by Elder Statesman, Edwin Clark, to put the record straight was rebuffed in a statement by Arewa Consultative Forum, supporting the statement by General Obasanjo. Before the issue degenerates, therefore, into disputation between two respectable elder statesmen. I owe a duty to our founding fathers to throw some light on the historical constitutional evolution of the country to help us move Nigeria forward.
“With my recent interaction with Obasanjo, I can appreciate his passion for a united Nigeria. But a united Nigeria does not exist from his perspective and understanding only.
“Our colonial masters brought the various ethnic nationalities together through various constitutional reforms under a unitary form of government from 1914 to 1950 under the MacPherson Constitution, when Nigeria was divided into three regions, namely Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region. The MacPherson Constitution, which was supposed to last five years under a unitary system, collapsed in 1953, following a motion by the late Anthony Enahoro for self-government for Nigeria in 1956.
“The then Colonial secretary, Sir Oliver Lyttleton, later known as Lord Chandos, summoned the political leaders, our founding fathers – Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo – to Lancaster House in London. It was at this conference that the defect in the MacPherson Unitary Constitution was dissected, and they settled for a Federal Constitution, which became operative in 1954, with the establishment of the three autonomous regions headed by a Premier each. The provision of this Federal Constitution, with some amendments, was incorporated in the 1960 and 1963 Independence Constitution. The residual powers in the constitution were reserved for the Federating autonomous regions.
“Revenue allocation was agreed to be on derivation which you now refer to as resource control with the payment of 50% (section 140, 1963 Constitution) to the region where the revenue was derived. It was a two-tier Federal system with the State government being co-ordinate and not subordinate to the Federal Government.
“This was the peaceful co-existence position of the Unity of the ethnic groups until 1966 when the military took over the government and abrogated the constitution agreed to by our founding fathers and set up the present 1999 constitution. The obnoxious provisions of this constitution have been the cause of instability in the country.
“When General Obasanjo asserts that the Niger Delta Resources is not owned by Niger Delta but Nigeria, is the General suggesting that God created the resources in Niger Delta when Nigeria came into existence in 1914, or it was there before the amalgamation?
“I will, therefore, passionately appeal to General Obasanjo to join hands with the other patriots to bring pressure to bear on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the change of the present fraudulent constitution by restructuring the present unitary constitution to the Federal system agreed to by our founding fathers before the 2023 elections to enable the nation to move forward peacefully in unity and progress.”
The Afenifere leader, who insisted that his group will not support a candidate in 2023 if there is no change in the 1999 constitution, said: “We are not contending who is the president now because we don’t believe in the constitution until that constitution is changed, we will talk of who the president should be.
“We have no candidate now until the constitution is changed because I don’t want to go on an uncharted sea. You must agree on the constitution before you say you want to be part of it. I am not going to be part of a constitution that is a military constitution. That is the bone of contention, which Buhari has not disputed. The constitution we are operating a military constitution.
“Let us pray we should all be in 2023, the rest is speculation. That is our stand.”
When asked where the presidency should go in 2023, Adebanjo said: “We want a change of the constitution, if that constitution is not changed, I don’t discuss where the presidency should go to. Why do I say so? When I don’t believe in the 1999 constitution, why should I be telling you who should be the next president?
“The constitution we are working with is not acceptable, when we agree on the constitution, then we will decide who should be supported.”
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