Founder of the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Ekiti State, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), is not ready to back down on his call for interim government.
Afe Babalola, during the week, proposed that instead of holding elections in 2023 after President Muhammadu Buhari’s term ends, an interim government should be formed to steer Nigeria in a ‘new direction’.
The idea did not go down with many Nigerians, especially politicians who have not stopped criticizing him since the idea was mooted.
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The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) explained that the next elections should be suspended, while his contraption should be in office for six months, to develop “a new-look peoples’ constitution which should provide for part-time legislators and non-executive president.”
While Afe Babalola’s theory has continued to generate negative reactions in some quarters, he, again, shocked many on Friday, insisting it was the way to go for the country right now.
Babalola stated that his demand for the postponement of the 2023 general elections and setting up of an interim government for a period of six months to chart a new course for the country was in the best interest of Nigerians.
The renowned legal luminary spoke on Friday at ABUAD’s campus, Ado-Ekiti, the state capital during the maiden inaugural lecture of the university entitled: “The Triple Challenge: Balancing The Trade-offs and Policies to Achieve Economic, Social and Environmental Goals in the 21st Century” and delivered by Prof Samuel Igbatayo.
He expressed disappointment that those who were supposed to be preoccupied with how to fashion out a new workable model of development were faulting his patriotic suggestions targeted at finding a lasting solution to the avalanche of challenges plaguing the nation.
Babalola accused those latching on his suggestions for putting personal interest above that of the nation, describing them as ‘impotent enemies’ of a better Nigeria who were wholesomely benefiting from the rots in the current system.
“Out of about 6,000 people who have commented, 90 percent supported my view, particularly the young people, the poor people and those who are looking for work.
“I am happy about that because those are the people I am working for. Section 14 of the constitution states clearly that the primary duty of the government is the protection of lives and property and the welfare of the people.
“Unfortunately the constitution is not made by either you or me. The preamble of the constitution says it was made by us, whereas, it was made by the military and that is why it is a nullity,” he added.
He said his position was not in any way, shape, or form antithetical to the nation’s democratic processes, noting the idea of the interim national government had evolved over time and put into practices in some developed countries when facing similar issues bedeviling Nigeria.
Babalola described the interim government as a child of necessity urgently needed to serve as a veritable launchpad to a new Nigeria where government’s actions and decisions would be guided by provisions of a new autochnotous legal framework that would replace the military-imposed 1999 constitution.
He stressed that the current constitution lacked the in-built capacity to curtail the prevailing irresistible situation that had completely overshadowed the country’s developmental process culminating into insecurity, youth unemployment, inflation and economic retrogression.
He said that the country would be jinxed if his proposals were jettisoned on the altar of personal interests, saying the suggestion remains the best antidote to rescue the country from the current impasse.
“Today, life has become unbearable, you are unsafe on the road, you are unsafe on the farm and you are unsafe in your house. Those who are governing us owe us a duty to look into these. I am happy that the House of Representatives has noted this.
“I have been complaining about this constitution since 2001, but those who are benefiting from it would not allow the enactment of a new constitution. That is why I said that before you go, set up an Interim Government, if you can’t do it, allow others to do it.
“So that we can have a new set of people that will make the country great again. The Governor of Imo State apparently didn’t read my full article. I am sure that by now he would have a different opinion.
“The lawmakers are the ones that will set up the interim government, not Buhari. There can be no other way out, if they fail to agree with me, then we are jinxed,” he added.
However, his ‘controversial proposal’ has elicited a flurry of reactions from prominent personalities. While some welcomed the idea, others including some SANs; the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, faulted it.
Uzodinma said the Nigerian constitution has no room for an interregnum.
“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,” he argued.
A former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, also disagreed with Babalola. He said “the call for the suspension of the 2023 elections cannot be justified at this time,” adding “it will create a gap in our democratic transition capable of truncating our democracy.”
Adoke said, “an interim government is a recipe for a military coup because of the gap it creates in the country’s governance.”
But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) rose in Babalola’s defence saying that he had the right to express his thoughts on issues affecting the nation.
Despite the controversy ignited by his suggestion, Babalola doubled down on them, arguing that the current Nigerian constitution was a fraud that is null and void or at least voidable.
He called on the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the National Assembly to organise and put in place a temporary government that will oversee the enactment of a new constitution, insisting that the current administration has failed in its duty to ensure that the welfare of Nigerians remains its primary purpose of existence.
While many commentators have focused on the merits or demerits of the so-called interim government as well as the challenges of putting it together, others have questioned the timing.
So far, the political class to whom it was addressed doesn’t seem to have taken too much notice. They appear more preoccupied with raising the multi-millions required to procure expressions of interest and nomination forms in the major parties. This may be another way of saying the elder statesman’s fanciful idea may be dead on arrival.