Currently, Franklyn Isong serves as the director of CHRAN’s Akwa Ibom state office. He blamed Nigeria’s problems on the country’s flawed constitution in an exclusive chat with our Uyo correspondent. Moreover, he advocated for the elimination of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), a required program that lasts for one year. Key points:

There are a lot of problems in Nigeria; what do you believe is causing them and how can we fix them?

Constitutional flaw! We have a problem as a nation because our constitution is flawed, and there is where Nigeria is built. Despite their best efforts, the constitution has remained unchanged. It has failed continuously, beginning with the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan and continuing to the present day.

What hope do you have when you add about sixty-eight items to the federal government’s exclusive legislative list? Our state’s constitution mandates that the federal government be consulted before any state-owned seaport or airport is constructed within the state.

Consider the situation in Rivers State: the State Assembly had to go to litigation in order to compel the governor to deliver their monies, demonstrating how implausible the notion of legislative autonomy is. Our flawed constitution is the reason behind this. The ineffectiveness of local governments is exacerbated by their tight ties to the state government.

Is it your opinion that, because of insecurity, the NYSC should be abolished or that the Act should be changed so that Corps members can serve in their home states or regions?

We have long advocated for the abolition of NYSC on the grounds that it serves no useful function. The military provided us with the NYSC Act, but it has the same problems that the constitution does now; so, it needs to be overhauled. Going to the North and saying that the NYSC is for cultural integration will be met with blasphemy against Islam. Then back in the South, people won’t regard northerners as friendly or welcoming; everyone is suspected.

The goal of the NYSC program was to promote national integration and cultural interchange, which is why I do not support the call to change the law so that members can serve in their home states.

Therefore, how should we proceed?

Let the Constitution go to waste in the dumpster of history! We should convene a constitutional convention to draft a new document. Our administration should step aside and let the people and regions get together to draft a constitution that would address the unique issues confronting our nation, taking into account our unique characteristics.

To illustrate the point, how exactly does our constitution forbid the establishment of state police? Having federal police will continue unabated. You don’t send the army to battle bandits; how can you combat banditry, a crime that is entirely foreign to the Nigerian military and police? In contrast to the Army’s traditional focus on ground combat, the bandits are engaging in a guerilla battle. Where do you think the cops will find them to take them into custody? If we can organize and equip state police and forest guards, we should be able to deal with instability.

When the governors get the security votes, what do they do with them? There must be an order or clearance from the IGP before the commissioner of police can deploy officers in response to a governor’s request to reduce crime. When it comes to the Army, the same rule applies: the commander needs approval from the chief.

There will be less need to use public monies to sponsor litigations and more time for the newly elected official to concentrate on governance if the constitution mandates that all pending litigations be resolved before the official takes the oath of office.

Isn’t it possible to pass a law requiring INEC to be transparent and equitable? Where is the fairness in a system where the ruling party selects the head of INEC, the inspector general, and the judicial officers are required to consult with him before recommending a chief justice to the Senate? Additionally, a single individual is responsible for selecting all of the security chiefs. One man is responsible for all of these individuals. This matter must be resolved by means of the constitution.

I don’t see what is preventing Nigeria from implementing a genuine kind of federalism, in which the states are considered equal to the federal government and the latter handles matters of defense and foreign policy. The state governments will be able to compete with each other while still paying taxes to the federal government. If the state government sits on its hands and waits for federal funding, the center will lose strength and appeal.

Do you not believe that the current administration ought to revisit the constitutional convention that was held under the administration of previous president Goodluck Jonathan and finally put its outcomes into action?

It was all a political jamboree on Jonathan’s part; we were critical of the process, but it served to appease certain interest groups so that he could fulfill his goal of running for reelection. At the time, there was a movement to reorganize the country, and he wanted to know how he could become relevant, so he went along with the crowd and said “restructuring.”

To mediate disputes, Jonathan started to select chieftains and elders from various ethnic groups to sit on the conference’s committee. We formed Pronaco under the leadership of the late Anthony Enaharo and offered a flawless constitution to the nation. With the words “we the people of Nigeria have agreed,” the current constitution of Nigeria begins. Where were we when we reached our agreement? That was not me. Sitting atop Aso Rock, three generals drafted and imposed the constitution on us.

Instead of the government picking representatives at random, why not have each ethnic group propose someone to represent them at the conference? That way, it will be fair and inclusive for all. It would be beneficial to convene a conference of national ethnic groups in order to address pressing societal concerns. It is important to recognize that every state has its own minority population, and it is their right to freely express themselves. Those who are paid to uphold the constitution should not be asked to wish them away.

According to historical accounts, the framers of the United States Constitution traveled to the site of the convention on foot or by bicycle; no one was compensated for their time; the various ethnic groups’ leaders and representatives could openly discuss their differences; the reality, however, was that these groups harbored mutual suspicion and were plotting the country’s downfall; and what the northerners wanted might not have been what we wanted. At the conference, everyone’s desires should be represented, and we know what each religious and ethnic group wants.

If we decide to divide up the country into regions, then so be it; if we decide to strengthen each area so that its premier can communicate with the president, who is only there for ceremonial purposes, then so be it. The actualities on the ground will be linked to the debut. Except for Obasanjo, who attempted to bring all the council chairmen to Abuja to check how they were doing, among other things, has any president ever traveled to each state to learn about their challenges? Most presidents only try to tour the country before an election, and then they stop.

Is Biafra something you can get behind as an indigenous Akwa Ibom person?

Absolutely not. What happened to the Biafran map? Were we included in Biafra when they produced the map that included Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River states? They were probably sitting in Enugu. Just like with the Constitution, very few people sat down and said this is it. Having a referendum where people can vote at or through volition is necessary for you to have a map. That is not the case when you assume that all members of your group are Akwa Ibomites just because two of them are or were from Cross River. Nah, that’s not true. To clarify, I’m arguing that the Biafran issue necessitates a political resolution because it is a political agitation.

They ought to take a seat with the state leaders and governors and figure out a way to do it. To tell you the truth, not every Igbo is on board with the Biafra movement. Is the prospect of losing their dispersed wealth acceptable to the Igbo people? Is the prospect of losing their northern assets acceptable to the majority of Igbos? To me, it seems like a political advocacy issue best addressed by a political forum. Progress will be made when the Igbos are prepared to convene as a group and reach a consensus.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on the continued detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the pro-Biafra group IPOB.

Keeping Nnamdi Kanu on staff is a terrible idea. However, the Supreme Court has just decided that he must answer for his actions. Looking at the rulings of the Federal High Court and the Appeal Court reveals that the extradition of Kanu was flawed. To combat crime, do you disobey norms and laws? Just like Ibrahim Elzazaky, Nnamdi Kanu is going through hell.

The government should handle these protests with honesty; after all, you can’t kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer. What are they hoping to accomplish by keeping these individuals in jail? Peace and unity should be the goals of the government. I’ve witnessed genuine Igbo leaders contacting the US authorities to ask for permission to release Nnamdi Kanu on bond. What gives the government the will to ignore their concerns? What is it that you hope to accomplish? You don’t have to use force to accomplish anything.

For what it’s worth, I can tell you that justice does not equate to peace; in fact, it is not always the case that the phrase “go and enforce it in a volatile state” applies. Alternative Dispute Resolutions exist because achieving peace is a prerequisite to pursuing justice.

In its many years of detaining Kanu, what has the federal government accomplished? Exactly what the South East needs is a catastrophe. Strive for both justice and peace as you pursue them.

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