HOUSE of Representatives speaker Hon Femi Gbajabiamila has called for the review the definition of federal character in the Nigerian constitution following the ongoing consternation that issue continues to raise across the country.
Over the last month, the ongoing nationwide protests against police brutality have developed into wider demands for political reforms by Nigerian youths. Among the grievances young people have is that the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari is nepotistic with merit being sacrificed in favour of ethnicity.
In the area of security in particular, President Buhari appears uncomfortable handing portfolios to Nigerians from the south of the country. This has led to him appointing numerous unqualified and under-qualified northerners into key positions, resulting in poor performances and a rise of insecurity.
Ironically, northern Nigeria has borne the brunt of this development as terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, etc, have spiralled out of control across the region. Nigeria’s constitution makes provision for the application of federal character in all appointments to ensure no part of the country feels left out but this has been ignored by the Buhari administration.
Pointing out that this needs to be addressed, Hon Gbajabiamila has called for the review the definition of federal character in the Nigerian constitution. Speaking on Saturday while declaring open the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) national strategy meeting and retreat in Abuja, he added that as currently defined, federal character is at variance with the nation’s realities.
Hon Gbajabiamila said it limits national opportunities to geographical location alone without consideration for gender, persons living with disabilities and age classification. He also challenged young legislators on charting a course in preparation for the Nigerian youth taking the mantle of leadership at all levels of government in the country.
“In thinking outside the box, I think we should consider an amendment in the constitution to the definition of federal character because when we talk about federal character within the context of appointments, infrastructure and the rest of it in the constitution, federal character as it is, is limited to where you are from, like your ethnicity. In other words, the constitution says that appointment and all those other things shall be based on federal character and federal character as we know it now, we have the Igbos, we have the Hausas and the Yorubas.
“I think it’s time that we expand the definition of federal character because the character of a nation is not just based on your tribe, it’s based on religion, it’s based on where you are from, it’s based on your sex, it’s based on your age. So when you are talking about federal character, you look at all those things and they are what make up the federal character.
“You talk about percentage of women and the percentage of youth, that is the true meaning off federal character. I think that is what should be reflected in the constitution,” the speaker added.