Citizens' Critical Issues for Discussions and Inclusion at the 2014 National Dialogue


There is no way we talk about the National Dialogue without talking about the Constitution of Nigeria as most of the issues at the confab would deal with the review or enactment of a new constitution ultimately. Nigerian Constitution has undergone different reviews at different times of her development and the most prominent were those post-independence reviews. For obvious reasons, the Nigerian Constitution suffered a lot of setbacks during the military aberration in our body polity as all of the time the military’s first action whenever they struck was to suspend the constitution and render inactive almost all the democratic structures. This goes to show that the Nigerian political process has undergone a tortuous journey of transition. With the advent of the Fourth Republic, there has been a sigh of relief as Nigerians now have the opportunity to tinker with the Constitution one time or the other. The most recent being the one led by the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution which took place between Wednesday 14th and Friday 16th November 2012 at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos. It was a simultaneous public hearing across the six geo-political zones. Earlier, on the 31st of October 2012, there was a previous one led by the House of Representatives that took place in the various states and local communities of Nigeria.

I did lament at that time that it’s a pity that we had put the cart before the horse because the public hearing ought to have begun at the zonal level to the national rather than the other way round as it was done then in 2012. I posed some conundrum in 2012 when the review of the 1999 Constitution started. Perhaps, I could still ask the questions as they are relevant.

Do we really need to undergo the exercise of tinkering with the provisions of the 1999 constitution? Or we consider the total overhaul of the whole constitution giving to ourselves a brand new baby rather than repackaging this ill-fated adopted child called constitution? Answering those questions, I think the proposed National Dialogue could lead to overhauling of the constitution.
I also remarked at the time that many things were wrong with this present constitution ab initio. The preamble says “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…give to ourselves….”. Everyone knows that this constitution was the premature child of necessity (probably an illegitimate child) hurriedly conceived, delivered, and handed over to the politicians by the military under the leadership of General Abdulsalam Abubakar. No wonder the end-product is defective. Perhaps the National Dialogue would also address this by reflecting the true ownership of the new Constitution since, it is believed, Nigerian citizens would be involved through this process.

Most importantly, I emphasised that the most hated issue of sovereign national conference would have been better than this amendment to the constitution. The conference would have afforded Nigerians of different ethnic nationalities to express their yearnings and aspirations for the existence of this country if it needs to exist at all as a nation, and to discuss the imbalance and injustice in our land.

Now, what we have is National Dialogue. Where is the Sovereign National Conference we were asking for? Are we sure the end-result of this National Dialogue is not going to suffer similar set backs that other similar conferences suffered in the past? Is the government of President Jonathan serious and really committed to the wish of the people? Going by various statements made by the President and his aides, the outcome of the dialogue shall be forwarded to the national Assembly for ratification. In effect, the National Assembly is still going to tinker with the outcome. This is where the problem lies as the final document might not reflect the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens of this country; it is hoped event would prove otherwise.

One unique feature of this dialogue is the fact that it is seemingly all-inclusive as different sections of the society were involved. These include CSOs/NGOs, Faith-Based Organizations, Community-Based Organizations, Organized labour, Private Sector, Community Development Associations, traditional rulers, professional associations, individuals, women, farmers, teachers including the politicians and the legislators themselves. It was gratifying to note that though there are dissenting voices against it, Nigerians as whole welcomed this National Dialogue which would serve as a vanguard of social justice and political freedoms, a forum for united front on key strategic issues affecting Nigerian citizens.

It is necessary we bare the minds of our people concerning the National Dialogue and their propositions. Efforts would be made to refer to only those ones that are pertinent to the southwest generally and others of relevance to this discourse. Though some of these may sound controversial, it portends the beauty of democracy, no doubt.

There are several burning issues from across the country being canvassed for inclusion at the dialogue. For easy understanding, the following key positions are germane: Constitutional reforms; Political party reforms; Electoral reform; Judicial reform; Police reform; and Civil Society reform. All these six key reform areas are the considered issues, in my view, for consideration at the National Dialogue and are largely but not limited to the following:

  • Devolution of Powers (too much concentration of power at the centre),

  • Federal Character: ossifies principle of fairness and breeds mediocrity and incompetence in civil service precluding attainment of vision 20-2020
  • Creation of more states and boundary adjustment to remove ambiguities, with contiguous linguistic groups federating with their homogenous groups (e.g Yoruba ethnic groups in Kwara, Kogi, Edo, Delta and Benue should federate with their brothers and sisters in the nearest states of Osun, Ekiti, and Ondo).
  • Recognition of the Six Geo-Political Zones in the Constitution with each having autonomy,
  • Three major ethnic groups recognised over 350 ethnic groups and preservation of the rights of the minority groups
  • Roles of Traditional Rulers
  • Local Government Autonomy
  • Revenue allocation and Fiscal Federalism; each federating unit generating its own resources and paying taxes to the central government,
  • Resource Control: southwest’s control of her sea, air, land and natural resources (oil and gas) remitting 15% net earning to the federal government.
  • CSOs reform: complementing govt effort; enabling environment (e.g. difficulty in registration with CAC); principles of accountability and transparency; proportional representation in national assignment
  • The Constitutional Amendment Process and writing a new one,
  • Immunity of certain public officers from prosecution with consideration for criminal cases,
  • Nigerian Police: Federal, regional and community police system that is not corrupt, non-partisan, and professional
  • Judicial System reforms: judiciary, bar, administration of justice, prison, alternative dispute resolution; the rule of law etc.
  • Prison System: admin reforms, infrastructural; decongestion; reformatory and rehabilitative vs punitive; human rights taking precedence,
  • The Executive
  • Rotation of Executive Offices,
  • Gender and other Special Groups,
  •  Mayoral Status for FCT Administration,
  • Status of Lagos State,
  • Residency and Indigeneship Provision,
  • Political party reforms including multi-party system, ideologies, manifestoes, ownership, financing, etc
  • Electoral reforms: independence and impartiality of INEC/SIEC; voting system; registration of voters; electoral staff and security officers, election observers; election petition, independence candidacy; Diaspora voting etc
  • No-go-area – negotiating the unity of Nigeria (different ideologies (Boko Haram), secession, self determination

Brief explanation of the points raised above are contained in my previous paper titled “Memorandum on the Review of 1999 Constitution Submitted by Dr David Tola Winjobi Convener, Campaign 2015+ International and Principal Coordinator, CAFSO-WRAG for Development Nigeria to the Senate Committee on Constitutional Review Held at Lagos Airport Hotel (Southwest) 15th and 16th November 2012”.



The United Nations International Women’s Day comes off again this March 8 2014 as it is annually celebrated globally. CAFSO-WRAG for Development joins the people of the world in celebrating the progress made for women’s rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. Inspiring Change is the 2014 theme and which encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.

According to the Executive Director of UN-Women Mrs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “we acknowledge that progress has been slow, uneven and in some cases women and girls face new and more complex challenges”. In Nigeria, of much concern are major challenges such as poverty, hunger, inequality, violence against women or gender-based violence and insecurity of our children being slaughtered at will by dreaded Islamist sect Boko Haram in northeastern part of Nigeria.

The issue of gender-based violence and its attendant crimes should be of grave concern to us all. Up to a third of women in Nigeria report that they have been subjected to some form of violence including battery, verbal abuse, emotional and psychological trauma, marital rape, sexual exploitation and harassment (Nigeria NGO Coalition 208: 66). As much as 70 percent of unmarried women in some southern states of Nigeria are the most frequent victims of violence (Obi and Ozumba, 2007). Worse still, commonplace are cases of rape, pedophilia and incest apart from cases of husbands or related partners violating their spouses and close friends.

On the other hand are the challenges facing women’s participation in politics in Nigeria. Nigerian women remain largely under-represented at most levels of government including political positions and appointment, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies and in reaching the target of having 30 percent of decision-making positions held by women by 1995 as endorsed by UN ECOSOC. This under-representation in decision-making position in the arts, culture, sports, the media, education, religion, and law has prevented women from having a significant impact on many key institutions’ plans, programmes and policies. Men dominate political space by planning and organizing political meetings in the night. Ossifying women’s political participation is men’s use of violence including intimidation and physical assault. Women are constrained by men’s seemingly deployment of dirty politics characterised by character assassination, mudslinging, rigging, innuendos about moral standing etc apart from exorbitant nomination fee running to multiple of million Naira, depending on political party.

CAFSO-WRAG hereby calls on government to put appropriate and workable mechanisms in place to obstruct the obstacles preventing the realisation and enjoyment of all socio-economic rights of women including participation in politics.

On the issue of gender-based violence that has become commonplace, we urge the government to strengthen the implementation of recommendations in the National Gender Policy rather than paying political lip service to its implementation. We also enjoin each state government to enact (where non-existent) a bill prohibiting gender-based violence with stringent sanctions against the violators while justice is not only done but also seen to be done accordingly. If possible, each state government should establish and adequately fund a Gender Equality Unit within the judicial system which would be taking up cases of gender-based violence and playing an advisory role to the judiciary.

CAFSO-WRAG for Development also supports the UN Under-Secretary-General’s recommendation to various governments that by protecting our children from insurgency attacks and especially keeping girls in school longer, with quality education, we will empower young women to play their full role in society and build stronger families, communities and democracies. By advancing equal opportunity and removing structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment, we will reduce inequality and spur inclusive economic growth. By supporting women’s equal representation in leadership positions in peacemaking, in communities, in politics, in business and in religious institutions, we will build a more just, peaceful and secure world.

We wish Nigerian government a happy centenary celebration, a fruitful National Dialogue, an inspiring change for women’s rights, and a peaceful co-existence among Nigerian peoples for unity and faith, peace and progress of our country.

D. Tola Winjobi (PhD)
Principal Coordinator
CAFSO-WRAG for Development