This analysis is done on the recording of the Knights and Kardinals Clubhouse (app) discussion titled, “Debate: Prof. Pat Utomi vs Tony Nnadi On The Way Forward For Nigeria” which took place on 3rd November 2021. Pat Utomi is a 65-year old Professor of political economy, and a management expert. He had been a onetime governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress in 2019. Tony Nnadi is a 54-year old Barrister with expertise in jurisprudence, he is Secretary-General of Lower Niger Congress (the self-determination organisation for South-South and South-East zones), plus he is Co-convener of the NINAS Movement.
This timely debate went on for over four hours so a summary of the positions of these two speakers will be described. Tony Nnadi spoke first, repeating the NINAS Movement position which is publicly known, and that is contained in the Notice of Constitutional Force Majeure Proclaimed by NINAS Movement on 16th December 2020. His position is that given that the 1999 Constitution is an illegitimate forgery that creates corruption and non-development, plus that is being used to facilitate genocide, it has been Repudiated and the process of Decommissioning it is underway. The method being used is similar to the one that South Africa had used to Decommission its own illegitimate Apartheid Constitution. Mr Nnadi explained that NINAS Movement are not anarchists and that the process involves a time-bound Transitional Government where existing governance structures would remain in place. Therefore, since general elections in 2023 will renew the life of that illegitimate 1999 Constitution, preparations for those elections should now be halted and a transitioning process initiated.
Prof. Utomi on the other hand agreeing that the 1999 Constitution was faulty, had a different approach. He believed that those issues could be straightened out through public conversations and discussions. He said that Nigerians, plus politicians seeking office could agree now on what should be done, which would then be implemented by the winners of those Elections 2023. He also believed that the economy was in such a terrible state that Nigerians should be given some gains even now before those general elections, and that subnational Constitutions could even start to be prepared now. Prof Utomi went on to say that a group which he leads has a Constitution-writing committee that is producing a new Draft Constitution for Nigerians which can be put before the people for discussion and debate, and offered to a Constituent Assembly.
When it came to the matter of separatist agitations, Mr Nnadi believed they were in reaction to the horrific ethnic cleansing (genocide) going on, plus the intolerable levels of insecurity and kidnappings by terrorists and “bandits”, not forgetting the invasion of peoples’ farms by Fulani herdsmen and the attendant food insecurity, plus the high poverty levels in the country. Meanwhile Prof. Utomi believed that poor governance was the reason for these agitations which could be addressed with good leadership. Plus he thought that if people perceive they have a fair stake in a Union, they would be happy being part of it.
Both Mr Nnadi and Prof. Utomi were intense about their positions. Mr Nnadi was keen for Ethnic Nationalities to regain their inalienable right to Self-Determination, and decide for themselves whether to re-commit to the Union, and if so, decide on the terms. Whereas Prof. Utomi is a Unionist who believes that if Nigeria is not kept as one unit, its peoples would not be able to attain the greatness he thinks they have the potential to reach together.
This analysis will cover just three areas.
1. NINAS is not an organisation, it is a non-violent MOVEMENT. That means, NINAS Movement is a mass of informed and organised peoples all seeking the same thing, in this case, Self-Determination for their Ethnic Nation. As such, NINAS Movement with its history, is exceptionally well-placed to have declared a Constitutional Force Majeure, and to be making its demands. There are numerous examples of such. For instance the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s America was people power, where ordinary people made a change. They came together under the prime leadership of Dr King, made their just demands, then obtained them. Similarly, Mahatma Ghandi led India’s Independence Movement to get success in their demands. Another is the ongoing Climate Change Movement started by Greta Thunberg, mobilizing young people worldwide.
2. It seemed that Prof. Utomi believed that good leaders were the main thing missing. Thus, with good leaders a proper Constitution could be obtained. Dialogue and respectful conversations would also be needed. However, he completely disregarded the issue of the Sovereignty Dispute clearly stated in the Notice of the NINAS Movement’s Constitutional Force Majeure.
Meanwhile, Mr Nnadi seemed keen that the indigenous peoples should decide what they want, and not have a Union imposed on them (as is currently the case). His position was one that espoused the democratic principle that the consent of the governed must first be obtained before those good leaders can be discovered.
3. Several independent observers and organisations have been saying that “genocide is loading” in Nigeria. There are regular reports of entire communities mostly of Christians in the Middle Belt, although moderate Moslems are targeted too, being slaughtered and their lands grabbed by Fulani militia. Mr Nnadi was concerned about it, and having explained how the illegitimate 1999 Constitution enables it, stressed that all people of good will should not allow the renewal of the life of that Constitution, so should insist Elections 2023 be suspended.
Prof. Utomi did not address how this Silent Slaughter massacres should be stopped. However, several times during the debate he advised that people should not get emotional about things, but should aim for dialogue whereby Nigerians would find a way to live well together. He commended Mr Nnadi for his passion and dedication.
To conclude, several analysts have said that the sham 1999 Constitution foisted on Nigerians creates a “master-slave” Unitary system. Mr Nnadi’s position was the voice of the people who want freedom and Self-Determination to decide all things for themselves. Prof. Utomi though believed that it would be possible to get Nigeria’s politicians to start to think in an umbrella way for the good of all, and thereby improve the country. He thought there were things that citizens could and should bargain for now from politicians before Elections 2023.
Overall, two voices were heard. One was of the slave saying he wants his total freedom RIGHT NOW. The other was saying that freedom takes time to obtain, and that if more kindness were to be shown, and concessions given, the slave would be happy to remain in the master’s house… The thing is, the current House of Nigeria is not the same House as had been agreed before Independence.
Ndidi Uwechue is a British citizen with Igbo heritage from the Lower Niger Bloc. She is a retired Metropolitan (London) Police Officer, she is a signatory to the Constitutional Force Majeure, and she writes from Abuja.