On this day, General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) joined in suggesting a focus for the proposed Constitutional Conference as he spoke on the need to review the “state of origin” clause. He foresaw little progress for the government in its effort to ensure the corporate existence of Nigeria unless people were accorded full rights as indigenes in their places of domicile.
General Obasanjo wanted the conference to incorporate chapter four (4) of the 1989 Constitution which prescribes the right of citizens to live in any part of the country they prefer, in the new constitution. He argued that national unity could be enhanced only if people irrespective of their religion, ethnic background and religion, are free to live and seek political, economic and social recognition without any hindrance and have an agreed national frame work as members of the same family.
He spoke in Jos, on this day, in his capacity as the chairman of African Leadership Forum (ALF) at the Conflict Management and Prevention Centre. Reflecting on the pre-August 27 panic exodus by non-indigenes from their states of domicile, General Obasanjo said, “Our recent experience of mass migration because of the clowning of some of our political leaders is indicative of the depth of the problem. It is rather unfortunate that after 33 years of our corporate existence as a nation, our national psyche is still easily affected by the hue and cry of disintegrationists. Worse still, the recent mass migration is also remiscent of our sad experience in the late 60s.”
He regretted that after 10 or 20 years of residence in any part of Nigeria, a “non-indigene” still regards himself as alien. Obasanjo believed that a citizen should be free to contest election or hold responsible position in any area he lives. According to him, “Conflict in any human organization or institution is normal. What is usually problematic is the management and resolution of the conflict itself.” He said he did not see anything wrong per se with ethnicism because, “ethnicism or ethno-ethnalism is not a bad phenomenon by itself, the issue has always been the selfish exploitation of our differences for personal ends and goals by those who are placed in critical positions either at community, state, national or international level.”
He said the Land Use and Allocation Decree of 1978 was enacted by his administration to protect the masses who were being deprived of their lands by the few rich ones who later exploited it to gain political domination. But the relevant provisions of the decree like most good programmes and policies in Nigeria have not matched even the country’s modest expectations, he said. He predicted that the current rising political awareness by the people and the struggle for political powers and authority would lead to disillution and acrimony in the society as the natives/settlers question cannot be reduced to just the issue of priopriety over land. “The dimensions involve political right, developing and deliberate cultivation of sense of belonging and the creation of wholesome and enabling environment that would empower all Nigerians to actualize their potentiality wherever they may reside,” he said.