INTERVIEW: A’Ibom CHRAN, Isong, and Nigeria: A Country Stumbling on Its Own Depraved Foundation

Franklyn heads CHRAN, the Centre for Human Rights and Accountability Network, in the state of Akwa Ibom

He blamed '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. Taken from

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

The constitution is flawed! The constitution of Nigeria is flawed, and this is where our nation's problems begin. 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.

With the federal government's exclusive legislative list, how can you hope to accomplish anything with nearly sixty-eight items? 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. This is because our constitution is severely flawed. Because of their dependence on the state government, local governments are unable to carry out their duties efficiently.

What are your thoughts on the proposal to either abolish the NYSC or change the Act so that Corps members can serve in their home states or regions instead, citing security concerns?

We have been vocal in our belief that NYSC should be abolished since it serves no useful purpose anymore. We need to revise the NYSC Act because the military gave it to us and it has the same problems that the constitution does now. People in the North would accuse you of blaspheming against Islam if you bring up the idea that the NYSC promotes cultural cohesion; conversely, people in the South will not feel safe interacting with northerners since they view everyone as a potential threat.

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?

Discard the Constitution with the rest 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.

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Take the question of whether or not our constitution forbids the existence of state police. We will continue to have federal police forces whatever. Because banditry is so foreign and unfamiliar to the military and police, how can we combat this crime? After all, you don't send the army to battle bandits. While the Army is trained to fight in conventional armies, the bandits are engaging in guerilla warfare.

What plan do you have for the police to apprehend them? With the right training and resources, we can establish forest guards and state police forces that can effectively combat insecurity.

When the governors get the security votes, what do they do with them? Before the governor may send in the cops to reduce crime, the police chief needs approval or an order from the inspector general of police. The same holds true for the Army; the Chief of Staff must provide clearance to the commander.

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 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. The constitutional process must be used to resolve this matter.

Furthermore, 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 international relations? This will let the various state governments compete while still remitting taxes to the federal government. State governments cannot afford to sit on their hands and wait for federal funding before taking any action, since the center will grow weaker and less appealing.

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?

At the time, Jonathan was engaged in a political jamboree; we criticized the process because he was trying to appease certain stakeholders in order to fulfill his dream of running for a second term. 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.”

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In an effort to bring the many ethnic groups together, Jonathan started to select chieftains and elders from each tribe to serve on the conference. We formed Pronaco under the leadership of the late Anthony Enaharo and offered a flawless constitution to the nation. We, the people of Nigeria, have agreed; so, this is the beginning of our current constitution. Where were we when we reached our agreement? I was absent. The constitution was imposed on us by three generals who just sat atop Aso Rock and produced it.

It would be more inclusive if each ethnic group could elect a representative to the conference; otherwise, the government would just pick representatives at random. Every state has a minority group; it's their right to speak out and share their opinions; you can't wish them away, especially not the individuals whose jobs it is to uphold the constitution, therefore let's convene a conference of national ethnic groups to discuss pressing societal concerns.

Those who worked on the United States Constitution walked (and some rode bikes) to the site of the conference; no one was paid; the gathering was considered a public service; representatives from each ethnic group could speak out, highlighting their differences; the reality was that there was mutual suspicion among the groups, and it was an attempt to bring the country to its knees; 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.

So long as we establish a premier in each area who can communicate with the president, who is only there for ceremonial purposes, I don't see a problem with proposing a split or focusing on strengthening the areas. Connected to the ground realities, the premiere will take place. 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.

Do you support because you are an indigenous person of Akwa Ibom?

Yeah, I'm not. What happened to the Biafran map? Are the states of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River included in the map that they drew from Enugu? Just like with the Constitution, very few people sat down and said this is it. You need a referendum where people can vote either voluntarily or at the polls in order to have a map. Not when you assume that all members of your group are Akwa Ibomites or Cross Riverians just because you have two of them. Yeah, that's wrong. To clarify, I'm arguing that the Biafran issue necessitates a political resolution because it is a political agitation.

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They ought to take a seat with the state leaders and governors and figure out a way to do it. Contrary to popular belief, not every Igbo is rallying for the Biafra cause. The issue is whether or not the dispersed Igbo population is ready to give up their wealth. Just how many northern Igbos are prepared to see their wealth disappear? In my opinion, this is a political advocacy issue that calls for a political solution. The Igbo people will finally be able to get together as a group and make a decision when they are ready.

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

Retaining Nnamdi Kanu is an unacceptable concept. However, he is now facing charges after a ruling from the Supreme Court. Looking at the rulings of the Federal High Court and the Appeal Court reveals that the extradition of Kanu was flawed. In your fight against crime, do you violate norms and the law? Nnamdi Kanu is going through the same thing that happened to Ibrahim Elzazaky.

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. Why, then, is the government ignoring their concerns? In the end, what is your goal? You don't have to use force to accomplish anything.

“Go and enforce it in a volatile state” is not always the path to justice, and peace is not guaranteed every time you seek it. 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? In the southeast, there is only chaos. Strive for both justice and peace as you pursue them.

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