Lawan Urges Aggrieved Nigerians to Build Consensus on Issues for Constitutional Amendment to Favour Them
- Challenges media to set future agenda for nation
By Deji Elumoye and Emameh Gabriel
President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, on Thursday advised Nigerians with pressing concerns to build a national consensus around them to ensure the amendment of the constitution in their favour by the National Assembly and state legislatures.
This is just as he challenged the mass media to form an agenda for the workability of the nation ahead of the 2023 general polls.
Speaking while declaring open the national public hearing on the alteration to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution in Abuja, Lawan said the constitution review exercise embarked on by the 9th Assembly was imperative in view of existent lacunas in its provisions which have attracted agitations.
According to him, the nation has been consistently reminded that there are flaws in its constitution, adding that: “There is a deep concern among legislators and other stakeholders, just as there are divergent opinions on what we should do to remedy the flaws.”
He observed that such agitations and constitutional amendment proposals were focused on devolving more powers to subnational governments, for resource control, greater representation and participation of women in governance and public life, return to the regional system of the post-independence era, creation of additional states and local government, enhanced residency and indigene rights, decentralized policing, and local government autonomy, amongst others.
He explained that while the National Assembly has identified certain items as thematic areas, it remains open to engagement on any other relevant proposals.
Lawan therefore advised that such agitations be built around a national consensus needed to amend the provisions of the constitution in line with their expectations.
He said: “It is important to similarly note that agitations are democratic expressions and indications of dissatisfaction with our extant constitution. Honestly, engaging with each other, amid a good faith, is the best way forward.
“[And] at this point, I want to take this opportunity to appeal to all Nigerians, especially those that hold strong views, that what we need to do is to build consensus around those views – national consensus. That is the hallmark of statesmanship, and that is the best way to handle the National Assembly and, indeed, the state legislatures to amend the constitution as they desire.
“We recognise in the National Assembly that the underlying role of participatory democracy is not to replace representative democracy, but to supplement it and make it function better.”
The Senate President further advised that the constitution review exercise be backed by the requisite political will and the right attitude, stressing that the final product of the exercise would be shaped by the voices of citizens as harnessed from the hearings.
Lawan added that “the constitution review alone will not engender a successful democracy, without a concomitant shift in attitude and political will”.
At another forum on Thursday, the Senate President challenged the Nigerian media to set an agenda for a brighter tomorrow for the country while acknowledging that the media had a crucial role to play in averting national crises and anarchy through positive actions that douses tension across the country and stabilizes the polity.
Lawan, who made the remarks in a speech at the 10th anniversary and 2020 Impact Series Awards of Blueprint Newspapers in Abuja, said efforts must be made by the media to provide proper context to issues, as doing so would in turn ensure national unity and reshape public opinion.
He, therefore, called on the media in Nigeria to reaffirm their faith in country and rededicate themselves to their role as the fourth estate of the realm.
According to him, “That role requires them to responsibly moderate public conversation and debate, douse tension, resolve disputes including providing context for issues, and help in stabilizing the polity. In this age of information, the media plays a crucial role in creating national unity and remodelling of public opinions. It is true that public opinion is always disturbed during a crisis. But in such situations, the media can control the public emotions and public opinion with a positive attitude. Without positive attitude in the media, even the best efforts of policy makers and government cannot produce results.
“Let us remember that crisis is inevitable in society. Indeed, it drives development when properly managed. The Nigerian media must, therefore, always seek to help the nation turn its crises into wheels of progress. This they can do by providing useful information to calm the people and encourage them to do positive actions.
“In the current situations, the media should seek information only from credible sources in order to limit the spread of fake news. They should avoid information that is capable of inciting violence and reprisals. When law and order succumb to anarchy, even lawmakers, journalists and journalism are endangered.”
Commenting on the security crises facing the country, Lawan lamented that the spate of insecurity in recent times had taken “an alarming dimension with killings, kidnappings and wanton attacks on public facilities becoming daily events in many parts of the country”.
“While government is forthright and unrelenting in its efforts to contain the security challenges, the crisis is certainly being aggravated by people cynically projecting our ethnic, religious, cultural and geographical diversities as the primary cause of political instability and social insecurity in Nigeria,” he said.