Being the Keynote Address by His Excellency Seyi Makinde, the Executive Governor of Oyo State, at the Conference of Presiding Officers of Nigeria Legislature, Titled “Imperatives of Constitutional Amendments”.
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this event to present the keynote address on an issue that is very dear to my heart. Anyone who has been following my political journey would know that I speak about constitutional reforms anytime I get the chance. And so, today, I have another opportunity to deliver the keynote address to you, the Presiding Officers of the Nigeria Legislature, on the topic, “Imperatives of Constitutional Amendments.”
Last year, I presented a version of this keynote address on the occasion of the Democracy Day Summit held as part of our two years in office celebrations. Then, and now, I will be hinging the discussion on one very important aspect of the Nigerian constitutional amendment, which seems to have eluded the Nigerian Legislature – the issue of restructuring.
But before I delve into this, let me first appreciate you, the representatives of the Nigerian National Assembly and the State Legislature, for the role you are playing in ensuring that true democracy continues to evolve in Nigeria. I want to particularly give kudos to you for the work you did in ensuring that you delivered the new Electoral Act 2022 to Nigerians. It might not yet be Uhuru, but it is clearly a step in the right direction.
When people look in from the outside, they may think your job is easy. But you on the inside know how difficult it can be, especially when you have to work with an Executive with non-aligned interests. So, I salute you.
However, a commendation often precedes a request to do more work. Our dear nation is nearing another moment of decision. The 2023 general elections are around the corner. As you well know, this presents another opportunity for our people to choose who will steer the nation for the next four years.
Although you have already played a huge role in ensuring that new electoral laws are passed, there is a need to continue the conversation. Constitutional debates are a big part of an evolving democracy.
The various agitations that have rocked our nation over the years, including the more recent End SARS protests and the rise of banditry and terrorism, are all reasons for the Legislature to pay closer attention to some of the neglected conversations around constitutional amendments and reforms.
Yes, each new assembly embarks on constitutional amendments, but the major reforms that will finally address many of the concerns that Nigerians have regarding how our nation works are often ignored.
These conversations have become like the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it’s there, but no one wants to acknowledge it. But the thing about elephants is that they can’t be ignored for too long, they will move, and when they move, we will be forced to confront them.
We don’t have to wait to be forced to take action. Actions that are taken under pressure and without due consultation often fail to accomplish desired objectives. And so, it is high time the twin issues of resource control and state police are subjected to robust debate at the Legislature.
I believe that any assembly that puts those two issues up for rigorous debate and gives Nigerians a fair deal on all counts will go down in history as the best assembly ever. If you read the pulse of the nation, you will see that everyone is tired of the status quo, and they are ready for new vistas.
You will agree that at every point in human existence, things happen that make conversations that were generally too difficult to have, open up for people to contribute freely. For example, some years ago, Nigerians were not ready for the conversation about women in politics. But today, things have so changed that the conversation is not even about whether women should be in politics or not, but about putting in place some form of affirmative action to ensure that they get a particular percentage of elected public office.
Similarly, the reasons that have been given for avoiding the conversation about state policing and resource control have recently lost relevance. Nigerians are demanding that their governors play the role of Chief Security Officers of their States. They are asking that the governors be empowered to run the security architecture of their states.
Here in the southwest, the governors came together to create an alternative that would support the efforts of the federal security agencies through the Western Nigeria Security Network. The people can see for themselves how things are working out. The Amotekun Corps has brought relief to them. The spate of kidnappings and clashes among farmers and herders has drastically reduced. Our rural farmers are returning to their farms knowing that they have an added layer of protection. They can see that the benefits of state police far outweigh any fears that they might have had.
Having seen the success recorded by the Amotekun Corps in a little over a year of operations here in Oyo State, we took a step to strengthen them further. We are recruiting 500 more members – we started with 1,500 corps members. I must say this is by far the largest number in any state in the southwest. Just yesterday, we supplied them with an additional 100 operational vehicles. The people are happy about this because they can see the work that Amotekun is doing.
So, there is no better time than now to discuss state police.
We have a similar situation with resource control.
There is an ongoing national conversation about equity and fairness. We have seen the press release figures that show that it is just a few states that are contributing to the Value Added Tax, which everyone is sharing.
We have long talked about the states that are producing the oil that we all are sharing proceeds from.
Everyone has seen how some states do not even make an effort to raise their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) because they are comfortable with receiving federal allocations from work done by others. But now that the receipts are dwindling, even those states are waking up to the conversation and asking if they can keep what they make.
Can there be a better time to discuss resource control?
Constitutional amendments are a must. They are a big reason why we have the legislative arm of government. As time passes, new generations are born, and new conversations emerge. We must, as a people, be ready to move with the times. This is the only way to move forward.
So, as you meet, I hope you can raise these thorny issues that have eluded those who came before you. You may not be able to resolve them, but you would at least acknowledge that there is the elephant in the room. This is an important first step.
And on that note, I want to wish you fruitful deliberations today, and I hope you enjoy your stay here in Oyo State. As you have seen, our state is peaceful and very welcoming. Feel free to explore the state and spend some money here. This is one way we grow our IGR.
Thank you, and God bless you.
April 02, 2022