Aare Afe Babalola, an elder statesman and legal scholar, made the case yesterday for immediate action to reduce Nigeria’s huge foreign debts, saying that any Nigerian with presidential ambitions should be concerned about the country’s debt profile.
During a press conference, Babalola said whoever succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari should negotiate with the country’s creditors for either total debt forgiveness or a substantial reduction of the debts. He made this comment in response to questions about former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endorsement of Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi.
As for why Obasanjo would support Labour Party presidential candidate Mr Peter Obi, Babalola said that it was Obasanjo’s right to express his opinion and speculated that it had something to do with Obi’s lauded clean record and solid education.
But he claimed that the next presidential election would be won by a moneybag, not the strongest candidate. In his opinion, one of the candidates with the most financial resources will be elected president.
Again, according to Babalola, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 would not ensure the election of trustworthy officials.
He claimed that none of the candidates can save Nigeria from utter collapse until a new constitution is put in place that is similar to the constitutions of 1960 and 1963, with the appropriate adjustments.
The legendary lawyer recounted his call for the Federal Government to call off the elections and instal an interim government.
He was quoted as saying, “I still stand by my suggestion that any election conducted under the 1999 Constitution cannot and will not produce new leaders with new ideas.
“Any election conducted under the 1999 Constitution will merely result in recycling the same people who brought Nigeria to grinding poverty, mass unemployment, underfunded education, insecurity and huge external debts.”
To create the kind of change agent and progressive leader Chief Obasanjo envisioned, he said, the 1999 Constitution needed to be changed.
“If I contest for political office today, I will fail, not because I am not qualified, but because the system will make me not win. I have no sympathy for any Nigerian aspiring to rule Nigeria in any form, whether as a legislator, governor or president.
“The fact remains that the 1999 Constitution, on a large scale, is the root cause of economic, social, political and religious problems in the country today.”
“The new constitution should provide for stringent conditions in respect of age, academic qualifications, character and personality, as well as the family background of candidates, especially for the presidency and the National Assembly,” he said.