Handshake Across The Niger: Ofili-Okonkwo Advocates Closer Ties Between Regions, New Constitution

The Chairman, Autobahn Technique Ltd and Chairman, Asaba October 7 Memorial Group, Mr. Alban Ofili-Okonkwo has stressed the need to forge a united front in the bid to foster growth and development in Nigeria.

Ofili-Okonkwo made the remarks at the Handshake Across The Niger Forum held in Enugu State on the topic, “Handshake Across The Niger: A Necessity For Mutual Growth And Development”.

He noted that Nigerians must start a new struggle for Independence, and cannot afford to continue to depend on any of the institutions or structures installed by the current constitution, which is a creation of military fiat.

He said, “Legitimacy can never be midwifed by treasonable illegality. We must seek to write our own constitution, a constitution that will truly represent us and in which we have a say. It will be a factual constitution that will live up to the true meaning of its claim of “we the people” where all constituents must be given a say in how their country or nation should be governed and where citizens are able to determine which of their freedom/liberty they wish to donate for the general good.”

According to him, the re-enactment of the handshake across the Niger, epitomised by the supreme sacrifice by Col. Francis Fajuyi and General Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966 transcends beyond mere handshake, but “embodies a friendship beyond brotherhood”.
He further stated: “It is clearly beyond dispute that what happened between Fajuyi and Ironsi rates far above a Handshake; it measures beyond a union between a man and a woman whose vows are “until death do us part”; it speaks to an unbreakable bond shaped by the supreme spirit and sacrifice of Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi and Col. Fajuyi; It speaks to abiding friendship as well as to rare honour and to human dignity. That is why we must gather always as we have today to rekindle and exploit this supreme gift of unbreakable brotherhood between the Igbos, the Yorubas and all others.”
While acknowledging that Nigeria, at present, it is at a crossroad, Ofili-Okonkwo which validates the concept of a ‘Handshake Across the Niger’ as being very germane to the nation’s collective efforts for re-birth.
He canvassed for the abolition of the 1999 Constitution as it conflicts with the sovereignty of the people.

“Whereas the constitution is a supreme document that determines the conduct of citizens within a nation, it is the people that are truly sovereign. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution is a creation of autocracy but delivered under the false claim of “we the people”. The inherent illegitimacy of this supreme document vitiates or derogates the sovereignty of the people.”

He goes further to state that the 1999 Nigerian Constitution which was the creation of Decree No. 24 promulgated by the Nigerian Military Government on May 5, 1999 cannot guarantee the sovereignty of Nigerians as the Military Regime itself came into being by the subversion of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people.

While also calling for Nigerians to focus on developing the new constitution, Ofili-Okonkwo waved aside the call for restructuring as unnecessary in the face of a new constitution.

In his words: “As we stand on the wings of history, united by a common destiny and a shared geography, let us discount “restructuring” and “devolution of powers” and let us simply say that all we want as citizens of this great country is to be truly part of “we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” in a new Nigerian constitution.”

The one-day Handshake Across The Niger Summit, co-hosted by the apex socio-cultural Yoruba group, Afenifere and the apex socio-cultural Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is a meeting of the Yoruba and Igbo socio-political leaders aimed at reshaping age-long mistrust between the two dominant Southern ethnic groups.

The meeting, was attended by President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; former Secretary of the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, son of former President of Nigeria and representative of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Chief Uwakwe Azikiwe and Prof Banji Akintoye. Others include Chief Femi Fani- Kayode, former governors of Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo; Prof Anya Oko Anya; Prof Pat Utomi; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; Dr Patrick Ifeanyi Uba; Dr Yinka Odumakin; Chief (Mrs) Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi, wife of former Military Leader Aguiyi Ironsi; Donald Fajuyi whose father, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi was killed with Aguiyi-Ironsi in the 1966 counter coup, among other dignitaries.

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