On Wednesday, September 28, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) made a statement that was signed by Emma Nmezu and Clifford Iloanya said that Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has a limited understanding of referendum process.
The group further called on the president to be cautious in making utterances concerning the group’s agitation.
BUHARI’S LIMITED UNDERSTANDING OF A REFERENDUM PROCESS: TIME TO EDUCATE HIM ON WHAT REFERENDUM IS ALL ABOUT
We are cognizant of the educational limitations of retired major general Muhammadu Buhari especially as he does not have any evidence of having completed secondary education nor is there any record of his West African School Certificate (WASC), a certificate that is statutorily issued by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) upon writing the WAEC exams in chosen subjects.
We also know that from the day Buhari committed treason, which was on 31st December 1983, to the present day, he has not engaged in any formal education to improve his knowledge base quite unlike retired General Yakubu Gowon who went back to school after he (Gowon) was overthrown by Buhari and his military colleagues on July 29, 1975.
It is therefore, not surprising that Buhari displayed his shallow understanding of a referendum process through his utterances during a media event in New York City–USA, on September 24, 2016. Buhari was reported to have asserted that there will not be referendum for Biafra independence.
If we assume that the various media reporting of this assertion from Buhari is true, then there is no better way to exhibit ignorance on the typology and application of the concept of referendum. We will like to use this opportunity to educate and enlighten Buhari and his ilks on Referendum.
Referendum is a method of expression of the will of the people in matters concerning their welfare, existence, and association. A referendum is created normatively by an act of parliament (legislature) and is not dependent on the aversions or preferences of the president or executive arm of government.
For instance, the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 which led to the Referendum vote of September 18, 2014 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14th of November 2013.
Even the Scottish Parliament itself was brought into existence through the Scottish Devolution (pre-legislative) Referendum of 11 September 1997.
In France, the Jacobin Constitution was adopted in 1793 through a Referendum and Article-3 of the French Constitution of 1958 internalized Referendum as a bulwark to engender any change of policy and philosophy of the Fifth Republic and for the benefits of her citizens.
United Kingdom, the god that created Nigeria recognizes Referendum and uses the Parliament to superintend and put into force any Referendum that it undertakes such as the European Communities Membership Referendum of 1975 and the Alternative Vote Referendum of 2011.
It is interesting to note that referenda are held even in brutal dictatorial regimes similar to the one Buhari is running in Nigeria today. A good example being the case Greece under Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos who successfully conducted a Referendum on November 15, 1968.
In Africa, examples abound where several countries conducted Referendum through the instrumentality of the legislative arm of government or at the behest of the citizenry. A few examples include Eritrea in April 1993, Egypt on 19th of March 2011, and Morocco on June 1, 2011.
Beyond Africa, Bangladesh had Referendum on September 15, 1991 while East Timor had a Referendum on their independence on the 30th of August 1999. In all these historical backgrounds and lucid examples of the concept, ownership, and application of Referendum, it is very clear to everyone that Buhari does not know or understand what Referendum is all about.
In a presidential system like the one practiced in Nigeria, Referendum process is not subject to the dictates of the Presidency or Executive Arm of Government. In other words, Buhari has no business or legal right or claimed superiority to determine if there will be Referendum or not.
Even the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) is unequivocal on the inalienable rights of Indigenous People to decide on how they want to govern themselves. Affirmatively,
Nigeria is a signatory to the UNDRIP. While we feel sorry for Muhammadu Buhari because he is deficient in knowledge and understanding of the concept of Referendum due to lack of grounded education, however, we believe that he should have consulted with his aides and his political appointees who are supposedly educated enough and abreast of the thinking behind the concept of Referendum.
They should have tutored him well enough to make him understand that the Presidency cannot make any sweeping statement on Referendum because it lies within the domains of the legislature or at the behest of the citizenry.
Considering his aforesaid educational limitations, we therefore call on Buhari to be more circumspect in his future public utterances especially as they relate to issues bordering on governance and intellectual discourse of this sort.
The concept of Referendum is beyond the intellectual capacity and comprehension of Muhamadu Buhari who coincidentally happens to be the least educated among all the presidents/leaders of any country on this planet earth. We assert that if at all Biafrans decide to choose referendum as an option to exit from Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari cannot stop it.
Barrister Emma Nmezu
Dr. Clifford Chukwuemeka Iroanya Spokespersons for IPOB