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Page 14 for editing News Feature Behold Tunji Braithwaite, the advocate of confederation in Nigeria By Hamza Idris The news of the demise of elder…

Page 14 for editing

News Feature

Behold Tunji Braithwaite, the advocate of confederation in Nigeria

By Hamza Idris

The news of the demise of elder statesman, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, who died yesterday at St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, at the age of 82, vibrated across Nigeria.

Already, many of his contemporaries are gone, but those who are still alive, and had close contact with him, believe that the late Braithwaite had had an eventful life, and had made his landmark in the country’s political and social space.

His son, Olumide Braithwaite, who confirmed that his father died after a brief illness, said the family is already feeling the pains of his exit.

Already, the media has been awash with tributes from various quarters.

Braithwaite, a famous lawyer and politician, was the founder of the defunct Nigerian Advance Party (NAP), under whose platform he contested for the presidency in 1983.

Since then, he had tried his luck in subsequent aborted transition programmes of both former military president, Ibrahim Babangida and former head of state, General Sani Abacha.

He was also visible after the return of democracy in 1999.

Sources said age, geopolitical issues, coupled with his frail health status had taken toll on his ambition in the past few years, making his political activism very rare and could not even try his luck at the 2015 elections.

In a telephone interview, a former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who is a close ally of the deceased, said Nigeria had lost a gem.

“The death of Braithwaite is a great to loss to Nigeria because he was a leading nationalist and progressive. I associated with him for a very long time, up till the time of his death.

“Our relationship had gone to the extent that even though we belonged to different political parties, we agreed to represent each other in any meetings of the progressives when one of us could not attend.

“And in terms of ideology, of all the 60+ political parties in the country, his party, the NAP, was the closest to our party, the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). I’m talking in terms of the focus of the two parties to the welfare of the poor,” Balarabe Musa said.

He, however, said they’ve never been on the same page with Braithwaite when it comes to system of governance.

“The only area we differed was on the idea of confederal system which advocates strong regions. And to me, that is not a fundamental issue” he said.

Born to a Pan-African family with solid roots in religion, business and politics, admirers of Braithwaite admirers said Nigeria has lost one of its finest politicians.

His last major outing was at the 2014 National Conference, convoked by former President Goodluck Jonathan, where he emphasized his stance on con-federal system of government.

Describing it as Decree 24, to Braithwaite, the 1999 Constitution is a product of military dictatorship, saying it is destroying Nigeria and Nigerians.

He stressed that the Constitution should be thrown out and be replaced with a loose federal system, where various segments of the country would actualize their potentials, based on hard-work and dedication.

He told delegates that the conference: “Let the word go forth that there are a number of brave, honest nationalistic persons in this Conference that, hopefully would be able to reconstruct Nigeria in a way that the blessings, peace and prosperity rightly deserved by the peoples of this country would be guaranteed by a New Con-federal Constitution.

“The existing six geopolitical zones have uniquely different developmental problems for which a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution can never work in the reality of Nigeria’s diversity… The present 1999 Constitution or Decree 24 is enforcing a country that is destroying its own people, and should be rejected outright. This Conference must therefore be as much a development conference as a constitutional one. It is our firm conviction that only a Confederal Constitution or a very loose federation is best suited for Nigeria. I say this because I know that no part of Nigeria is desert,” he said.

Also, Braithwaite had disagreed with former President Goodluck Jonathan on 100 years celebration.

He said the president got it wrong as Nigeria was only 54 years old, and not 100.

Before his death, he was the flagship of the famous Braithwaite family, which reportedly contributed significantly to the socio-political, spiritual and economic development of Nigeria and Africa.

The family came to prominence as far back as the 1880s, when Reverend I. Braithwaite led the first Anglican Missionary Expedition that opened up the Ijebu Province of Western Nigeria to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Late Braithwaite was born in 1933 and was the youngest son of eight children. He was educated at C.M.S Grammar School from 1946 to 1953 and proceeded to sit for his A Levels at the London University at Kennington College in 1955.

He enrolled in 1957/58 as a Law student at the Council of Legal Education, London and was admitted into Lincoln’s Inn that same year, and graduated as a barrister in 1960.

He got married to Grace S. Falade in 1956 while they were undergraduates and had 5 children and many grandchildren.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar says the death of Braithwaite has robbed the country of one of its greatest giants, not only in the field of law, but also in politics.

In a statement by his media office in Abuja, Atiku said he particularly admired the late Braithwaite because of his unwavering commitment to constitutional reforms, especially his agitation for restructuring of the country.

He said he shared in Braithwaite’s passion for creating a fairer federal system that would reduce the fear of too much power and resources at the centre at the expense of the federating units.

The Lagos State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had in a statement signed by Mr. Taofik described the late Braithwaite as a patriot, fearless speaker, astute politician and an intelligent lawyer.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State said in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna, that the demise of Braithwaite demise was a great loss to both the state and the nation.

He said Braithwaite was a man of the people, a typical Nigerian who was consistent in saying things the way they are, not caring whose ox is gored. He also prayed to grant the deceased eternal rest.

In September, last year, Braithwaite made startling remarks about recent happenings in Nigeria. “The fact that Buhari emerged as President is revolutionary. Those members of his party, who believed that they could get covered by him and those who believed that by associating with him, that their tracks would be covered, are making great mistakes. There is a revolution in the country. We have been praying for this kind of revolution.

Dr Kayode Ajulo, a former National Secretary of the Labour Party, recalled that he was privileged to have appeared against the senior lawyer at the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja. “In spite of my fierce opposition during our arguments that went personal, after the court session, he extended a hand of fellowship to me.”

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