Over the past six months, another
word apart from restructuring that
has kept popping up in the Nigerian
media, is the word ‘referendum’.
About 2 months ago, bestnajiacom
reported that the Indigenous People
of Biafra (IPOB) movement called on
its members to prepare for a
referendum to the freedom of Biafra.
In a statement by the spokesperson of
the IPOB, Powerful Emma, the group
said it is working effortlessly to
restore its long lost freedom and
political independence without
“We Biafrans in pursuit our
inalienable, irreducible and God given
right to restore our stolen sovereignty
do hereby state that we do not require
the permission of the Nigerian State or
her government officials to grant us
our natural freedoms,” IPOB said.
Will the referendum affect only IPOB
and others agitating for Biafra? No. It
is therefore imperative, that every
Nigerian knows the following facts
about what calling for a referendum
1. What is a referendum?
A referendum is a general vote where
citizens of a nation are asked to make
a decision on a specific question.
In many countries referendums are
held only to make a change to the
constitution, or to an existing law.
In others, any individual of voting age
can initiate a popular vote. Nations,
states, provinces, cities or villages all
have their own referendums, and the
rules vary from place to place, along
with the criteria for success.
In most cases, referendums ask a
single yes or no question. On
September 18, the Scottish
referendum asked the electorate
“Should Scotland be an independent
country?” and all residents over the
age of 16 were able to vote.
Going by the above definition, if the
Biafra referendum is to hold, the
question will be: ‘Should Biafra be an
independent country?’ and every
Nigerian of voting age will be able to
vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
3. What happens if Nigerians vote yes?
If a country votes yes, they’re
essentially voting in support of some
sort of change. If the independence
vote prevailed in Scotland, complex
negotiations would have taken place
which could have meant changes to
Scotland’s currency and economy,
healthcare and pensions.
However, referendum is sometimes
met with opposition. If Nigerians do
vote yes to letting Biafra go, it might
likely lead to upheaval and unrest
and in the worst case scenario,
another civil war.
4. Who can initiate a referendum?
In most countries a referendum can
only be initiated by the parliament,
but some have provisions for citizens
to call a ballot, too.
In Switzerland a referendum can be
called by any individual who collects
50,000 signatures in support of
challenging an existing law.
The Swiss also have popular votes,
which can be set in motion by anyone
who collects 100,000 signatures to
initiate constitutional change.
However, the Nigerian constitution
has no express provision on
referendum despite series of
amendments, thus until the
constitution is further amended to
make provision for referendum, the
1999 constitution of Nigeria being the
supreme law of the land has no
window or room for referendum.
5. Amending the constitution
Since the only possible move is
amending the constitution and the
National Assembly has the power to
review and amend it, then those who
want a referendum have to follow the
process of constitutional amendment
by getting senators to propose a
constitution amendment bill.