A Nigerian lawyer, Mr Bisi Adegbuyi, has stressed the need for patriotic individuals to be delegated to represent ethnic nationalities at the proposed national conference to ensure that the conference achieves its aim.
The conference, scheduled to begin in March, will have delegates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, but there have been questions about how these ethnic nationalities would be determined, considering the country’s huge diversity in ethnicity.
He lauded the Presidential Committee on National Conference for the composition of the representation, which he said was broad based.
“It is quite a representation of the critical stakeholders,” he said.
The legal practitioner, however, pointed out that there were 250 to 300 ethnic nationality groups in Nigeria and that he would have preferred more representation for ethnic nationality groups.
Right Political Structure
Going by the conference modalities, Mr Adegbuyi pointed out that there were 15 delegates per ethnic nationality with additional six for the purpose of administration.
“We have six geo-political zones and the ethnic groups are divided within these zones. We also have some sub ethnic nationalities. The challenge for us is to get a constitution that would build on this diversity and let us have a very strong union.
“The success of the conference depends on the type of delegates you are sending to the conference. It stands a chance to succeed. But it does not hold the solution to all the problems of the country. It is just to ensure that we get our political structure right. If you don’t get your political structure right, you cannot get your economy right,”
He also stressed that more slots should have been given to the Nigerian bar Association, insisting that one slop was inadequate.
“Lawyers have special training for matters concerning constitution making.
“By way of analogy, the 1787 Philadelphia convention that brought prosperity to America, half of the delegates were lawyers.
“However, we may be lucky that among some other delegates to be appointed by stakeholders, state government, you may be lucky to have lawyers there.
“It will be largely a political conference but it would have been better to have lawyers as delegates who will brainstorm and come up with political decision that will be put together in form of a draft constitution,” Mr Adegbuyi explained.
According to him, the issue of national unity is of huge importance, as the ethnic groups were parties to the contract of the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.
“Nigeria requires harmonious unity amongst the ethnic nationality groups,” he stressed.
The lawyer, who is also a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a political party, pointed out that as much as majority of Nigerians do not want the country to disintegrate, it was also “necessary for the terms upon which Nigerians live together to be just, fair, equitable and guaranty the welfare of the people”.
“When you benefit from an association you want to ensure that the association do not break but if your wishes and your aspirations are not met you become centrifugal,” he said.
Some governors of the APC have kicked against the national conference, saying that “what Nigerians need is good governance and not a new constitution.
They also called for the agenda of the conference to be well defined if at all it will hold.
But Mr Adegbuyi said that all members of the APC were not opposed to the national conference.
Decentralisation Of Power
He also lauded the committee for the window in the modalities that specified that the delegates in the conference would be expected to come up with a legal framework, procedure and options that would lead to the integration of the outcome and the decisions of the conference into the constitution.
“There is a window also to subject whatever the representatives of the people decide, to a referendum. That is what is done in all jurisdictions that I know,” he said.
Mr Adegbuyi further stressed the need for the decentralisation of power in Nigeria, saying that the country, as presently constituted, is unwieldy and standing in the way of progress.
He insisted that if there were cities that could replicate the development of infrastructure as seen in Lagos State, the country would record speedy infrastructural development.
“The Federal government is just an abstract and belongs to nobody and as such should not have much power.
“There should be a weak centre that will allow other states to have more power and develop at their own pace. You will have development from the fringes if that is done.
“If you have a local government that has much money at their disposal, there will be development from the fringes.
“Decentralisation of police in the system would also help change the security situation in Nigeria,” he emphasised.