A member of the 2014 national conference, Professor Isiaq Oloyede, has expressed his support for the non-implementation of the report of the national confab.
He described it as means for politicians to plan for election and other personal interests and not for the growth of the country.
Professor Oloyede, while addressing journalists, noted that although the conference deliberated on some striking issues that could benefit the generality of people, the structure did not reflect the true several interests in the country.
The conference, he said, was meant to be a joke.
He expressed no surprise that the present federal government described the report as meant for archive but thought it should have been thrown away completely.
Traditional Rulers in Osun State have declared their support for the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The endorsement was given as the President visited the palaces of the Ooni of Ife ,Oba Okunade Sijuade Olubuse 11 in Ile -Ife, and the Owa Obokun Of Ijesa land, Oba Gabriel Aromolaran in Osun State for royal blessings.
Traditional rulers from across Osun State, the leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) from within and outside Osun State, Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko; Senator Iyiola Omisore, former Governors of Ogun and Anambra State, serving and past ministers and the National Chairman of the PDP were all present at the palace of the Ooni of Ife, HRM, Oba Sijuade Okunade, Olubuse 11.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Adamu Muazu, after highlighting the achievements of President Goodluck Jonathan, appealed to the Ooni of Ife to bless the President for his success at the poll.
President Goodluck Jonathan appreciated the warm reception accorded him and took his time to promise that all the recommendations postulated in the report of the National Confab would be implemented to move the nation forward.
The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) has said the only significance that May 29 has in Nigeria’s history is that it represents the faulty foundations upon which the country’s democratic governance stands.
The group, in a statement released on Wednesday by its Publicity Secretary, Kunle Famoriyo, said nobody should expect the current democratic governance to produce the desired good governance.
The statement said May 29 signifies two events in Nigeria’s history – the 1962 declaration of state of emergency in Western Nigeria and the commencement of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic in 1999.
“These two events do not evoke prideful memories of Nigeria and for its citizens. The 1962 episode precipitated catastrophic chains of events that eventually ended the First Republic.
Elected officials in 1999 did not see the Constitution they swore to uphold until after their inaugurations, leading to the prevention of proper foundation for Constitutional Governance and which has resulted in the decay in governance and acute abuse of powers,” the statement said.
“As a nation, we must address our mind to the effects of these two illegalities, some of which are undemocratic dividends, weak institutions, rising unemployment and poverty, loss of political values and principle, deepening corruption, and a bleak future for the nation. Apart from those benefitting from government’s corrupt and nepotistic policies, can any Nigerian really claim that May 29 is worth celebrating as a country?”
“As we all reflect on the significance of May 29 in Nigeria’s history, it is important to note that the politics that engineered these two events were spurred by hegemonic political tendencies seeking to impose its ideals on a democratic society. Therefore, we should not expect that the foundation of Nigeria’s democratic governance, which is based on anti-democratic tenets, will ever produce the desired good governance.”
The group said attention must shift away from the much touted search for “good leaders” to having a good structure that enables good leadership, adding that if a building that is under construction has a faulty foundation, changing the contractor will not solve the problem.
“Our quest for good governance must therefore move away from a perpetual search for a “good leader,” as if such is a silver bullet. The solution to Nigeria’s political challenges is captured in a UN [June 2012] report titled, “Realising the Future we want for All”, when it states that ‘business as usual cannot be an option… It is critical to promote equitable change that ensures people’s ability to choose their value systems in peace, thereby allowing for full participation and empowerment.’”
“The implication of this is that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable and must be negotiated, informed by the wishes of the constituent ethnic nations and not according to the dictate of an imposed Constitution.
Afenifere Renewal Group thus enjoins all Nigerians to prevail on delegates at the ongoing National Confab to demand a new Constitution anchored on true federal structure, as this may be the last golden opportunity for a peaceable resolution of the country’s problems. Failure to achieve this may be Nigeria’s death knell.”
Although the National Conference has gone through three weeks, issues about the welfare of the delegates continue to arise. Most recently is the issue of the cost of food. A simple issue one might say but it sparked some level of discuss.
Does this give credence to the demand in some quarters that the delegates shouldn’t have been paid a stipend so that they can focus on issues bedeviling the nation?
On this edition of Face Off, legal practitioner, Ahmed Akanbi and another legal practitioner, Benson Enikhuomehin, go head to head in this heated debate.
Professor of Commercial and industrial law at the University of Lagos, Prof. Joseph Abugu, on Saturday expressed confidence in the outcome of the on-going National Conference despite the myriad of challenges it is faced with, especially the issue of composition.
Appearing on a segment of Channels Television’s Saturday breakfast programme, Sunrise, Abugu said “the National Conference as presently constituted is faulty in a number of respects but that is not to say nothing good can come out of it.
“Indeed, however poor Nazareth was, the messiah came from Nazareth,” he said, maintaining that something good can still come out of the National Conference however faulty the composition may be.
On the 70 percent voting majority rule which was agreed upon by delegates at the Conference, following a major disagreement which threatened the success of the meeting, Abugu stressed that the voice of the minorities of the Niger Delta, South-South and Middle-belt would be drowned by the 3 main ethnic nationalities, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa.
He noted that “a lot of the discontent in present day Nigeria is with respect to the interest of minorities” hence the inability of the Conference to help the minorities have their say would still not solve the nation’s problems.
On his part, the President, Association of University French Lecturers in Nigeria, Prof. Tunde Fatunde highlighted the importance and significance of the National Conference which is being held during the centenary celebration of the amalgamation treaty.
“It is very significant in the sense that no nation is natural; all nations are products of wars” hence the Conference is in line with what has happened in other nations of the world, as a means of seeking the way forward.
He agreed that “the minority question is extremely very important in the history of Nigeria” as the leaders of the minorities prevented the disintegration of the nation in 1966, in the first and second coups.
“The bulk of the fighting ranks of the Nigerian Military are mostly from the Middle Belt” while “the Niger Delta is the bread winner of Nigeria, in terms of crude oil”. Fatunde credited these factors as two major things that keep the nation going.
He however stressed that there are other fundamental issues to be addressed including fiscal federalism and the role of education in Nigeria’s 21st century, stressing that the nation’s resources must be used in building human capacity via education and training.
Fatunde opined that if these two issues were properly addressed, the issue of minorities would have been solved as the development of the nation as a whole would take the front-burner.
Contributing to the conversation, a social commentator, Sam Emefiele, said the only way to make progress in the Conference and as a nation is through sincerity of purpose. He noted that corruption, which the nation decries, is a product of dishonesty.
He argued that ethnic, religious, political and all forms of sentiments have been exhibited at the Conference, maintaining that the delegates are there to serve selfish interests.
He berated those who complained that the composition of the Conference was skewed in favour of Christians, noting that religion has been one of the major problems of the country.
However, he said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome of the Conference.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke, on Wednesday said over half of the delegates at the on-going National Conference are too rigid in their stance on how the nation should run, to effect the change the Conference was set up for.
While on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Clarke, who commended President Goodluck Jonathan for the Conference, “one of the best things that have happened to Nigeria,” expressed doubt in the delegates’ ability to put the nation’s interest above other things.
Clarke stated that “the problem is, you are asking Nigeria to sit down and you are bringing in old people who have a fixed idea of what Nigeria is or has been.” He further stated that at least half of the delegates at the meeting “have fixed ideas of what Nigeria should be”.
The lawyer said the elderly delegates who have been in the political circle do not possess the flexibility needed for such a consultation as they cannot change overnight. Hence, “the problem we are going to have in this National Assembly is that such people with fixation of ideas of how the country can be run can never be changed.”
Mr Clarke insisted that delegates including Edwin Clarke, Jerry Gana, and Ayo Adebanjo have fixed minds and cannot be changed. “These are the people who should not be there,” he said.
He labelled them “old horses who have been recycled for the past 40 years,” and further expressed doubts on the outcome of the Conference in light of the fact that the delegates are yet to agree on a voting pattern in the first two weeks.
Presidential System Makes President, Governors ‘Demi-gods’
While speaking on the programme, Mr Clarke stressed that one of the major issues which must be addressed at the Conference is the current Presidential system of government which he described as too expensive for the nation, adding that the system cannot work.
“Powers are being vested on our president which no other president in the world has” he said, maintaining that section 5 of the constitution confers so much power on the President and governors that “they have become demi-gods”.
He however warned that an attempt to change system of governance will be resisted by many people at the Conference, especially the politicians “who are enjoying the system will never allow it”. This, he argued, is another reason why those at the Conference should not be there.
He advocated that “fresh minds that have no fixation about any philosophy that have no fixation about any idea but are amenable to reasoning and the love of the country” should be brought in for the discussions.
He also said that the experience and expertise of elderly people is needed for the Conference but the set of people who are delegates are fixated.
Mr Clark further accused former president Olusegun Obasanjo for starting the system which now costs the nation 245 million naira to maintain one senator, in a year.
“No matter what anybody says, the problem we have on this Presidential system was caused by Obasanjo. He is the bane of the problem we have on this Presidential system,” Clarke said, adding that “he might have had good intentions.”
Although he thanked He noted that the Conference will not achieve anything since the recommendations have to go through the Nigerian parliament before going to a referendum. He maintained that the lawmakers would vote down any change which will deprive them of all benefits, including convoys, escorts etc.
“Any change that will be inimical to the interest of the present members of the Houses, they will not accept it.”
Mr Clarke decried the recruitment exercise by the Nigeria Immigration Service which led to the death of several applicants. He lambasted the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, for hijacking the exercise from the board in charge, which he created.
“Recruitment is the domestic work of the board of immigration, why should the minister take it over? In taking it over, he bungled it. Lives have been lost but what has been done?” he asked.
Speaking on the presidential system, Clarke said “the president cannot sack Moro” because “Moro has the support of a very strong member who has recommended his name.” Moreover, “we are going into an election period; Mr President will not want anything from any constituency.”
He further claimed the President failed to sack the Minister as he ought to have done because of the influence Moro’s godfather may have on the forthcoming elections.
Clarke suggested the President should have set up a judicial commission as a means of sacking the Minister, without claiming direct responsibility for the decision, in order to appease Moro’s supporters.
A legal practitioner, Ugo Udoji, has warned that Nigeria’s proposed National Conference may be hijacked by politicians to serve their selfish interests, since the conference would not be based on ethnic nationalities.
Speaking on Channels Television’s flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, on Friday, Mr Udoji said although the citizens want the conference to hold, the participation of politicians would not augur well for the event.
“The clamour by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to have more slots allocated to it at the National conference shows that the desire for it is high,” he said, explaining that “even those who never wanted it before, for some political reasons, have come to grasp the reality of Nigeria, that to have a true Nigeria, you need to address salient issues. You need to address issues for the grassroots”.
Udoji also expressed fears that the conference would turn out to be “another political gathering.” He pointed out that there was no need to give room to politicians, as they would focus on their own interests.
“You don’t really have to hear the politicians. They see the rest of the people as mere voters,” he stressed.
According to the lawyer, the conference “is the best thing that has come to Nigeria” especially as it falls during the centenary celebration. “We are a 100 years old but we are not a nation. We are a collection of different ethnic groups basking in glory of what they have in their territory, each still thinking they have their own leaders and not a Nigerian leader.”
Citing individuals like Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Udoji said Nigeria had never had a national leader. “We don’t have national legacies, we only have ethnic legacies,” he added.
Although he expressed disappointment in the fact that the conference would not be based on ethnic nationalities, Mr Udoji expressed optimism that Nigerians would get a leader as a result of the Conference.
He faulted the number of elder statesmen expected at the conference. “I don’t know the make-up of an elder statesman. Is it someone who ruled Nigeria before, or someone who has contributed immensely to commerce, industry and growth of Nigeria in education?
“Before you know it, they will gather former Heads of States and bring them together. They are the problems of Nigeria,” he insisted.
Udoji also advocated that the agreements reached at the end of the conference be subjected to the authorisation of the National Assembly and not a referendum, saying that such authorisation would ensure that there would not be problems during the referendum.
“It’s much easier to hold on to the National Assembly to see it through than this referendum.”
“Referendum is pushing it before the people for them to vote. Who will control their votes in the North and in the East?”
He added that subjecting the conference to such a process was equivalent to “putting it on the laps of the governors.”
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, Senator Femi Okorounmu, has explained the rationale behind the composition of delegates to be chosen for the National Conference, describing those who say there will be more politicians as not being sincere and objective.
Giving a breakdown of the groups that will be represented, Mr Okorounmu stated that the 37 elder statesmen to be nominated by the president would not necessarily be politicians, citing the former Secretary General to the Common Wealth of Nations, Mr Emeka Anyaoku, as a possible nominee.
“There are many Nigerians who have never been in politics, who are eminent Nigerians and deserve to be considered as elder statesmen,” he said, insisting that the number of politicians at the conference will be be limited.
From the modalities, Mr Okourunmu noted that politicians only had the opportunity to be nominated by their political parties which, according to him, must have representation in the National Assembly.
“If you look at the modalities, the politicians are very limited. For instance, the only category where politicians will be nominated is where we said every political party should nominate two delegates from the six geo political zones” he explained, revealing that the committee mentioned “only five political parties that have representatives in the National Assembly”.
He further noted that the present composition of delegates to attend the conference, which would be held tentatively for three months, was a full representation of Nigeria.
“We cannot deceive ourselves that we are having a national conference when we don’t represent all interest groups, shades of opinion and all stakeholder groups,” Mr Okourunmu pointed out.
Though he noted that the conference already had an agenda set for it, he was quick to add that additions and subtractions are welcomed.
“The report of my committee has already set out a tentative agenda, but it is not exhaustive in the sense that people can add more or subtract from it” maintaining that “when the conference meets they can add more in their own wisdom”.
The fourth republic senator warned against forming ethnic cliques during the conference as it “will be very unhealthy”. He appealed to delegates to “go there and look at issues to be discussed” no matter “what platform they use in getting there”.
“People should not concentrate on their ethnic nationalities when it comes to discussing the issues. They should make contributions based on the interest of Nigerians,” he emphasised.
The committee had allocated one slot to professional bodies to nominate delegates to the conference, a development that had made the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) wrote a letter to the Federal Government to protest against the composition of the proposed national conference which required it to nominate only one delegate.
But Mr Okurounmu, however, wondered what the rationale behind the complaint was, asking if the “NBA is superior” to other professional bodies who were also allocated one spot each.
On the no go area which has to do with the unity of the country, he said: “There is already a consensus among Nigerians that we don’t want Nigeria to break up”.
He pointed out that the committee found out from consultations around the country that “the whole idea of the National Conference is to talk about the nation’s unity and not disintegration.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, Senator Femi Okorounmu,on Tuesday debunked claims that the government had promised to convene a conference of national ethnicities.
He, however, agreed that the government was ready to “accede to the request of Nigerians for a conference,” but stressed that “the type of conference that it will be is left for Nigerians to decide”.
“The government did not, at any time, say it is having a conference of ethnic nationalities,” he emphasised.
Speaking on Sunrise Daily, the flagship breakfast programme on Channels Television, the former lawmaker revealed that his committee was approached by several groups to recommend a conference of ethnic nationalities when it (committee) went round the country to consult with the people.
However, after inviting experts in different areas to engage in a seminar, the committee realised that the “conference of ethnic nationalities was impracticable” because “nobody in Nigeria knows how many ethnic nationalities there are in Nigeria”.
Senator Okorunmu noted that the census previously conducted did not capture nationalities and at such the population of the ethnic nationalities was equally not captured, maintaining that “it becomes difficult to have a conference which you will now base on ethnic nationalities”.
He called on the National Population Commission to ensure that ethnic nationalities are captured in future population census.
“The whole idea behind the conference is to have a constitution that we will all have confidence in, that reflects justice, equity and everybody is happy with,” he explained.
He further revealed that the committee, “from the opinions of Nigerians,” found out that “majority wanted the conclusion of the conference to go to a referendum. “We also found out there is a significant body of opinion, not the majority, that was against referendum on legalistic basis”.
Senator Okorounmu, however, noted that the issue of referendum would be sorted out by delegates who would attend the conference, maintaining that the committee took the decision to ensure that the conference does not crumble even before it begins.
He said: “When Nigerians meet at the conference, knowing the rigour they will go through to reach their conclusions and recommendations, if they decide that it should go to a referendum, so be it. If they decide that it should go to the National Assembly so be it. Nigerians will surely be there making those decisions”.
The Chairman, Editorial Board f Nations Newspaper, Sam Omatseye, on Thursday described the Block Budget Directive by the All Progressives Congress to lawmakers in the National Assembly as ‘high stakes politics.’
“This is bringing the issues of Rivers State to the plate of national discourse in the way it should be.”
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, the journalist opined that the issues involving Rivers State, the Presidency and the National Assembly “have been misdirected in terms of focus by so many people who think the issue of Rivers state is about Rivers state.”
“Rivers state belongs to this federation,” he said, adding that “if one state is burning it has implication on the peace of other states.”
He faulted the President who is the Chief Security Officer of the nation, for not taking any official steps to curb the crisis especially in light of the fact that “the state is burning, the commissioner of police is acting as though he does not respect rule of law, he does not respect lives and property and who is supposed to be the chief security officer of the state which is the governor.”
Despite criticisms against its directive, APC has defended its stance on grounds that the directive is working because the third Save Rivers Movement rally held without interruption.
Asked why the opposition is yet to back down, Mr Omatseye said “the directive has been misappropriated by the Presidency and people in the PDP to mean that the APC does not want the budget passed or the minister screened and nominated or passed as well as the service chiefs.
The real thing, he said, is that they are trying to use the instruments of democracy for the purpose of democracy.
Filibuster does not mean we don’t want the budget, he said, adding that “there’s a high stake principle involved here. Let us face that high stake principle. Get it done, then we can go ahead with the budget after all what is the purpose of budget without security.”
On the internal wranglings in some chapters of the APC, especially in Ogun state, Mr Omatseye who criticised the developments played down the issue in comparison to the crisis in Rivers state, adding that there was no issue of impunity on the part of the police commissioner.
He also said “it’s not appearing, as of now, to be an issue of protracted significance. It is a party issue and they are trying to resolve it.”
However, the problem of Rivers state began when Rotimi Amaechi expressed dissatisfaction with how the President removed his successor while the First Lady caused problems before the 2011 elections, followed by the “almighty crisis of the governors’ forum election,” including the issue of Soku oil wells.
Omatseye claimed that the Police commissioner, Joseph Mbu, had become important to the President and is even more powerful than the IG in matters of Rivers State,” adding that, “the IG himself has been completely quiet and complicit in whatever goes on.”
On recommendations that all issues be solved in the Court of Law, Omatseye said “the courts cannot ask the president to fire or remove a police commissioner. It is all within the ambit of the executive.”
He suggested that the President have a dialogue between the Bayelsa and Rivers State governors to settle the matter of Soku oil wells in a bid to get them to settle the matter in court.
Afenifere Renewal Group has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately publicise the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on National Dialogue, which was submitted on Wednesday.
In a press statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Kunle Famoriyo, the group said that making the report a public document is the only way President Jonathan’s wish to convoke the conference can continue to enjoy the support of Nigerians.
“Nigerians have supported the call for the conference and participated fully in the public sessions. Many travelled far distances to participate in the conference. One of them was the late Babarinde Omojola, who never returned home but died after making his presentation in Akure,” the statement said.
It also said “The only way to respect and honour the sacrifices Nigerians made towards the successful completion of the committee’s task is to publicise the report.”
“If President Jonathan truly has no personal interest, as he claimed, in the conference and he is prepared to allow the will of Nigerians to prevail, the first thing to do is to release the report to the public as a feedback process.” It noted.
The statement further insisted that the “Afenifere Renewal Group will not be railroaded into a national conference, whose modalities and terms are skewed against the interest of our people. Certainly, we will only support the proposed conference for as long as it is transparently planned.”
“Our demand is to see Nigeria restructured into a truly federalist country with viable and autonomous federating units. We are convinced this is what majority of Nigerians want, as our wide consultations have shown. We also believe that the conference, when finally convoked, will succeed and produce desired outcome only if it is a conference of Nigerian ethnic nationalities.” It said.
The group “therefore pleads with President Jonathan not to put the cart before the horse as he announced that he has instructed the Minister of Finance to make budgetary preparation for the conference.”
Concluding that “It is good to make financial preparation for the conference but we insist that the first thing to do after the submission of the report is to make its content public. We wish to reiterate our earlier advice to President Jonathan that the outcome of this proposed conference will either make or mar his tenure.”
On this edition of the programme, a Youth Leader, Ife Adebayo, gave credit to the proposed National Conference and said that those opposing the initiative by President Goodluck Jonathan are those who have interests in the ‘fractured’ system.
He advocated that elected delegates to attend the Conference be selected from the different local governments in the country.
While others should be selected from different civil society groups, market women groups, disabled persons groups.