National Conference: 18 Slots Not Enough For Youths – Commentators

Nigerian youths have been given 18 slots out of the 492 delegates that will be present at the proposed National Conference, but in a population with 65 per cent youth, that has been described as a poor representation.

The low number has become a thing of concern to Nigerian youths and two commentators on Channels Television’s programme, Rubbin’ Minds, expressed fears that the youth would not be adequately represented.

One of the commentators, Mr Atom Lim, pointed out that the youths had not been adequate representation from the onset.

“If you look at the composition of the committee that brought up the modalities for this conference, there were professors, retired military men and no young person was there. It had a fundamental problem. Young people have been cheated,” he said.

The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference had stressed that there should be no ‘no go areas’. But the Secretory to the Government of the Federation, Pius Ayim, said that the issue of national unity was a ‘no go area’.

Mr Lim said that such prohibitions would generate disagreement, as some people would say the unity issue is a major issue that should be looked at.

“They are going into the conference with the notion that the unity of the nation should not be discussed.

“The young Nigerian is concerned about his welfare and other issues that affect him as a person. If we go our separate ways it will not change anything and some people are only benefitting from the call for disintegration,” he said.

Rinsola Abiola said that the 18 delegates’ representation was an ‘unfair representation’.

“The odds are against the youth. The conference should have a good demographic representation,” she said.

Abiola also stated that ethnic tensions had become high, leading to clamour for the disintegration of the country, but insisted that the disintegration of the country would not put an end to the issues.

“It is not what we should be talking about now. Disintegration is not a solution to the problems,” she stressed

Breakdown Of Youth Delegation

The Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Youth and Student Matters, Jude Imagwe, gave a breakdown of the youth representation and also said that 18 slots were not enough representations for the youths.

He explained that the modalities made it clear that the National Association of the Nigerian Students and the National Youth Council would send certain number of delegates to the conference.

“Under the National Association of the Nigerian Students, it is expected that six people would be selected from different zones. The six geo-political zones will be looked at and selection will be made from these zones.

“National Youth Council got 6 slots and the arrangement is that they should go to different zones and conduct an election of people that will come.

“All the nomination should be followed by the signatures of the persons that participated in the election and the video coverage of the election process,” Mr Imagwe said.

He further expressed the importance of having a quality representation at the conference.

“The youth organisation should ensure that people they will select will be people that will not go there to sleep. They should do their best to make sure that the coming generation will be proud of their contributions to the conference. It will amount to the highest level of embarrassment if they cannot make use of this slot,” he stressed.

Imagwe’s explanation did not go down well with Abiola, who questioned the criterion for deciding who an outstanding youth was.

Responding to the question, Imagwe noted that Abiola’s opinion does not represent the opinion of Nigerians.

“If you say that a fellow young person that is selected to represent you will not represent you well, it means we are having disagreement in what we belief in as young people. We should encourage the persons that will represent us,” Imagwe stated.

Lim condemned the allotment of six delegates to the student body, saying that the number was too much for the union, as it was a national student union that could select few people from the national level.

He insisted that a conference was not needed to give Nigerians good governance and called on Nigerian leaders to show sincerity and accountability, saying those were all Nigeria needs make things change.

Northern Governors Schedule Meeting To Discuss Security, National Conference

Governors in the northern part of Nigeria will meet in Kaduna on Monday to discuss the current security situation in the north-east and the forth coming National Conference.

The meeting of the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF) scheduled to hold in Kaduna will look at other issues of interest to the region to promote peace and unity amongst its people and look at strategies that could curb the insurgency in the north-east.

According to a statement by the Forum Chairman and Governor of Niger State, Muazu Aliyu, the governors will also discuss the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SABMF) and donations made to the dependents of security personnel who lost their lives during the Ombatse killings in Nasarawa State last year.

Other regions in Nigeria have started holding meetings ahead of the proposed National Conference that will hold in March to choose delegates to the conference and finalise issues that concern them that would be presented at the conference.

Leaders of six Yoruba states met last week to discuss the modalities of the conference.

The conference modalities specified a three-month period for the conference which many Nigerians had clamoured for.

National Conference: Real Issues Are Corruption And Ethnic Differences – Ezeala

A Legal Practitioner, Chukwuma Ezeala, has recommended that the National Conference must have real representation of Nigeria’s 6 geo-political zones, for it to truly address the issues confronting the country.

While speaking on Channels Televison flagship breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’, he noted that since the year 1964, the main issues confronting Nigeria had bothered on corruption and ethnic differences.

While admitting that leadership was also an issue, he argued that one of the reasons Nigeria has not had good leadership was because of the ethnic problems, explaining that the ethnic problems affect the way the leaders emerge.

He explained how ethnic groups determine who should be the Nigerian President and also influence who would be Ministers to work with him. He claimed that it has also been ethnicity that had shielded corruption over the years.

Mr Ezeala, however, suggested that this situation does not require that the National Conference be tagged ethnic. He said that what Nigerians must ensure is that issues of ethnicity are discussed. He said: “If we already have accepted to 6 geo-political zones, why don’t we make sure that there is real representation of those 6 geo-political zones, which represents the ethnic issues and which has fairly equal representation?”

On the issues of a “no go area”, the lawyer said: “If we must discuss how we are going to live, first thing will be to affirm that we want to live as one country. I think that 90% of Nigerians want us to be together, so why are you avoiding it?

“Let it be that for the first time, Nigerians have said they want to live together.

“Now, the next question is yes we want to live together but how do we live together? Is it possible for an Ondo man to come to Lagos and become the Governor of Lagos State? I think it should be possible if he is the most qualified…but we need to agree because my own view should not be the view of Nigerians.

“We should come in, discuss, decide this and we now give it a print of authority to say this is what Nigerians have done, and any president and any leader can now enforce it and not say that it was Decree 24 that brought us together and decreed how we should live.”

In a show of cautious optimism, Mr Ezeala expressed confidence that the constitution of the National Conference has the ingredients to address the Nigerian issues once and for all, provided that at the end of the conference there is a written agreement which would make it easy for political leaders to enforce the people’s resolution.

He also suggested that the National Assembly should pass a law that would enable the outcomes of the National Conference to go through a referendum, and if they are not ready to do so, the Conference could recommend or decide that what they had done should go through a referendum.

He also spoke about the structure of the representation at the conference as it affects the body of lawyers in Nigeria.

Natl. Conference Modalities: No Go Area Is Postponing The Evil Day – Odukoya

A lecturer at the Political Science Department of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, has referred to the prohibition of discussions on the unity of Nigeria at the National Conference as an anomaly.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily on Channels Television on Monday, he explained that the clamour for a National Conference could be traced back to the controversies surrounding the June 12, 1993 election in which sections of the country were dissatisfied due to “feelings of marginalisation, exclusion and non-inclusiveness of all parts of the country in the governance of the country,” with their agitations mainly centred on the unity of Nigeria.

He therefore, wondered why the government would assume that the country was united, as such assumption was unacceptable and would amount to papering over the country’s problems over the years. Dr. Odukoya pointed out that the fear of breakup was unfounded, if the country was not willing to confront it, address it and see how to solve it.

He said: “Government is unnecessarily paranoid. The common Nigerian elite is not willing to break up, as long as the commonwealth of oil and opportunities are evenly shared”.

Dr Odukoya, however, stressed that the government was trying to avoid a discussion that may lead to the breakup of Nigeria, as a way of protecting that unity which had been referred to as non-negotiable.

Odukoya, using the analogy of a half full glass which could also be seen as half empty, claimed that the discussion of how Nigeria may break up could also be more of discussing how Nigeria would continue to live in unity and what the conditions for remaining together were.

“If you say we cannot discuss it, you are saying we cannot confront it. Fundamental issues are not being addressed and as long as we paper over it, we cannot move forward. This is like postponing the evil day,” he stressed.

Odukoya, again, using the analogy of marriage and divorce, explained that divorce is was not what married couples usually want to embrace easily, as seen in many African women who remain in a marriage for the sake of their children, despite its challenges. However, there must be an opportunity for them to make that decision.

Referring to President Jonathan as an accidental convert to the issue of National Conference, Odukoya said that there would have been a better handling of the idea if the President had had a clearer picture of how to hold such conference and how to go about it.

He also condemned the makeup of participants for the conference, frowning at the elitist nature of it. He said that the people should have been allowed to make the decision of who to send as representatives, as ethnic nationalities had not been well established.

He insisted that the problems of Nigeria were not just at the level of professional groups and retired civil servants, but about the ethnic nationalities that relate together on the everyday basis.

He noted that even the professional representation was flawed, wondering why there was no mention of the representation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which is the umbrella body of Nigerian university lecturers.

He also added that the modalities should have been explicit on whether the outcome of the conference would be ratified or not, as his opinion was that the exercise would be an advisory conference.

He submitted that the outcome appears to be one that is supposed to only advise government and if this is an advice, then the government may have the right to still do only what it prefers to do.

Ethnic Stakeholders Say National Conference Would Be A Waste Without Referendum

Representatives of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups have commended the Federal Government for the planned National Conference, but not without some clamouring that resolutions at the conference be subjected to a referendum by the people and not the National Assembly.

Politics Today on Channels Television played host to the President of Igbo socio-political group, Aka-Ikenga, Mr, Goddy Uwazuruike; the President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima and the Spokesperson for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin.

Odumakin commended the Federal Government for the structure of the modalities for the conference as he referred to it as “a big improvement from the initial recommendation” by the presidential committee.

He noted that if the government had followed the recommendations of the Presidential Committee, the essence of the National Conference would have been lost. He said that the panel’s recommendation was faulty. “Asking that representation at the conference should be by Federal Constituencies is a blunder, as the make-up of these Federal Constituencies is one of the reasons why the country needs the conference in the first place,” he stressed.

Mr. Uwazuruike, while agreeing with Odumakin, also said that the basis for the conference was the dissatisfaction of various people who are seeking to know where they stand in the state of affairs insisting that the beauty of the National Conference, as planned by the Government, was that what the Executive and Legislature  believed would be of no impact but what the people want.

No Go Area

Mr Shettima, while also commending the Federal Government for accepting that there was need for Nigerians to discuss, also supported the clause that the indivisibility of Nigeria would not be discussed; acknowledging that the Government had a right to determine how they want the conference to go.

Although, Odumakin also agreed that it was a good idea that the Federal Government wants to protect the unity of Nigeria, he however frowned at the statement credited to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable.

He said: “That is not right.” He argued that Nigeria had been together for so long and that the people must be able to negotiate the terms of their unity. According to him, “Discussing our differences will not break us. We should not be afraid”.

Odumakin warned that what could lead to the breakup was “when we do not discuss the terms of our unity.” He added: “Pretending that we are united is like postponing the evil day.”

Mr Uwazuruike, who is also a lawyer, provided the legal framework for the decision of the Presidency. He explained that according to the Nigerian Constitution, “a President swears an oath to not initiate the divisibility of Nigeria, and President Jonathan is bound by his oath of office to ensure the continued unity of the country.

“Initiating a gathering to discuss the matter, therefore, will be going against the Nigerian Constitution and his oath of office.

“Also, it will mean asking for a revolution and when that happens, it is his office and the parliament that will first have to go,” the lawyer said.

He submitted that Mr. President was on the right track and that if anyone wanted a revolution, it would not be the President that should instigate it.

Shettima called on Nigerians to take advantage of the whole conference even if it was not the solution to all of Nigerians’ problems, as he was sure that the country would move forward from where it was.

The Referendum

There are questions about the criteria for the selection of representatives at the National Conference expected to have 492 representatives from different parts of the country.

Mr Shettima said that the makeup of the representation cannot be perfect since the whole idea was for it to be all inclusive, adding that the inclusion of the civil society makes it good enough.

He however noted that asides the issues of composition, there were more important problems that needed to be fixed one of which was the legitimacy of the 1999 Constitution. He said that the National Conference must be seen as an exercise towards building a brand new constitution for Nigeria.

Barrister Uwazuruike also added that the 1999 constitution truly tells a lie and offered an explanation on how the resolution of the constitution can be changed

The SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim, in an earlier interview with Channels Television, had said that only the National Assembly had the powers to amend the Constitution and there was nothing that could be done about it.

Mr Odumakin further berated Mr Anyim as being ignorant. He stressed that the referendum is the key thing in the forthcoming conference, going down history lane to validate his argument.

Shettima also stressed that “as long as Nigeria retains the Constitution that gives all the power to President, with everything centralized in Abuja, things will not be better in Nigeria”. He said that all resolution at the conference must be subjected to a referendum.

“We are not asking for an amendment of the constitution, what we need is a totally new constitution,”  he stressed.

In further response to Mr Anyim’s interview, Mr Odumakin assured that there could not be chaos, as Nigerians had been together for too long that there was need to discuss. He said: “We cannot put our faith in the hands of those who created that same 1999 constitution for us after all they have done to us since.

“They have been serving themselves and now it is time for them to do what we want.” He said, adding that sovereignty lies in the people and not the National Assembly.

Uwazuruike however warned that the same 1999 Constitution was the basis for convening the conference and that it gave the details of what should be discussed and there was no referendum in its recommendation.

He added that indeed, sovereignty was in the people as earlier argued by Odumakin, but stressed that it was to be executed on their behalf through the National Assembly. He concluded with an advice to the National Assembly to pay attention to discussions at the conference and use them according to the will of the people.

Mr Odumakin said: “What is worth doing is worth doing well.”He urged Nigerians to go into the conference with the realization that “it is not to constitute us.”

Shettima warned that if the National Conference would not be subjected to a referendum, then it would have been a waste of tax payers’ money.