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.