National Conference: Okurounmu, Bakare Debate On Outcome

National ConferenceThe National Conference might have come and gone, but many Nigerians are on the look out to see if the recommendations made will be implemented.

The Conference attended by about 500 Nigerian delegates passed more than 600 resolutions and produced a 10,335-page report, which has been submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan, who has promised to implement them.

According to the Chairman of the National Conference, Idris Kutigi, in the history of Nigeria, there have been four Conferences, including this 2014 National Conference; however, this year’s conference has been the most arduous.

On Channels Television’s Saturday breakfast show, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, Femi Okurounmu and public affairs analyst, Bola Bakare debate the outcome of the Conference.

APC States To Attend National Conference

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria has expressed readiness to attend the proposed National Conference, saying the decision was in order to continue to engender participatory democracy.

During the tour of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, some of the political party’s governors had questioned the need for a National Conference, insisting that what Nigerians need was good governance and not a conference without proper agenda.

A statement by the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, said that the governments of the APC controlled states would send delegates to the planned national conference as requested by the Federal Government.

In an interview in Adeo-Ekiti on Sunday, Governor Fayemi said that the decision to participate in the conference was without prejudice to the party and the eventual outcome of the conference.

Mr Fayemi pointed out that the Governors of APC controlled states were of the opinion that the generality of the people of their respective states should be given the chance to express their views on sundry national issues at the conference which scope covers fiscal federalism, local government creation and autonomy, state policing, rising cost of governance, regionalism, electoral process, citizenship and corruption among others.

“As governors, we are governors of all and not governors over our party members alone, hence the need to allow the states to send delegates to the conference,” he said.

Governor Fayemi explained that the governors believed that the conference was an invaluable opportunity to espouse ideological perspectives on these issues.

“For the APC that has enjoyed unprecedented and yet widening support from Nigerians, it owes the people a duty to use the opportunity of the conference to canvass its views,” he said.

The governor, however, expressed belief that the conference would serve as a veritable means to resolve knotty national issues and a vital medium for communication of disagreement and agreement no matter how sensitive the issues were.

Politicians Will Not Dominate National Conference- Femi Okurounmu

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.

Government Never Promised A Conference Of National Ethnicities- Okoruonmu

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”.



Groups Fault National Dialogue Advisory Committee’s Tour

a former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa.A coalition of civil society groups has faulted the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue’s tour of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria to collate memos from citizens.

The groups, led by a former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa and the President of the Civil Rights Congress, Shehu Sani, insisted that the collation of memos from Nigerians was against the committee’s mandate of only working out modalities for the proposed National Conference.

‘Unnecessary And Unconstitutional’

Addressing a coalition of civil society groups at his residence in Kaduna, Balarabe Musa described the inauguration of a 13-man National committee by President Goodluck Jonathan as ‘unnecessary and unconstitutional’.

“There would have been no need to convoke such conference if all  the arms of government had performed their constitutional responsibilities creditably,” he stressed.

He said that for the conference to work, both the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary should collectively decide the composition of the confab, rather than allowing only the president to nominate members of the committee.

Also commenting on the 255 million Naira (about 1.6million dollars) armoured car scandal rocking the aviation ministry, Mr Musa criticised President Goodluck Jonathan for taking along with him, the minister in charge of the ministry, Stella Oduah and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo  Dasuki  to the holy pilgrimage in Israel, even when the minister was indicted in the scandal and Dasuki appointed to investigate the allegation.

Poor State Of Governance
 Shehu Sani's picture.
Sani emphasized that what the larger ordinary citizens needed was a revolutionary change that would be championed by the masses and not a ‘government initiated sponsored conference’.

Opposition political leaders, human rights community and representatives of the Nigerian Labour Congress were present at the residence of the former Kaduna State Governor, in commemoration of his 77th birthday.

Explaining that the radical Musa’s virtues are worthy of emulation, particularly in a country bedevilled by high socio-economic political problems, Sani pointed out that it was high time good leaders were recognised when they were still alive.

What was supposed to be a celebration, however, turned into lamentation as speakers decried the poor state of governance in Nigeria.

The civil societies also faulted the handing over of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria to private investors, stressing that the sale will not improve electricity generation.

Since the Nigerian president constituted the committee, some Nigerians have emphasised that only well managed citizens’ participation would guarantee the success of the National Dialogue.

Lagos PDP Welcomes National Dialogue Committee To Lagos

The Lagos State PDP has welcomed the members of the National dialogue Committee to Lagos State, in furtherance of its support and belief in the appropriateness of President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to allowing Nigerians have the platform to discuss.

Declaring the stance of the party, its State Chairman, Tunji Shelle, commended the decision of the president to show leadership by preference. He stated that “the president has again showed that the majority preference will always enjoy his sentiments by supporting the popular clamour for a National conference. By this singular action, Nigeria is indeed for Nigerians. This is one objective in the President’s Transformation Agenda”

The party further stated that contrary to the pessimism being promoted by the opposition, the Conference will eventually come and hold successfully.

The Lagos PDP warned Lagos residents and other stakeholders not to be influenced by the stance of APC leaders on the National dialogue. They encouraged them to come out massively to contribute to the committee’s report.

“Let us warn that Lagosians and stakeholders must not fall for the deceit of the APC in the state to ‘boycott’ the committee sitting.

“We have infact unravelled that APC will be present at the sitting by proxy, as they have lobbied and commissioned some individuals and groups to canvass their parochial interests at the sitting. We thus implore Lagosinas and other Stakeholders to massively attend the sitting to canvass their views for themselves”

The Lagos State PDP says on its part, it shall mobilise and exert its influence at the sitting in order to support more benefits for the state.

The National dialogue committee, headed by Dr Femi Okurounmu is scheduled to arrive in Lagos State tomorrow, Thursday, October the 31st, for its public sitting holding on Friday.

National Confab: Benin Session Turns Rowdy As Oshiomhole Speaks

An enlightenment session by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, which held in Benin, the Edo state capital, on Monday, turned rowdy following comments made by the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole which did not augur well with some of the participants.

While addressing the gathering, Governor Oshiomhole, had said that he did not believe that a National Conference is needed.

Prior to the meeting, the Committee, led by Femi Okorounmu, had told the Governor that the proposed Dialogue would foster a strong bond amongst citizens.

However, Oshiomohole informed the group that he had no faith in the process and that he had no reason to believe that the Conference would be different from all the other ones organised by previous administrations, which yielded no result.

He also wished the Committee well.

At the meeting with the citizens, Oshiomhole reiterated his position but this did not go down well with many of them who in their rage, shouted him down.

Efforts by security agents and peacemakers did not yield much as the rowdiness got worse.

In order to restore calm, the National Anthem was rendered during which the Governor left the hall accompanied by his security detail.

Following Oshiomohole’s exit, the people who were demanding that he leaves, broke out in Bob Marley’s hit song, One Love, which was streaming from the sound system.

Edo State is the fourth state the Committee has visited as part of the enlightenment tour.

I Have No Faith In Proposed National Conference– Oshiomhole

Edo state Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole says he has no faith in the proposed National Conference.

Though speaking based on personal opinion and not that of his party, the APC, Oshiomhole said the whole idea of the conference was flawed from the beginning as it has no agenda.

The Governor said this today when he received members of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference on a courtesy call to the Edo State Government House.

Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, Professor Femi Okunronmu said they were in the state to consult on the agenda, the length and the legal framework of the conference.

Some politicians,have expressed mixed reactions over the proposed setting up of a committee on national conference as announced by President Goodluck Jonathan since the announcement.

Most politicians feel that there was a need for such a forum but expressed divergent opinions on modalities.

The president had, in his Independence Day broadcast, promised to set up a committee to define the modalities for the convocation of a national conference.

The primary duty of the National Conference is to address and find solutions to the key problems afflicting Nigeria since 1914 to date.

The concern is to remove all obstacles which have impeded the growth and development of the country and to construct a new constitutional frame-work in terms of the system of government-structurally, politically economically, socially, culturally and religiously.

The enlightenment sitting however turned violent, making it the first sitting of the committee to turn rowdy even though it is the fourth state visited by the committee, after the Edo state governor re-appeared at the town hall sitting held at Emagwero college, Sapele Road Benin City and continued his opposition to the conference and this did not go down well with some of the participants who shouted him down, making Governor Oshiomhole to abandon the place and returned to his office.