Speaker of the Kwara House of Assembly, Mister Rasak Atunwa believes that the timing for the National Conference initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan is wrong.
Speaking in Ilorin on Wednesday, the speaker observed that since the conference may not end before the next election in 2015, it therefore could not be justified.
“To have a National Conference, to sit to have a dialogue about the country when you’re moving towards a time where ideologies will be battling ideologies, pragmatism will battle pragmatism, my party will battle your party at the state level at the federal level, is ill conceived”
“What is to happen when we enter a conference of National Dialogue as different political parties, different ideas, different ethnicity and we come out, and the next minute we are attacking each other, jostling for position?”
“So for me, coming at the tail end of 2013, it is ill timed.”
His comment is coming days after the Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole also expressed some misgivings against the proposed national conference.
The Edo state government has accused Col. Nyiam of being a biased member of a presidential advisory committee on national dialogue which ought to be above political, ethnic and indeed other sentiments.
In a press release issued by the chief press secretary to the Edo state governor, Mr. Peter Okhiria, the governor said, going by Col. Nyiam’s antecedents, the Benin incident is just another manifestation of Col. Nyiam’s lack of respect for constituted authority and his love for disunity.
The statement also alleged that Colonel Nyiam’s ambition for power led to the death of many officers and men who owned up and faced the sentence for their treason in his military days.
The Edo state government added that it finds it interesting that Col Nyiam has exposed the undercurrent motive of the conference, which has also confirmed governor Oshiomhole’s initial fears about the viability, necessity and desirability of the national conference.
The Edo state caucus in the House of Representatives are demanding that retired Colonel Tony Nyiam be sacked from the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue for shouting at the governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomole at the town hall meeting in Benin.
The caucus expressed their condemnation of the attack on the governor, saying the incident was a sign of things to come in the proposed national conference.
They added that they are in agreement with governor Oshiomhole that 10 previous conferences had not yielded any positive result, and what is needed in Nigeria is a leadership that can break barriers in national development.
The enlightenment session by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, 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.
The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue has apologised to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State over the unruly behaviour of one its members, Col Tony Nyiam (rtd).
Col. Nyiam (rtd) led some participants at the conference held in Benin City on Monday, to shout down the Governor when he was making his presentation.
In a letter signed by Chairman of the Committee, Senator (Dr) Femi Okurounmu, and entitled “Dialogue Committee Condemns Unruly Behaviour”, it said:
“The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue wants to put it on record that we noted the sad incident at today’s (Monday’s) Interactive Session with Nigerians from the South South held in Benin City, Edo State.
“The Committee wishes to state its unequivocal commitment and that of its members to the principles of democratic discourse. Although we take special exception to the unruly conduct of one of our members who joined the crowd in shouting down the Comrade Governor of Edo State, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, while he was giving his remarks, the session continued and ended peacefully.”
In the letter dated October 28, 2013, the committee continued:
“We want to emphasize that the Committee will listen to all shades of opinions in the areas of its mandates and will not henceforth condone the kind of unacceptable behaviour we witnessed in Benin City.
“The Committee wishes to express its sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Edo State for providing support to the Committee in its assignment in the state.”
A legal practitioner, George Eke, has described the on-going debate on the proposed National Conference as a very confusing exercise for many Nigerians because of the ambiguity of language, terms and multiple analysis of it.
He said this while appearing as a guest on Sunrise Daily.
“There is this omnibus language of ‘let us talk’, we don’t know what we are going to talk about, we don’t know who we are going to talk (with), we don’t know whether it is supposed to be an ethnic dialogue which David Mark suggested, we don’t know if it will end up as a constitutional conference which is what they are expecting that there is going to be a constitution thereafter that is going to be supreme or take precedence over what we have”.
Reacting to the suggestion that the above observation is part of the main purpose for which the the Advisory Committee was consituted, he said:
“Part of the confusion is that even (in) the advisory committee; you will notice that some people are making remarks that there is no youth in the committee.
We are talking about advice; the president could have as well just asked his minister for special duties to advise him. We are already even quarrelling with the composition of the advisory committee, not to talk of what is going to come out”.
Mr Eke said that he is not ‘crazy’ about the National Conference, because he has been an ardent follower of those who argue for this conference and by the recommendation of philosophy, political science, sociology and law and referring to famous old philosophers, he posited that;
“Sovereignty is that inherent capacity of the society to govern itself but through social contract, but some people have misinformed either mischievously or they do not know”.
“The society confers or transmits willingly this sovereignty to the government.”
He disagreed with some lawyers’ opinion that the people can donate part of the sovereignty to the government, arguing that sovereignty cannot be partly given to the government because it is in itself synonym with government. Therefore Nigerians’ sovereignty is wholly and entirely in their government, he said, adding that, “sovereignty belongs to the people but resides in the government”.
He spoke further on the argument that the Conference is important because the 1914 amalgamation was wrongly done without consulting the will of the common Nigerian. He posited that it is practically impossible to be able to truly get all Nigerians to contribute to a conference that is happening in Abuja. According to him, they may not be more than 500, 000 people clamouring for the conference, so it is purely politics as the voice of many Nigerians will not be heard in the whole plan.
He recommended that good integrative leadership is the solution to Nigeria’s problem as only then can the common man be truly represented because a new constitution can only help when the people elected to implement it are truly representing the people.
He also suggested that the power at the center is neutralised through a constitutional conference which he said would have been a better name for the conference.
Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko has described the late activist and PRONACO member Baba Omojola as a committed, bold and resourceful human rights crusader and nationalist.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Eni Akinsola he said,
“Baba Omojola represented the best of the generation of human and political rights activists who never compromised in the face of serial treachery and consistent oppression of the ruling class.
“He was dogged, committed, resourceful and unwavering. His was a life lived in moral decency, material modesty and social and political relevance.”
Mimiko asked the family to be proud of the legacies of their patriarch and be consoled by the memories of a life he said was no doubt committed to the service of the downtrodden.
He thus prayed for the repose of his soul and that God grants the family the courage to bear the loss.
PRONACO had earlier announced the sudden death of its Head of Secretariat and foremost revolutionary teacher and leader, Baba Oluwide Omojola, who suddenly slumped on Saturday, 19 October 2013 in his hotel room in Akure, Ondo State, while preparing to leave for his base in Lagos after making a powerful presentation on behalf of PRONACO in Akure before the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference.
“Baba Omojola who lodged at De Johson hotel, Akure where he suddenly collapsed was immediately rushed to First Mercy Specialist Hospital, Gbogi Road, Akure where he was later certified dead by one Dr. Akinluwa who was prompt in attending to him.”
Spokesperson of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin has reiterated his organization’s support for a national conference only if it will be devoid of the influences of political parties, claiming the political parties as presently constituted will create a diversion at the conference.
Speaking on Sunrise Daily, he reiterated that people need to understand the importance of this conference for the future of Nigeria as a lot of people are mistaking it for the constitutional conferences held in the past.
According to him, they are two different things. While the constitutional conference is political with a sole purpose of drafting a constitution, the national conference is a business of the ethnic nationalities to sit and first agree if they want to continue to live together and then decide under which constitution. He noted that this is the first time it is going to happen in the history of the country and therefore should not be politicized.
He claimed “there is nobody that is in any party who does not have a nationality where he or she comes from. In fact, when the Soviet Union collapsed, everybody went to his state; they didn’t collapse into trade unions or political parties but into their nationalities. Other interest groups can be represented but mainly we need a national conference of ethnic nationalities”.
Odumakin believes Nigeria is on track with the call for national conference claiming that all scepticisms expressed so far by Nigerians have not questioned the need for the conference but the sincerity of the facilitator.
Allaying fears generated by makeup of members of the advisory committee, he says “if you look at the men and women who have been put in this committee, most of them are people who have track record”. He cited examples of the Chairman of the committee, Senator Okurounmu who between 1999 and 2003 as a senator sponsored a bill calling for the national conference.
On the removal of the word “sovereign”, He called on Nigerians not to jump the gun but allow the advisory committee finish their job and present their recommendations. He also stated the suggestions of the Afenifere to the committee on fulfilling their mandate.
A legal practitioner and public affairs analyst, Malachy Ugwumadu on Wednesday commended the Senate president for retracing his steps on the need for the constitution of a national conference.
Ugwumadu said “ Senator David Mark is on record to have made very sensitive comments regarding the convocation of a national conference” adding that “this is on the heels of his admission too, that the country as presently constituted, needs state policing”.
Ugwumadu, who is also at the forefront of those calling for the convocation of a national conference, noted that “the views they toed in the past are no longer working” saying that “we thank him for that”.
He however noted that cynics already believe that “the sovereign national conference has actually started in a different form” saying that “if Boko Haram for instance has as one of its demands, the Islamisation of Nigeria; you will find out that it is in direct contradiction of Section 10 of the constitution.
The Niger Delta, for instance, had issues with resource control and for long no one was listening to them and they had to take up arms. Today we have started hearing amnesty for kidnappers, armed robbers and so on and so forth” he said, insisting that “Nigeria as presently constituted cannot move forward”.
He listed the “consolidation of the culture of impunity” as one of the dividends of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rule in Nigeria noting that “impunity only strives when you do nothing with respect to any transgression and people are emboldened to do more”.
He said the “contradictions that led to the emergence of that organisation as a political party are beginning to resolve themselves one after the other” insisting that “there is an advancement in that style of rascality” citing the fracas that ensued in the National Assembly on Tuesday over the visit of the Baraje-led leadership of the PDP.
He said it is “interesting too that our women have also dramatised capacity in wreaking the same measure of violence’’ advising that she should have “engaged in the force of logic”.
He likened the situation to “debates all over the world, particularly the intervention of the western world on Syria” insisting that there is no link between what is obtainable in the United Kingdom and United States with what is obtainable in Nigeria.
He said the Baraje-led executives of the party could not have visited the National Assembly to make their case without a “prior invitation” insisting that “I don’t think, as a private person, no less a factional leader of the ruling party, can just storm the National Assembly and just take over proceedings in terms of been granted audience”.
He also said legislators should not continue to hide under the cloak of legislative immunity and cause bodily harm to each other.
Despite numerous calls for the nation to conduct a sovereign national conference, a Professor Law; Professor Oyelowo Oyewo has enjoined Nigerians to fully engage in the on-going constitution amendment.
Prof Oyewo made the appeal on Channels TV weekend breakfast programme; Sunrise, where he stated that the sovereign national conference should be our last resort.
There were divergent views as a number of callers on the programme disagreed with the Law professor.
A Professor of Law in the Department of Law, University of Lagos; Prof Oyelowo Oyewo, examines and explains why the series of constitution amendment by the nation since 1979 has not achieved the desires of Nigerians.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday night met with leaders from the South-south at the presidential villa, to discuss how to strengthen the union between the northern and southern parts of the country.
At the meeting, the president and the leaders from the south discussed the issues of violence in the country which has been largely played out in northern Nigeria. However, the grouse of the southern leaders is that the targets have been primarily northern Christians and Southerners
The southern leaders who claim to represent the 17 southern states are pledging their loyalty to the Mr Jonathan administration and their faith in Nigeria’s unity
Their leader Edwin Clark said the southern states are prepared to dialogue with their brothers and counterparts from the north to ensure that the violence is checked.
Mr Clark, who called for the convening of a national conference, also argues that the National Assembly alone cannot craft a constitution that will be agreeable to all constituent parts the nation.
He said: “We are not talking about a Sovereign National Conference; we are talking about a national conference. A conference whereby Nigerians will meet to discuss the basis of unity in this country and also to look into our constitution and decide whether it is the best instrument we have for this country.
“We believe that the National Assembly cannot do it alone. We believe that if there is a National Conference which is constituted by representatives from over 250 ethnic nationalities in this country, they will be able to produce a document to form the basis of their unity.”
The former Information Minister said that the recommendations of the national conference would then be forwarded to the National Assembly.
The leader of the Niger-Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Alhaji Asari Dokubo has advised the federal government to ensure the establishment of state police in order to curtail the activities of the fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram.
Addressing a news conference on the state of the nation in Abuja, Alhaji Dokubo said the federal government can overcome the security challenges being posed by the group if President Jonathan asserts his authority as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He also called for a Sovereign National Conference to allow the various ethnic groups in the country dialogue in order to ensure a lasting and enduring peace for Nigeria.