The President also told his critics that he needed not “carry cane to flog Nigerians to show that we are determined” on the confab. He stated that his government came up with the initiative of a national dialogue to ensure that discussion about the future of the country must have a direction.
His words: “When you listen to radio and read in the papers and you see sometimes even our elders that are supposed to give us leadership quarrelling over nothing, sometimes even insulting themselves and even making provocative statements that will sometimes instigate one group against the other.
“We decided that we cannot continue that way; the talking must have a direction. What has been happening on the pages of the newspapers are discussions that have no direction.
“We want a country that will have a direction, so the discussions must have a direction, the discussion must lead Nigeria to where we want to be, not a divided Nigeria, not a Nigeria that is sown on hate, not a Nigeria that will be based on acrimony, ethnicity and tribal sentiments in the way we conduct ourselves,” Jonathan said.
The President, however, lamented that in spite of the good intention of his administration to conduct the national conference to discuss how the country would move forward; there was still opposition to the initiative.
He noted that “some people are still instigating others that the president is doing this, the government does not have the capacity to do that. We are totally committed to do what is right. We don’t need to carry cane to flog Nigerians to show that we are determined.”
The President assured that the recommendations of the planned national conference would be passed to the National Assembly for deliberation, ratification and possible inclusion in the process of amendment of the constitution.
He explained that the national conference was critical and coming at the right time when the National Assembly was thinking of amending the constitution for the benefit of the country. Jonathan, however, assured “that government is totally committed to doing what is right.”
The President further reassured that his administration would implement the reports of previous committees set up by government on national dialogue.
He said some of the reports had already been submitted to the National Assembly for further considerations. His words: “Even the Justice Uwais’s committee that was set up, that report was passed on to the National Assembly in 2010. We brought (Justice Alfa) Belgore and others and I said in 2005, Nigerians discussed some things; why don’t we begin to implement some of them.
“So, we need to come up with some bills in those areas we have agreed and we will push them to the National Assembly. “Of course, some of those bills have not come out from the National Assembly, but we believe that even in the constitution amendment that is going on, some will be useful.”
Jonathan maintained that Nigerians must impress it on members of the national and state assemblies to work together to ensure that the result of the national conference were properly enshrined in the constitution in order to hand over a better nation to posterity.
He thanked God that in spite of the challenges facing the country, the Muslims were able to celebrate the Eid-El-Kabir. He urged Nigerians to inculcate in their children the virtues that would encourage unity in the country to ensure that the coming generations lived in peace. “We must build a Nigeria that wherever you go, you call the next person your own brother or sister.
A Nigeria that our young children who will become adult will say that I am proud to be a Nigerian, not a Nigeria that people will kill them probably because they don’t recognise them.
“The killing has been going on in some parts of the country; it has nothing to do with religion and ethnicity. That is why I asked those who killed those 50 students if they even bothered about their religion or ethnicity? “It has nothing to do with religion, it has nothing to do with ethnicity, it is because the world generally is experiencing terrorism.”
Earlier, Sambo had commended the efforts of the President in ensuring political stability in the country, particularly in the conduct of elections. According to him, the national conference initiated by the President was also commendable, saying it would promote peace and the unity of the country. Sambo noted that the transformation agenda of the Jonathan-led administration was yielding positive results, bringing about a better country.
The Vice-President and the Minister of the FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide, later presented Sallah card to the President. Present at the Sallah homage were the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim; the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ahmadu Ali; the Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar and the National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Metropolitan Head of Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onayeikan.
Meanwhile, the Convener of Save Nigeria Group, SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare; constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) and the President of Campaign for Democracy, CD, and Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin have thrown their weight behind the move for a national conference as proposed by the President.
Speaking at the Centre for Change maiden lecture in Lagos yesterday, the trio also took a swipe at those kicking against the national conference and, therefore, urged Nigerians to seize the opportunity of the dialogue to rebuild and restructure the country.
Bakare, who is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of Centre for Change, noted that the rebuilding process of the nation must visit the foundation of the country and examine how Nigeria’s founding fathers sowed the seeds for the woes that have plagued the nation from the late pre-independence era till date. He, therefore, urged Nigerians to seize the opportunity to reason together and engage in sincere talk.
“The founding fathers of our country laid the foundation of the Nigerian state. Through agitations, conflicts, dialogues, negotiations and concessions, these statesmen designed the structural, constitutional, institutional and governmental blueprint that became the foundation upon which the nation was built.
“Through visionary and selfless leadership, astute organisation and peopledriven service that produced competitive regional development, the founding fathers became the pillars upon which the nation rested. But 53 years later, these frameworks are nothing but rubble.
“Right from the days of our founding fathers, the gangrene of corruption began to infest the polity and sectional interests tore the fabrics of nationhood. The pillars of democratic governance were demolished by the military and the cornerstone of our collective existence was shaken by forces of balkanisation.
Years later, having tottered through decades of military subjugation and eventual civil rule, the nation still lies in dilapidation with security blown away by winds of violence, with poverty plaguing the land, and lives and property becoming prey to banditry, with justice cast a far off and integrity becoming a stranger in the land while impunity and corruption remain comfortably seated in high places. “Any rebuilding process must visit the very foundation.
We must now get set to rebuild and restore; we must retrieve what is remaining of the pillars of our founding fathers and we must restructure and reconstruct; we must rebuild from wall to wall, from gate to gate; from community to community; from city to city; and from region to region until the whole nation is restored to its former and even greater glory.
“That is why we must seize every given opportunity to reason together and sincerely talk. Above all we must walk the talk. Not to do so may be suicidal for our nation. God forbid!” In his address, Prof. Itse Sagay, the chairman of the occasion, said that national conference was necessary to address the political and structural problems in Nigeria.
He, therefore, urged stakeholders and Nigerians to participate actively in the national conference so that people could have a Nigeria that had future.
Sagay also derided those describing the national conference as diversionary, as unfocused people in the society, saying that the most important life-saver for the country and her posterity was the dialogue as proposed by President Jonathan.
“The conference is the establishment for the future of this country. If you are going for any other thing like the 2015 elections, that is irrelevant when you compare it to the future of the country as typified by the conference.
Personally, I won’t mind sacrificing the 2015 election in order to have a successful National Conference that is more important. “My attitude is that we should ignore the supposed motive of the President who has set it up.
We should all go with our motives and ensure that our motives are the ones implemented which is to have a new constitution which reflects a new federalism and bring it into being by referendum.
Let us impact and bring our own agenda. Nigerians must participate actively, firmly and positively.” Okei-Odumakin, who is the Convener of the Centre for Change, said there should be no-go areas during the conference, noting that the decision of the conference must not be tinkered with without being subjected to public referendum.
“The proposed National Conference by President Jonathan’s administration must not end the way other previous conferences was ended without any meaningful things coming out of the conference; thereby amounting to waste of time and resources,” the CD boss advised.
Source: Radio Biafra.