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Posts tagged ‘Northern Elders Forum’

We are seeing hell – Borno Elders.


 

The Bornu Elders, Monday gave a graphic details of how life in Borno and the entire north east has been reduced to hell by the activities insurgents.

Addressing a gathering of Northern Elders Forum in Kano, Zanna Hassan Boguma who delivered a goodwill message on behalf of Borno Elders Forum declared that the entire region is now engaged in full time war from enemy within.

Boguma stated that “we have been seeing hell, our people are constantly decimated, our towns and villages razed, properties destroyed, schools and places of worship burnt, even innocent travelers were not spared” .

The elder stateman said that from the inceasant attack that the axis had witnessed in the last weeks was a confirmation of how vulnerable the entire region is.
He disclosed that the region has been turn in to a war zone with attendant humanitarian crisis, stressing that this is the time the whole country should mobilized to stop the carnage.

Boguma who doubted the intention of the perpetrators of this crime against humanity in the region was quick to add that “much as we know, the whole matter has nothing to do with claimed intention of a section imposing their will on the others, or issues of sharia or making the country ungovernable for the President or a religious war as they want to look at it”.

He however accused the Federal Government of lacking the political will to address the crisis, pointing out that Borno Elders is surprised at the grave yard silence of Government and its inability to implement several report on the insurgency turned in by expert engaged to do so by the same Government.

The Borno Elders noted that the solution to the crisis does not lie with the PDP or APC, maintaining that the situation at hand transcend politics and urged the entire Country to identify with them at the moment of need.

This catastrophe which has befallen us should be the concern of all Northerners irrespective of tribe, region, or creed. Those of you who are residing far away shold know that other citizens needed your sympathy and attention”.

Boguma posited that “until those who were namd as supporters, financiers, and alliesto the Boko Haram were brought to justice, until the political Boko Haram were apprehended and prosecuted, until the operations to contain this madness is sincerely handled, lives of our innocent villagers will continued to be sacrificed”.

By AbdulSalam Muhammad

Source: Radio Biafra.

Nigeria National Conference: It Is Time To Forge Ahead – By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje.


By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje

Since the announcement of the proposed convocation of a national conference by President Jonathan Ebele Good luck there has been mixed bag of reactions and expectations in the minds of Nigeria from all divides. Nonetheless, the conference should be seen as a strategic move to a robust people – driven democracy parley. Additionally, it should be noted that national conferences all over the world are broadly inclusive forums for the renegotiation of contentious state-people relationships and Nigeria should not be an exception in its quest to discuss its future based on its political antecedents particularly on the account of the reality that confront it as a nation today.

National conference are generally peaceful and in my view, is intended to launch national reconciliation and rebirth efforts or processes that will help to stimulate the intense political activism for a nation in search a true federal state devoid frustration and suspicion from all groups and interest.

Indeed participants at National Conferences or dialogue usually claim sweeping sovereign powers to rewrite constitutions and election laws in order to promote political pluralism and guarantee better protection of human rights and political freedoms. Although, national conferences in Nigeria in the past might have seemed frenzied or unending, but as an ordinary Nigerians, we should take advantage of this initiative as rare opportunities for us to re – define our own rules of political engagement and to take full ownership of our political futures.

This article looks at some of the fundamental issues that the national conference should discuss amongst others, governments should move away from the extremely centralized and expensive presidential and gubernatorial systems inherited from the 1979 Nigeria Constitution to more balanced semi-presidential or semi-parliamentary systems that should institutionalize the position of prime minister and provide for the holder of that office to be backed by a legislative majority. This proposed arrangement should also include any opposition parties, civil society, market women and community associations to be elected on yearly basis.  In addition, this will close the existing gaps between the democratic aspirations of Nigerian citizens and the maneuvers by incumbent political leaders to preserve their stay in power.

Nigeria’s political experience over the last five decades or so has been characterised by lack of genuine democratization. Genuine democratization in my view should entail a deliberate broadening of the political space, an expansion of opportunities for political participation and mobilization, and the establishment of credible processes and institutions that allow for the change or renewal of political leadership through people driven elections from communities’ representatives on part- time basis. This would also allow citizens to enjoy greater rights and freedoms. Furthermore, Nigeria’s constitution should be a direct result of the government deliberately pursuing a policy of ethnic or regional democracy. Ethnicity has always serves as the foundation for Nigeria’s political parties since independence.

In addition to the national government, there should be regional states whose borders trace ethnic lines for national development aspiration purposes.
Admittedly, over the last twenty years or so, myriad nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have played a vital role in promoting political participation and good governance in Nigeria particularly at the grass root levels. National associations or associations for human rights, associations of retired jurists, and politically activist bar associations, with independent journalists and other civil society groups would act as crucial watchdogs within the new structures to safeguard rights and freedoms and to foster further democratization and development. Increasingly, civil society and community associations should become an accurate barometer for the people and political leaders.

Community organizations should find the space to conduct advocacy activities for their respective communities, develop better channels of communication with the executive and legislative branches of government at the local, state and national, and provide input into the governance process based on the community development aspirations and needs.

The judiciary to very large extent has played a unique role as an independent arbiter for political issues in Nigeria. The Supreme Court in particular tended to hold final jurisdiction over administrative, criminal, constitutional, civil, and commercial matters. However there is need to create constitutional and peoples courts to handle litigation pertaining to the constitutionality of laws or acts of government. The proposed courts should assume jurisdiction over election-related disputes and the conditions of eligibility for public office. The eligibility criteria to public office should be at the centre of the debate in the conference.

Elected officials, party leaders, and, in many cases, ordinary citizens of voting age also may petition constitutional courts. Allowing citizens access to institutions that can pass judgment on the executive branch acts or omissions is likely to curb flagrant abuses of state resources and power. The conference should also introduce another important level of oversight regarding budget and expenditure and state – community relations mechanism to enhance accountability and community development.

Advocacy for a constitutional provision and requirement calling for 85 percent of its members to be elected by their peers and associations throughout the country and by extension, at the end of the dialogue, should be made  as constitutional mandate for representation in parliament from local, state  then to the national levels of governance.

Furthermore, the  electoral systems should moved away from closed party and Godfather structure to other forms of proportional representation or to multi-member constituencies, elected representatives must live and resides with the people they wish to represent, so that they can more responsive and accountable to their constituent needs and should push for loosened relationships to party hierarchies and supremacy. These developments in my view would empower communities to quarterly legislative parley and meetings to initiate hearings, legislative inquiries, budget debates, and motions to censure governmental policies and inactions that would not be beneficial to the people or constituents. Communities – legislative and budget debates will help to tone down executive branch bills and the reckless spending by governments and its agencies.

Also, the recalcitrant and bogus bureaucracies must also be renegotiated to favour ordinary citizens. The civil service remains in my opinion, conservative and heavily indebted to the patronage and rent – seeking system that encourages profligacy and contract through over invoicing. This is especially evident in the jurisdictional conflicts that have emerged between agencies and ministries, and in the reluctance of presidential and gubernatorial appointees and auxiliaries, such as governors and their cronies to respect the rule of law and due process in the management of the people resources.  The challenge lies in the national conference persuading the bureaucratic elites to embrace people’s aspirations and to tie their performance with community driven projects.

Finally, it is instructive to note that Ethiopia in 1991 conducted a national conference and came out with far reaching a peoples constitution in 1994 with a clause that creates a two-tiered federal structure, which, at least in principle, emphasized ethnic groups’ rights and the right to self-determination which are necessary ingredient for a stable democracy and on the other hand, Nigeria should not also be in a hurry forget the case of  the former Yugoslavia in Europe with similar historical trajectories like us disintegrated in  1992 – 1999 respectively.

Therefore, the national conference should facilitate a deep-rooted and inclusive democracy where all minorities are protected. Irrespective of the outcome, a referendum that would provide for a thriving and inclusive local democracy is necessary to secure the interests of all local peoples and not only the political elites and representatives of the people at the discourse.

Orovwuje, Founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

 

Help Wanted: Nigerian President For 2015 – By Bayo Oluwasanmi.


By Bayo Oluwasanmi

The race for the presidency is shaping up. In the right-place-right-time theory of politics, the moment matters. It’s scary to visualize what the political landscape will look like in 2015. For sure, there will be events that will try our souls between now and then.

With the disappearing act of President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigerians are looking for the next strongest leader to take over. Nigerians are fed up with the leadership of Mr. Jonathan. In the absence of a leader, Nigerians are like sheep without a shepherd and we yearn for a leader. Like any other group of people, we focus on our immediate needs, we struggle with delayed gratification, we feel insecure and begin to worry without abundant signs of hope, and we always ask: what has the leader done for us lately?

Leadership, like life, is the sum total of the decisions we make. Every decision has consequences. The president decides how he’ll respond to issues, decides on the size of the budget, decides on whom to hire, and decides what values and priorities are worth fighting for, and most importantly, decides what will be his legacy.

It is evident that the three-year presidency of Mr. Jonathan portrays him as a leader who lacks commitment, suffers from a scattered focus, looks for excuses, forgets the big picture, go public with private thoughts, behaves inconsistently, creates poor relationships, and avoids change.

For 2015, we want a leader who will separate himself regularly from the crowd. A leader who will pursue truth over popularity, a leader who is willing to take risks, who is ready to be watched by the public even though it feels intimidating to be watched and scrutinized.

We want a leader with character, a leadership with competence – ability to get the job done and leadership that produces results. We want a leadership with conviction – a leadership that has backbone, someone who will always stand for what is right. Tomorrow’s production begins with today’s preparation. We need a leader that will solve problems because the fastest way to gain leadership is to solve problems.

The cost and expectations of leadership are high and expensive. The failure of a leadership usually results in consequences far more greater than the fall of a non-leader. We want a leader that will live at a standard higher than others. A leader that cares for the interest of the poor, who lives with integrity and keeps his word. We want a leader that manages time and the nation’s resources well.

Nigerians want a leader who is ready to listen to the people, who practices patience of silence and submission. He must be faithful and committed as a trustworthy partner of the people. We want a leader with charisma, a man who enjoys a sense of giftedness.

Example is the most important tool a leader possesses. People do what people see. We need a leader that will set example. “Example is not the main thing influencing others,” says Albert Schweitzer, “it is the only thing.”

I remember an incident of leadership by example that took place when I was in high school. Our principal – a strict disciplinarian – had warned us several times to stop dumping refuse at a particular spot near the hostel. We refused to use the new pit dug for that purpose because it was a bit far from the hostel. Over time, the refuse pit had become a dunghill. Well, one day after the morning assembly, in his characteristic style of leadership by example, our principal gave the marching order: “Follow me.” We all lined up behind him. He headed straight to the dunghill. Without a word, he bent down and with his two hands grabbed his own piece of the dirt. Without any hesitation, mumbling, or grumbling, we all snatched our share of the mess. Within few minutes, the whole mess was gone. End of story!

By now, Nigerians are sick of scheming leaders who will do anything for the sake of power. Our political history shows that our leadership revolves around Machiavellian leadership style based on amorality, deception, power, ego, and personal advantage. By contrast, the leadership style required for 2015 should be based on morality, truthfulness, servanthood, humility, and meeting the needs of our people. It should be a leadership based on self-giving and not self-preservation.

We need a leader who projects confidence, strength, hope, optimism, and sincerity who can always inspire Nigerians through personal power in seemingly hopeless situations. In the darkest days of the Second World War in 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the parliament: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” he said. “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering,” he assured the Brits.

Despite Churchill’s depressing words, it was the realistic assessment of the crisis faced by Britain. Indeed, as it turned out, those words lifted the morale and ignited the fighting spirit of the British people. With defiant courage, Churchill declared: “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.” This is the type of president Nigeria needs. We don’t need a skilled manipulator with superficial charm without the experience, ability, values, and character that make an authentic leader as president.

In a nutshell, the next president of Nigeria must be a leader with a sense of “I am eager” meaning a sense of passion and urgency about reaching Nigerians and meeting their needs, a sense of “I am obligated” that is, a feeling that he cannot do anything else vocationally, and a sense of “I am not ashamed” by way of conviction to do what others may think illogical.

So, let the race begin!

byolu@aol.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

We’ll not support autonomy for ethnic nationalities at confab — ACF.


The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has said that the North would not  support autonomy for ethnic nationalities during the proposed National  Conference in the country.

ACF, however, expressed support for devolution of power from the centre  to the states in such a way that ”the centre is strong enough to keep  the country one, but, not too strong as to push the country towards a  unitary system.”

The National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani made this known in a statement in Kaduna, yesterday.
Sani was reacting to reports that the Yoruba would push for ”ethnic autonomy” during the conference.

The statement read: ”We have read the reports that the Yoruba will push  for some form of ethnic autonomy during the coming National Conference  that is reminiscent of con-federal arrangement.
“As we have repeatedly made clear, ACF did not canvass for the Conference.

”This is because of the forum’s belief that the problems of Nigeria lie  on the collapse of national ideals, fall in moral values, collapse in  social contract and fall in sense of what is right and what is wrong.
There is no problem in the structure of the country in the constitution  and in the form of government or in the type in ethnic nationalism that  promotes cleavages of the country.

”But since some sections of the country believe that coming together in  the conference is capable of furthering the cause of a united Nigeria  when issues of national importance or  real issues of real concern to  Nigerians are discussed; we have said, so be it.

”Surely, if such issues are raised in the conference, delegates from the  North will not lack what to say. It must be noted that there is no  system of true federalism that is accepted universally. And that is why  no two federal systems are clones of each other.

”This is because, a federal system has a lot to do with the  circumstances of its emergence. For examples, the 13 American Colonies  came together to form USA while in Nigeria, the national government  formed the federating units.

Source: Radio Biafra.

The National Conference; Opportunity Or Distraction? A Program Of Action By Jaye Gaskia.


By Jaye Gaskia

Since I wrote the piece of the National Conference and the January Uprising, and particularly since the press briefing of which I was a key part announcing the intention for a robust engagement with the National Conference process while welcoming it as an opportunity, a lot of views have been expressed both for and against the National Conference, and any form of engagement with it as a process.

While I do not intend to enter into any direct debate with any one single critic and or critique of engagement in this piece, I however intend to provide some more clarity on my position, and on the positioning of others with whom we made the declaration of engagement.

So I will here engage with the general trend of the body of critique, not with individual critics! The first issue for me is that of whether this particular National Conference process is a distraction or is an opportunity as some of believe and assert. This is the primary issue for me, because it goes to the heart of the debate. It is a strategic issue at least for those who wish to engage in a frank but also genuine debate, and not for those who think they have particular axes to grind with particular individuals.

The first thing to state very clearly is that it is both a distraction as well as an opportunity. How is this so? For the presidency for instance, it is an attempt to distract popular attention from a failing and failed presidency, as well as from the problems and rapidly declining fortunes of the once very dominant ruling party. But it also represents an opportunity to reclaim some popular support and good will, by seeming acceding to the long standing demands of the popular movements.

For ordinary Nigerians, the ordinary citizens, and their organisations, who since the January Uprising of 2012 have achieved an altered balance of class forces, not yet completely in their favour, but so much so that it can at least no longer be business as usual for some time to come; the National Conference becomes a distraction if we stand aloof from it, and allow that space to be occupied and dominated exclusively by the representatives of the factitious light fingered ruling class, whether they go by the appellation of ‘ConservaThieves’ or ‘ProgressThieves’.

It becomes an opportunity however if these organised popular forces intrude on this space, seize it, and impose their demands and their aspirations on the National Conference as a process.

Furthermore, let there be no doubt about it; the National Conference is not a gift from a benevolent ruling class or presidency, neither was it willingly given; it is a concession wrested from the hands of a ruling class that is now witnessing an internal crisis of existential proportions, a ruling class whose antagonistic competitive drive towards treasury looting and primitive accumulation of wealth is now precipitating an implosion.

And because this concession was wrested out on the eve of a general election is actually much more an indication of the weakness of the ruling class, than of its strength. It is a measure of its internal crisis.

The treasury looting ruling class is in the throes of self immolation, a crisis that is shifting the balance of power within the ruling class, while also generally temporarily accelerating the general weakness of the class rule.

It is because of all of these reasons and factors that the National Conference represents an opportunity, rather than a distraction.

Now let us also very quickly take on the issue of a Sovereign National Conference; or the Sovereignty of this particular National Conference. It is important to state clearly that this is not a sovereign national conference, which is what we have always demanded for. Nevertheless, we have always been very clear too that no regime that is still in power convenes a Conference or assembly whose authority is going to be sovereign, and which therefore constitutes a new centre of power, and alternative power to the regime. We have always insisted that a Sovereign National Conference can only be convened by a victorious uprising, and it is in this sense that we have always insisted that the demand for a Sovereign National Conference is an insurrectionary demand, a legitimate demand, which can only be actualised by mass movement which is at the head of an uprising that is poised to take power.

Nevertheless, let us also take a quick look at history, the history of national and or similar conferences. Every National Conference that has eventually declared itself sovereign were called by weakening and weakened regimes, who were making concessions to the mass movement. And as the crisis in society, within, and between the main classes deepened in the course of the conference deliberations, the balance of power between the social forces became altered enough for the conference to declare its sovereignty, and go ahead to assert its autonomy from the government of the day.

This was the case with the National Conferences in Benin Republic, as well as in DRC, formerly  Zaire – which by the way had to be dispersed by the force of arms.

Our contention is that the balance of power between contending social forces was significantly altered by the January Uprising; and that is why we have witnessed heightened levels of popular awareness and increased popular consciousness, and spikes in acts of protests and successful workers’ strikes since then.

This altered balance of power within and between contending social forces manifests in a weakened presidency and declining ruling party, the rise of an opposition that is still weak with respect to its internal structures and cohesion; the rise in confidence levels of ordinary citizens and workers in challenging the excesses of the system; and the general atmosphere of popular disaffection and dissent.

It is this altered balance of power that renders this National Conference an opportunity for a Robust, Sceptical, and Critical engagement with the process in order to influence its outcome while also ensuring that we build a mass movement that is sufficiently strong enough to run with the popular issues that will be raised at the conference, and that will be strong enough to dictate the agenda for the 2015 General Election.

So what is our program of action to engage with the National Conference: Raise the banner of all our historic popular demands on the floor of the conference; contest every anti-people issue with the ruling class; insist on a Social Charter that will be based on a comprehensive listing of the entire body of Human Rights; civil, political, economic, and socio-cultural, in the same chapter of the constitution; enforceability of every human right.

This is our minimum transitional demand to the conference; in addition to which we add the nonnegotiable requirement that the outcome of the conference can be validated only through a general referendum of eligible Nigerian citizens, who are registered to vote in any normal general election.

The fact that the regime has left the decision on how to deal with the outcome of conference to  the conference itself, is also a clear indication of the relative weakness of the regime, and a clear indication of the level of concessions that are being, and that can be, wrested from this regime and the ruling class.

Let there be no doubts about it, all fractions of the ruling class, including the APC will eventually take part in this National Conference, because they understand that no political space can be left uncontested. Part of our goal is to ensure that this time around when Nigeria is being discussed, unlike at all the previous times since the 1914 amalgamation, ordinary Nigerians will be part of these discussions, not just merely the objects of the discussions.

This is our program of action. We challenge those critical of our engagement to present their own alternative program of action.

Finally it is preposterous and indeed smirks of insincerity to promote and actively engage with the APC, the current Labour Party or APGA who are mere appendages of the presidency and the rump PDP; while insisting that a robust, critical, and skeptical engagement with the National Conference amounts to some sort of betrayal. The National Conference is a contested space, one that will be contested not just by political parties and politicians, but also by citizens’ organisations and their activist leaderships.

Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & [DPSR]protesttopower; Interact with me on FaceBook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters 

Sunday Musings: And What Shall We Discuss At The National Conference, Where, And For How Long? By Mobolaji E. Aluko.


By Mobolaji E. Aluko
My People: When the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue (PACND) submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan in December 2013, in addition to suggesting modalities for the National Conference itself, it recommended thirty-eight main topics (sub-divided into seventy-eight sub-topics).Now in accepting (in January 2014) and then beginning to act upon the PACND’s report, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) specifically “accepted” only one non-topic – indivisibility of Nigeria – which “No-Go Area”  (in Nigerian parlance) I have now taken the liberty of actually making the thirty-ninth topic (See Table 2 below).

One presumes that the NC will discuss all the topics – and possibly more that are thrown up during the discussions.  However, the burning questions to me at this time when I read all of the suggested topics are:

(1) is the NC going to be a mere talk-shop – an EVENT in a hotel in Abuja  – to end in a report that might or might not see the light of day? or

(2) a serious PROCESS across the nation, at various venues,  sometimes week-days, sometimes week-ends, that will eventually end up in a Popular Constitution approved by a Referendum; and

(3) will three months (the recommended length of time for the NC), six months (my recommended period) or even twelve months be enough to discuss all-and-sundry topics?

Finally:

(4)  if it is an Abuja hotel event, which employed persons (self- or otherwise employed) will be able to devote three months of his or her time to this event – or is this an event planned for the IDLE RICH, and/or the un-employed, and/or the un-employable?

These questions are rhetorical.  Assuming therefore that the National Conference being proposed is a SERIOUS EVENT that will lead to a Popular Constitution within a period of time that serious-minded (and otherwise busy) persons can participate in within a reasonable period of time – and episodically go off to engage their constituencies as well as their primary jobs – I have outlined in Table 1, an 18-block, 38-topic list of suggested discussion topics culled from PACND’s list.  It is not that the other topics that I have cut out are not important, but they can be considered AOB – Any Other Business – and can be discussed TIME- PERMITTING.

Let the National Conference begin….after the delegates are chosen somehow, which is a separate challenge.

And there you have it.   Your thoughts are welcome.

Bolaji Aluko

 

 

————— TABLE 1:  Suggested Priority Topics to be Discussed (in order of importance) – Aluko suggestions

 

Block Priority Topic for Discussion
1 1 (No)Go Area: (in)Divisibility/Dissolution/Disunity of Nigeria
  2 Definition of Federating Units: States or Geo-Political Zones
2 3 Political Federalism
  4 Fiscal Federalism
3 5 Presidential system
  6 Parliamentary system
4 7 Choice between Uni-cameral or Bi-cameral legislature
  8 Choice between full-time or part-time legislature.
5 9 Fundamental human rights
  10 Justiciability of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy
6 11 Diversification of the economy
  12 Oil and other Mineral Resources Management  (Resource Control)
  13 Poverty and wealth creation
7 14 Tenure of Public officials: President, Governors, etc
  15 Immunity of political office holders
8 16 Local (State) Policing
  17 Security Agencies: Review and re-design of national security apparatus
9 18 Fighting corruption and anti-corruption agencies — ICPC, EFCC
10 19 National Census Policy
  20 National Electoral System (INEC, SIEC, etc.)
  21 Federal Character
11 22 Review of judicial institutions
  23 Religion, Secularism and the Secularity of the Nigerian State
  24 Sharia and Customary legal system
12 25 Land use Act
  26 Citizenship/indigenes — Settlers dichotomy
  27 Boundary adjustment
  28 State Creation and Merger of States
13 29 National Education Policy
  30 National Science and Technology Education Policy
  31 National Research and Development Policy
  32 National Health Policy
14 33 National Defence Policy
15 34 Gender,  Youth and Vulnerable  Citizens issues
  35 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)
16 36 Role of Traditional Rulers and Institution in governance
17 37 Administrative/Legislative Structures for FCT, Abuja (and Lagos? Calabar?)
18 38 Languages and Language Policy

 

 

 

Table 2: Committee-recommended Specified Items For Inclusion on the Agenda of the National Conference

 

Main Section Sub-

Section

Topic for Discussion
1   Political Restructuring of the country:
  1 a. Political Federalism
  2 b. Fiscal Federalism,
  3 c. Definition of Federating Units: States or Geo-Political Zones
2   Forms of Democratic Governance:
  4 a. Presidential system.               
  5 b. Parliamentary system;
  6 c. Choice between Uni-cameral or Bi-cameral legislature;
  7 d. Choice between full-time or part-time legislature.
3   Good Governance;
  8 a. Cost of governance;
  9 b. Corruption and National Development;
  10 c. Fighting corruption and anti-corruption agencies — ICPC, EFCC;
  11 d. Immunity of political office holders;
  12 e. Citizenship/indigenes — Settlers dichotomy;
  13 f. Justiciability of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy;
4   Judicature:
  14 a. Fundamental human rights;
  15 b. Impunity of judicial officers;
  16 c. Review of judicial institutions;
  17 d. Sharia and Customary legal system;
  18 d. Delays in the administration of justice.
5   Democratization
  19 a. Deepening democracy;
  20 b. De-militarization of national psyche,
  21 c. Democratic culture and orientation;
  22 d. Mechanisms for a more inclusive participatory democracy.
6 23 Political parties, God-fatherism and the challenges of internal Democracy:
7   National Security and Security Challenges:
  24 a Security Agencies: Review and re-design of national security apparatus,
  25 b Local Policing,
  26 c Other security agencies.
8 27 State Creation and Merger of States
9   Education:
  28 a. Investment in education;
  29 b. Decentralisation and National Education policy;
  30 c. Return of Missionary and Private schools to original owners;
  31 d. Institutionalizing Tsangaya/Almajiri education system
  32 e. Nomadic Education.
10   Health
  33 a. Health Policy
  34 b. Investment in Health
  35 c. Healthcare Delivery
11   Science, Technology and Development:
  36 a. Science and Technology Education;
  37 b. Technological Adaptations and the National Economy;
  38 c .Research and Development;
  39 d. Promotion and Improvement of indigenous Technological innovations;
12 40 Restoring the National Ethics, Morals and Core Values
13 41 Religion, Secularism and the Secularity of the Nigerian State
14   Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development
  42 a. Decentralisation of National Agricultural Policy;
  43 b. Grazing Reserves and Cattle Routes Demarcation
15   The Environment
  44 a. Environmental Degradation – flooding, soil erosion, oil spillage and desertification;
  45 b. Climate change.
16   Defence
  46 a. Nigeria’s defence policy and posture at home and abroad;
  47 b.The Nigerian Armed forces and multi-lingual challenges;
  48 c. Nigeria and International peace-keeping operations.
17 49 Tenure of Public officials: President, Governors, etc
18 50 The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the challenges of conducting free and fair elections.
19 51 Population and Credible National Census;
20 52 Land use Act;
21 53 Role of Traditional Rulers and Institution in governance at national and local levels;
22   The Economy:
  54 a. Poverty and wealth creation;
  55 b. Productivity;
  56 c. Diversification of the economy;
  57 d. Industries and Industrialisation
23 58 Oil and other Mineral Resources Management, Exploration and Sharing mechanism;
24 59 Revenue Generation and Mobilization
25 60 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC);
26 61 Gender issues;
27 62 Youth Unemployment and Development issue;
28 63 Physically Challenged Persons and National Development;
29 64 Investment in Sports
30 65 Boundary adjustment;
31 66 National inland waterways issues;
32 67 Elective Mayorality Administrative/Legislative Structures for FCT, Abuja
33 68 Special status for Lagos;
34 69 Unsettled issues of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970);
35 70 Revising Bakassi;
36 71 Languages and Language Policy;
37 72 Pension Matters and Rights of Senior Citizens;
38 73 Federal Character
39 74 (No)Go Area: (in)Divisibility/Dissolution/Disunity of Nigeria

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

2015 Intrigues that split North.


Tanko-Yakasai2

More facts have now emerged on how the Second Republic Political Adviser, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, led some northern elders to form a parallel body within the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF).

The emergence of Yakasai-led Northern Elders Council, Sunday Sun gathered, might not be unconnected with the drama that played out during the last meeting of Northern Elders Forum held in Kaduna on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 under the leadership of Ambassador Yusuf Sule Maitama. The NEF had written to the Northern Traditional Council for a joint meeting to discuss the state of insecurity, unemployment and poverty in the country, and the north in particular.

The letter dated December 2, 2013 was written by the Chairman of the Elders’ Forum, Ambassador Maitama, and it was entitled, Request for the Gracious Approval of His Royal Eminence to Hold a Joint Meeting of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and the Council of Northern Traditional Rulers.

However, a sharp disagreement ensued when a top security Chief represented by General Sarki Yaki Bello (Retd), Governors of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, his Niger State counterpart, Muazu Aliyu Babangida, represented by his deputy, Ahmed Musa Ibeto, and Kaduna State’s Mukhtar Ramalan Yero stormed the venue of the meeting without a formal invitation.

Consequently, some officials of the elders’ forum requested that the uninvited guests be walked out of the meeting, but some elders opposed the motion, insisting that the three governors and the representative of the security chief should be allowed to attend the meeting. While some members of the elders’ forum felt that the embarrassment meted out to the concerned officials was unwarranted, those on the other side of the fence saw their intrusion as an insult to the group. After a prolonged disagreement, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, was said to have politely walked the representative of the security Chief and the three governors out of the meeting on the insistence of the elders before Maitama was given the go-ahead to read the letter to the audience.
Sunday Sun gathered that the formation of NEC as a parallel body to the NEF was the fallout of the drama that ensued during the meeting. Deputy leader of the NEF, Dr. Paul Unongo, an elder statesman from Benue State, told Sunday Sun that the invasion of the meeting by the security chief’s emissary and the governors was most insulting to the elders because they came as uninvited guests. “When we organized the meeting based on the letter we had written to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar , we decided to come to Kaduna. But on arrival, we saw people we didn’t invite. We saw government delegations and governors.

And strangely, they are governors from mainly one political party. We also saw some security personnel. We suspected that this was a very unusual development. Why the huge presence of government, a political party and security men? We felt that this was a discussion between fathers and children. So we felt it was funny,” Unongo said. The Northern Elders’ Forum has consistently maintained that President Goodluck Jonathan should not seek re-election in 2015 since he refused to obey the zoning arrangement for the presidency. They also blame the pervasive poverty and general insecurity in the country on the present administration.

Unongo, a member of the PDP, further stressed that any attempt by the President to return to power would amount to an abomination, threatening to join All Progressives Congress (APC) for the sole aim of ensuring the defeat of PDP and President Jonathan in the coming polls.
“What is happening now is an abomination. Why should we keep on extending tenure? It has destroyed the much needed harmony. Nigeria is bigger than any one of us. And, of course, it is not as if President Jonathan is doing anything fantastic or an incredible thing that nobody else can do. So, he wants us to go to sleep and allow him to do another four years with all the problems, all the agitations, insecurity, cry of marginalization in the country? It is time for the north to produce the next President,” he insisted.

On its part, the NEC has affirmed its total support for the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo in the next presidential race. Yakasai, while inaugurating the NEC last week, pointed out that recent statements on national issues by elder statesmen in the country were too inciting, adding that their responsibilities was to make peace and ensure the progress of leaders rather than to tear the people and the country apart.

He said it was based on the need to make peace in the country that the new group emerged. According to him, the aim of establishing NEC is to protect the socio-economic and political interests of the north as well as the corporate existence and stability of Nigeria as a whole.
Yakasai also applauded the excellent working relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Alhaji Mohammed Namadi Sambo. “As political leader of the North, Vice President Namadi Sambo has shown total loyalty and dedication to Mr. President. We urge them to continue to work together in harmony in the interest of our nation. We are ready to partner with groups and individuals from all parts of the country who believe in dialogue, mutual respect, harmony and peaceful coexistence,” Yakasai added.

But in a swift reaction to the formation of the parallel elders’ group, Professor Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) told Sunday Sun that the new groups were errand boys carrying out their masters messages. “They are hunters’ dogs, they are meant to run an errand, they have no electoral values, but some of us that have electoral value will continue to remain in the NEF,” Abdullahi said.

From NOAH EBIJE, Kaduna

Source: Radio Biafra.

Tribalism Is Like Biting Your Father’s Genitals: Dokubo And Other Tribalists.


By Peregrino Brimah

The heading of this piece may read strange, but some of the parties it primarily refers to will know its source. The original quote is, “He who calls for `Asabiyyah (nationalism/tribalism) is as if he bit his father’s genitals.” Also, “He is not one us who calls for `Asabiyyah, (nationalism/tribalism) or who fights for `Asabiyyah or who dies for `Asabiyyah.” “One of us,” here means, “a Muslim,” these quotes, being Hadith of the prophet of Islam (p).

There is no denying the disdain for tribalism by the prophet of Islam. In other narrations, of fighting for tribalism he said to “leave it, it is rotten.” Again he is narrated to have said, “…Behold, Allah (God) has removed from you the arrogance of the Time of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but an Allah (God)-fearing believer or an unfortunate sinner. All people are the children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” More references can be found on Zawaj website (http://www.zawaj.com/editorials/nationalism_ahmed.html).

Mujahid Asari Dokubo claims to be a Muslim, but according to these narrations, not only he, but all other northerners and other Nigerians, who clamor for and prescribe tribal based fire and blood regardless of the interest of the nation’s masses, simply for the best and most decent, progressive and non-corrupt leadership, are “not Muslims,” and are rotten people who are so low, they nibble and bite to chew their parents genitals.

A Muslim will never fight for tribalism or nationalism. It is one people and one world, all made from dust. All that separates people is their fear of God and their good and Godly behavior.

The New Testament likewise does not favor tribalism. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Many of us pray for and seek a day and a world without borders and without indigenship and ethnic regulations for leadership. A world where a Kenyan man’s son can become president of America, the world’s most powerful nation (That day has come already in America, but the reverse obtains today in political Nigeria).

The concept of tribalism is very foreign to Africa. Many great writers have penned and typed articles on this fact. When we look back at our ancestors, the one thing that defined pre-colonial Africa is the integration not only of citizens but of leaders too.

King Jaja of Opobo, Jubo Jubogha was an Igbo man from Orlu, who was assimilated into and became leader of Ijaw Opobo in Rivers/Akwa Ibom.

General Murtala Mohammed’s father Pam Iyatus from Vom in Plateau state was a Berom man, who assimilated into Hausa Kano and Murtala is recognized today as a Hausa hero, over his Berom ancestry.

Malam Umaru Altine was a northern Fulani man who was the first elected as the Mayor of Enugu; he was again re-elected to serve a second term.

There are tons more examples.

Indeed in pre-colonial Africa, all it took was to migrate into a new territory and prove your diligence and character to be fully accepted, acculturated and be eligible not only for ethnic citizenship but even to lead the nations.

We have Nigerian origin Yoruba chiefs in Ghana, Sierra Leonean politicians and chiefs in Nigeria, Nigerian top government officials in far away The Gambia and so on.

What is happening to Nigeria now as a few of us are so embroiled in dirty, filial genital cannibalistic tribalism is un-African and will actually make our ancestors turn in their graves. Those of us who wear tribal regalia and claim tribal loyalty would actually be discarded by our for-fathers as illegitimate offspring of their great hospitable and progressive legacies.

It must be added that there is a space for ethnocentrism. However this is only useful as regards competing with the positive achievements of those who came before us, to do better than their records; not in tribalism feats, defaming and disgracing what they valued and promoting what they rejected.

In an earlier article, “The Devil Was the First Ethnocentric,” I presented how by refusing to bow for Adam, the devil was the first to portray such shameful behavior, and is the father of tribalism and ethnocentrism. The devil had argued that he, made from fire should not bow for Adam, made of “mere” dirt. The devil was discarded into the pits of hell for such repugnant behavior.

Nigeria’s empty political elite, the enemies of the nation and the 168 million poverty ridden, humiliated masses, have copied a page from the colonial books, by taking advantage of, and festering tribal sentiments as a weapon to secure their inutile holds on power.

Nigeria needs good leaders, short and simple. Regionalism or disintegration is a legitimate quest if raised and sought respectfully and without direct and indirect celebration of, sponsorship and promotion of death; but promoting tribal based leadership is cheating as long as it is one nation and murderous.

The likes of Dokubo Asari, and others north, south, east and west, who argue to cheat Nigeria of its much needed race to recovery and development, by promoting rotational-presidency and ethnic selection and re-election of candidates, are in African terms, abominable inheritors of our great ancestors. Spiritually speaking, they are cannibals, who thrive off of eating the testicles of their fathers.

Written with contributions from Doctor Amadi Jnr. of Muslims Against Terror.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah
http://ENDS.ng [Every Nigerian Do Something]
Email: drbrimah@ends.ng Twitter: @EveryNigerian

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Northern leaders sponsor Boko Haram.


 
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Chairman of the Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, Seigha Manager has said that the threat by members of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF)

to drag the former chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, clearly shows that they are the real sponsors of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.

Manager, who said President Goodluck Jonathan has done well to deserve a second term in office, also warned that any attempt by any person or group of persons to deny Jonathan the right to contest in 2015 will cause chaos in the polity.

In this interview, he speaks on a number of issues.

Excerpts.

Do you think President Goodluck Jonathan has done well to deserve a second term in office?

I think he has done well and when you measure the performance of a person, you have to do that side-by-side with the performances of that nature within the same period. Everybody knows that former President Obasanjo spent his first four years in office from 1999 to 2003, traversing the whole world. Of course, you cannot blame him because Nigeria was a pariah country at the time. The CommonWealth of Nations had banned Nigeria when the former Head of State, late Gen Abacha killed Ken Saro-Wiwa. So, Obasanjo spent between 1999 and 2003 trying to get the rest of the international community to begin to now believe in Nigeria. If you look at the personnel that worked with Obasanjo at that time, you can remember people like Anenih, Ciroma, Danjuma and others.

These were people who are supposed to be fathers of minsters but they were the ministers then, so not much was achieved. In his second term, Obasanjo was able to sit down and that was when people like Ribadu, Okonjo-Iweala, Ezekwesili, El-Rufai and the rest of them came on board. They gave some light to his government and that was about two years to the end of his tenure. Of course, that was why he tried to come back through the failed third term project. When Yar’Adua took over from him in 2007, he also spent the first two years trying to sort out his personal health and at the same time trying to correct some of the wrong things he met.

So, Yar’Adua’s portfolio too was a very good one but when you look at Jonathan, you see the difference between a properly educated person and a politician. Jonathan is an academic. He started by ensuring that the right personnel work with him. So, you can see that a lot of technocrats are in his government. It takes quite a long time for serious planning. Somebody who wants to achieve must ensure he has good planning. Recall too that over $16 billion was spent for upgrading our electricity during the Obasanjo administration and all went down the drain. But, Jonathan has taken his time within the first two years to ensure that the first and most important thing was to repackage the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He has successfully done that; PHCN is now in the hands of private owners. So, Nigerians can, within the next six months, be sure of between 12 to 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply. And those are the things that will truly show that he has succeeded. Now, if you want to truly measure Jonathan, you must not do that by his person because he is an introverted person.

He is not the extroverted type that talks a lot about his achievements. He is a man who works through sectors. He is not a man who goes from house to house giving money to people, non-governmental organisations or groups making noise but a man who works through sectors. That is why his performance in the aviation sector is now visible. Nigerians can also see what is happening in the agricultural sector and people can criticise it. Nigerians can see that electricity is epileptic but it has shown progress. If you look at the transport sector, you now see clearly that a lot of gigantic work is being put in place. So, Jonathan is putting structures all over Nigeria and you must move from point A to B to know that he is actually doing something. But, those who sit where they are to say that nothing is happening are actually those who are just relying on secondary information. We also know another category of people who are saying that he has not done well. These are people who have been benefiting from the system in one way or the other but because some of the loopholes and leakages from where they benefited in the past have all been blocked, such people are now ploughing back the little money left with them into the press and making a lot of noise that he is not doing well. I can categorically tell you that one of the problems that Jonathan has is his information management machinery. Without prejudice to the minister of information, I think there is more that the minister can do because selling the president and his activities is a big job; far bigger than what any of the ministers is doing in his or her own personal ministry. It takes the minister of information to tell Nigerians what aviation, agriculture, defence, power, health, education and other ministries are doing.

Can you say that Jonathan’s government has really addressed the three basic needs of man –food, clothing and shelter for the average Nigerian?

This is one of the misconceptions that we have. Food, clothing and shelter are the primary needs of man and these needs ought to be provided at the third tier of government. The Federal Government is not supposed to be held responsible for the survival of Nigerians at the family level. What is the local government chairman doing? What is the state governor doing? Of course housing, yes, the Federal Government should have been directly involved in that but you also know the politics that come with housing in Nigeria. What Jonathan government is doing is to provide the atmosphere and not necessarily getting the Federal Government involved in providing housing because the Nigeria factor is always there.

Has government provided the enabling environment?

Yes, it has. Remember that when the former Housing minister, Miss Amah Pepple was there. What they spent all their time doing was to galvanise the mortgage industry and the banks to ensure that the ordinary Nigerian had access to mortgage loan, so that you can build for yourself rather than the Federal Government giving money to certain people and they would build houses that are not habitable.

But has that produced any result?

Successfully, what it has produced is a $300 billion loan from China. That is the result of what that has done. It started from Amah Pepple’s time and when the president went to China and the Chinese government saw the potentials in what the Federal Government was doing to provide housing, they became interested because that is what happens in China. In China, it is not the government that is building houses; it only provides mortgage and that is why a new mortgage re-financing was recently launched in Nigeria. The aim is to reach ordinary Nigerians. So, no Federal Government official will be holding any money and asking the whole of his town or village people to come and benefit. People will be benefiting through where they work, at the primary or secondary levels; through the local or state governments or as a federal worker. Providing that platform is the most important thing that we have always lost. In the past, a head of state or president will personally give it to his cronies and they will mess it up. Before you know what is happening, billions of money have gone to people without the structure succeeding. You recall that during the Abacha time, Lateef Jakande, who is renowned for providing shelter for his people in Lagos was the minister for Works and Housing. I was a civil servant then and we all contributed money towards the housing scheme but because the Federal Government was directly involved, the money never came and Jakande never built a single house. Those are the type of things that Jonathan is trying to avoid; that’s why I said he is working with experts in their various areas.

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has just threatened to drag the immediate past chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes during the military onslaught on the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East. What is your take on that?

The Niger Delta Nationalities Forum as a group wants to say that Lt-Gen Ihejirika is not from the Niger Delta but he brought a lot of positive developments to the Armed forces and that is why Jonathan’s government has succeeded in curtailing the activities of Boko Haram to a small section of the North. We want to urge those who are masquerading as members of NEF to take Ihejirika to ICC at The Hague. We will be happy if they do so and we’ll also urge them to make their names known. They shouldn’t send their organisational name alone; they should also be bold to list all the members of that organisation to the ICC, so that we, in turn, will use that opportunity to know them and submit their names before the United Nations and the United States of America. Recall that America had already classified Boko Haram as a terrorist group . And Jonathan’s government has been battling the Boko Haram insurgents. From a N4.9 trillion budget, one trillion goes to security just to battle Boko Haram alone and Nigerians are the worst for it. Today, instead of praising Ihejirika who had successfully resticted the group to a very tiny area in the North, NEF is saying he committed crimes against humanity. If that is what they truly mean, we are prepared to submit their names before the UN as the sponsors of Boko Haram. We know very well that former President Babangida, former heads of state; Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as Maitama Sule are not members of that group. So, if these renowned northern leaders are not part of such group, who then are those people who call themselves leaders of that group? We believe that they are the sponsors of Boko Haram and we want them to carry out that threat.

Former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife recently added his voice to those who warned that Nigeria would boil if Jonathan is not allowed to contest the 2015 presidential election. How does your group see those threats or warnings?

As a group from the Niger Delta, we are appealing to Nigerians that as Niger Deltans, we have paid our dues. We have supported every government led by the northerners or westerners from independence to date. It is either by coincidence or accident that a Niger Delta person became the president of Nigeria and we thank all Nigerians for the opportunity. We also think that giving Jonathan another four years will not cause Nigeria any harm; it will only unite Nigeria further and give us a sense of belonging that we are also part of Nigeria.

However, if any group, in the name of NEF or whatever insists on denying Jonathan his fundamental human rights of contesting for a second term, we can assure them that the Niger Delta will not be part of that Nigeria which they think they will use our resources to project. In simple terms, if they do that, everybody is going to answer his own name. If Jonathan is allowed to contest the election like any other Nigerian and Nigerians as a people decide not to choose Jonathan in the polls, there is nothing anybody can do about that because Nigerians have spoken. It is who Nigerians want that will be the president of Nigeria. So, if Jonathan contests election and Nigerians refuse to elect him as the president, so be it.

By SUNDAY ANI

Source: Radio Biafra.

National Conference just before another jamboree.


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President Goodluck Jonathan has released the modalities for the convocation of a National Conference with limited powers.

Expectedly, criticisms have been trailing the modalities. The seriousness of the Federal Government has been questioned by many stakeholders. The consensus of opinion is that, for another three months or more, delegates will participate in a government-sponsored jamboree in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Since the premise for the national dialogue is not the ethnic nationalities, many have also argued that the exercise is an imposition.

However, pro-Jonathan forces have a contrary view. They believe that the conference will chart a new course for the country. Hailing the President for acceding to the popular request for a national debate, they also said that the conference will lay a better constitutional future.

When the President unfolded his plan for the conference on October 1, last year, many stakeholders queried his real intention. There were speculations that the idea was sold the option to the embattled leader to douse the mounting national tension. But, the sudden change of heart by the Commander-in-Chief still came as a surprise. In the past, Dr. Jonathan had objected to it, saying that a democratic government was in place. The proposal polarised the polity. A section said that the Federal Government was trying to divert attention from its gross failure to restore hope to the beleaguered country. In particular, the advocates of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) were not amused. In their view, the proposal fell below expectation.

Public enthusiasm has been waning since the Presidential Advisory Committee headed by Senator Femi Okurounmu submitted its report to the President. It was a divided committee. A minority report surfaced. It was written by a member of the committee, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN). The bone of contention was the method proposed for the ratification of the conference report. While the majority report hammered on parliamentary ratification, the minority report emphasised the import of ratification by a referendum. The majority report on the mode of ratification reflected the President’s view. Last year, Dr. Jonathan told the nation that the report will be sent to the National Assembly for ratification. The implication is that the decisions reached at the conference may or may not be approved by the National Assembly.

The fear expressed by critics were confirmed last week when the Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator Pius Ayim, released the guidelines. 492 delegates are expected at the talk show. They are to be drawn from the strata of the society: government, traditional institution, political parties, judiciary, and civil societies. They are to be nominated by local, state and federal governments. Thus, it is “guided conference”.

The ethnic nationalities may not command a strong voice there. Observers have argued that nominees may not have the mind of their own. Since he who plays the piper dictates the tune, the presidential nominees will be his eye and ear at the conference. The delegates may therefore, be manipulated by the government to achieved a pre-determined goal.

The official name of the dialogue is The National Conference. This is antithetical to a Sovereign National Conference. There is a no-go area. The Federal Government is sensitive to the warning by a foreign body that the country may disintegrate next year. Therefore, it stated that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. The time frame is also suspect. The government has proposed three months. But, it is evident that the conference will coincide with preparations for the 2015 general elections.

The timeframe for the nomination of delegates is between now and February 20. Wide consultations may not herald the nominations. In outlook, the proposed conference is elitist. The President may have also played a fast game. He is not indifferent to the position of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on the vexed issue. Therefore, if the 17 APC governors refuse to nominate delegates, Dr. Jonathan, an Ijaw from the Southsouth, will nominate delegates on their behalf. These delegates may come from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Critics will describe their assignments as “jobs for the boys”.

The delegates are expected to receive remuneration. But, funding for the conference is another hurdle. Although the conference is expected to commence proceedings this month, there is no assurance that the budget would have been passed before next month.

The script was carefully written at Aso Villa, the seat of government. But, The President needed an ally to sell the dummy. He found one in Senate President David Mark, who was saddled with flying the cart. The retired General, who had frowned at the agitation for the conference in the past, based on his belief in the legitimacy of the National Assembly as the anchor of popular rule, suddenly retraced his steps. Thus, many believed that the conference propaganda was designed to gage the public mood.

Historically, at critical points in national history, past governments have resorted to camouflage national debate, talk or dialogue to douse the tension. Indeed, when the dreadful dictator, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, set up a constitutional conference in 1994, the uprising in the Niger Delta stopped for one year. The Abacha conference was made up of 396 delegates. The late head of State nominated 96 members. Although the report of the 1994/95 conference did not see the light of the day, the delegates succeeded in dividing Nigeria into six geo-political zones. The six geo-political regions are not backed by law, but the structure is respected by the political class. Also, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the Abuja Reforms Conference, expectations were high that it would usher in a new dawn. The conference collapsed on the altar of the third term agenda. Of 400 delegates, Obasanjo nominated 50 delegates. Many delegates, who have reflected on the report, have called for the implementation of the report. Former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, who also nominated delegates, has backed the call for the retrieval of the report from the dustbin. He said since resolutions have been passed on many of the issues that the delegates are going to debate in Abuja, the Federal Government should have the courage to implement the 2005 report.

Shortly after he assumed the reins, the first military Head of State, the late Gen. Thomas Auguyi-Ironsi, set up an ad hoc constitutional committee to debate the contentious issues tearing apart the country. The committee was dead on arrival. At the inception of the military rule, soldiers in power lacked the political skills to handle those sensitive issues and problems which the military intervention had compounded. When the Muritala/Obasanjo set up the Constitutional Drafting Committee and Constituent Assembly, the transition to civil rule programme of the regime received a popular acclaim. Even, when the former President Ibrahim Babangida set up the Constituent Assembly in 1989, it calmed down the nerves. But, the report also did not see the light of the day.

President Jonathan’s first step at implementing the proposal was confusing. He named an advocate of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), Dr. Okurounmu, as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee to prepare the ground for the talk. But, the committee was on tour of the six geo-political regions to collate views on modalities, the President announced that the National Assembly will debate the conference report. The statement irked many people. But, the members of the committee became deviated from their terms of reference when they were defending the President. When the team led by Okurounmu visited Benin, the capital of Edo State, for consultation with the Southsouth stakeholders, a committee member, Col. Tony Nyiam, took on Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Thus, the committee was censoring public opinion on the conference.

During the debate on the proposed conference, members of the National Assembly were not aloof. In the beginning, they loathed the idea of conference, pointing out that the nation should not waste time on another Constituent Assembly that will be saddled with the business of constitution making at a time the National Assembly is also reviewing the constitution. But, when reality dawned on them that the conference would be inevitable, they indicated a deeper interest. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said in Lagos that it will not be a bad idea, if the legislators are also delegates. He explained that federal lawmakers are also stakeholders. However, the agitation for the inclusion of the legislators was doused when the President announced that the report will be ratified by the National Assembly.

According rights activists and leaders of the ethnic nationalities, a conference, on its merit, is not a bad idea. The obstacle to its success in the past was the lack of sincerity by the government. Since it is not going to be a SNC, many rights activists have submitted that the scope of the national dialogue will be essentially limited. There are some puzzles: If a constitution is expected to be fashioned out by the conference, should there be no-go areas? Can a national conference produce a truly peoples’ constitution? Should the government insist that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable in a country that has not become a nation, 100 years after the amalgamation? How will the suitability and competence of delegates be determined? If they are nominated or appointed by the government and influential elite as it is being proposed by the Federal Government, will their nominations meet the criteria for representativeness and legitimacy? How popular are the delegates at the grassroots? Would they have the mandate of the people who are emotionally attached to the ethnic nationalities? Now that the nomination is based partially on the ethnic nationalities, states, local governments or constituencies, what will be the ratio of representation? Will the proposed single term of six or seven years resurface at the conference for debate?

There are other questions: since delegates be appointed by the governors, what is the criteria? What will be the terms of reference? How will they emerge across the states? Will the conference resolutions be subjected to referendum? If it is not subjected to a referendum, how will the report or resolutions be validated? If it is not validated by a referendum, will it be legitimate? Will recommendations be accepted by the government, if delegates oppose the proposed ratification by the National Assembly? Will the report be thrown into the dustbin as usual? The Federal Government has said that resolutions on contentious issues would be taken, based on the approval of 75 percent of delegates. 75 percent of 492 is 369 delegates. How about resolutions that mainly touch on the lives of the minority tribes, who may not be adequately represented? Will the majority not trample on the wish of the minority?

Since the eighties, the agitation for a Sovereign National Conference had gained prominence. It was first articulated by the legal luminary, the late Chief Alao Aka-Bashorun. The deceased human rights lawyer said that it was possible to hold the conference in Nigeria. He urged the government to tap from the experience of the Soviet Union and the Republic of Benin, which resolved some of its problems by convoking conferences. Throughout the military rule, Aka-Bashorun was harassed for his principled position on the national question and agitation for a Sovereign National Conference.

Also, in the nineties, the former Oyo State governor, Chief Bola Ige, who summed up the arguments for the national conference, raised two questions: “Do we want to remain as one country? If the answer is yes, under what conditions?”. The implication is that a debate is necessary to determine the basis for peaceful co-existence and harmony. Ige said that many national problems could be resolve by debate, instead of resorting to the barrels of gun.

Following the annulment of the historic June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, there was disillusionment. The cancellation disputed the basis for peaceful co-existence among the competing tribes. The advocates of the SNC expanded the national question. Discussion on the resolution of the identity, integration, participation and distribution crises came to the front burner. Stakeholders came to the conclusion that Nigeria was hanging on a flawed or defective federal system. The unitary system foisted on the polity by the military had created strains. But the interlopers opposed the struggle for a new order with brute force.

Up to now, these questions remained unsolved: Is state or community police not desirable in a big, diverse, heterogeneous country characterised by multiplicity of traditions, customs, and languages? Should the governors, who are the chief security officers of their states, continue to obtain permission from the distant Inspector-General of Police to maintain law and order? Should an Igbo or Yoruba, who was born and bred in the North be denied political and economic rights, owing to the tension between indigeneship and residency? Should a Fulani/Hausa, who had lived in the South for 30 years be edged out of the participatory political process? It remains to be seen if these questions will be answered by Jonathan’s National Conference, which has limitations. Does the President needs a conference to fight the infrastructure battle, tar the roads and fund education and public hospitals efficiently? Does the President needs a conference to build refineries, fight corruption and resolve the crises that have engulfed his party? Does he need a conference to guarantee power supply?

Posted by: EMMANUEL OLADESU

Source: Radio Biafra

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