President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed National Conference has been hailed by human rights activists, constitutional lawyers and leaders of thought as one way of moving the nation forward. Applauding the move to get Nigerians talk about how they want to live together, those we sought their opinion however expressed fears that the outcome of the talks may not achieve the desired result unless the deliberations are given legal backing. They also pointed out areas the conferees need to look into…
BARRISTER MONDAY UBANI, Chairman Ikeja branch, Nigerian Bar Association A Sovereign National Conference (SNC) in which the issue of whether we indeed want to stay together as one indivisible nation is discussed and agreed upon remains the best way forward for Nigeria. The conference must discuss the issue of staying together as the first major issue.If we agree to stay together, then the next issue to agree on is terms and conditions of staying together. That will be in form of giving ourselves a constitution that is from the people. The constitution drawn by the people will be subject to a referendum before it becomes the people’s constitution. We urge the National Assembly to enact a law that will formalise the conference which will involve various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. The various professional groups should also be included in the talk. Whatever is agreed on that conference should be subjected to a referendum which modalities should be spelt out by the enactment of d National Assembly.
KAYODE SALAKO First, I am a prominent member of National Summit Group (NSG), a group of eminent Nigerians that have been calling for the constitution of a Sovereign National Conference, especially at this critical period. Our belief is that the nation is overdue for that. That has been our resolution, and it appears the federal government is giving a listening ear to the yearnings of the masses. This is also what the mentally viable and reasonable Nigerians have been calling for. The only solution to our problems is that we must sit down and talk about some issues that have been causing problems all this while. Although, the conference may not be the real solution, it will surely lead to it. So, for us to continue as a nation we must sit together and address all the burning issues. The only clause is non-inclusion of sovereignty in the proposed conference. But at least, we need to start somewhere. First, the present constitution of Nigeria is complex and problematic. It’s not okay for us. So, it should be critically looked into. Second, the structure of the country itself is complex. We need to know if we’re to remain as one entity or break into regions. Third one is the issue of political system. It’s also complex, problematic and expensive. So, we should know whether to change from presidential system of
government to confederation for easy and less expensive governance.
NIKE OJOMO, Nike Ojomo Chambers I don’t think it’s the next step for this country right now. There are other issues the government needs to deal with other than proposing the conference right now. I don’t believe the conference can go far in proffering solutions to the problems we have in the country. They have been conferred with great responsibilities and need to liberate the country from corruption.
CLEMENT ONWUENWUNOR The proposed national conference in a country that practices constitutional democracy with a regulated legal framework if on its face value is a clear usurpation of executive and legislative function. This is however, not so for Nigeria because of the increased wave of terrorism and sectional agitation which have polarized the country. Since the country’s legislators have demonstrated apparent ineptitude in handling the affairs of the country, recourse of national conference is inevitable. There is urgent need to restructure the Nigerian federation through dialogue and self determination and freedom. Nigeria is bewildered with a mirage of security, political, social and economic problems but it has now become clear that none of these problems can be tackled unless the country’s foundational issues are addressed. The major issues that should be addressed at the national conference is political power which is concentrated at the centre and must now be decentralized or made rotational with the prospect that every qualified Nigerian, not withstanding his tribe or religion, can assume the presidential throne at Aso Rock. If that is done, the national conference must adopt Justice Uwais’ electoral reforms recommendation as part of our electoral laws. It’s my considered opinion that once the process of electing our leaders are
transparent and fair, incompetence in governance will be gone forever and the enthroned leader will have the credibility to work for a united Nigeria and fight corruption and other social vices which are consuming the country.
DEBO ADENIRAN It’s a welcome development and that is what we have been waiting for but then have not said it’s Sovereign National Conference. It’s the Nigeria, people that will make it sovereign. We know that they might not be sincere because usually they have hidden agenda.
COMRADE AMITOLU SHITTU We are the ones clamouring for Sovereign National Conference. We have been clamouring for it since 1992. Chief Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory has produced more than three books on Sovereign National Conference. What we want the public to understand is that under Jonathan, Nigeria has witnessed lots of crises. Crisis of subsidy claimed so many lives and there were others too. Apart from that, this is a direct diversionary tactics employed by the president because he knows that the 2015 elections would not be favourable to him, so he needs to engage politicians from other regions and that is what I believe he is doing presently.
SENATOR OLABIYI DUROJAIYE We have been calling for this for ages. So, if it is the real thing that is to come, we have been expecting it. But we are yet to see how it is going to be spelt out. The national conference we have in mind must have the representation of all the ethnic nationalities in proportion to their population. It is certainly a major step to the solution, if it is properly conducted. There was one conducted in 2005 which was a charade. I was one of the people that represented a segment of the Yoruba. In the end it was a ruse. Presently, we are a federation in name and not in action. Another aspect is the police. The police cannot be centralized in true federalism. Agriculture, health, and many things should be given to the federating government, not the central government.