BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
A COMMON tread that tied the contributions of participants at the two-day political summit held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, which ended on Wednesday night, is the need to address the prevailing wind of insecurity blowing in Nigeria and other socio-economic and ethnic problems through a national conference.
Drawn from all parts of the country, the participants picked holes in the 1999 constitution in spite of many amendments by the National Assembly and insisted that what the country needs to be on the path of recovery is a brand new grundnorm fashioned by the people themselves.
According to them, for the people’s constitution to have the weight of moral authority, representatives of each of the over 390 ethnic nationalities in the country must take part in the national conference.
Although most of those advertised as participants such as the president, vice president, governors and their deputies, ministers, serving senators, members of the House of Representatives, leaders of political parties and core northern leaders did not attend, a host of other eminent Nigerians participated.
Those at the event organized by the National Consensus Group (NCG) with the theme: “Roadmap to Political Stability and National Security in Nigeria,” included Governor Godswill Akpabio (who was represented by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Aniekan Umannah), Chief Maxi Okwu, Mr Michael Orobator, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Mr Abuka Onalo Omabala, Dr Tunji Abayomi, Dr Yinusa Tanko, Dr Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, Hajia Ramatu Bala Usman and Dr Baba Omojola.
There were also Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), Charles Nwodo, Ado Ibrahim, Senator Isa Kachako, Senator Dangana Ndayako, Chief Ambrose Owuru, Dr Tom Osei, Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, Chief Ralph Obioha, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, Professor Nat Aniekan, Mr Soni Irabor, Dr Mani Ibrahim Ahmad, Farouk Umar, Bello Dantata, Chief Guy Ikokwu and Bala Zakka.
Also at the summit were Mrs Josephine Anenih, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dalhatu Abubakar Bawa, Dr Dorothy Nelson, Ms Annkio Briggs, Alfred Okeifa, Professor Kimse Okoko, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Dr Arthur Nwankwo, Barr Omale Omale, Professor Ishaq Akintola, Hon Iyadim A Iyadim and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who chaired the summit.
In his keynote address on the first day of the summit, Nwabueze, who conveyed the apologies of some northern leaders like Alhaji Maitama Sule, who was billed to chair the event and Paul Unongo, said the roadmap to stability, peace, progress, development and national unity is convening of a national conference.
We’re nowhere near nation yet — Nwabueze
He lamented that 53 years after independence and 100 years of the amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates, “we are no where near becoming a nation.”
He noted there are about 389 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, averring that until we are able to get these ethnic nationalities to coalesce into one nation, one body, we will continue to wade through avoidable problems.
“We must continue to work hard to build a nation, develop this country, ensure security, peace and harmony,” he added.
The legal icon argued that the solution to these is national conference. “I don’t know of any Nigerian who does not agree that at this critical stage all the ethnic nationalities should get to the conference table and discuss. Anybody who does not agree on national conference does not believe in the continued existence of this nation.
This meeting is to help check the disintegration of this country. We have to discuss the way forward given that we believe in one united Nigeria. We want national conference. We want the President to convene a national conference as a matter of urgency. We believe that the president has the power. He is the leader of the nation.
He is more than the Commander-in-Chief. He represents our majesty in concrete terms. We have talked and talked. The time has come to combine action with the talk.”
Repealing 1999 constitution is possible
To those who argue that the 1999 constitution be an impediment to the new constitution, Nwabueze countered that the constitution can be repealed. According to him, the 1960 Independence Constitution was established by section 2 of the Order in Council; for the 1963 Republican Constitution to come into effect, section 2 of Order in Council was repealed.
Relatedly, he said all that was needed for the 1999 Constitution to pave for a new code book is for Decree 24 of 1999, which established the 1999 constitution to be repealed.
He said that President Goodluck Jonathan has the power to convene the confab but if he feels otherwise, he should send an executive bill to the National Assembly seeking powers to convoke the conference.
He warned that if the National Assembly refuses to pass such a bill, it will be pushing the people of Nigeria to the wall, adding “we hope the resort to the barrel of the gun will be avoided.”
Those saying summit is against Jonathan are enemies of Nigeria — Anenih
On her part, Mrs Anenih berated those who said that the gathering was to oppose President Jonathan as enemies of the country because all the people invited are those who mean well for the country.
Noting that some of the participants are in their 80s and 90s, she said: “I know that any well-meaning Nigerian would support what is going on here today. Those saying that we want to pull down President Jonathan are enemies of Nigeria. They are the ones, who want to pull down President Jonathan. We have political instability, we have national insecurity. Political stability and security will be achieved when we respect, support and encourage our leaders. Our criticisms should be constructive not insulting and castigating.
“We are very good complainers and analyzers of our problems without offering solutions. This conference will come with a solution. We need to look at certain issues again. In 100 years of our existence, a lot of things have changed. Let’s sit down and find how we can make Nigeria’s oneness suitable and comfortable for all.”
Political parties no longer sure of their existence —Yinusa
Speaking in like manner, Dr Yinusa Tanko, the Chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP) and Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said one of the greatest threats to the country’s democracy now is political stability.
His words: “The political parties are no longer sure of their existence. Without political parties how can you talk about democracy? There is no democracy when you put the political parties in abeyance. We have presented our case to the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC); we oppose cross-carpeting of elected officials from one party to the other. If they cross-carpet, they should lose their seats. While I agree with our older politicians, we the youths ask for the defence of the Nigerian constitution. Our older leaders should push the younger ones in front for us to move forward.”
Our strength is our unity—Akpabio
Welcoming the delegates, Governor Akpabio, in a speech read by Mr Aniekan Umannah, said Nigeria’s strength is her unity.
He said the challenge before the summit was to find ways of cementing the cracks and fissures on the walls of Nigeria’s unity and keep the country united as an entity.
“We must keep the boat of Nigeria afloat. It is time to build a Nigerian community where we can tap into our diversities and turn them into strength. If we lend ourselves to the teachings of the Bible and Koran, peace will flow in this nation.”
We want unity in peace –Adebanjo
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who chaired the summit in the absence of Maitama Sule said it is sad that Nigerians are not living in peace. He lamented that elder statesmen, who fought for the nation’s independence in the 40s and 50s are still in the trenches fighting to save the country.
His words: “The essence of this meeting is not whether we should live together or not. We have been living together since 1914 but are we living in peace?
Those who fought for independence like Chief Mbazulike Amaechi are today still fighting for peace and unity of the country. We want unity in peace; a stable society where one can live in any part of the country without being afraid of being killed.
“We must decide how we want to live together. We want to live together but not in upheavals as we have been witnessing. Let’s sit down and discuss the uprising, disaffection and the things causing them.
We have dropped Sovereign National Conference (SNC). We want National Conference. Some people say they want resource control, state police, etc. Let’s sit down and discuss, after discussing them, we will have a better country.”
Progress difficult without restructuring — Kimse Okoko
Professor Okoko, who chaired one of the sessions, hinged ushering of growth and development in the country to restructuring.
“Without structural adjustment, it will be difficult to make progress.
The structure we need is a situation where all people are treated equally and fairly and no one is maltreated. So long as there is inequality, injustice and inequitable structure, so long will development elude Nigeria.
If the structure is unbalanced, you will have problems in the polity. If parties lack internal democracy and equity, there will also be problem. Imposition of favoured candidates over and above popular candidates will cause the kind of problems you are seeing in all the political parties.
“At the last national conference, other parts of Nigeria found it difficult to support 13 percent derivation. There is need for national conference for all the ethnic nationalities to sit down and resolve the various cases of complaints and injustice.”
We must halt wastages and empower youths — Obioha
To former National Chairman of Justice Party, Chief Ralph Obioha, the nation must halt the enormous wastages unleashed on the nation by a privileged few and use the savings to empower the youths.
According to him, each of about 50,000 Nigerians comprising the President, Vice president, governors, deputy governors, Federal and State lawmakers, ministers, commissioners and judges, etc, drive five SUVs in a nation where many barely had enough for a single meal a day. At a time the British Prime Minister is driving two vehicles, he said Nigerians should appreciate the wastages he was talking about.
He advised that the government should set aside N72 billion to empower 36,000 youths at the tune of N200,000 each as intervention so that they would use it to start small scale businesses.
To achieve, this, he urged feuding leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to sheathe their sword and embrace dialogue because as the largest party in Nigeria, “if the PDP implodes, it will affect all of us. I plead with PDP leaders to know that their actions and inactions could affect the whole country. If the PDP implodes, my request for N72 billion for Nigerian youths will be a pipe dream.
At the end of the summit, delegates said the greatest service President Goodluck Jonathan will render to the people of Nigeria is to be the first President to give them a constitution deriving its source of authority, as supreme law, directly from them, otherwise known as a people’s constitution.
They restated the need for the convening of a national conference to tackle the socio-economic, political, security, unity and developmental challenges facing the nation.
According to a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, which almost ended in a fiasco when some delegates hotly faulted some of the resolutions before calm was eventually restored, a restructured polity and a people’s constitution will boost President Jonathan’s transformation agenda, security and cement the country’s unity.
The eight-point communiqué was signed by Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Professor Kimse Okoko, Dr Tunji Abayomi, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Senator Ndayako Dangana, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Mr. Michael Orobator, Mr. Olawale Okunniyi, Mrs. Maria Okwo, Dr Yinusa Tanko, Dr Bala Zakka, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr Baba Omojola, Hajia Ramatu Bala Usman, Chief Anselm Eyo, Senator Isa Kachako and Ms Annkio Briggs.
The leaders affirmed their faith in and commitment to the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a sovereign state and appealed to governments at all levels and all Nigerians to ensure Nigeria’s continued existence in peace and stability and its progress and advancement.
While commending Jonathan for initiating the transformation agenda, they implored him to expand its scope to embrace the entire polity and society with a view to creating a new Nigeria and a new society based on justice, equity and morality. They said that, “a national conference of all ethnic nationalities and peoples in the country is the best means to trigger such national transformation and to address the threats to the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria.”
Consequently, they called on President Jonathan to “use the power reposed on his office as president and leader of the country to convoke the conference as a matter of great necessity and immediacy for the preservation of the continued existence of the country.”
They argued that recurrent and present challenges of political instability and national security demand that the president, as the symbol of sovereignty initiates a broad-based national dialogue, involving all political, ethnic and social formations, as a matter of urgency; to obtain the inputs of Nigerians of all classes and persuasions as a prelude to the national conference.