BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & TONY EDIKE
For the second time in less than one month, Igbo leaders on the banner of Igbo Leaders of Thought led by Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN) have brainstormed on the proposed National Conference and canvassed reasons Nigerians should ensure that the confab is successful.
The leaders who met in Enugu on November 14 and December 12 to approve the Igbo position to the national conference after deliberating on the report of three committees, urged support for the dialogue because “we believe that the conference is one of the best things that have happened to Nigeria. The Igbo leaders of Thought therefore call on everyone to give it his/her support in order to ensure that the conference succeeds, and that it offers solution to Nigeria’s problems.”
Igbo leaders at the December 12 meeting included Professors Nwabueze, Felix Oragwu, Michael Echeruo, Uche Azikiwe, Ben Obumselu, Lawrence Ocho and Elo Amucheazi, Igwe Alfred Achebe, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Chief Nduka Eya, Senator Offia Nwali, Senators Ben Obi, Uche Chukwumerije and Anyim Udeh, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, Arch. Bishop Anthony Obinna and Arch. Bishop Maxwell Anikwenwa.
There were also Lady Kate Ezeoffor, Mrs. Maria Okwor, Dr. Igwe Aja Nwachukwu, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Evang. Elliot Uko, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Dr. Chidi Osuagwu, Rev. Ukandu Ucheya, Chief Emechi Onyia, Engr. Obi Thompson and Prince Emeka Onyesoh among others.
With their next meeting scheduled for January 6, and as the report of the Senator Femi Okurounmu-led confab committee is being awaited, the Igbo leaders, who said that “Ndigbo are firmly committed to the success of the conference” outlined measures that will make the dialogue a success.
The measures include:*The purpose of the conference is clearly underlined, that it is to draw a new constitution for Nigeria. A referendum is the means, accepted by majority of the countries of the world since 1989, to bestow upon a constitution, an authority deriving directly from the people themselves as the supreme law of the land, i.e. a people’s constitution.
* The conference is essentially that of ethnic nationalities/peoples of Nigeria not of interest and pressure groups.
*The new constitution approved by the conference should be subjected to referendum so as to democratize it and prove that it clearly belongs to the people.
*The enabling law by the national assembly should provide that the constitution approved by the conference should immediately go for a referendum.
*The conference will regulate its proceedings.
*Members should first exhaustively air their views and no issue is swept under the carpet.
* The conference will set up its own committee to produce a draft arising from the deliberations. The conference thereby proceeds on recess
*The conference now reconvenes to deliberate on the draft
*The product of the deliberation is debated and approved by the general conference.
* The conference again vets the product of the team of legal draft men
* The approved constitution now goes for referendum.
The leaders noted that a constitution introduced with the above outline will be “a fairly people constitution, Nigeria constitution, drawn by Nigerians.”
Devolution of powers
They continued: “In a balanced (true) federation, the Federal Government exercises exclusive powers in a few areas that affect the entire country. These are: Defence-external and internal, Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Monetary and fiscal policy: Customs and excise
*Residual powers remain with the federating units
*Concurrent powers are shared in specific items; but the role of the federal govt. in such areas is limited to general policy directives research and setting of standard.
Speaking on why the leaders outlined the measures, secretary of the group, Professor Amucheazi said: “We believe that it is a new constitution that is being produced, that the constitution will go for a referendum. That is the way of democratizing constitutions and we know that 85 percent of countries of the world had adopted referendum in bringing into being their constitutions.
“We accept that their will be an enabling law for the conference. We expect that this law will also make provision for a referendum. It will be embodied in the enabling law that there will be a referendum for the new the new constitution.
“On the modus operandi, we had discussions on how to proceed in the conference; some said there should be a draft that will be brought before the conference as happened in the 90s. We said no, that this is completely a new constitution and the ethnic nationalities should be involved in drafting the new constitution. They could start with a talk shop, we said nothing should be swept under the carpet, so the conference will discuss every raised issue, they can even spend one month canvassing all issues.
“Meanwhile, the conference itself will then constitute a committee which from these issues canvassed will draw a draft, that is, the draft will be prepared by a committee of the conference and the committee must be representatives of the zones.
So every zone must be represented. Having done that draft, the house reconvenes to go through the draft, get it approved and send it to the legal draftsmen.
When they complete their work, the product of these legal draftsmen will again be sent to the entire house of the conference to vent the draft prepared by the legal draftsmen and finally approve of it. When it approves it; that is the constitution that will now go for a referendum.
“These are the steps we thought should be followed at the national conference and that is the position of Ndigbo.”