By Ikenna Asomba
AS the debate on how the President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed National Conference should hold continues, some eminent Nigerians are suggesting pertinent issues that the conference must address to set the country on the right socio-economic and political path.Professor of law and university teacher, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo; former NADECO scribe, Mr. Ayo Opadokun; and President of Leadership Watch, Dr. Martins Iwuanyanwu, say that if the confab must put right what they termed the wrongs of the 1914 amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates, issues such as federalism, resource control, cost of governance, power structure and electoral processes, among others, must top the agenda at the conference.They spoke at 12th Annual Leadership Watch Lecture entitled: “State of the Nation: Leadership Crisis, Constitutionalism and the Way Forward”, and presentation of the book: “Critical Issues on Sustainable Democracy & Development: Nigerian Perspective,” Volume 2, organized by Leadership Watch.Others who made suggestions on the conference were Professor Obinna Chukwu, Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, UNILAG and book reviewer, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, a former Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission, and Mr. Akin Fatunke, Manager, Public & Government Affairs, Exxon Mobil.
Opposition should get it right— Opadokun
Opposing the claim by antagonists of the confab that it is diversionary, Opadokun said: “I support a convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to provide room for the Nigerian people as represented by the ethnic nationalities.. we have a lopsided national structure. We will use such a conference to discuss and resolve how we want to live together. The opposition in the country should get it right in order of priorities. Solving the Nigerian national structure is superior to the 2015 general elections you want to hold. We have had four different presidential elections in this country, of what use has the outcome been to Nigerians? What has been its positive effect on our people?. So, people like us believe that it is better to right the wrongs of our national structure than any 2015 general elections.”
Said Professor Oyewo: “The way forward is that Nigeria must address, at the national conference, the national question that has been debilitating the nation. If the national conference is able to address certain issues, including the issue of federalism, how we are to structure ourselves, the power structure, state institutions, resource allocation, inter-governmental relation and the form and system of government, then this nation will move forward.
“We also need to prune down the size and cost of governance in the country. Nobody has told us what is being spent by ministries of government, nobody has told us how much is being spent by the National Assembly. We need to prune down the cost of governance. Also, the conference must look into best electoral processes that will produce effective leadership, not thugs that transmute into political leaders. Rule of law, good governance, accountability, check and balances, pragmatic limitations to the powers of government at all tiers must also top the agenda of the conference.
“The immunity clause should go. If it’s not going to go as a result of mischievous litigants, then remove immunity from criminal prosecution. This conference must be able to throw out these anomalies from our constitution. The issue of citizenship, independence of the judiciary and legislature should also make the front burner. Then, national development objectives and mechanics should also be considered. We need a constitution that will enable us to be developed; how our resources are to be allocated, accountability and transparency in governance. We don’t need to live for 20 years to find out that we are broke or cash-trapped.”
Arguing that there should be no problem on whether the outcome of the national conference will be sent to the National Assembly for ratification, Oyewo said: “You we all agree that sovereignty belongs to the people. My position is that any constitutional process that will result to a constitutional document without the consultation and input of the people either by referendum, plebiscite or some form of injection that enables them to finally say that this is what we want, this is what we don’t want, will not be constitution that will enjoy legitimacy.
“The issue of whether or not the resolutions from the conference should go back to the National Assembly, as the President has presented it should not pose problem. If it goes to the National Assembly, it must not end there. It must come back to the people and let’s have a referendum. And that referendum should give us the authority to delete what we don’t want that the National Assembly has put there. If this is solved, then, we can say that all parties are able to make sacrifices for the sake of this nation.”