BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, WOLE MOSADOMI, AJAYI & GBENGA ARIYIBI
LAGOS—SECOND Republic Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme and iconic constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN) have declined to lead the Igbo delegation to the forthcoming National Conference.
Igbo leaders mounting pressure on the two leaders said the duo, who are intellectual giants and vastly experienced in the act of constitution making would, apart from marshalling the Igbo position, also help hammer out an equitable and workable grundnorm for the country.
Professor Nwabueze, who is chairman of The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerian statesmen, played pivotal roles in the making of the 1979 Constitution. He was also part of the 1989 experiment.
On the other hand, Dr Ekwueme led the Igbo to the late General Sani Abacha 1994 conference, where his contributions led to the emergence of the six geo-political zones in the country.
Confirming the issue, yesterday, Evangelist Elliot Uko, founder of the Igbo Youths Movement (IYM) and Deputy Secretary of the Nwabueze-led Igbo Leaders of Thought, said Ndigbo would like the two elders to lead them to the confab but unfortunately they have resisted the pressures.
He disclosed that Ekwueme, in particular, will travel out of the country next week for a two-and-a half months trip. The conference, if things go according to plans, will begin early next month.
His words: “Contrary to reports that Dr Ekwueme will lead Ndigbo to the national conference, there will be no such thing. Ndigbo have tried to convince Dr Ekwueme to be a delegate to no avail. All the pressures on him in the last couple of weeks are to no avail. He said he has done his best that he will travel out of the country next week and will be away for at least two-and-a half months. So talks about Ekwueme attending the conference are not true. Both Ekwueme and Nwabueze have resisted pressures to lead the Igbo delegation to the confab.”
This came as Northern governors endorsed a 30-point agenda they will canvass at the conference, just as Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti gave reasons the All Progressives Congress (APC) states, which had dismissed the confab as diversionary and waste of scarce funds, resolved to participate in the exercise.
Meanwhile, traditional rulers in the South-West have called on the government to increase the number of delegates of monarchs in each of the six geo-political zones from three to six.
Northern govs adopt 30-point agenda
To protect the interest of the North at the conference, the 19 northern states have articulated about 30 points that would be presented at the conference. The agenda was hammered out at their two-day meeting concluded in Kaduna on Tuesday.
This is part of the legwork of the governors to ensure that the North speaks with one voice at the conference.
Speaking in an interactive session on the National Conference with major stake holders at Government House Minna, yesterday, Governor, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State said the northern governors took a bold step at their just concluded meeting in Kaduna on the points to be presented at the conference but assured that the points articulated would not in any way tamper with the unity and development of the country.
“In our last meeting, we took a principled position to send our best and experienced people to the conference and this will include those who will be able to defend and discuss the issues without fear or favour but which will not tamper with the unity and development of the country,” the governor remarked.
The adopted points to be presented at the conference as reeled out by Secretary to the Niger State Government, Alhaji Idris Ndako, who is also the secretary of the Northern States Governors Forum, include fiscal federalism, structure of government, state police, labour matters with regards to wages and salaries, with emphasis on whether salaries should be uniform or based on the financial capability of each state, electricity as a major weapon of economic growth, especially on whether states should be allowed to generate power independently.
Other points include tenure of president and governors, devolution of power, traditional institutions, immunity clause for governors and president, independence of the legislative arm and the judiciary, onshore and offshore dichotomy, resource control.
Others are social security, including health, housing, electoral law which include how elections should be conducted, system of government — presidential or parliamentary, security, creation of more states and local governments and transformation of the agricultural sector as the mainstay of the northern region.
A committee, it was gathered, has already gone round the 19 states to mobilize and sensitize the people on the need to participate in the conference.
Niger State delegates
In line with the agenda, Niger State has nominated her delegates for the confab. They are Alhaji Abubakar Chika Adamu, a former member of the state House of Assembly from Zone B; Halidu Ibrahim from Zone C and Hajiya Dije Bala, a one-time Commissioner for Education in the state.
Why APC will participate –Fayemi
Governor Fayemi, yesterday said the APC governed states would participate in the forthcoming national conference to take care of the interests all citizens.
The governor, who spoke in Ado-Ekiti, explained that the decision of the governments of the APC-controlled states to participate in the national conference should not be seen as going against earlier position to boycott the conference.
His words: “There is no sudden change of mind. The national conference in its constitution has slot for political parties as well as states. APC is well within its rights as a party to decide on what its position is as far as the national conference is concerned. But APC also has states being governed by its members bearing in mind the fact that governors are governors of all. Without prejudice to the position that our party has taken, we preside over both members as well as non members of our party and it would be wrong for us to decide unilaterally as governors not to allow our citizens to air their views as far as the national conference is concerned.
“Take Ekiti where I can speak authoritatively for example. Ekiti people are very particular about the nature of federalism that we are practising. The citizens have interest in whether we continue to run this kind of feeding-bottle federalism or not or a co-operative federalism within a regional context. They also have a range of interests for economic prosperity and how will agriculture thrive and why should primary education be the right of Federal Government? Should we then suggest that as governors of our individual states, which are federating units within the Nigerian states, arrogate to ourselves the position that because our party is not participating we should not participate?”
S-West monarchs want delegates increased
Meanwhile, traditional rulers in the South West have called on the presidency to increase the number of traditional leaders’ representatives from three to six in each of the six zones of the country.
This came as they distanced themselves from the call for regional police, saying it would be counter-productive for the corporate existence of the country.
These were part of a communiqué issued by Yoruba Obas Conflicts Resolution Committee at the end of a three-hour deliberation in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Held at the Alakia residence of Olugbo of Ugboland, Oba Obateru Akinruntan, who is the chairman of the committee, the meeting was attended by five monarchs, who also canvassed for two out of the expected six slots that would be allotted to the South West.