BY OKEY NDIRIBE
As the National Conference kicked off Monday in Abuja, prominent delegates from different parts of the country have expressed divergent views on the vision and agenda of the confab.
Speaking with Vanguard at the National Judicial Institute, venue of the confab, First Republic Minister of Information Chief Edwin Clark advocated for a re-adoption of the 1963 Republican Constitution that provided for strong regional governments.
However, second Republic Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide, opposed such a move.
Said he: “I agree we should go back to the 1963 republican constitution for the following reasons: The first reason is because it provided for true federalism and a fiscal federation.
One of the things that I like about that Constitution was that you couldn’t just become a minister; your people must accept you by voting for you.”
He continued:” You would first be a member of parliament before you became a minister. But under the present dispensation, a Minister who doesn’t know his people or where he comes from could be appointed into office. Such a person would not be accountable to his people or to the parliament. But if he was elected, he would be accountable to the parliament and his people who voted for him. Secondly, the correct fiscal arrangements are contained in that Constitution.”
However, Akinjide disagreed.
Said he: “I have heard people advocating that we should return to the parliamentary system of government. Many of those who are saying so don’t know what they are talking about. I was involved in the parliamentary system. I was involved in the process which led to tightening of the Constitution and making the centre stronger. We had our reasons for doing those things. We had military intervention. We didn’t want military intervention again.
“The Central Government is critical because we produce oil which generates about 80 percent of our public revenue. The control of that kind of revenue is critical. The Central, States and local governments should have their own share of this revenue.”
He continued:”However, I want a federal system with a strong legislative list. In a situation where the centre is controlling the oil money, while the states were generating revenue from cocoa, groundnuts and palm oil, we had to be very careful.
“I have been to USA, Australia, Canada and India to study how their federal systems work. I know the British system too. It was based on the vast experiences of Chief Awolowo, Chief Azikiwe, Sardauna, Chief Akintola and Osadebey that we created what we have. People should not touch it lightly. I say this with the greatest sense of responsibility and I am ready to debate it anywhere in the world. I expect the best from this conference.”