By Henry Umoru
The seeming divisive tones of the delegates to the National Conference changed at their inaugural meeting on Tuesday as they all agreed to pursue a Nigeria agenda.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that most delegates prior to their inauguration on Monday canvassed strongly for their sectional interests against national interest.
However, after the inaugural meeting, most of the delegates, who spoke on the floor of the house, called for the jettisoning of their primordial views.
When the Secretary, Dr Valerie Azinge announced that delegates would sit in alphabetic order, a few delegates preferred sitting according to their states or interest groups to easily confer on issues.
However, majority of them supported the arrangement, saying it would discourage ethnic, religious and other divisive interests at the conference.
The delegates who raised their voices in unison said that they were all at the conference as Nigerians.
An All Progressive Alliance (APC), chieftain and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, said a pan-Nigeria agenda should be the watchword of every delegate.
“I think I have come here as a Nigerian. We should sit in alphabetical order. If any group wants to confer on anything, they can do that after the plenary.
“I didn’t come here to be Yoruba; I want to be able to interact with others and see how we can have a pan-Nigerian discussion,” Osoba said.
Also speaking, Mr Atedo Peterside, said that he had no state as he hailed from Rivers but had left the state 40 years ago and had been living in Lagos.
“Some of us here don’t even have states. I am from Rivers but I have left the state about 40 years ago.
“I have been living in Lagos since then and I am married to a Lagosian.
“If I say I am a Rivers man, they reject me and if I say I am a Lagosian, they reject me,” he said.
Mr Steve Aluko, the Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), said he was impressed at the proceedings at the inaugural meeting.
“From what I have heard people say, I think a lot of people have come to this floor to speak the Nigerian language, on how to move Nigeria forward.
“My joy is that a good number of the delegates also applauded the Nigerian issue, not ethnic or religious sentiments.
“I think if this is what will drive the national conference, we might be setting a better pace for the future generation to step in.
“From the discussions I’ve heard with fellow delegates and the rest, people are willing to take the templates higher than what people even expected.
“I just wish this conference will be the end mark of conferences in the country,” Aluko said.
Brig-Gen Jeremiah Temlong, a delegate representing the North-Central zone, said he was impressed that everybody was talking about Nigeria at the inaugural meeting.
“Everybody was speaking with the hope of fixing Nigeria.
“It wasn’t antagonistic and you see everybody appealing to our conscience that we should all work together as Nigerians, not as tribal warlords or religious warlords,” he said.
Prof. Dakun Shown, a delegate representing Plateau, said the conference started on a commendable note that gave hope to the country.