AS the National Conference got underway yesterday, three of the prominent delegates spoke to Vanguard on their expectations. The leader of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC delegation Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, the chief priest of Benin Kingdom, Chief Nosa Isekhure and former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana.
By HENRY UMORU
National unity not negotiable — Umar, NLC boss
We will articulate our positions as usual because this is our main focus and that is that. The unity of the country is not negotiable. Then fundamental issues of good governance, cost of governance, restructuring if the need arises and also other social vices like corruption, unemployment and so on. These are the major issues that will be on the front burner for labour.
On the proposal for a referendum
Of course, it is going to strengthen democracy and it is going to work better for Nigeria if whatever is the outcome of the conference is subjected to a referendum which would mean the generality of Nigerians would also have a say in whatever is deliberated and resolutions arrived at here.
We are really encouraged by the words of the president as it appears that the president means business and there seems to be not much of a hidden agenda and that is what Nigerians are looking for.
Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, Chief Priest of Benin Kingdom said: “I think this confab is to re-order Nigeria in terms of how we see ourselves, in terms of prioritization of our interests like what does Nigeria really want to achieve. Like the President rightly said, when we started in 1960 as a nation, we had high hopes. Those people who fought for our independence had high hopes as to what Nigeria is going to be 20, 30, 100 years. But when the military coup of 1966 came, everything went down and it has consistently gone down.
A few of our leaders like Murtala Mohammed, you know took some very fundamental decisions like moving the capital from Lagos to Abuja for the suppose of decongesting Lagos as it were. And now we are witnessing Abuja now the way it is. Enough streets for people to move and others.
However, the politics has not changed because people still see Nigeria essentially from their ethnic establishments which is very bad. Nigeria is a nation and when you are in a nation, every ethnic nationality subordinate themselves. You don’t talk about where you come from. You talk about I am a Nigerian and that was exactly what the President talked about yesterday (Monday). Nigeria is the project.
Definitely, I believe that the caliber of people here because when you stay too much in the sun, you become adapted to it.
I believe because of the nature of the conference, because of the caliber of personnel drafted from all over the country, this is the first time we are bringing students, handicap people, which is very good. And it is a diversion from the old routine way of doing things, bringing everybody to come here and debate and to express their views as to how they believe this country can move forward in order for things to be alright, that is the right thing to do.
I am very confident that Jonathan has a very good mission; he has a good objective concerning the conference. And I am also confident because of the kind of people you see there like the Hon. Justice Kutigi who is not only a notable Nigerian, but one who has served the judiciary well.
I believe we will advice, digest our ideals, we will offer solutions and present to the government and we will also follow up to ensure that government take the next critical step, either by subjecting it to a referendum which is the most important aspect of it or apply any political methodology that can make the ideals suggested to the implementation, something that will ginger up the new agenda for a new nation.
Yes, I am excited — Jerry Gana
There is going to be a very profound consensus generated around major issues that are agitating people’s minds and they will be peacefully resolved so that we can move forward together. Issues of revenue allocation, fiscal federalism, people are agitating about because they want devolution not only of functions, but of resources. So that the centre can be decongested, so that states and local governments can become more functional, more effective, more robust in delivering services.
But there are a lot of people who are asking about the structure of governance. Maybe, we would listen to them and see which is the best structure that works. Even the system of governance, some of us are happy about the Presidential system of government.
There are those who believe that it is a bit too expensive and they want to discuss other issues, why not?
But the most important thing that is going to be added in this, is that the news of the implementation of our decision this time around is going to be different. It is not going to be left to the whims and caprices of any person after we’ve left.
It will be decided and I think everybody is asking for a referendum which is good and we agree with it. In other words, implementation is not going to be subjected to the recommendation of anybody after we’ve left.We will decide it and Nigerians will now have a stamp of authority.