By OKEY NDIRIBE
Two former presiding officers of the National Assembly, Senator Ken Nnamani and Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na`abba are delegates to the ongoing National Conference . Senator Nnamani served as Senate President from 2005 to 2007 while Na’aba was Speaker of the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003. In two seperate encounters, the two men share their views and expectations from the conference among other national issues.
Why we need to dialogue — Nnamani
I am an optimist and I think positively about our country particularly about this National Dialogue.
The difference between this conference and the one that was organised by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is like the difference between night and day. The Obasanjo conference was really coated with sugar, but there were bitter pills inside it which by God’s grace we helped to puncture at the National Assembly. However, I believe President Goodluck Jonathan has no hidden agenda with this conference. But if there is, people like us would puncture it. Based on my own observation, this Government means well. Do not compare apple and orange. What transpired in the past that led to the issue of third term and all that is history. I am not sure any sane person would take Nigerians on such a ride any more.
1963 Republican Constitution
I am not too sure that going back to re-adopt the 1963 Republican Constitution is what we need now. But if there is anything good in that Constitution, we would not shy away from borrowing from that. Nothing should be jettisoned.
If there is anything you think is good about that Constitution, you could present it, then it would be considered. It is not good to go for a conference of this nature with a pre-determined position. That is no more dialogue because you have made up your mind in advance. We need to come forward with new ideas
On Insecurity in the land
I am sure the conference would address the issue of high level of insecurity in the country. Any person who has experienced any type of war would not ever want to go through it again.
Death of Immigration Service Applicants
I am quite sympathetic towards the relatives of the deceased Nigeria Immigration Service applicants.
How come we have degenerated to that level where we are now asking young graduates to pay for application forms and go to stand under the scorching sun in the open field?
I am more worried about what has happened especially because of what people in other parts of the world are thinking about our country. This is because the photographs of those who lost their lives in that incident are now all over the social media and internet. My friends from the United States, England and so many parts of the world have been phoning me to ask about what was going on in this country.
Everyday, the rest of the world is getting tragic stories about this country. This is a very difficult time for all of us. We should be in a position to think positively and look forward to better things ahead. Yes, we may have had conferences in the past, but that does not mean we should stop holding conferences.
I think that this conference would make a difference; the government means well. It would be better for us to use words and ballot papers and not weapons.
This is the reason why we need a dialogue. I think that the government has taken the right direction. All well-meaning Nigerians at home and abroad should pray for the success of this dialogue.
There’s nothing to dialogue — Na’aba
I don’t think there is anything that is seriously wrong with the present constitution. Although, our present constitution is not perfect, but it is enough to guide us. What we lack is leadership. If we have the right type of leadership, our constitution would be able to guide us to anywhere we want to go.
Whatever system is adopted, nothing will work unless there is equity and justice.
There must be equity, justice, consideration, tolerance and acceptance. If these variables are in place, no Nigerian would talk about any negative thing as far as governance is concerned in this country.
You will agree with me that some of the conferences we have had in this country had delegates that were elected by the people. Others had delegates that were not elected by the people. This particular conference is one of those whose delegates were not elected by the people. All the delegates here were either appointed by the Federal Government, or nominated by professional bodies and institutions which were selected by the Government.
What is confusing to many delegates here is what are we here to represent? Are we here to represent our various institutions only or are we to cross over and represent our various regions when issues concerning them arise? Are we here to represent Nigeria? This is one of the issues a lot of delegates are finding difficult to address.
Death of Immigration Service Applicants
The issue of unemployment is a national security issue in this country. The sooner the Federal Government declares it as such, the better. We have heard of cases of Nigerians who graduated from institutions of higher learning over 10 years ago who are still searching for jobs.
Every year the number of graduates of higher institutions keeps increasing. We have to find creative ways of providing succor for our youths. We have to device a means to ensure that our graduates find employment immediately they complete their National Youth Service Corps programme. The economy must also be expanded.
On Insecurity in the Land
I believe that the insurgency is a function of the way governance has been handled in this country. This is because the people are not involved and are not being carried along; there is a disconnect between the Government and the people. Even though those in government would say there is no such disconnect but the truth is that there is.
If you analyse the situation very well, you will realize that this insurgency arose from the non-chalant attitude of political office holders. For instance, if you consider the conflict in some parts of the North between the Fulani cattle rearers and local farmers, it is all about grazing land.
During the first republic, our leaders regarded the provision of grazing land as a national security issue. They never joked with it. All the cattle routes, were marked out and were well looked after year in, year out. Today, most of these cattle or grazing routes have been taken over by farmers without bothering whether there are routes or no routes for the herdsmen to take their cattle.
Ever since this situation arose, there has been no proper support for the National Veterinary Institute, Vom which used to be responsible for the welfare of the herdsmen and the health needs of the cattle themselves. These are some of the things the Federal Government must look at. I believe once these routes are restored, you would begin to see that the level of violence in the North would subside.
The insurgents actually began recruiting members as a result of bad governance. They began to recruit from the swelling number of unemployed youths in the North-East. They are very large in number. If you come to the North-West, it is the problem of cattle rustlers that is pervasive. These cattle rustlers are mostly people who have been disenfranchised. They are not part of governance any more and they want to survive.