By HENRY UMORU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
ABUJA – THE debate on President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech was thrown into confusion Wednesday, when a delegate and immediate past President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Peter Esele, faulted former Governor Sam Egwu’s contributions at the debate.
Esele is at the conference on the platform of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria while ex-Governor Same Egwu represents the South East geo-political zone.
Esele picked holes on the civility exhibited by the former Ebonyi helmsman in his contribution, accusing him of preaching what he never did while he held sway in office as Ebonyi State governor between 1999 and 2007.
He particularly accused the former governor of embarking on a lavish celebration of his 25th marriage, as the Minister of Education at a time the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, was on strike.
He started: “A country is not defined by its geographical borders, a country is defined by the quality the character and the content of its inhabitants, Nigeria is not working because Nigerians are not working.“In this hall, we have the creme de la creme of Nigerians. If yesterday’s men of power are complaining today, when they had that power, what did they do with it?
“We have senators here; did they pass any laws that guaranteed employment? We have Inspectors General of Police here, what did they do to empower the police that the ordinary policeman would have dignity?“Once there is no individual dignity, there can be no national dignity, we must ask ourselves this, it is not just for us to come and cry.“I had to look back when I heard ex-Governor Egwu speaking, the first thing I had to ask myself was who was that, is he an activist but he was a governor yesterday.
He was a Minister of Education yesterday, the universities were shut down and while the universities were shut down, he was having a lavish party that was shown on network television in this country, and as TUC President, I wrote a letter calling for his sack.“He was very busy quoting life in America and life in Britain, he quoted their leaders, we need to act like their leaders, it is not just for us to talk the talk, it is for us to walk the talk.
“The indices of a failing country is where its elites are busy talking about religion, religion is your private business, I don’t care who is the president of Nigeria, I don’t care who is my governor, create employment for me, put food on the table that is what I am looking for, create education, healthcare, give us the right to live.
“Give the youths the rights to achieve their dreams, that is what they are asking for, we are not asking for handouts, we must tell ourselves the truth.”
As he wanted to proceed, a delegate from Abia State on the platform of Association of Former Speaker, Chief Anayo Nnebe, raised his hands up under a matter of urgent importance.
When granted the floor, he cited the conference Order 9,Rule 10, which bar delegates from using language considered offensive on others, saying the former TUC boss had gone out of the rule by pointedly accusing Egwu of lavishing public funds which he said, he interpreted as looting public treasury, and demanded that Esele withdraw his statement.
He insisted: “If this situation is allowed, delegates will be at liberty to mention the names of people here who have looted national treasury.
“For him to make further reference to Governor Egwu is wrong and I want him to withdraw it. When he was making reference to former IG, he didn’t talk of embezzlement, he didn’t talk of insensitivity and when he made reference to a senator, he just asked question on what the Senate can do to better the lives people.
“But whe he mentioned Governor Egwu, he said that he was busy attending lavished party while education was on strike. The language is offensive and I want him to withdraw it.”
His comment caused rowdiness on the floor with many delegates standing up and shouting, ‘no,no,no, leading to a suspension of the debate for over ten minutes for calm to return .
But Nnebe was still on his feet, insisting that Esele withdrew his statement.
“Please, there is no need for this shouting; there is no need for grandstanding. We are just grandstanding,”he insisted.
At this point, the conference chairman, Justice Kutigi said: “Okay, I have heard you, although you are quoting a wrong place, it is Order 9, Rule 10.”
He subsequently cautioned: “Honourable delegates, we can make our points without mentioning names of people here, I therefore sustain the order mentioned.”
“Thank you very much, I think the other man was trying to disturb my floor but I am back. Solidarity, solidarity,” he said to the delegates who were hailing him but Justice Kutigi again, stopped him.
At this point, he said: “Mr Chairman, I withdraw calling the name, I withdraw it. I withdraw calling and mentioning the name.”
He then ended his contribution by saying: “Mr chairman, in moving our country forward, for the progress of this country, we need to know that the basis is the rule of law. What we have is the rules of the lords.
This is what we have. Once we agree that we have made the law and we have the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria, irrespective of who you are and where you are from, please, let us agree to respect our laws, so that whether a person is a rich man or a poor man, he must get justice.
A situation whereby a worker loses his job and he stays in the court for ten years, he has lose his job, he cannot guarantee food for his family, how can we talk about patriotism?”