By HENRY UMORU, JOSEPH VERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
AS delegates to the on- going national conference continued discussions on President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural speech yesterday, former Chief of Army Staff, General Alani Akinrinade (rtd) said the military has no apology for their incursions into governance, noting however, that the conference was an opportunity for Nigerians to redeem themselves.
Akinrinade, who insisted that elders and stakeholders in government were responsible for military intervention, said the conference would also serve as an opportunity to do away with the constitution that has been described severally as being imposed by the military.
Akinrinade, who caused a stir when he said the military had no apology to offer to Nigerians for the way they misruled the country for over three decades, said, “all the constitutions made in Nigeria were supported by all of you. You all contributed. I think it is time to do away with the current constitution. It is time for us to write a new constitution for the country. For now, we are not a nation, but we have the capacity to build one.”
He spoke on a day that delegates dissected President Jonathan’s inaugural speech, which dwelt on restructuring of the country, true federalism, unity of the country, religion and corruption.
The delegates who also spoke on economy, growth and development of the country, hailed the speech, noting that the President meant well for the country.
Yesterday’s discussions were kicked started with contributions from Bishop Femi Ajakaiye of the Catholic Church, Ekiti Diocese, representing the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), who stressed the need for unity of purpose among delegates.
Bishop Ajakaiye said that the conference was a veritable tool that would solve Nigeria’s myriad of problems impeding its growth as a nation.
The cleric also added that “unity is strength,oneness is strength. Rather than blaming our colonial masters hundred years after amalgamation, we need to solve our problems with this conference.”
Nigeria has come to stay — Akinjide
On his part, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Chief Richard Akinjide representing the Elder-statesmen described Nigeria as one of the greatest countries in Africa. “Let us stop being demolition contractors. We should be building contractors. Some of us here have been part of the system since independence. I do not want to continue making speeches. Let us continue to be building contractors and accept that Nigeria has come to stay as the greatest nation in Africa”, he advised.
While hailing the president’s speech, Senator Yisa Braimoh urged delegates to see the conference as a vehicle for Nigeria and Nigerians to correct the wrongs of the past.
Also, in his remarks, former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who described President Jonathan’s speech as revolutionary, said that the problems in Nigeria were man made.
According to him, the President has given us the opportunity, through this conference, to revisit our 100 years and that as Nigerians, we have no where to go. He further enjoined delegates to discuss with open hearts as well as discuss issues that will unite Nigeria.
Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Jubril Aminu, said that at the end of the conference, mutual distrust and suspicion which have long characterised Nigerians must be put behind.
Aminu cautioned that the 1999 Constitution must not be completely altered, stressing that areas which the conference should adjust a little could be on local government reforms.
He said: “the President is the first Nigerian PhD holder and the second graduate President to pilot the affairs of this nation, it is not surprising to see a well scripted and ideal speech from the President. I only hope that this conference should be our last, we should find ways of resolving our differences today. I believe his speech has helped cleared the air on a number of issues and we ought to believe him. The President said he does not have a personal agenda and we believe him, he said that we should not insist on mistrusting and distrusting one another.”
Mistrusting and distrusting
Professor Anya O. Anya said he owes this country a lot for what it has done for Him but reminded Nigerians that there is no part of the country that does not have its peculiar problems. Anya advised delegates that “we need to stop grandstanding.”
Senator Ahmed Mohammed Aruwa stirred the hornet’s nest when he subtly insulted lecturers, accusing them of teaching Nigerian students garbage.
He also took a swipe at the President’s speech arguing that some of the things itemised in the speech were ‘un-presidential’ adding, “in my view, I find the speech of the president very unpresidnetial. I see some parts of the speech as something made by someone under pressure. We cannot draft anything here if the government has failed to implement the documents we were given to revise.”
On his part, former Senate President, Senator Iyorcha Ayu, who refused to take a position on the speech of the president said that the contents of the speech showed that of a leader who was greatly worried, just as he warned delegates to reduce their expectations.
Ayu said: “It is a speech of a leader who is deeply worried on the direction of the country. It is a speech of great expeditions. The whole country expects a lot from all of us gathered here. We maybe taking ourselves too seriously of how we think we can right all the wrongs of Nigeria. I have heard some people say they want to rewrite the constitution of Nigeria. We cannot do that. We can only make recommendations.”
Also contributing, Chief Mrs. Nike Akande, who noted that unemployment still remained a a disturbing social issue in the polity, said, “My concern is about rapid development and national prosperity. Unemployment is one of the greatest problems. I am a banker and I received so many applications every day. There should be acquisition centers to train people. Insurgency and terrorism is a new dimension to our national challenge. Let us do our best at the national conference so that history can consider us. So help us God.