By Soni Danie, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA—As the National Conference begins the consideration of the reports turned in by its 20 committees, intensive lobbying has begun with a view to influencing its outcome in favour of certain institutions, individuals and groups.
The Presidency, it was learnt last night, is keen on retaining the jumbo revenue base the Federal Government it is currently enjoying and using some of the powerful politicians at the conference to draw support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election next year.
The seat of power is also said to be seriously concerned about the move by the North to slash oil derivation revenue from 13 percent to five percent, a move it reasons, could further heighten tension in the country.
To get the support of the majority of the delegates, most of who were directly appointed by the President, aides of the President and political strategists working for his re-election are said to have met several times in recent weeks with some of the delegates considered as ‘political heavyweights’.
The series of meetings are said to have resulted in the formation of several motley groups at the confab, each jostling for the support and attention of the Presidency.
One of the groups, National Conference Unity Forum, headed by a former deputy Senate President, has already begun serious lobbying of members for Jonathan.
Sources at the confab said that apart from lobbying the delegates to back Jonathan for 2015, the lobby team also wants to ensure that the proposal by the Committee on Devolution of Power to slash Federal revenue by 10 percent does not sail through during voting.
The Federal Government currently earns 56.68 percent of national revenue, but the committee has recommended that it be reduced to 42.5, while the revenue for states and local government be raised to 35 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively.
That proposal can only sail through if it is approved by 70 percent of the delegates.
A northern delegate, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, yesterday, took serious exception to the attempt by top government officials to use their positions to unduly influence delegates to do their bidding to the detriment of the larger society.
Why we’re here
— Northern delegate
Mohammed, a delegate from Kano State, said that the north knew from the outset that the conference would not bring any tangible result to the region and Nigeria given the way the representation of delegates were skewed against the region.
Mohammed said the northerners primarily went to the conference not because of any serious expectation, but to minimise the damage which was pre-planned against them by the Presidency.
He said: “The North is aware of the skewed and unjust composition of the conference whereby it has been reduced to one-third of the delegates despite its huge population.”
The Second Republic Federal lawmaker vowed, however, that despite the setback occasioned by the unjust representation, the north was determined to ensure that its delegates were not used as guinea pigs to satisfy the lust of certain elements in positions of power.
He said: “Be that as it may, we in the north are determined to confront the challenge and acquit ourselves creditably. As a matter of world view and temperament, we believe in fairness and justice within the context of a democracy.
“We are aware of some torn-coats and traitors among northerners at the conference who are willing, for financial considerations, to adopt the most evil and most selfish agenda of the Presidency.
“But we are watching them. We are, however, aware of the political savvy of the average northerner at the conference and their capacity to defend themselves.
“Given the skewed composition of the conference and the fact that the Presidency is busy setting up groups to lobby northerners who are in the minority at the confab, it is a clear indication that it was premature to write off the north the way the Presidency did.
“Political prostitutes, whether or not they are northerners, will be in for a rude shock. The people who collect money from them do not matter in the north.
“Those who are paying money to anyone at the confab should also note that the 2015 election will not be decided at the conference, but at the polling units.”