BY HENRY UMORU
THEREwas a shouting session yesterday at the on – going National Conference following the use of foul language by a delegate from the North West geo- political zone on the South East zone.
A delegate representing the North West, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta while contributing to the report of Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, had described the South East as “so called South East.”
This did not go down well with other delegates especially those from the Southeast as his comments were immediately trailed by shouts of point of Order from the hall.
Not comfortable with the statement made by an Elder-statesman from the North and to give him a soft landing, a delegate representing Borno State, Dr. Haruna Yerima asked Dambatta to apologise against the backdrop that if the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto were to be alive, he would not use such statements against another part of the country.
Following his refusal to apologise despite the intervention of Yerima, an infuriated Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, a delegate on the platform of Elder Statesmen drew the chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi’s attention to the action of Dambatta.
Nwachukwu who reminded the delegates of his sacrifices during the civil war demanded an apology from Dambatta for referring to the Southeast in a derogatory manner, adding that Alhaji Dambata had during his contribution to the debate referred to the South East as the ‘so called’.
According to Ike Nwachukwu, it was wrong to address a group of people with such derogatory remarks and that he should be asked to apologize.
Soon after Nwachukwu finished, Dambatta stood up and rather than apologise, said, “The comment where I said the ‘so called South East’ it is the same way I will refer to North West zone. In the context of my argument, I was talking about the creation of states and that no where in our constitution were geo-political zones mentioned.
“Also, there is nowhere in the recommendation of the Committee where zones are referred to as a tier of government, they are not recognized by the constitution therefore they are not constitutionally valid, that was my point.” “Secondly, when I was making my argument, it was not against the creation of additional state in the Southeast, I was referring to selectivity of the Committee. In one breadth, they said one State should be created by a fiat. And in another they said others should be on merit.
“All I am saying is that all states to be created should be on merit, including the one being recommended.
“To Dr Haruna, who regretted that I made that statement, I want to state that I am a nationalist, I was in the vanguard of nationalism since 1951. I am sure there is no one in this hall, except perhaps Richard Akinjide that was a nationalist then, not even Edwin Clark.
“I was in the field for the fight for our independence. I am not a parochial person, I am a nationalist, I respect every person in Nigeria. I stand by word that all the provisions in the constitution there was no reference to the zones as a tier of government, it is not valid, that was my point.” Delegates who did not wait for him to round of resumed the shout of no! no!!
To this end the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi then asked the delegate to withdraw his offending statement so that proceeding would continue.
Magagi stood and instead of apologising tried to defend his position but was shouted down by other delegates who insisted the he should formally withdraw his statement. On reaslising that he was alone, the embattled Dambatta stood up again and apologised to Southeast delegates, saying that he was sorry for using the derogatory language.
He said, “Because of my disposition and my standing in this country and the service I rendered for the development of this country, I did not mean any offense with my remarks. “If anybody is offended I did not mean it and I apologise to them or him. I did not mean to offend anyone. In that regards, I apologise to those who feel offended.”