BY EMEKA MAMAH, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DAPO AKINREFON & SAMUEL OYADONGHA
LAGOS—TWENTY-FOUR hours after President Goodluck Jonathan raised a 13-man National Conference Advisory Committee, leading ethnic nationalities and other groups in the country have started consultations with a view to presenting their agenda to the panel. Vanguard also gathered that the different geo-political zones of the country may also meet to strategise and marshall their demands.
Viewing the President’s move as a unique opportunity to address the avalanche of socioeconomic and political problems afflicting the country, leaders of the ethnic nationalities said efforts should be made to make the national conference yield the desired result.
Ohanaeze to hold inner caucus meeting
National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Joe Nwaorgu told Vanguard on phone that immediately the Senator Femi Okurounmu-led panel, which will be inaugurated on October 7 settles, Ohanaeze would fire in its suggestions on the way forward.
But before then, he disclosed that the group would hold its Ime-Obi (inner caucus) meeting.
“Ime-Obi will meet and take decisions on the highpoint of what is best for Ndigbo and other Nigerians. The President has given the committee one month to submit its report. We will work within the time-frame,” he said.
Asked when the Ime-Obi meeting would be held, Nwaorgu said: “I will consult with the president-general on when to meet but we shall have our eyes on the time-frame.”
Our agenda for the confab —Afenifere
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, also said that it is in the process of consulting with other regions to reach a consensus before the national conference commences.
Afenifere National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin told Vanguard on telephone that it also intends to agitate for true federalism, parliamentary system of government and state police among others at the conference.
His words: “Processes will start across our region and we will collaborate with other regions that think like us so that we can harmonise our positions and ensure that this once in a life time opportunity, we do not miss it to give this country a good constitution. So consultations have started.
“Our agenda is very clear. We believe through this conference, we should save Nigeria from crash-landing and give Nigeria a soft-landing. We can forge an agenda for us to live in peace and harmony and our own response to the issue is that all delegates to the conference must first answer the question: Do we still want to live together as a people? If the answer is yes, then on what terms?
“For us in Afenifere, ours should be on the basis of federalism and once we agree that Nigeria should be a true Federal Republic of Nigeria, then the next thing to do is to draft a constitution that will spell out whether we want to continue to live together in harmony. As we speak now, all universities in Nigeria are under lock and key. If we have the six existing structures as regions and they manage the universities in their regions, there is no way ASUU will go on strike in the six regions at the same time.”
Speaking further, the Afenifere spokesman said: “Under Obasanjo, we spent $16 billion on power and there is no light throughout Nigeria. If that $16 billion had been distributed throughout the six regions and each region had gone into different power projects, all the six could not have failed at the same time. This is what we mean by regionalism. Let everybody develop at their own pace and within their areas, let the federal be lean and the regions be strong. We also believe in Afenifere that this federal structure is too costly, it promotes a lot of corruption, we should go parliamentary. For us, federalism, parliamentary, state police, devolution of powers and derivation principles are the key issues that we believe that the national conference must address so that this country can regain its lost glory.”
It must not be sovereign –Arewa
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, said, yesterday, that it would keep its plans close to its chest until “the report containing the names, the content, the scope and direction of the dialogue is made public. Till then, ACF cannot reasonably react.”
National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Mr Anthony Sani who made this known in an interview with Vanguard, however, reiterated that the North was not averse to any “national dialogue that can help strengthen the Nigerian project, provided such dialogue is not in the form of Sovereign National Conference that amounts to vote of no confidence on our democracy and its institutions, which no group has the right to do anyway.”
Bayelsa to raise elders’ committee
In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Government said it would constitute a high-powered Elders Consultative Forum to enable the state prepare adequately for the proposed national dialogue.
Governor Seriake Dickson stated this in Yenagoa at a dinner party organised by the state government as part of activities marking the nation’s 53rd independence and 17th anniversary of the creation of BayelsaState.
While commending President Goodluck Jonathan for always responding to reasonable concerns of well-meaning Nigerians, Dickson in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson noted that the convocation of the dialogue would promote national cohesion and stability.
On the rationale behind setting up the forum, the governor explained that the proposed forum will among other responsibilities, collate the divergent views of the state on matters of critical interest to the people as well as ensure that Bayelsans speak with one voice without jeopardizing the peaceful co-existence of the country.
His words: “Very soon we will have the need to assemble our elders to formally set up the Elders Consultative Forum, and to provide another platform for interaction. You are aware of the unfolding scenario at the national level which is positive. This Tuesday morning our President, leader and brother, who is flying the flag of the country so very well announced the intention of the Federal Government to hold a dialogue of the peoples of this great nation, and we commend that initiative.
“And so, in the course of this week, I will begin the mechanism for putting our elders together so that our representatives will be able to interact and compare notes with you which we will be forwarded at the appropriate time in that respect.”
Confab Committee responsible to Nigerians — Uranta
Meanwhile, a member of the newly constituted Presidential Advisory Committee, Mr. Tony Uranta, yesterday, described the Federal Government’s moves as the path to “stability and preservation of a heritage for future generations of Nigerians.”
Uranta said that his appointment as a member of the committee would help to actualise what he had long hoped for.
Uranta said: “The Committee owes it to the Jonathan administration, the stability of our nation, and the preservation of a heritage for future generations, to ensure that we hold candid talks round a table as equals.”
Speaking on his representation, he said, “I am merely a steward of the common good of Nigerians and all other stakeholders in the respect of the best values and norms of humanity worldwide, for we are all intricately interlinked with all other members of the human race.”
Uranta, who is the Secretary-General of the Nigeria National Summit Group (NNSG), also said, “I wish to remind all that this Presidential Committee may hold the key to a stable and united Nigeria that can withstand the tests of time; it’s members therefore need as much support as possible, from all stakeholders in the Nigerian entity, for them to serve creditably, and help manifest a National Conference worthy of the vision of the likes of Aka-Basorun, Gani Fawehinmi, Anthony Enahoro, Edwin Clark, Arthur Nwankwo, Wole Soyinka, Ene Ede, Tanko Yakasai, Chima Ubani, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Balarabe Musa, Ewa Henshaw, Loretta Aniagolu, Emem Okon and others who have longed striven for National Dialogue/Conference.”