Confab Debate

December 12, 2013

CONFAB resolutions must be based on concensus, not voting

CONFAB resolutions must be based on concensus, not  voting

Barr Tony Nnadi.

Yesterday the participants stated that the modalities for the national dialogue must originate from the communities. In this presentation, the participants argue that  resolutions must be based on concensus.


In my modalities, I have proposed that there should be a number of centers. One in Kaduna, one in Port Hacourt, one in Enugu, one in Ibadan, and one in Benin and another one in New York where the United Nations organsiation operate from. It is going to be the central place where all the information are coming from, all the processes of having a sovereign national conference is coming from.

 Fred Agbeyegbe

Fred Agbeyegbe

I have in the book  the modalities on  what is required of the people. That part of the book is called “A Nigeria Federated from the Base” What is the Base of Nigeria? It is the ethnic nationalities I mentioned earlier that God has given their land and the boundaries are known, they have home lands.

When you want the owners of the land to discuss, there is no need  to move someone in Warri where his home is to be talking to the people in Ibadan. We have nothing in common to discuss. My duty in Warri where I come from is to start talking to my immediate neighbours. Those people whose activities and mine affect each other on a daily basis.  We should be talking about how we live in Warri. However, the Ijaws, Ishekiris and Urhobos quarrel among themselves about the land in Warri, that is God’s intention, that is why he has put them there.

They are the ones that have the right to quarrel about it and they are the ones that have the right to settle it among themselves becaue none of them is going to go to Ibadan. Therefore, when you are talking about codes for co-existence, I used Warri as an examples because charity begin at home, the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Urhobos, who are the closest people are the people that should be talking together.

When they have finished talking, they will come out with a piece of paper announcing in effect that they are going forward with the idea of belonging to the same country. When that is  acceptable to the three of us that we would live together here as our own contribution and willingness to contribute to a larger body.

So, my system suggests that when the conference starts, the UN will set up these offices under the invitation of the government of Nigeria. The ethnic nationalities  will first of all in their own units go and talk among themselves. What am I saying? The Itsekiris will go and say to themselves “Brothers, we have been invited to discuss how we will live with our neighbours.

That is stage one of  the discussion. Each ethnic nationality locks the door against themselves and inform their people what is coming so that they can have enough information to decide what they want because it is their right that we are asking them to put on the table for discussion.

When they have done that, they will go to their next door neighbour with their own paper saying “We the Itsekiris, and Urhobos have decided on what we want, and how want to live with our neighbours. Then they will sit down with their neighbours and work out what they want and come to a conclusion in the second phase of the discussion.

What are I saying?  Only land owning ethnic nationalities are entitled to come to this national conference and they would discuss with their neighbours whose lands are contiguous to theirs and when they have reached an agreement, they will form one base federating unit. They will then go from there to the other level where other parts of the country must have done the same and until you have gotten to the level where you have federating units  considerations, you cannot have a federal republic.

Barr Tony Nnadi.

Barr Tony Nnadi.

In the example I gave earlier, you cannot expect me to go and talk to somebody with whom my land is not contiguous. That means also that those who are coming to the conference are picked and chosen by the ethic nationalities themselves. For the avoidance of any doubt therefore, the modalities covers attendance, representation, who nominates the representative, the staged discussions, the issues for discussion, the modalities for reaching decision and implementing the out come of those decisions. All of that are exhaustive of what you can discuss and because you are discussing it stage by stage, you do not need to invite the whole country to come together because of the trouble that is feared.

There is also going to be equality of representation. There is no issue of big tribe or small tribe. The good Lord created all nationalities equal. Therefore, representation of the conference has to be on the basis of equality. In any case, as the individual ethnic nationalities work out what they want and go on to the next stage to talk with their neigbours  in order to come out with what they want, you are narrowing down areas of disagreement and nobody comes to say “This is who to come, that is who not to come” the ethnic nationalities picked the representatives.


There shall be three

stages of discussions:


Intra ethnic nationality                        discussions

PURPOSE:                   For the education of members of an individual ethnic nationality as to what the Sovereign National Conference is all about and for discussions amongst them internally to ascertain the wishes of members of their own ethnic nationality in their protracted relationship with their other ethnic nationality neighbour(s) and to ensure better understanding for the purposes of their dealings with those ethic nationality neighbours  they are likely to become members of the same federating unit with.

ATTENDANCE:          By members of the individual ethnic nationality only.

STAGE 2:                     Inter ethnic nationality discussions

PURPOSE:                 To engage in general discussions on the basis of federating two or more ethnic nationalities, their lands and resources into federating units.

To Attend:                                      Only ethnic nationalities with contiguous lands shall attend.

Representation:    To be decided by ethnic nationality groups themselves.

Numbers:  Equal numbers per relevant ethnic nationality.


1.What the ethnic nationalities are prepared to cede to their federating units.

2. System and modality of government and social policies in the federating units.

3. Revenue allocation

4. The name of the federating unit


PROCEDURE:  Meetings, discussions and exchange of views.  However, a more elaborate  question and answer inter-ethnic referendum system could also be deployed for the purposes of certainty and for the archives.


It will be seen that STAGE discussions, rather than all ethnic nationalities sitting together at the same time,  keeps out unwieldiness, interference and influence completely.  In practice, since ethnic nationalities only discuss with their own members at STAGE 1 and only have the possibility of discussing with members of other ethnic nationalities at STAGE 2, where land contiguity first brings them into contact and since at Level 1 of draft constitution business meeting, all ethnic nationalities are already members of one federating unit or another, there is nothing for non-land contiguous ethnic nationalities to discuss.

For example, there is neither room nor need for an ethnic nationality in Warri to discuss with another ethnic nationality in Kano, except in the very unlikely possibility that all the ethnic nationalities occupying the homelands between Warri and Kano agree to contribute their homelands to the same federating unit.

In other words, in the Warri-Kano example, there is no meeting point between the Warri ethnic national and the Kano ethnic national to ever come face to face to talk about how to live together because as at the time each of them is choosing which federating unit to belong to, they will be several homelands apart.  The possibility of their meeting is therefore limited to the LEVEL 2 draft constitution business meeting, where a Warri representative may be the representative of the federating unit to which he belongs and a Kano representative may be the representative of the federating unit to which he belongs.

This has the inherent beauty of avoiding ethnicity with extremely different behaviour patterns having to negotiate rules of co-existence and engagement and thereby subsequently reducing tensions and frictions.

STAGE 3:  Inter federating unit discussions

Between:   Federating units already established by consensus between  homeland owning contiguous ethnic nationalities.

Purpose:   To consider and discuss:

1. The procedure for evolving a federal constitution;

2. The setting  up of  their own system of government as discussed and agreed by the constituent members and reduced into “federating unit”  constitutions;

3. Agreement upon

a.i.  What the federating units need the federation for,

a.ii. What the individual federating unit is ceding to the federation

iii. The structure of the federation;

iv. The establishment of a central authority to administer the federation agreement.

v, The location of the central authority

vi. The scope and limits of the powers of federation’s central authority in its relationship with the federating units

vii. The revenue to be contributed by the federating units to the central authority for its upkeep and execution of its central authority responsibilities;


There shall be two Constitution Drafting Business Meetings

1.Federating unit constitution drafting business meeting

Between:   Contiguous homeland ethnic nationalities  who have agreed to belong to the same federating unit.

Purpose: To evolve a federating unit constitution from the constitutions of the ethnic nationalities who are members of the federating unit.

Attendance           Representatives of ethnic nationalities.

Representation:  Equal number of representatives per ethnic nationality.

Number of Representatives:  To be decided by the federating units themselves.

Agreements to be reached:

By nonsensus – No voting

Each ethnic nationality must come armed with a copy of what it excepts the constitution of the federating unit should be.

2. Federal republic constitution drafting business meeting.

Between:   Federating units, who have agreed to federate their federating   units?

Purpose:   To evolve a federal constitution for a federal republic  from the constitutions of the different federating units.

ATTENDANCE:          Representatives of federating units.

Each federating unit must come armed with a copy of its ownunit’s constitution.

REPRESENTATION: Equal number of representatives per federating unit.

Number of representatives:

To be decided by the federating units themselves.

AGREEMENTS TO BE REACHED:  By consensus – No voting.


The negotiations should bear in mind that not only is the city of the central authority a creation of the federating units, the functionaries at that city administering the central government are to be donated by and from the federating units. The legislations of the federating units (the principals) cannot therefore  always make way for that of their agents.

In the event the guiding principles and essential points in our new federal constitution should be:

1.The determination of the source of rights, obligations, powers and duties of the constituent members of the federation;

2. The creation of a custodian central authority to which to cede some of the rights, obligations, powers and duties already ceded to the units by their own constituent membership, in the furtherance of the interests of the federation as an entity;

3. The agreement upon which rights, obligations, powers and duties are to be ceded to the central authority;

4. The protection, against the central authority of the residual or the un-ceded rights;

5. The powers by which the rights, obligations, powers and duties ceded are to be protected and enforced by the recipient central authority;

6. The process by which the obligations and duties of the central authority towards the constituent members can be enforced;

7.The wherewithal available to the central authority for the maintenance of its institutions and execution of its functions;

8. The type of institutions of government and governance to be adopted at the centre.

The foregoing identifies the subject matters for discussions between the federating units for the purposes of our new federal constitution as:

1. (a) Pre-ambular text reciting the intention of the constituent members to federate;

2. (a)  Name for the federation;

3. The creation of a central authority;

4.The rules of engagement between all parties; all of which in the end should translate into agreements upon

(4)  sacrosanct areas:

i. The federation and its territories

ii.The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

a.iii.The executive powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

a.iv. The judicial powers of the FederalRepublic.


You sounded so critical of the role of Prof. Ben Nwabueze in the1979 constitution, but you did not tell us the impact on the Nigerian state. What do you think we may have gained or lost by the unitary constitution as you called it?

Barr. Nnadi:

I drew a paradigm betweenthe shareholders of a comany and the management of that company in comaparison to the people and the government , especially as it relates to who owns the power in relation to who holds the sovereignty in a country. It is from that point you will now begin to imagine what  it would look like for somebody to suggest that the right to decide the affairs of the company or the affairs of the state like in Nigeria, no longer belongs to the people,   because they had engaged a management called government and election is the recruitment process that brings about the government for a limited period  and their mandate is just to go and do what the people has stated in the chartered document, because it is within  that chartered document that they first decide to be in the union who will bring what to the center and who would take what,  what the units will bring, what individuals get, how to protect everybody and all of that. It is from that point you will now begin to imagine what  it would look like for somebody to suggest that the right to decide the affairs of the company or the state of Nigeria, no longer belongs to the people  because they had engaged a management called government and election is the recruitment process that brings about the government for a limited period  and their mandate is just to go and do what the people stated in the chartered document. It is within  that chartered document that they first decide to be in the union.

Those things are just like  the shareholders of the company, that list the content of their memo and article. If you wake up one day and the management team seizes the premises of the company, seize the enterprise from you and write their own memo and article, you will come to where you have to decide whether you want to continue with that enterprise.

So, Prof. Ben Nwabueze is certainly wrong on that point of saying that our sovereignty vests with the government. Nwabueze seems to be suggesting that federation runs on one constitution because reading what he wrote, he said that already, he has a group of lawyers who are doing the kind of thing they did in 1977, to draft a constitution that would be discussed by the conference when they come.

A federation presupposes a union  of constituents. Where Nigeria fell into the ditch that we are in today was in 1966, when some soldiers came in, did away with the five constitutions that define the Nigerian union at the time.

I remember that the Western region had their own constitution in 1957 and they became self governing followed by Eastern region and the Northern region in 1959. It was when  those federating constitutions were ready that they now federated in 1960. So, what happened to us was that in 1966, some people threw away all of that and they started doing things on a unitary basis, one constitution for the whole country that now defines the center.

The centre is now the owner of everybody whereas, the federal system is supposed to be the enterprise of the federating units with their constitutions.  Where we are today is that we must accept  that the task on hand is to restore the federating constitutions and federate them on terms that are acceptable to those who have been here on adverse terms.

Therefore,  for Prof.  Nwabueze to suggest that he would draft one constitution in one corner and then take it to the conference, like it happened in the 1977 Constituent Assembly  , is heresy in law.

When a degree is awarded to you, the university would say that you are fit in character and in learning. If I knew where Prof. Nwabueze trained, I would write  out a letter to them, that is to tell you how bad the situation is because it has caused blood in the land, that himself and Chief Rotimi Williams and whoever worked with them in 1977/1978 could so subvert the eternal interest of their people for a fee. I dare ask today who commissioned  the task of writing a constitution before the Constituent  Assembly was called.

You know that Chief Obafemi Awolowo opted out because  the thing had be defined before the Constituent Assembly was called. I happened to know directly from Bankole Okedeji, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, but he is late now. Bankole told me that Chief Rotimi  Williams approached him when Gen. Murtala Mohammed commissioned him on a blank cheque to go and