Confab Debate

December 11, 2013

We must get the CONFAB modalities right

We must get the CONFAB modalities right

Barrister Tony Nnadi
As I was saying, from  the perspective of the people who indeed matter most, this is the first time the instrument of state power is not under the control of those who believe that they are born to rule. This is the first time in Nigeria ‘s history and that  chance should not be missed.

The seventh point that supports why we should convey a national conference now is that prior to this era, there are not many example for us to learn from, but now, the examples of the return of  of Ethiopia  is there for us to follow. When I was in UK, I was with Ken Saro-Wiwa; he  was one of the people that educated the present crop of persons who became leaders of Ethiopia today.

In other words, here was a Nigerian who contributed to what is now called a federation in Ethiopia. You can see that the unitary part of Ethiopia is gone.

Remember that Ethiopia used to be a place where you find people who are malnourished, but now Ethiopia economy is one of the fastest growing economies because after so many years of fighting, they conveyed a national conference and they now have what is called ethnic federal system.

The misleading view that a country cannot have a national conference when there is parliament system in place has been disproved by the recent examples of referendum of the resolution of Kenyan National Conference.

If you remember, Kenya had inter-ethnic crisis before the last two elections in which a lot of people died. After that crisis, they went through a national conference. The resolution of that national conference was subjected to a referendum, accompanied by truth, Justice and peace reconciliation.  Today,  it has moved from a unitary country to a proper federalism.

From left: Mr. Marshal Kunoun,  Mr. Ambah Birebi, Barrister Tony Nnadi, Hugo Odiogor, Elder Fred Agbeyegbe and Col. Tony Nyiam at the Conference Hall.

From left: Mr. Marshal Kunoun, Mr. Ambah Birebi, Barrister Tony Nnadi, Hugo Odiogor, Elder Fred Agbeyegbe and Col. Tony Nyiam at the Conference Hall.

When people say that we cannot have a conference while we still have a parliament in place, I find  it very ridiculous because if Kenya can just do it recently, I don’t see why we cannot  do it.

For those who want to know, we can also learn from the British parliament,which is the mother of all parliaments, for not standing in the way of a referendum of the Scottish for a national conference. So, there are examples for us to learn from. All the arguments as to whether we should have a conference when there is a parliament does not hold water.

For those who don’t like the word ‘sovereignty’, for them I would rather say let them choose the word ‘People National Conference.’

The other point on  why we need a conference now is that the world is fast becoming a global village. It would be foolish for any country not to follow the universal good governance practice most especially as it can be seen that the countries that have domesticated the practices are fairing very well. Examples are, Rwanda, Botswana and Ghana.

The last point on this is the luck of having a listening president, which is the first time the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, who is both the Head of State and the head of the federal government, has initiated a national dialogue process in which there are pressing needs for people to deliberate on.

As for me, sovereignty will always be earned by anybody. It is not something that you can label. The process which the president has put in place will inherently lead to a Sovereign National Conference because once the conference is started and  the outcome is subjected to a resolution and the resolution is subjected to a referendum, like I pointed out earlier, there is no where in history where a parliament stands on the way of that resolution by the people.

That is why I said thatwhat we need is a people’s national conference and I bet to see anybody who would stand on the way of the people.

All these discussions have to be seen from the point of view of the mission of this proposed national conference because we cannot be discussing these things if we do not want to anchor it on the vision of we want Nigeria to be. And of course, those who  are capable of seeing this vision are people who have given serious considerations to the appropriate political structure that can keep a diverse nation like ours  united and prosperous.

Going by the experience and the comments during my participation in the advisory committee, the vision of Nigeria which they are expressing is a country in which democracy and federalism are anchored on the principles of liberty, justice, fairness, love, truthful conduct, equality, selfless public service and social well fair.

If we follow this vision, some of the problems we are having will not arise. Arising from this vision is what we called a mission statement. That is what Nigerians are saying that their mission statement would be. The aim of the planned conference is to serve as means to an end. That end is to return Nigeria to a democratic federal order which promotes a sustainable well being of our diverse people.

Clearly, for this mission to be attained, it has to be a people driven national conference. The objectives arising from this; is that it has to give the different groups in Nigeria the opportunity they have long sought for  so that they can negotiate among themselves on how they want to co-exist forever.

The conference has to create the enabling time for the resolution of problems which have been on for decades and have challenged  the foundation of the Nigerian state.


Ambah Binebi

Ambah Binebi

It has to profer lasting solution; the problem solving has to be  from their root cause and it has to be accompanied with a South African, North Ireland  or Kenya type of truth, peace and justice resolution reconciliation initiative.

The various ethinic nationalities have to freely confess to those things they have done to wrong other poeple for us to start to heal our people. You saw how people came out in South Africa to confess to what they did to others. This conference has to be accompanied by a phase whereby we must all come to confess.

The Fulani man has to come  forward and confess to what he has done to the other people. The other people have to come  forward and confess what  they did to the Fulani man.  This is the process to follow so that we can begin to heal  the wound, otherwise we will be pretending.

The other point is that this conference has to provide to the people of the various ethnic nationalities  in Nigeria their inalienable right to  self government within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We had self governance in those early days of our existence  and that is the basis that true federalism works.

The lack of room in the 1999 constitution for self determination by the  people of the federating ethnic nationalities is the cause of crisis in the polity.

For example, the root cause of the militant challenges we have been experiencing in the Niger Delta is as a result of this. If you do not allow the people to determine how they would be governed, you leave them with no choice other than violence. This is why we think and believe that this conference will give people that choice.

The other point is to restore fiscal federalism to Nigeria, so as to encourage wealth and job creation by the federating states. The present system in which the state executives go every quarter in sharing of mobilised revenue is unhealthy. In fact, some of the money is taken illegally from the people, because if you say what is below someone’s land is not his own, but belongs to someone else, that is by all means stealing and you use the constitution to justify the stealing of people’s resources.

We need to free our people from the bondage of over centralisation of public finance and the disincentive for people to be productive and creative.

There are lots of incentive for public officer to go the way of graft in the existing economic political structure. So once you centralise money from the states, some of them would be taken illegitimately from the people, the money becomes no man’s money because people are encouraged to steal money as they are doing.

We need to encourage healthy rivalry in the geo-political regions. Each federating region needs to be encouraged to leverage on the areas they have competitive advantage. It is this type of intra-national competition which has facilitated many successive democratic processes to be able to attract inward investment


Tony Nnadi

Tony Nnadi

The other point is that we need to free the majority of Nigerians from internal congnisation so that they can fully actualise their creative productive potentials. The executive of the states or local government in the existing order are denied the local capacity to launch local initiative on their own with the exception of LagosState. The federating units have been reduced to core dependents of the federal government, which is an unhealthy development, which breeds indolence and lack of creativity on the part of Nigerians.

All am saying is that my former colleagues in uniform since 1979 immediately plotted and planted a system whereby they can illegitimately collect people’s property and make it legitimate. For instance, the whole idea of inland waterways, there was a dispute and somebody wanted to claim a land. The late Major Adeleke wanted to claim the Osborne road and when he tried and failed, he went to do a development that he was going to claim the land. But when people saw that the land was very important, they passed a law that is called inland waterways. They did so to the point that even the land in your own village is owned by somebody called the federal government.

This is an example of how politicians in uniform use the opportunity to create advantages for their people. In other words, what their people lack, they use bye-law and decrees to grab; by Land Use degree, the act that established the inland waterways and by the petroleum act that say the petroleum resources under somebody’s land does not belong to him.

I just had an experience where my governor in CrossRiver was just crying out that everything that comes out of the state is taken by the federal government. These are the fraudulent things that are going on. When people accuse me of hating some certain people, all I am asking for is to stop short changing my people. Allow my people control the resources that they have and they would pay their due taxes and I think it is a much efficient system to go by.

Moderator: What are the modalities for us to have a fair representation because people say that we have different nationalities, so how do we gather all of them to this conference to be able to have a meaningful dialogue. So, I want you to give me a clear guide of what we should we looking at for us to achieve a meaning dialogue


Mr. Fred:  It is true that the existing establishment has no room for what we are talking about. Local government areas, states, zones, regions are all man made creations. The situation we are in now is that for the first time, the ethnic nationalities are going to have an opportunity to decide firstly, to belong to a country. Secondly, how they will live in that country; how they are going to co-exist and thirdly how they will look after the interest of their own prosperity.

Nigeria is not God’s creation, but a creation of a roguish British representative called Lugard, who put together the people’s lands and  resources of a multitude of people across a rather long range of land and God is wise to name it Nigeria. When God creates a country, he provides certain things for that country, what is called blood relationship, they have mythologies that is common among them.

They have language that is common among them. In a great number of cases, they all serve God  through the same medium.

That makes life easy for them because they think  alike because they do not have traditions and customs that are contrarily one to the other and they have natural boundaries and God gave them the resources with which to manage their affairs primary for their own benefits. But because man does not leave on his own, they have to co-habit certain areas with other people and where that happens, they come together with those other people to work out how they would live together and make contribution from their God given gifts, resources and societal development so that the union can protect them again foreigners and intruders.

Nigeria is a typical opposite of God’s creations. Therefore, now that it has  realised that those rights are not been exercised by the owners and it has caused so much troubles, we must start from a position where all those abuses of right are eradicated. The only way to do that is not only to rely on those man-made institutions which were created deliberately to proffer advantages for those who do not have. That is to say baking the cake is not a priority, sharing it is what it is all about.

Hugo Odiogor

Hugo Odiogor

Therefore, I took the trouble to write a book on the subject matter. The book is entitled: “The Need and Modalities for a Sovereign National Conference.” I took that task simply because all the talks that it is not possible to have a sovereign national conference, none of them is supported by reasons other than that there is too many people. How do you get them to come and talk, Who is nominating who is coming and so on and so forth.

In that my book, I have set out the historical development of how Nigeria came about and in my little knowledge ,the international law principles applicable to a minimum standards the rights of communities created by God  and from there to follow the history of Nigeria from colonial time to independence and thereafter the military intervention and the separation of the rights of the people right through to the 1999 constitution, which is the codification of the separation of the right of the people till date.

From that experience, I worked out what is in my view the best modality for Nigerians who because of their past are distrustful of one another, to come and see how, if possible, they can still continue with  Nigeria as an entity, rather than wanting to fall back upon their God given right, to tear Nigeria into pieces. That is to say; that those people who are saying, don’t talk about it or we want to create no go areas are those who want the injustices in Nigeria to continue.

If the presumption  that Nigeria has suffered so much is coming mainly from the government of the day, why should we trust the government of the day to supervise this type of exercise? Why should they believe now that the government of the day does not want to continue in their predatory tendencies like Col. Nynag has been saying, they can have access to resources that belong to other people. So, the modalities that I have created as part two of my book goes into how it is possible without government interference at all except in two areas.

1.    President Jonathan has now realised that there is need to talk.

2.Create the environ-ment.

The issue now is how do you create the environment?


The structured modalities herein envisions a Nigeria federated from the base; its alchemy being the ethnic nationalities, their lands and their resources. In doing that, it is pertinent to recall a truism that was given prominence in 1981 by a co-mixed ethnic nationalities group in their quest to exercise to the hilt and coalesce their separate rights to self-assertion and determination.

They proclaimed that: “ethnic self-determination is the cornerstone of true federalism.”   Nothing has happened since 1981 to diminish the raison detre behind that truism and it remains, even today, the medicamateria of this

Marshal Kunoun

Marshal Kunoun

part of this work.  It is expected therefore that the FEDERAL REPUBLIC that would emerge from the Sovereign National Conference shall start from ethnic nationalities that are land contiguous discussing  one with the other to form what would eventually end up as federating units and the federating units would federate to become a federal republic.


1. The ethnic nationalities are the owners of the land, rivers,  waterways and resources in their land mass with all the sovereign rights over them.

(The colonialists truncated those rights and kept them for themelves.  When they left, soldiers and the 1999 Constitution further deprived them of the exercise of their sovereign rights by leaving the power to exercise them in the people in Abuja.  The tail never wags the dog; it is the other way round.

In conclusion, it must be reiterated that any plan to leave out the ethnic nationalities from an SNC or to base federating units upon existing structures, be it local govrenment, state or zone created by past leaders forced upon them either by sham elections or display of instruments of coercion:

i. Is a plan to leave ethnic nationalities as slaves to be dictated to continuously

ii. Is a plan to dictate which people should be in any unit in order to continue to control the sovereign rights of the ethnic nationalities.

2. As owners of the land and resources and the owners of the sovereign rights over them, the ethnic nationalities are the ones to decide:

i. Whether they still wish to be part of Nigeria

ii.         Who and who they want to live with in any unit

iii. What rules for living together is acceptable to them

iv. What sovereign rights they want to cede to a federating unit

v.     who and who should represent them where and when.

(Professionals, experts and eminent Nigerians are members of ethnic nationalities; they can only come into reckoning if chosen by their ethnic nationalities to represent them at any level. Any professional, expert or eminent Nigerian not chosen by its own ethnic nationality to represent them, has no place at a Sovereign Nationality Conference).

3.    There should be two federating levels:

Level I:                  The ethnic nationalit(y) (ies) level where:

a. Ethnic nationalities decide for themselves which other ethnic nationality(ies) they are not only land contiguous with, but also wish to found a federating unit with;

b. Ethnic nationalities meet and agree to belong to the same federating unit

 Fred Agbeyegbe

Fred Agbeyegbe

c. No authority or body or individual shall be in a position to dictate criteria, be it of  economic viability or otherwise for a federating unit.

d. After the meetings and agreements across ethnic nationalities lines, they:

i. Agree on a name for their federating unit

ii. Produce a Constitution evidencing their agreement as to how they wish to live together

iii. Choose their representatives that will attend the Level II SNC.

e. The number of units emerging from such agreements should be the number of units that will federate into a federation of federating units.

e. Before being submitted to Level II, the Constitution of a federating unit shall be subjected to a referendum of the ethnic nationalities in the unit where the votes of each ethnic nationalities therein shall count as ONE (1).

Level II:

ii. The federating units level where:

a. Federating units are equally represented.

b. Federating units submit their unit constitutions evidencing what sovereignties they are ceding to the confederation of the federating units.

c. Equal number of representatives of each federating unit are constituted into committees for evolving a Draft Federal Constitution from the constitutions of the federating units in attendance.

d. The emergent Draft Constitution constituted from the constitutions of the federating units, shall;

First: Be submitted to a referendum in each federating unit where the votes of each ethnic nationalities therein shall count as ONE (1) and be approved by a simple majority and;

Second: Be submitted to the “YES” VIVA VOCE (VOICE VOTE) of a Constituent Assembly made up of two (2) representatives of each ethnic nationality which is a member of a federating unit and two (2) representatives of each federating unit.

1. The committees of the federating units at Level II shall cede no power to the federal constitution that is not ceded to the federating units by the ethnic nationalities   .

5. Agreements are to be reached by persuasion and there shall be no room for voting.

6. There shall be no government involvement, except for the purposes of funding from the present national purse.

These modalities are spelt out in my book. It has to be done under the watchful eyes of the United Nations.

We would need the United Nations to come as the supervising authority for this discussions.