BY SAM EYOBOKA, HENRY UMORU, CALEB AYANSINA & CHRIS OCHAYI
ABUJA—EXACTLY seven days to the beginning of the National Conference, the Primate of the Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, has asked the Federal Government to guide against issues that torpedoed past exercise, warning that failure of the conference could send a wrong signal on the future and unity of the country.
Okoh, who noted that most Nigerians were looking forward to the confab with high optimism, said the atmosphere should be made conducive for delegates to discuss relevant issues with frankness and sincerity.
He said although the government of Nigeria was committed to indivisibility of the country, he averred that delegates, who feel that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable, should feel free to express their views.
Okoh, who made this known in Abuja during an interview with newsmen, stated that at no time than now should the component units in Nigeria use the confab as a veritable opportunity to determine whether or not Nigeria should be.
His words: “The conference must not fail. If it does, Nigerians would be disillusioned. It must solve the Nigerian problems. The questions about the Nigerian project must be thoroughly addressed. If the federation of Nigeria should remain indivisible and indissoluble in line with the thinking of the government, then after
this conference, I should be able to sleep in Kano and close my two eyes without any fear. Somebody from Kano should be able to live in Kano, sleep there with his eyes closed. Somebody should lie down in Lagos or Warri without thinking of ethnic sentiments. The same thing should happen in Zamfara, Yobe, Sokoto, Maiduguri and other states in the North without outsiders having fear about religion and other things. If we went to the National Conference and come back without resolving the issues, then we have not started as a Nation.”
Okoh spoke as former local council chairmen disowned the list of delegates as their representatives just as a prominent Ijaw leader, Bolou-Owei of Izon-Ebe, Chief Tunde Smooth condemned the non-inclusion of the Itsekiri Nation in the conference.
The former council chairmen, who spoke on the banner of Former Elected Local Government Chairmen Association, FELGOCAS, yesterday, said those on the list of former council chairmen delegates were unknown persons.
In a protest letter signed by National President of FELGOCAS, Iliyasu Isa Danmusa, the former chairmen explained that following the request by the Federal Government for nomination of delegates, the umbrella body of the former council chairmen had last month forwarded a list of its nominees to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The names of those it forwarded to the SGF were Hon Iliyasu Isa Danmusa (North West), Hon Hassan Kafayos (North East), Hon Bala Salisu Lokoja (North Central), Hon Martias Ekweremadu (South East), Hon Emmanuel Soroku (South-South) and Hon Prince Adesegun Abdel Majid Adekoya (South-West).
However, those published as delegates are Hon. Felix Akhabue, Barr. Nasiru Ibrahim Junji, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Ahmed, Barrister Igberi Nweme, Hon. Emmanuel Tsamdu and Chief Shola Ebiseeni.
Alleging manipulation of the list, FELGOCAS in the protest letter dated March 7, urged the government to effect the required changes and accept its duly nominated delegates because “we are the legitimate registered members under former elected local government chairmen association with the Corporate Affairs Commission.”
Reacting to this development, a former chairman of Kosofe local government in Lagos State, Prince Adesegun Adekoya said members of FELGOCAS will not condone the manipulation of the delegates’ list and will do everything legally possible, including mobilization of former and incumbent council chairman, to protest hijack of the delegates list.
Prince Adekoya, who is also the FELGOCAS National Vice chairman (South West) explained that there is only one legally recognized umbrella body of former elected council chairmen in the country and wondered where the office of the SGF got the list it published as former council chairmen.
Include Itsekiri— Smooth
Criticising the exclusion of the Itsekiri in the conference, Chief Smooth, described the development as unfortunate, adding that the national conference should be a true representation of every ethnic group irrespective of the size, colour and location.
According to him, “the Itsekiris who are one of the major oil producers in the Niger Delta and having contributed immensely to the growth and development of Nigeria should not have been excluded from this very important dialogue where the fate of the country would be discussed.”
Smooth pointed out that “those who masterminded the exclusion of the Itsekiris did not wish Delta State and the South-South zone any good. Therefore, all well meaning Nigerians who wants peace to reign in this country should condemned the act.
He opined that in this critical stage of Nigeria’s political history, every ethnic group has a role to play because all the ethnic groups have their peculiarities and therefore should not be disenfranchised.
Wondering how and why Itsekiri was excluded, he appealed to the Federal Government to address the anomaly, saying: “From all indications, something went wrong which we will find out, if not how would the ethnic group of Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan be erased from Nigeria?”