By Henry Umoru
SOUTHERN and Middle Belt delegates at the National Conference, yesterday, told their northern colleagues and the country that there was no hidden agenda in the draft Constitution produced by the Secretariat of the Conference, saying that it was an insult to allege that President Goodluck Jonathan was planning third term using the delegates.
Drawn from the South- South, South-East and South-West geo- political zones of the country and the Middle Belt, the delegates backed the draft Constitution, which they described as a product of resolutions reached by all delegates including northern delegates.
They stressed that if the entire report produced by the Conference was fully implemented by President Jonathan, it would give birth to a new Nigeria.
Addressing Journalists yesterday, former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark who noted that the repor was not different from what everyone agreed on, adding that rather than castigate the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi and the Secretariat, they ought to have been commended for producing a perfect and very intelligent report.
Chief Clark, a delegate on the platform of the Elder Statesmen category was flanked at the briefing by the leader of South-West delegates, Chief Olu Falae; leader of the South-East, General Ike Nwachukwu; Secretary General, Middle Belt Forum, John Dara; Prof. Anya O. Anya; Chief Raymond Dokpesi; Senator Aniete Okon; Charles Edosonwan, SAN; Col. Tony Nyiam; Ms Ann Kio Briggs; Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; Yinka Odumakin; Chief Femi Okunrounmu; and Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike, among others.
Northern delegates at the conference had on Tuesday at a press briefing dissociated themselves from the ‘New Constitution’, alleging that it was a plot to bring about a third term agenda by President Jonathan and the governors.
Addressing Journalists on Tuesday at Gombe Jewel Hotel, Wuse 11, Abuja, Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF and former Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Coomasie in company of other northern leaders, warned that if the document which he described as a third term agenda was not killed at the conference, it would like in 2005, lead to anarchy, violence and chaos.
Reacting to the northern delegates comments yesterday, Clark said: “There are no issues that are controversial. We met for about four months and various issues were discussed, debated and about 600 motions were passed by consensus. Everybody agreed. At the end of that we went on two weeks leave.
“We were surprised when we came back, there were volumes of papers and reports; looking through them, we want to say it was a very good job. The chairman, Justice Kutigi, his deputy and the Secretary and the entire secretariat, we congratulate them.
“The reports are three in volume and there are other ancillary papers. I assure you that if the resolutions contained in the report are implemented by government a new Nigeria would be born. We have all learnt a lot for the last months, having been a politician for 50 years, what I learnt in this period is fantastic, so we congratulate the management headed by Kutigi.
“It was very unfortunate to learn yesterday that some delegates addressed a press conference on a so-called new constitution. When we were discussing during the conference, we touched on many issues, some of which suggested constitutional changes, some policy and others legislative. What they have done is to put together all the amendments to the 1999 constitution and additional ones, they were not many, where there is need for subtraction they did it and a new document has being produced. And there is nothing wrong if somebody calls it a proposed draft constitution, we have nothing to hide, but that would bring a new change to Nigeria.
“So we want to dispel the idea that there is confusion at the conference, there is disagreement and all of that. We have all met Justice Kutigi and his team today, we have agreed that by tomorrow, we should adopt the reports they have produced on our behalf.
I can tell you that Nigeria has never been united like this before. We have done a good job for Nigeria, it will take time to gather this caliber of delegates to take the resolutions we have taken here. We are appealing to Mr. President therefore that our resolutions as contained in the report should be treated with dispatch to the benefit of Nigerians and a new Nigeria shall be born.”
It’s insulting to say we are working for some political leaders — Falae, Nwachukwu
Also speaking during yesterday’s press briefing, leader of the South-West delegates and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae noted that it was completely false and insulting for any one to allege that they were working for some political leaders.
“Let me add very quickly that some falsehood has been injected into the media in the last few days, there were allegations that we are working for some political leaders. That is false and insulting. Since I got to this conference, nobody has tried to influence me or my delegation on any matter whatsoever, and I am sure that is true for all of us.
“There were specific allegations that we had recommended a single tenure of six years for the president that is not true. We said two terms of four years as in the present constitution. So how people manufactured those lies to deceive the public beats me completely. The documents we have are three, volume one and two and the draft constitution.
“The information in each of the three is exactly the same. In other words the three contain all our resolutions arrived at by consensus. The first volume presents the reports in prose; the second volume presents the report in tabular form. The draft constitution presents the same conclusions in constitutional format.
“It is the mode of presentation that varies, the information is the same. And there is nothing there that did not come from our decisions and it was agreed this morning that if anybody observes any error, or omission or commission, they should send a paper to the secretariat and it would be corrected on the basis of the hansard that contains the proceedings of the conference and of the votes and proceedings of the conference so there is no room for any disagreement at all at this stage.”
Leader of South-East delegates Gen. Ike Ike Nwachukwu, who vowed that they would ensure that no section of the country lords it over others, said: “On our part we have been faithful pursuing our mandate to redesign and redefine Nigeria in which no man or woman will be oppressed and no section of this country lords it over the other any more.
“Secondly, no one has asked us to seek a third term for anybody, like it has been said. Anyone who said this is insulting us. The final point I want to make is this, our report and our recommendations should be placed in the public domain so Nigerians can understand what was done and they would then decide whether we have wasted their money and time or we have given them the opportunity to build a new Nigeria.”
Secretary General of Middle Belt Forum, John Dara, who noted that the reality was that Nigeria would be operating on a new improved constitution at the end of the Conference pledged the total loyalty of Middle Belt people to the document and report of the Conference. “I am the Secretary General of the Middle Belt Forum. I would like to put it on record that the wrong impression that the whole of Northern Nigeria is opposed to the resolutions taken and the reports that are being presented is incorrect. The Middle Belt Forum consists of 14 states out of the 19 states of Northern Nigeria, and the delegations of those states are solidly in support of the outcome of this conference.
“Not only that, we are very impressed with the level of integrity and accuracy demonstrated by the secretariat in reflecting our views. We had recommended that the logical outcome of the constitutional changes we have recommended is that there would be a new Constitution or the 1999 constitution be amended. Whichever way, it is an equation of the cup being half full or half empty.”
Allegation designed to rubbish the Conference and leadership – Ondo delegates
Also yesterday, delegates representing Ondo State said they were not part of any alleged plot to use the Conference to get a Third Term agenda for President Jonathan or any other political office holder in the country as alleged by the Northern Delegates Forum.
In a statement yesterday by the Leader of the delegation and the State Commissioner for Vocational and Technical Education, Mr. Remi Olatubora, noted that the allegation was designed to smear the good work done by the delegates and leadership of the conference.
Noting was smuggled into the Constitution – Umeh, Ozekhome
Also a delegate National Chairman of the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, described the northern delegates, who described the draft Constitution as a third term as those introducing an agenda to scuttle the 2014 National Conference.
Speaking with Journalists yesterday, Umeh having failed during the plenary and at committee level, the Northern delegates want to hide under the alleged third term to rubbish the work of the delegates and the leadership of the Conference, adding that they would surely fail.
In like manner, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said that nothing was smuggled into the reports handed over to delegates by the secretariat as being alleged, stressing that it amounts to an insult for some delegates to input such allegations with the caliber of persons at the conference and for the fact that proceedings during the conference were aired live for Nigerians and the world to watch.