Senator Ibrahim Idah, who represented Katsina Central at the Senate in 2007 to 2011, was the Principal Secretary to former National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. He is a delegate on the platform of Elder Statesmen category.
First of all, we thank God for bringing us this far, for seeing the processes through. We thank the leadership of the conference for seeing to it that, in the end, good judgment and sincerity of purpose prevailed. I want to thank my colleagues, especially northern delegates and all other delegates, because they pointed out the implications of certain actions which, if allowed to pass through, will truncate democracy as we know it in Nigeria.
The press has been awashed with speculative stories that seem to indicate that the northern delegates are against this or against that, absolutely not. We are mindful of the facts that when the conference held, specific resolutions were passed to adopt recommendations. Now we really went through the draft that was given to us to ensure that the contents of this report reflect what has been agreed upon and that was the bone of contention.
Two, most of us are mindful of the fact that certain actions may be taken ignorantly and, if allowed to sail through, are bound to have certain implications. We not only pointed it out, but also insisted that for us to really own up to the final product of the conference, these pit falls, these short comings must be addressed and that was what was done.
Our acceptance of the motion proposed for the adoption of the report for the secretariat to finalize was predicated on the fact that Volume three was reflected as a new constitution. What does that mean? The correct thing was that these are proposals made for the amendment to the 1999 Constitution. That constitution is the subsisting constitution and it is on its basis that we are here. We are not a constituent assembly, we did not come up to draw up a constitution, and we came up to look at issues objectively within a wider spectrum those things that could be done through policies, those things that could be done through laws and those that could be done through constitutional amendment.
So having done all that, we now felt that to call all those things that have to do with constitutional amendment, to call them a new constitution was absolutely wrong.
We painstakingly went through all the reports and highlighted the specific areas that we felt were errors of omission or commission. I will give you an example; the draft report said Section 315 should be deleted. We never considered that especially against the back drop that if you do that, then there are certain protective legislation like the NYSC that would have to be thrown out, that was never a consideration.
Now we have accepted the report of the conference on the grounds that all these observations would be corrected. We are not asking for anything new, we are only insisting that the right thing should be done and precisely that was what has been promised us by the secretariat and that is what we are going to follow up to see it through.
Before this soft landing, it was like the fight was between the North and the South or the North and President Jonathan.
That was the impression, sometimes we want to sectionalize issues. We know it was not. First of all, President Jonathan was the person who convened this conference. Two, he is the president. He is the president of the North and the South; we have absolutely nothing to go against him within this conference.
Two, it is not an issue of the North and South. Maybe it is people from the North who highlighted certain issues and championed certain issues. It is natural for people to fall into that trap of thinking that the North wants to promote an agenda. We did not. We are fighting for democracy; we are fighting for Nigeria, the totality of Nigeria. And that is why you find that when compromise was reached, the issue pointed out was corrected, everybody applauded. If it were a northern agenda, those from the South would have said no. But you could see that it was an overflow.
I want to say this, at no time did the delegates from the North fight for themselves. We were fighting for Nigeria and I would like to believe that our colleagues from the South were also doing the same thing. I mean it was very interesting. In Nigeria, you would always think that the heaven would fall, but the anti-climax would always be the main issue. By the time we were coming in, the media was full of reports that the sitting would be ‘I do or I break affair.’
If that was what it were, Iam sure the doubting Thomas was put to shame because Nigeria once more rose up to the occasion and shows that it is Nigeria that each and every one cares about, not the North, not the south because all these are components. And we know that a component is never as strong as a whole. Nigeria is for all of us. No Nigerian wherever he comes from or wherever he happens to be is inferior or superior to the other. We are all equal. But obviously we all have our peoples interest and idiosyncrasies and when you come to a conference like this, they are bound to happen.
But if you go to our political environment, this is not a difficult time. It always appears as if things will break down but in the end, we emerged stronger than we have ever been.