By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Gbenga Oke & Joseph Erunke
LAGOS—THE Presidency has once again made it clear that it would not consider the 2014 Confab report, despite calls from some quarters that the recommendations be considered and implemented.
Mr Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, ruled out implementation of the report, Sunday night, when he appeared on Channels Television’s programme on Nigeria’s 57th Independence anniversary celebrations.
Asked why the Federal Government would not consider the report, Mr Shehu said: “It was not an inclusive conference. You very well recall that the leaders of our own party – whether ACN and all of that and the governors were missing from that conference.
‘’To make matters worse, the confab was heavily criticised but the Goodluck Jonathan administration went on with it. This (the confab) was lopsided in terms of representation, ethnically, religiously, regionally; and they were insensitive to all of these things and then they want to force it down the throats of everyone. That is why it’s a problem.”
President Buhari and his administration had called on aggrieved people in the country to take their grievances to the National Assembly which it said had the constitutional backing to address such concerns.
But there had been concerns that it would be impossible to get the National Assembly to make laws in line with the desires and wishes of Nigerians, especially as such laws may be detrimental to interests represented by the lawmakers.
Shehu is not bothered by such concerns. Reason: “The members of the National Assembly are not aliens and they don’t come from the moon. They are Nigerians and they are representing definite constituencies in some of the states. So, they are serving the purpose of representation. Why can’t they be trusted?”
The Presidential aide suggested that those behind the agitation in the country were those who had failed the nation in the past. “It is not like I have no respect for older people. But there are people who think that they have messed up this country so much that they now want to resolve the problems that they created and they are in a hurry to do that,” he said.
Hard knocks for Shehu
Shehu’s views attracted hard knocks from some delegates to the confab and leaders who insisted that the country must be restructured urgently to accelerate socio-economic growth and development.
Those who picked holes in the Presidency’s stance were Leader of the National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, Chief Solomon Asemota; Elder statesman and Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Elder statesman, Chief E.K. Clark; Ogoni activist, Mr. Ledum MitEe, Mr Yinka Odumakin; and former President of Trade Unions Congress, TUC, Mr. Peter Esele.
However, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said the 2014 confab was doomed from the beginning and some of the recommendations were smuggled in.
No joining issues on this– Asemota
Chief Solomon Asemota, SAN, a member of Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, said there was no going back on restructuring of the country to ensure justice and equity, adding that the NCEF would not join issues with Malam Garba Shehu on the 2014 Confab recommendations.
His words: ‘’The NCEF has a collective view. We are talking about restructuring that encompasses everything. We are not going into any debate with Garba Shehu on the implementation of the confab report.
‘’We have been operating a faulty constitution and those who have gained so much from it will not like to let go.’’
Presidency can’t pull wool over our eyes – Ayo Adebanjo
A delegate to the conference, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, took a swipe at the Presidency, saying it would not pull wool over peoples’ eyes on its objection to the 2014 National Conference report.
Adebanjo said: “Does he want to organise his own which will be all-inclusive? We have passed the stage where a person can pull wool over our eyes. Is that the reason he is jettisoning the report? What is their objection in the recommendations of the confab? I have told him (President Buhari) that he should stop this talk of throwing away the Confab report. Who are the people that forced the current constitution we are operating now? This is the question. He should stop drawing wool over our eyes.
‘’You can never get the composition in the county that produced the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. We had quality people there, we had judges there, workers and lawyers; it was all inclusive.
‘’What is the non- inclusiveness he is talking about? It is just pretence because we passed 600 resolutions unanimously. How many people drafted the constitution that was forced on us? Is it not the military?
‘’They gathered about 50 people to draft the 1999 constitution and they put aside the one the founding fathers gave us in 1960, agreed to by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
‘’The Presidency has not been able to talk about that. If you say the confab is not all inclusive, what is the problem of going back to the 1960 constitution? What do they have against that?”
FG must restructure Nigeria – Odumakin
Another delegate to the conference, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said though the President could dump the outcome of the confab in the archives if he had issues with the report but he must be committed to restructuring the country.
“We are not fixated on the 2014 National Conference as an event but the federal spirit that the outcomes engendered. If the President has issues with the conference, he can leave it in the archives but he must start to steer the country in the direction of true federalism promised in the APC manifesto. We acknowledge his acceptance that agitations for restructuring are legitimate. He must walk the talk.”
Garba Shehu should define inclusiveness
Also speaking, a former President of Trade Unions Congress, TUC, who was at the conference, Comrade Peter Esele, said: ‘’It is important for Garba Shehu to define what he meant because every section of this country was represented.
‘’We had Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. All the political parties in the country were also represented except the APC that declined to attend. We even had representatives of the military at the conference. He needs to define inclusiveness.
“We are not saying that the Confab report is the panacea to all our problems. But there are certain things this government can take from the report. It does not matter whether it was convened by PDP or another party. What matters is that Nigeria’s money was used to organize the conference in the interest of this country.”
Confab doomed from inception – Junaid Mohammed
Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, who was also a delegate at the conference, said the 2014 Confab was doomed from the beginning.
He said: “Garba Shehu is too insignificant for me to start arguing with but I can confirm that the outcome of the Confab was also rigged because some of the recommendations made after the Confab were not agreed on.
“Issues like that of State Police and many others were never agreed on at the Confab yet it is contained in the recommendation. I believe it is within the rights of President Buhari’s government to refuse to implement the outcome of the 2014 Confab.”
He said he was not surprised by the stance of the Presidency because “from day one, the All Progressives Congress, APC, dissociated itself and they never sent anyone to the conference. APC also maintained that if they win the elections, they will not implement the report of the Confab. So I am not surprised at their unwillingness to implement the report.”
It’s proper to look at the report — Calrk
Chief Edwin Clark on his part said: “I am pleading with him (Buhari) to have an open heart. If the party can look at restructuring, it is only proper for the administration to look at the report of the conference because a lot of money was put into the project and everybody was involved. We made over 600 recommendations and we had 20 committees which had the northern delegates chairing more committees than the southern delegates.”
It’s a sad day — Anenih
Also speaking with Vanguard, former Minister of Women Affairs and a delegate to the conference, Iyom Josephine Anenih, said if government fails to implement the report of the all encompassing conference, the progress of the country will be set backward.
Anenih said: “It is a sad day, the day the Presidency will make such a statement that it will not look at the report of the 2014 Conference. We do not know which other conference can be as inclusive as that of the 2014 Confab.”
It’s unfortunate — Bishop Bogobiri
On his part, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan and a delegate to the conference, Bishop Joseph Bogobiri, condemned moves by the Presidency to jettison the report of the conference.
According to him, 2014 conference report contains all the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians, adding that if the present agitations in some parts of the country must be nipped in the bud or curtailed, it has become very imperative for the government to implement recommendations of the conference.
His words: “It is unfortunate that we have a government that is doing things its own way; the government should put in place things that will reduce tension and discontent in the land. It is really unfortunate. If the statement had come from the government, it is really unfortunate that the government is listening to a few people.”
Govt should look at the report —Ledum Mitee
Former President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP and a delegate to the conference, Ledum Mitee said to throw away the entire report because of the excuse that the composition was not all inclusive was not healthy for the country.
He said: “It is more important to look at the content of what came out of the conference and not the number. To throw away everything because of that flimsy excuse is not healthy.”
It’s unfortunate, says Salami
Former National Chairman of Labour Party and delegate to the 2014 National Conference, Alhaji Abdulkadir Salami on his part, described as unfortunate, the rejection of the report.
“It is unfortunate for them to say they will not implement the report of the 2014 National Conference because of it not being all inclusive in participation.
‘Let him set up another one that he thinks is all inclusive.”