By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta, Jimitota Onoyume (Asst News Editor), Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor, Perez Brisibe, Harris Emmanuel and Chioma Onuegbu
THE people of the South-South geo-political zone have said that there was no need for another National Conference as suggested on Monday by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, advising that the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference be implemented, instead of convening a fresh one.
Those who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, however, commended Obasanjo for his bluntness and passion for the country, but said the country has had many National Conferences and doing nothing with the outcomes.
2014 Confab examined every aspect of Nigeria’s quagmire – Nkanga
National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella group of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (ret.), said, “Well, it is former President Obasanjo that wrote that letter, but it has been mishandled by the administration. Whether you like his face or not, forget about the messenger, look at the message. What he (Obasanjo) has said there in the letter is a reflection of what is happening in Nigeria. Moreover, I think what he is just saying is that if we do not do this; crisis is knocking on our door.
“And then, right thinking Nigerians should see what he has said, forget about who said it. You see, our problem is that when they tell us the way we are going might not augur well, those at the lower level will say it is not my portion, and then those at the higher level will say those people are not patriotic, instead of us examining the issue.
“Even if it is a mad man that said something, look at it first because there might be something in there. So the attitude of government is disappointing, to say the least. However, having said so, he (Obasanjo) suggested National Conference, my worry about it is that we have had so many and we have not implemented the report of any of them.
“Maybe being that he is the one that suggested it, he might also go further to give the modalities, those who should be there and those who should not be there. I think he has said so also. It is for government to look at it and say is it necessary? If it is not necessary, let us go back and implement the reports of earlier ones, like the 2014 Confab.
“If you tell Nigerians that you are going to implement it now, everybody will be quiet, and the issue of calling for another National Conference will not be there.
“But if you do not do that, the possibility is that if you call another National Conference, it will be difficult to bring the quality of people that were at the 2014 Confab together again, because some of them actually went there then not because of anything.
“They are not looking for relevance or anything because they have outgrown that, they are actually people who want Nigeria united and prosperous.
“However, if you go and call them again when you did not implement the other one, they will think that you are just joking. I will probably amend Obasanjo’s suggestion by saying let them go and implement the 2014 National Confab report. If you do that today, Nigeria will be at peace, the temperature will go down.
“You might have a handful of them, who probably are not thinking well about this country. Let them take time to look at the over 600 recommendations of the 2014 Conference. There is no aspect of our national life that is in trouble today that was not considered.”
On why the Buhari administration is shying away from implementing the 2014 report, he responded, “Having been a participant, in fact, there was no decision that was not by consensus. We had every part of this country represented, every ethnic group, every religious group, gender at the 2014 Conference.
“Now, I am aware even while we were at that conference that a handful of them were not happy. Those same people are the ones that are at forefront of what is going on now. In addition, they even swore at that time that nobody will implement the recommendations. Unfortunately, former President Goodluck Jonathan did not have enough time to implement them”.
2014 Confab Report contains answers to our problems – Prof. Darah
A prominent Niger Delta leader and Chairman of PANDEF in Delta State, Prof. Godini Darah, for his part, applauded Obasanjo’s letter to President Buhari, but added that only the report of the 2014 National Conference organized by the administration of former President Jonathan can save Nigeria.
His words: “Only the report of the 2014 National Conference can save Nigeria.
“It was proper that he (Obasanjo) expressed his views not only to the President but also made it public in order to expand the discussion.
“The main thrust of the letter is insecurity and he wants a large meeting where all stakeholders can deliberate, but there can’t be a better National Conference than the one we did in 2014.
“It is okay to call people from various nooks to assess the situation, but that will be fruitful if the report of the National Conference is taken into consideration because the issues that are now troubling Nigeria have been resolved by the 2014 National Conference.
“We also addressed the issue of restructuring and that program will take care of what is happening today particularly insecurity.
“Though I cannot say they should not advocate for another conference, the country can gather again for that, but the 2014 report should be the basis of that interaction because all the issues raised by Obasanjo are to help Mr. President to overcome his limitations. Every of those matters were covered in the report of 2014”.
Forget another conference – Anabs
PANDEF in Rivers State and Ogbakor Ikwerre Cultural Organisation Worldwide also rejected the call for another conference, demanding the implementation of the report of the 2014 Confab.
The two bodies equally stated that what the nation required now was restructuring, adding that restructuring would terminate insecurity.
Spokesperson for the state chapter of PANDEF, Chief Sara-Igbe Anabs, said in Port Harcourt: “I thank him (Olusegun Obasanjo) so much for speaking. The fact is that he was President of this country, but he could not do anything to better the lot of the people.
“He ruled for eight years and could not develop the country. I am tired of our leaders coming to claim righteousness after they had goofed in office. Obasanjo should look at himself first before he writes.
“We do not need another conference. What is the need for another jamboree? We had a conference before and we discussed. Let them implement the report of the conference.
“All we need is true federalism. If each state is allowed to manage its resource and we contribute to the centre, the nation will be better and stronger”.
Restructuring is the way out – Prof Achinehu
The President of Ogbakor Ikwerre, a former Vice Chancellor of Rivers State University (then Rivers State University of Science and Technology), Prof. Simeon Achinehu, said: “We do not need another conference. Let us look at the conferences we had before and implement their reports, like the recent one organized by immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The nation is sick. There is no animal that walks on three legs. I think the time has come when we should have the fourth tier. All we need at the time is restructuring.
“Like the United States of America, the federating units are very important. Each state produces what it has and sends revenue to the centre, by this all the federating units are active and developing at their pace.
“A situation where each state develops what it has is what we need, by this we will have a working system. We must have equality of states.
“If the resource in the North is cattle, then they should harness and send to us and make returns to the centre. I do not believe in another conference, rather they should implement the report of the last conference.
“Restructuring will settle the problem of insecurity. There is insecurity in the country because of the lopsidedness”.
I am with Obasanjo – IYC leader
President of parallel Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, stated, “I support the call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a National Confab to address the security challenges in different parts of the country.
“This is necessary because if the nation does not take urgent and decisive steps, the current security challenges may lead to breakdown of law and order.
“In respect of form, such a confab should have stakeholders from different strata of the society ranging from political to religious organisations, communities, women, youths, professionals and regional organizations to agree on what needs to be done to resolve the security challenges.
“The opposition by some regions to some of the policies proposed by government such as RUGA is because of the absence of national consensus. I strongly believe that such a conference will build the required consensus to resolve our national problems”.