By Eric Teniola
The first part of this article focused on the empanelling of 400 delegates for former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s National Conference in July 2005
OTHERS were Polycarp Nwite, Mike Akhigbe, Uba Ahmed, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Umaru Dikko, Ango Abdullahi, Saidu Barda, Bello Kaliel, Attahiru Jega, Ahmadu Ali, David Jemibewon, Kawu Baraje, Sikiru Shita-Bey, Femi Okunnu, Usman Jubrin, Bola Ajibola, Oluwole Rotimi, Tunji Otegbeye, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Akin Aduwo, Olusola Oke, Ebenezer Babatope, Sunday Adewusi, Richard Akinjide, Alfred Diette-Spiff, John Wash Pam, Solomon Lar, Adamu Fika, Alwali Kazir, William Okoye, Bagudu Mamman, Alfred Akawo (Tor Tiv), Nnaemeka Achebe, Olateru Olagbegi, Stella Omu and Helen Esuene.
Declaring the Conference open, President Olusegun Obasanjo said: “We are once again, at the threshold of history. History has presented us with the opportunity to reassess, refocus, redefine and redesign our political landscape in a direction that would strengthen the bonds of unity, enhance the processes of democratic consolidation, strengthen the structures so as to solidify those values that promote democracy, good governance and good neighborliness; and open boundless opportunities for all Nigerians to be, and to feel that they are part of the evolving political process and socio-economic advancement.
“This is equally in line with our realization that our current political arrangement has some identified distortions, defects, and limitations that call for urgent, focused, and realistic attention, hence this initiative on political reform. Our history as a nation shows very clearly that we have been through some difficult times. We have missed great opportunities.
“Our historical experience at constitution making and political reform shows that we may have some structural defects that require adjustment so as not to continue to constrain the deepening, widening and consolidation of democratic values and practices. Indeed, some of the contradictions and challenges problems for us to this day.
“The Federal Government has no hidden agenda in this exercise. This effort is the product of widespread consultations with salient stakeholders including the leadership of the National Assembly and the National Council of State. We have paid attention to and insisted on integrity, track record, capacity and ability to articulate relevant issues. We are not at war with any constituency or interest group. Rather, we are laying bare, opportunities for all Nigerians to be part of a historic process of working for sustained democracy, positive change and enduring polity. This is even more important given our deep concern about the successor generation and the foundations that we lay today.
“Our country has grown far beyond these opportunistic grandstanding strategies that rely on ideologies, methods, language and ideas of the past that have been transcended all over the world. I want to urge all Nigerians to participate, contribute and to take full advantage of this opportunity to be part of reforming our political process. Let us learn to look up and look forward and to see the Nigerian cup as half full with boundless potentials as against seeing it as half-empty.
“In addition to the Background Paper, the Conference will have at its disposal the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as we have practiced it up to this moment; the Report of the All Party Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Draft Amended Constitution emanating from it; the Draft Electoral Bill which was submitted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, based on its own direct experience of running elections for two different terms at the three tiers of government; and the current socio-economic reform document, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy,NEEDS, and the Oputa Panel Report.
“The Committee is encouraged to engage in comparative studies without ignoring the realities and specificities as well as the historical experiences of Nigeria. It is my hope that the Conference will feel free to invite any individual or group that may or may not be represented at this conference but has submission or presentation to make.
“Do not allow your souls and thoughts to be contaminated by negative ideas and do not allow your honesty and integrity to be compromised by extraneous and inimical influences and temptations. Be steadfast, patriotic, hardworking and focused on your goals at all times”.
Four hundred and two delegates attended the Conference held between February and July 2005. Copies of the report of that Conference are today in the office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation. The Conference was followed by another Conference conveyed by President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, on February 28, 2014. There were four hundred and ninety-two delegates. President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, appointed a thirteen member Presidential Advisory committee headed by Senator Femi Okunronmu to prepare for the Conference.
The other members of the committee, inaugurated on October 7, 2013, by the president were Akilu Indabawa (Secretary), Khairat Gwabade, Timothy Adudu, Olufunke Adeboye, George Obiozor, Solomon Asemota, Abubakar Mohammed, Bukhar Bello, Tony Uranta, Tony Nyaim (who later resigned), Dauda Birma, and Mairo Amshi.
The panel was tasked to advise government on the framework of a national dialogue by consulting widely with Nigerians. It was also asked to come up with an appropriate name/nomenclature for the proposed national dialogue. The 2014 National Conference was inaugurated by the President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on 17 March 2014 in Abuja. There were about 492 delegates that represented a cross-section of Nigerians including the professional bodies group.