\John Alechenu, Abuja
A debate over the rules governing decision making at the 2014 National Conference took a regional dimension and almost ended the confab on the first day of second week a new book has revealed.
The book 633 page book titled, The National Conversation, Interests and Intrigues That shaped The 2014 National Conference, written by Akpandem James and Sam Akpe, is due for public presentation on Tuesday.
According to the authors, whoever suggested and inserted two provisions into the early version of the Rules and Procedure of the 2014 National Conference, may not have anticipated the furore they later generated.
This, they said, was because the two clauses, which turned out to be extremely controversial, “almost shut down the Conference on the first day of its second week. “
The two controversial provisions were captured under Order VI, Rule 4 and Order Xl Rules 1 and 2.
Rule 4 states, “Any question proposed for decision in the Conference shall be determined by consensus; and when this is not achievable, by three quarters majority of the delegates voting.”
Order Xl Rules 1 and 2 stipulates that “All decisions of the Conference in plenary and Committee stage shall be reached by consensus or in the absence of that, the chairman shall, at his discretion, adjourn proceedings to allow for further consultations.
“ In case of failure to reach a resolution on a matter by consensus, it shall be decided by vote of three quarters majority.”
In chapter five of the book titled: Brouhaha of voting and the 50 wise men, it read, “A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, innocently ignited the dangerous debate when he rose to make some contributions to the clausal consideration of the Rules of Procedure.
“Ozekhome chose to combine the two Orders in his contribution to the debate because they were related-they both dealt with the issue of voting. Conference had 492 delegates.
Analysis showed that based on the provisions of the two items in the Rules and Procedure, three quarters of 492 would be 75 percent of the delegates present and voting.
Assuming all the delegates were present and voting, 75 per cent or three quarters of the delegates would be 369- a number Ozekhome described as “obviously humongous, elephantine and behemoth.”
His suggestion of the adoption of three quarters majority votes of the delegates, instead of the traditional two-third majority, would create avoidable impasse than the anticipated solution and should be avoided.
He argued that the emergence of a tyrannical minority would frustrate every attempt at decision-making at the Conference.
Although the matter was temporary shut down by the conference Chairman, the late Justice Idris Kutigi, it didn’t take long for the issue to be revisited by Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, from the South West.
He reminded the chairman that the conference needed to decide on Ozekhome’s motion after seconding the motion.
This was sufficient to attention of a Professor of Law, Auwalu Yadudu, a delegate from Kano, North West Nigeria, who voiced his opposition to the proposal by his two legal practitioner colleagues.
He said decisions would either be taken by consensus or by 75 per cent majority votes.
After reminding members of the confab of the inaugural address of President GoodLuck Jonathan who was emphatic about the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria and the need for consensus on all issues, Yadudu went a step further.
He said, “If it is the decision of the Conference to ignore this, we may as well ignore the stipulation that we should not discuss the indivisibility and indissolubility of this nation…I think that all sensible-minded persons in this Conference should go for 75 per cent support of members present and voting. “
Senator Ahmadu Ali soon spoke in favour of two thirds majority. Former Inspector General of Police, Gambo Jimeta, who spoke on other issues before noting that most delegates were there in groups and were trying to force their will on others.
After repeatedly using the expression: “I want to warn some groups…” the hall went into a frenzy with some delegates shouting ‘No please, stop warning us”, others screamed ‘You cannot warm is.”
According to the book, “Tempers started rising, gradually and steadily, the much dreaded moment had stepped into the arena. The conference suddenly ceased to be an assembly of like minded people from one nation with one destiny.
“Productive ideas meant for the oneness of the nation took the back seat. Tribal interests surged forward. Threats, blackmail and group interest became common place.” End.