ADEGBUYI: Campaign Issue Or Not, APC Would Have To Look At Confab Recommendations

Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi is a lawyer who represented Ogun State at the 2014 National Conference. Speaking with KAMAL TAYO OROPO, he explained the seeming lukewarm attitude of leading political parties to advocate of implementation of the confab recommendations.

 With the 2015 campaigns appearing to take shine off the calls for implementation of the 2014 national conference, in retrospect, would you admit that the timing of the Confab was wrong? 

THE timing of the Confab was understandably suspect. Incidentally, it came at a time that the approval rating of the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was perceived, rightly in my view to be at its lowest. Indeed, it plummeted and it was therefore seen and described as a Greek gift.

   The public disavowal of the calls for National Conference, prior to the setting up of one was also a strong factor against it. All that belong to history as it has been held and about six hundred game changing resolutions and or recommendations were arrived at, which are capable of resolving some of the problems that are buffeting the Nigerian State and indeed the clog in the wheel of the journey of building a nation out of the diverse, heterogeneous, multi ethnic groups that were cobbled together to form Nigeria.

   Some of us that attended the conference were not unmindful of the wrong timing of the conference, particularly its closeness to an all important election, which some pundits have described as a make or mar elections. It was indeed a dilemma for people, who had been at the forefront of the agitation for the conference. For me, the exhortation of the late sage and a man of uncommon ability, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, were and still fresh in my memory, that we should not adopt the strategy of boycott when we need to constructively engage the government of the day.

But people, who you could described as being from the Awolowo school of thought, called for boycott of the Confab.

   We need to correct that erroneous impression. That opinion was chiefly trumpeted by some people who are intent on misleading the public that the Southwest political leadership, especially those in the All Progressives Congress (APC), was opposed to the idea of a National Conference; that is not the case at all. It was the timing of the conference that the party was opposed to. Yes, the former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described it as a Greek gift, that is understandable and the logic can hardly be faulted; indeed it can be argued, persuasively too, that if the resolutions, which evidently can only be implemented after the polls are gathering dust somewhere, can it not be said that it is a waste of time and resources? The fate of the documents now hang precariously on the outcome of the election, an election that is fraught with so much uncertainties, that had suffered an inexplicable postponement and thrown Nigeria into a tailspin. 

   Frankly, there are strong arguments on both sides. However, the utilitarian value of the resolutions should be considered, that representatives of various interest groups in Nigeria, albeit unelected, could affix their imprimatur to a profound, game changing document, is a consolation if not an achievement. Even if the opposition wins the rescheduled elections, it will have no choice than to take a look at the document.

   What is more, decentralisation and devolution of powers are major planks of the manifesto of the leading opposition party, the APC. The said document will invariably be implemented one way or the other if the APC hopes to deliver on its promises. Central to any meaningful development and engendering of good government is the need to ensure that the federating states are given more powers and resources, some measures of autonomy that would allow them to set priorities in accordance with the peculiar needs of their people, without let or hindrance by the overbearing and bloated central government. 

The APC refused to send representation to the Confab. Is this not clear signal that the party may hold in disdain the recommendations?

   It is my considered view that contrary to the generally held belief that the party boycotted the conference, it in fact constructively participated. I concede that the party symbolically refused to participate in the conference by not nominating two delegates allocated to it by virtue of the guidelines that regulated the conduct of the exercise; it is common knowledge that all the APC controlled states nominated three delegates to the conference and at least two of the said states presented memoranda to the conference. 

   The gravamen of my argument is, if all the said states nominated delegates to the conference, including my humble self, an APC member, and further presented memoranda, did we effectively boycott? Notwithstanding the fact that my representation at the conference was predicated on Ogun State nomination, the truth of the matter is if we lift the veil, the irresistible inference one can draw is that the APC more or less participated. I am not unmindful that some of the delegates that represented the states were not card carrying members of APC as a political party, the fact remains that none of the said delegates worked against the interest of the party, even though they represented their various states.

Yet, why has there been an apparent discomfort in making the Confab recommendations campaign issues, especially regarding practice of true federalism?

   I am enthralled by the recommendation or resolution that allows each state to draw up its constitution, that in my view is the precursor to self-determination and or autonomy. I am aware that the phrase ‘ self determination’ sends some disturbing signals to some people who conflate it with secession or who claim its capable of leading or causing the disintegration of the country, that, with due respect is scare mongering because autonomy, self determination and national unity are not mutually exclusive. It is possible, and indeed desirable to achieve harmonious unity and not forced unity as we presently have in Nigeria –– that is assuming without conceding that there is unity in the country now –– while at the same time allowing the states some latitude or freedom to pursue the wishes and aspirations of their people without becoming centrifugal and or jeopardising the unity of Nigeria. We need to critically examine our strategy of achieving unity in the country because we have done a very poor job of it thus far. 

  These things may not have been blatant campaign issues, but this is understandable because of the demands of partisan politics and the nature of the country we now have. We have never been this disunited in this country. However, if the so-called unity would not continue to be an albatross hanging on our neck, we have to pay attention to some of the recommendations. We shall continue to labour in vain if we don’t see the welfare of the people as a condition precedent for national unity, the health of the country will continue to be challenged if the health and welfare of the people continue to be challenged. The cart must not continue to be placed before the horse.

   The provision for states to have their own constitutions is a veritable tool for achieving so many beneficial things for our people, regional cooperation and integration can be achieved without necessarily having regionalism entrenched in the constitution because states can freely merge, cooperate and integrate by incorporating necessary provisions in their respective constitution. The local government systems can be strengthened and be made development centers as opposed to the present deleterious arrangement, which has failed to work in many parts, a lot can be achieved through this window, what is required is our ability to think out of the box and convert the opportunity to huge benefit.

Some have argued that if not for the Yoruba group, Afenifere, which has lately been in the forefront of the calls for implementation of the conference recommendation not much is heard from you progressives. 

   I am very reluctant to join issues with our elders in Afenifere that recently endorsed President Jonathan for the singular reason of having set up the National conference and coupled with the promise to implement the recommendations if elected for a second term. It is well within the right of anybody to endorse any candidate of his or her choice for any reason whatsoever; with due respect to our elders, I am not persuaded by both the premise and substance of that argument, but for the exhortation of our revered sage earlier mentioned, and our notorious advocacy for convocation of a Sovereign National Conference –– which we did not achieve at the said conference –– it would not be wrong for anybody to doubt the sincerity of President Jonathan on the reasons and timing of the said conference. What is more, the president had publicly said that Nigeria had moved beyond the agitation for the conference, claiming erroneously that it was no longer necessary prior to a change of mind –– which he is entitled to –– such inconsistency and flip flop is also a good reason for people to be cynical about the President’ s intention and not put any trust in him, therefore, it will be wrong for anybody to criticise people who advocated boycott and demonise them simply because they chose not to trust President Jonathan and the people who embraced the conference chose to trust him, some of us attended not because we trusted President Jonathan, but because we chose to take a risk believing that just in case, again, just in case, something good might come out of it. Can anyone in all honesty beat his chest that the report will be implemented? The promissory note has no value in my view; let us advance other reasons please.

   I am not unmindful of the argument that between two candidates contesting for the Presidency one should endorse the one that has promised to implement the report, that may well be so, but what is the basis for this trust when the person in question had promised in the past to respect an agreement and had declined to do so when it suited him? Let the truth be told, we have pitched our partisan tents for variety of reasons, ranging from party loyalty, proxy war, pecuniary consideration to sheer vindictive reasons. I cannot query anybody for making a choice; I however, contend that there is more to some endorsement than meets the eyes. I am a strong and committed member of Afenifere Renewal Group and I unhesitatingly stand by our group’s repudiation of the endorsement of the status quo by our elders in the old Afenifere. We contend, publicly, that the change Nigeria requires goes beyond a mere promissory note of implementation of the report. I stand by the report, but in the face of massive misgovernance, missing funds, reckless spending of our collective resources, impunity, haemorrhage and the insecurity that has enveloped the land, I will support a candidate who is honest, fearless, courageous and who will never enter into any deal in order to get into or continue in office, that person is General Muhammad Buhari, in spite of his shortcomings. I am not looking for a saint to preside over the affairs of this country, the point as rightly put by London’s The Economist magazine and New York Times is that a former military dictator should be supported than a failed President. 

   The advocacy for political reforms in Nigeria has taken or assumed a life of its own that anybody that emerges as the President of Nigeria would have no choice than to take a hard look at the conference report and implement the profound recommendations contained therein from decentralisation of power to multi level policing, what is more, the aforementioned are contained in the manifesto of APC, let us support a candidate that can offer, in a manner of speech, two for the price of one and not just mere promise of implementation of report with the attendant continuation of it  is ‘ our time to chop’.

To what extent would say the implementation of the confab recommendations fit into the coming election?

   No election in the chequered history of Nigeria has generated so much heat, controversy, anxiety and perhaps the possibility of Nigeria sliding to the precipice as the rescheduled 2015 general elections. The reasons for the aforementioned are numerous. Chief amongst them is the dangerous vicious contest for overwhelming and near sweeping power concentrated at the centre between the North and South of Nigeria. There is nothing to say about the danger it portends for the country that has not been stated or said in various intervention by oneself and other critical stakeholder. That the elections have been rescheduled is no longer news, it will serve no useful purpose to argue for or against the postponement; what is however incontestable is the real ‘ independence’ of the election management agency and the role of the military in the conduct of elections

  For me, what are the lessons we can learn from the unfortunate postponement with a view to defending multi party democracy? Democracy is just not about the conduct of elections, it is more than the abstract definition, and it must be a special purpose vehicle for guaranteeing security of lives and property, making the greatest good available to the greatest number. It must lead to shared prosperity and the freedom of the people to elect who would govern them without any political contrivance and subterfuge, which we are confronted within our dear land.



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