CONFAB: ‘Why Nigerians Should Demand Restructuring As Campaign Issue’

REPORT

OVER the years, successive leaderships of the Nigerian State have been under immense pressure to address the country’s faulty federal structure. At some point, the agitations culminated in calls for sovereign national conference, as many believed

that it would resolve Nigeria’s myriad of challenges; needless top say that the agitation never yielded results until March last year, when President Goodluck Jonathan convoked a national conference (Confab). 

    After months of rigorous exercise, the Confab was able to reach decisions, the outcome of which members (drawn from all parts of the country) believed would benefit Nigerians if well implemented. 

   However, with the report now being overshadowed by political campaigns for the 2015 general elections, some Nigerians say the document should not be swept under the carpet. In fact, it has been argued that it should actually have been the pivot around which the ongoing debate by political parties revolves.

 Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said Nigerians should demand from the political parties how they would want to handle the outcome of the Confab, insisting that the recommendations hold the key to the problems confronting the nation.

    Secretary General of the group, Dr Joe Nworgu, told The Guardian that Ndigbo would always stand by the resolutions of the Confab, because it addressed squarely how to solve the structural imbalances of Nigeria.

    Nworgu, who participated in the confab, said: “The structure of the Confab (membership) touches all the spectra of the Nigerian society. Nigeria is a country made up of various ethnic groups – Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw, Fulani, Tiv and Birom, among others. All these tribes were represented at the Confab. There were socio-cultural groups, political parties, market groups, trade unions, and the physically challenged, among others. Decisions were taken for the betterment of everybody, based on equity, fairness and justice.

     “There was give and take throughout the months of the Confab. We arrived at true consensus and that is the only way forward for this country. Any group that thinks that the status quo should be maintained does not love this country. It is that body structure of this polity that is evoking all the problems, because there is injustice, there is inequality among others. 

  “That is what the conference set out to address. There had been consistent pressure for holding national conference to address structural imbalances; but a particular tribe in Nigeria – Fulani — that has cornered all the benefits in this country are holding out and wanting people to believe that it is the whole north. There is nothing like north. The concept of north and south ceased when we had north, west and east regions. Immediately we had all these regions, the concept of north and south ceased to exist.”

   He continued: “The main features of the Confab are equity, justice and fairness to all Nigerians. That is where we, as Ohanaeze, stand. We stand on the national Confab, just as before the shooting war started in the 60’s, the eastern region said on Aburi we stand. Now, on the Confab, we as Ndigbo stand on it. The Yoruba tribe (Afenifere) has taken a stand on the Confab and its implementation; the minority tribes in the Middle Belt are on the same plank. So, nearly all the Nigerian tribes, except the Fulani, who are deriving immense benefits from this faulty structure, want the resolutions of that Confab implemented.”

     Nworgu took a further look on how the political parties participating in the election, especially at the presidency, had spoken on the issue, stressing that, apart from President Goodluck Jonathan, who had promised to implement the resolutions, no other candidate had.

   “Confab resolutions should be the only issue in this election campaigns. The candidates must state their position. I have not heard the All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) candidate, Gen Buhari, discuss the Confab. It is only the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, who has made it clear that he will implement the resolutions of the Confab. And we stand by him, because that is the only way forward for Nigeria.

    “Nigerians must, as a matter of necessity, resolve en masse to support the person, Goodluck Jonathan, who is more likely to implement the Confab resolutions. That is the only way forward; all the minority tribes stand to benefit from the resolutions of that Confab. There must be equity, fairness in the body polity.

    “Personally, the election campaign has no meaning – that Buhari is corruption free and will fight corruption, Jonathan is weak and will not fight corruption are totally non-issues. We are personalising the whole structural arrangement.

     “Institutions are what we are discussing; let the institutions, as built by the Confab resolutions, be put in place; and, from this, we will know whether, or not, there is corruption. At the moment, there is no proper gauge of corruption, and it is not about the two individuals running,” he said.

   But Zonal Publicity Secretary of the APC in the Southeast, Osita Okechukwu, said his party and its presidential candidate were committed to restructuring the country.

   He said: “Our presidential candidate, Major General Muahammadu Buhari (rtd), had, in his 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 agenda spoken about the restructuring of Nigeria to true federalism. So, it is in the APC manifesto, which has the fine contents of the National Conference Report.

   “Methinks that some political sharp shooters want to hoodwink the good Igbo people with the Confab Report. The danger is that many of these political sharp shooters either did not thoroughly digest the Confab Report or they are being deceptive.”

   Justifying the party’s position over its absence during the debates at the Confab, Okechukwu explained: “What we said then is that the timing was wrong; that it was politically motivated and aimed at getting President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, to hoodwink the public and circumvent the core ingredient of election in liberal democracy, which

is the referendum by the electorate on the performance of the incumbent. The handlers of Jonathan were aware that he failed the country in either the provision of welfare or security; therefore, they wanted to diminish electoral referendum.

   “Otherwise, are we not vindicated; how come there was no white paper or Executive Bill to the National Assembly demanding the amendment months after the Confab? Why didn’t Mr. President implement those recommendations that do not require constitutional amendments?

   “Ndigbo should be weary of political sharp shooters, who tell lies to demonise the North, regardless of the fact that no one, no matter how powerful, can amend the constitution without

2/3 of the National and State Assemblies,” he stated.

    Okechukwu stated that, despite convoking the conference, President Jonathan lacked the political will to implement it, stressing that it required a leader in the mould of Buhari for such reports to see the light of day.

     “The Confab report can only be implemented by Buhari, who has a national appeal, national renewal phenomenon and whose word is his bond. It is not about who convoked it, otherwise, there should have been commitment to implement it before now.      The report was submitted since August last year, this is February and yet nothing has happened.

   “Nigerians should ask questions why the president has kept his silence on the report, knowing how badly the people wanted to see changes, especially in the faulty structure we have operated. APC cannot succumb to any suggestion that could mean sweeping the report under the carpet like the PDP government is manifesting,” Okechukwu added.

    Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr. Ibuchukwu Ezike, is not happy that over six months after the crème of Nigerians gathered at Abuja for several months to fashion out a way out for the country, outcomes of it had not been reflected in the body polity.

   He told The Guardian: “I’m grossly agitated that several months after the conference ended, the government does not seem to have done anything serious over the outcome of the conference. We have never had it this serious in history of conferences, where such far-reaching decisions were taken. Among these issues were the ones that deal with law, which

must go to the National Assembly for passage as well as policy issues.

   “If the Federal Government, or executive council, is thinking that these issues will be delayed, because they are going to the National Assembly, what about the issues that will not go to the national Assembly for passage? There are policy issues that, if the Federal Government had started discussing, would have given Nigerians the respite that something good has started coming out of this government. That is not happening. 

    “There is this issue of corruption where a recommendation was made for culprits to be jailed for 50 years and that all that he/she had stolen will be refunded. There is also the issue of economic policy where we discovered that there is a fund called Mineral Oil Exploitation Fund, which was meant to fund resources exploitation across the country. That fund was established by government and since its establishment, 1.6 percent of the excess crude set aside to implement that fund had not been started. 

   “So, at the national conference, we graduated that fund to five percent and moved for immediate implementation of that fund. There is the Agricultural Development Fund, which recommended that six percent of the oil fund should be used to fund it. We looked at every part of this country and we think there is no part of the country that you can visit that has not gotten enough resources to fend for itself. 

   “But, because of the attitude of government, everybody is depending on oil, and so we were talking about diversification of the economy that is yet to come. 

   “We also recommended creation of additional states, and some persons were saying why create more states when those in existence were not viable. The resources made available to the committee on revenue discovered that every section of the country has enough resources to develop but the question is that these deposits have not been exploited. We have to organise our resources in a way that every citizen should be affected against the current practice where the resources are in the hands of few individuals.”



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