National dialogue should birth new constitution – Yoruba leaders, groups

Stakeholders in the South West on Friday expressed strong support for the  proposed national conference, saying the national dialogue should birth a new constitution for the country. They also urged President  Goodluck Jonathan to  take steps to protect the decisions of the constituent members of the federation.

  For over five hours in Lagos on Friday, stakeholders in the zone advanced reasons  for a national  conference, noting that this would determine whether the  Yoruba race would remain  part of Nigeria or not.

 The stakeholders who included leaders from all sections of the South West spoke  at an interactive session hosted by the Presidential  Advisory Committee on  National Dialogue at the Nigerian Institute for  International Affairs, Lagos.

 Some of those who spoke said the 1999 constitution is defective and further elections should not be held until  it had been changed.

They asked the Committee, chaired  by Senator Femi Okurounmu, to advise the President to muster the courage to  accede fully to the demand of Nigerians for a genuine, ethnic  nationalities-based dialogue.

The participants representing Yoruba-interest groups, civil society organisations and professional bodies took turns to call on Jonathan to  summon the courage to initiate a national dialogue and respect the  outcome as the wishes of the people.

  Presenting the position of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the National Publicity  Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said the conference should examine the philosophical  foundation of the Nigerian State, forms of government, structure of the Nigerian state, legislative list, executive list, law  enforcement, economy and  the  judiciary.

 Afenifere proposed that the  draft  constitution from the conference of the nations within Nigeria should be taken  to a referendum after which the President should forward an executive bill to  the National Assembly to enact it into a law without tinkering with any of the decisions  taken by the conference. He added that the federating units  could write their  own constitutions after such a law.

“Delegates to the conference must emerge through elections. We suggest a conference of not more than 700 delegates with 100 from each  of the six geo-political zones and the remaining 100 from special  interest groups, he said.

  In his own contribution, the Convener, South West Consultative Forum, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, submitted that there was no going back on the  decision to hold a national dialogue.

While commending Jonathan for ‘buying into the patriotic and historic call for  a dialogue,” he said the President should disregard those  saying  such a  dialogue was needless.

 He said, “The Arewa Consultative  Forum believes that it may fail like other conferences,  which resolutions were  thrown away, but I want to say that this will not fail.”

  He explained that there should be no confusion over the word sovereign, adding  that “it is a matter of semantics, what is important is that it is national dialogue  and it must represent the interest of all ethnic  nationalities.”

  Speaking on the agenda for the conference, the National Chairman, Afenifere  Renewal Group, Mr. Wale Oshun, said that each region should  be allowed to table the issues that were of the most importance to its existenc within Nigeria.

 He proposed that the conference should look into the devolution of powers, internal security, resource control, revenue allocation,  management of  federation account and  immunity from prosecution of political office  holders among others.   On representation, the ARG said that  delegates from political parties, labour groups and the  media should not be  allowed to participate at the conference.

Oshun said, “We are recommending  30 delegates from each of the present six administrative regions to attend the conference. They should be elected.

“We do not support that the state or Federal Government should nominate any  delegate. It may send observers and technical support staff  there.

 “Since the conference will produce a new constitution,  through a referendum, we  recommend that the conference be completed before 2015  elections.”

The Convener, Yoruba Nation Assembly, Gen.Alani Akinrinade, corroborated  some of the views of the  Afenifere and the ARG.

He stressed the need for the conference to be given a legal backing, thus asking the President to submit a bill to the National  Assembly for  ratification, describing it as “a doctrine of  necessity.”

On modalities, Akinrinade said that there should be public enlightenment  towards electing the delegates for adequate representation.  He proposed an  ethnic-based representation of a total of 300.

 Once the representation is deemed adequate, he said, “Anyone or group that  walks out of the conference or doesn’t agree with the  conference can go and  form their own country.

  “Anyone who refuses to endorse what the citizens agree on in a referendum can  opt out and decide what they want to do. I think we should  not tie ourselves  down because we do not want the country to break up.

“It can still remain the Federal Republic of Nigeria if we  are courageous and  principled enough to allow the people to go.”

The President, Campaign for Democracy, Joe Okei-Odumakin, said that conference delegates must be ethnic  representatives, not politicians.

She said that there would be no elections until the conference had been  convened so that the new set of leaders could be subjected to a constitution by  the people.

 She said, “There is nowhere that  government makes constitution for the  people, it is the people that make constitution to govern  themselves.

“We want to state that the conference must address issues that are pertinent  to the people and the resolutions must be respected. It must  not be altered except  through a referendum.”

  The Yoruba Unity Forum in its submission presented by its head, Rev. Bolanle  Gbonigi, said that the issue of delegates should not be lost  to politicians.

“This might be the last great opportunity to discuss together peacefully as a nation.  Therefore, we must get  it right this time. We propose about 400 delegates,” he  said.

 When it was time for the Gani Adams faction to present its position to the audience, shouts of Oodua rented the hall.

 But as soon as Adams got to the podium, he picked holes in the two positions earlier made by his counterpart, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun.

  He said, “I wish to say that I represent the Gani Adams faction of  OPC and we do not agree with two of the positions earlier stated.”

Fasehun, had in his presentation asked that a bill should be sent to the National Assembly to give theconference a legal backing and that delegates of political parties should be part of the conference.

But Adams said, “About 80 per cent of the members of the National Assembly are against the national dialogue, if we wait for them to give it a legal backing, they will kill it.’’

Speaking for the Coalition of Oodua Self Determination Group, Femi Obayori, said that those who don’t want to be part of Nigeria  should be allowed to go.

 He said that ethnic nationalities should form delegates of the conference and not the zones.

 He said that the Federal Government should not be represented at the conference  but should remain an umpire.

 But contrary to the view of the ARG, he said that representatives of professional bodies should be part of the conference.

 On referendum, COSEG agreed with other speakers, but said that it should not be taken to the National Assembly for ratification.

He said, “This conference is not about the unity of Nigeria, any ethnic nationality that does not want to be part of Nigeria should be allowed to go.”

A member of the committee, Mr. Tony Uranta, told journalist by the sideline of the session that the committee was committed to reporting  the views of Nigerians on the call for a national dialogue to the President, saying that they believed that he would make good his intentions on the matter.

Uranta said that the committee’s mandate forbade it to talk on the issues raised  but rather to listen to all being said.

 Asked about the incident between a member of the committee, Tony Nyiam and Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, during a similar session in the state he said, “I believe that the committee member must be feeling a sense of remorse. What I know is that we have tendered a public apology to the governor and he has accepted it.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s