The 2014 National Conference Report must live

National-assembly-buildingTHE proposition the other day, by a group that goes by the name Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) to President Muhammadu Buhari that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government ignore, wholesale, recommendations of the 2014 National Conference Report is short-sighted and unhelpful to the cause of a better Nigeria. And coming from such persons who have served on national platforms as federal lawmakers and heads of federal agencies, it is regrettable, to say the least, that the idea canvassed betrays a narrowness of mindset and diminishes such men and women who, while in public office, once swore to ‘preserve the Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as contained in the Constitution.’ It is even more disturbing that the spokesman for the NRF position is a certain Mohammed Kumalia who was co-chairman of the Conference’s committee on Political Restructuring and Form of Government.

If the 2014 Conference Chairman, Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi is to be believed that ‘all our resolutions were adopted by consensus [and] not once did we have to vote or come to a division’, then how, as a matter of honour, does Mr. Kumalia justify his new posture? Where was the courage of his conviction while he participated?

To claim that the conference was convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan to achieve a hidden agenda is even uncharitable to the many very busy, serious minded and respectable conferees who, by the implication of that opinion, stand accused as wilful collaborators in such an agenda.

Jonathan’s 52-point inaugural speech to that Conference dwelt extensively on the justification for the conference. He said it was ‘being convened to engage in intense introspection about the political and socio-economic challenges confronting our nation and to chart the best and most acceptable way for the resolution of such challenges in the collective interest of all the constituent parts of our fatherland.’ He noted that these challenges ‘range from form of government, structures of government, devolution of powers, revenue sharing, resource control, state and local government creation, boundary adjustment, state police and fiscal federalism, to local government elections, indigeneship, gender equality and children’s rights, amongst others.’ ‘It makes sense’, he continued,‘ … that as the challenges before us evolve, we must be constant and proactive in our search for fresh solutions [instead of proffering] yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems.’ Pray, which genuine patriot will fault these motives? The then president concluded by saying that ‘Goodluck Jonathan has no personal agenda in convening [the conference].’ That this may be or may not be true is a matter of opinion and ‘motive hunters’ may choose to cling to their position.

But the point must be taken that the conference chairman and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi said at the occasion of the submission of the conference report: ‘Let me state here categorically and with the fear of Almighty Allah in my heart that not once did [President Jonathan] interfere or dictate to us in the course of this Conference.’ And Kutigi, it must be said, ranks as one of the most respected citizens of Nigeria who hails from the northern part of the country.

The 2014 National Conference, of course, took off on a widespread note of suspicion as to the motive of the then government and scepticism about the purpose that another Conference could ever serve after several others that had been held at great monetary and other costs to the nation. The then opposition APC as a party refused to participate on the argument that it was ill- timed and opportunistic. But it was sensible that, it did not object to its members doing so on personal recognition. At the cost of about N10 billion, four and a half months of hard thinking, hard bargaining, lengthy, complex, often-times heated discussions, and immense paperwork by 494 men and women, mostly of no mean stature, the Conference produced over 10,000 pages of 22 reports and annexure. They made over 600 recommendations for the improvement of the political, economic and social structures and the overall regeneration of the country.

No one can wish away this conference as if it never happened. Whereas the report is not perfect, just as the authors are not, it is as good as any document can be to work with in the quest for a new Nigeria. And as this newspaper had said in an earlier editorial, the APC government should, for at least two reasons, not shy away from borrowing and implementing ideas from it. One, the act of governance is a continuum and it stands to reason that a well-meaning government should continue from where its predecessor stopped, those policies and programmes that further good governance. Two, it is a constitutional declaration that the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people. Therefore, any and every government, irrespective of party coloration, is constitutionally bound to implement ideas and sustain measures that benefit the country and its citizens.

The national conference report recommends solutions to many nagging issues, including revenue sharing, two-tier police system, independent candidacy, making Chapter II of the extant constitution justiciable, and a ban on state funding of pilgrimage and religious matters. A good idea is simply that, regardless of its origin! For the sake of Nigeria and its people, besides the tonnes of public money expended, this APC government must do right by Nigerians and implement that report. Indeed, some of the recommendations like devolution of powers, decentralising the police are in line with promises in the APC manifesto. Some of the APC-controlled states have, as recommended by the conference, even stopped funding pilgrimages.

The NRF called a retreat supposedly to discuss ‘rebuilding a safe, secure and economically inclusive northern Nigeria.’ That is a great idea but the time has come that persons who claim leadership roles at any level must broaden their thinking and perspectives and, in this federal republic, adopt a pan-Nigeria appreciation of issues. There is absolutely good reason to rebuild the northeastern part of Nigeria devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency. But no right-thinking person would, as if the two propositions are mutually exclusive, use it as a justification for jettisoning the wide-reaching recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. As long as the ‘Nigeria Project’ remains an unfinished business, so long will there be a need to tinker with and improve it, and a conference that generated such great ideas as the 2014 Conference report is of great value to such end.

While the freedom of association and expression is guaranteed under the law, President Buhari must be wary of self-serving groups, ethnic, religious, regional, and any other type, which offer unsolicited propositions that clearly, or subtly, undermine the pan-Nigerian vision captured in the spirit and letter of the Nigerian constitution, ridicule the Buhari government’s contract with the Nigerian people as enunciated in both the constitution and the manifesto of the APC and, finally, diminish the President’s own pronouncements and stature before a nation that revers him.



14 Comments
  • okbaba

    Very well said. Kudos to a non-hysterical and objective editorial, an epitome of the Guardian Newspaper.

  • duwdu

    This editorial should be described exactly as it is: A typical Guardian editorial that serves parochial interests!

    Look, any house built on a dubious and suspicious foundation cannot stand – and that was what Jonathan’s National Conference was. It was just a money-grabbing jamboree, carried out with the help of HANDPICKED, NON-ELECTED delegates, for God’s sake. Believe it or not, most of the delegates themselves did not believe in that jamboree – they were just there to collect their fat allowances.

    Furthermore, most of the time during that so-called conference, votes were not allowed to be taken…Kutugi was just ramming things down the throats of those funny delegates and interpreting such acts as “consensus,” in an attempt to just deliver to Jonathan. So, it is mute to even begin to discuss the outcome of such a conference. Besides, Jonathan had several months to start acting on the report of that jamboree, but did nothing. And the fact that several billions of taxpayers’ Naira was spent that was not budgeted for on that conference, does not make it right for anyone to implement the results emanating from it.

    My friends, the Jonathan conference has come and gone with the wind! It was not the first dubious, wasteful and insincere one. It probably would not be the last.

    • emmanuel kalu

      regardless of what you think of the conference and what it did, it did produce some good recommendation. any right thinking person knows that nigeria police needs to be decentralized. we need police to be state controlled. instead of getting rid of everything, how about we pick the good out of it.

      • duwdu

        It’s OK to arrogate to yourself the characteristics/position of the right thinking person. Carry go, nothing do you. Eventually, the reality on the ground regarding that Jonathan conference will set in and take hold also among the relatively few elements of the population still singing its tune.

        Good luck!

        • duwdu

          @Damilola, your opening statement was rude, but I’ll overlook that.

          The fact is that, believe it or not, your opinion on this matter is just that – your opinion, and I respect that. However, I put it to you that, even if one overlooks the lack of sincerity and proper representation of the people on that Jonathan’s conference, what emanated from that conference was NOT representative of the yearnings of the majority of our people.

          At best, the outcome was a bastardisation of the genuine requirements of the West, and at the worst, complete rubbish as far as the true northerner is concerned. And that’s aside from other structural deficiencies others voiced. If you cannot see or believe those majority mindsets towards that conference, then I’m sorry, I don’t know what to add.

          On that note, I respectively bow out of this discussion.

          So long!

          Peace
          …..

  • Asuquo Bassey

    Why are we Nigerians alway not appreciate and see good in achievement of others? Former GEJ did a great job for Nigeria by convoying the National Conference. The problems of Nigeria are adequately addressed and solutions given in that report, It will be very unfair to Nigerians of good will if the present administration of Buhari refuse to implement the several recommendations of the conference to address the numerous problems and challenges of the nation. I use this medium to congratulates the President and entire Nigeria on the 55th Independence Anniversary Celebration of our dear great giant country Nigeria. Let us all join hands with good motives, objectives, policies and programmes to build Nigeria. May Almighty God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Jesus Name, Amen. CHEERS, HURRAY. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION TO ALL

  • Izeobor

    The gravest mistake Jonathan’s administration made was not implementing the National Conference report. Now the invaders have arrived to continue the status quo. The feudal lords are back and this makes the conference report a good candidate for the garbage.

  • fagarjaji

    What is amazing about all the hurly burly of the recent national conference, is the role of President Jonathan. If really really the president wanted constitutional change, why in the world did he not involve the National Assembly who was at that preparing a constitutional reform? Why didn’t he demand a rudimentary thing from the wig heads like preparing a combo executive bill out of the conference resolutions? Amazing regime, that past one!

    • John T

      Change has come: SS: oil, 5th world supplier, Noollywood: 3rd world film industry, NW ?, NE ?, NC ?, SE ? SW ? Tell us what your region or industry can offer Nigeria Not what you can get out of Nigeria. This is the change we are talking about.

      • fagarjaji

        GEJ and those who surrounded him might have the same intellect as you

  • Engr. Uche

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  • OBIALORBVITALIS

    yes president GEJ failed completely because:-
    1. He refused to grant MASSOM self acualisation
    2. He refused to implement the Nat. Conf of 2014
    3. He allowed the oil cabals from the North to finish our oil
    4. He allowed corruption to the highest level.
    For these reasons the PMB led government should please for the sake of Allah and the poor people of Nigeria and for peace in general implement the that National conference. If he can do that for Nigerians, our nation will be one of the best in the world. We needs peace now and forever.

    • Damilola

      Forget that thing!!! If he does send me ur acc num here as soon as he does I owe u $2billion. If GEJ had implemented that confab decision it would have been another outcry by now. The folks against d confab as they’ve always postulated tot it was GEJ’s agenda. Remember, to them NOTHING good could come out of any man name GEJ, at least to their own detriment, at best to their future ridicule, cos the truth shall vindicate that humble man. They would have been saying now that GEJ rushed to implement his agenda b4 leaving power. And how could he have done that without the NASS?However, the outcry would have been better for us than this moribund looks.

  • OkwuBndu

    Going through the recommendations of the 2014 national conference and in view of the NPF (Northern Reawakening Forum) call for the Buhari government to ignore the recommendations wholly, one will begin to wonder if the NPF really want a better Nigeria. If not, then what do they really want? Do they really want that which only benefits the north, unmindful of the feelings of other regions? Then is that how to run a federation of regions or states? One is asking these questions because the proposal of the NPF is a clear demonstration of the attitude of impunity that has been identified as one of Nigeria’s set backs. And it’s a serious issue. Like the Editorial rightly said, “the act of governance is a continuum” and the good from a previous administration ought to be carried over by the present government. Therefore if the Buhari government fails to implement the relevant aspects of the 2014 national confab, the real agenda and motive of the government’s change slogan will be highly questionable. We are in a democray not dictatorship. And this is 2015 in the 21st century, not 1984.

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