The Senate and national confab report

In response to agitations and counter-reactions by different ethnic groups in the country over the flawed federal system, the Senate has requested the Presidency to forward another copy of the 2014 National Conference Report to it for full deliberation. This bold and timely decision to re-visit the report in question is commendable. However, it is difficult to see the wisdom behind asking for a re-submission of the same report that is already in the custody of the Senate. Is this a subterfuge or a delay tactic? Why should the fate of the nation be hinged on mere technicality, if technicality it is? Is it a case of filibustering? What purpose would dilly-dallying serve in the current dangerous circumstance? The legislators need to be told that this is not the time for fiddle-playing.

The President Goodluck Jonathan administration forwarded the resolutions of the 2014 National Confab to the Senate one week to the expiration of the Seventh National Assembly in 2015. It is this newspaper’s view that because government is a continuum, the submission of a report by the previous administration of a validly constituted national body should be considered as subsisting. The Senate should therefore as a matter of urgency look into its archives and set in motion the machinery to study and implement the resolutions of the National Confab. If there is any extant technical rule which voids the submission of documents by a previous government, the Senate should as a matter of national urgency suspend that provision and get into serious business. The knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari once declared that he has no faith in the Conference Report makes it imperative for the elected legislators to act in the interest of the people of the country. To wait for the Presidency to re-submit the report would be tantamount to waiting for the proverbial Godot so well created by the Irish playwright, Samuel Becket!

These are trying times for the continued corporate existence of the nation. With different polarizing forces threatening the peace, stability and unity of the country, the Senate should act promptly. It was against the background of intense dissatisfaction with the political structure of the country that the Jonathan administration set up the National Conference chaired by retired Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi on March 17, 2014. Although the mandate of the Confab was not far-reaching enough, the 492 delegates assembled in Abuja soon made it clear through their arguments, disagreements and objections and subsequent consensus that they meant business. Their pragmatic approach to and part-resolution of the national question and ancillary matters gave a ray of hope and reduced tension in the country. However, because of the ouster of the Jonathan administration and the emergence of the new Buhari dispensation, the resolutions could not be implemented. Interestingly, the All Progressives Congress, APC, of President Buhari which succeeded President Goodluck Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, gave the electorate the impression it would mid-wife a new Nigeria based on the letters and spirit of federalism.

With the tension generated by the pro-Biafra agitations and especially the May 30th sit-at-home- order enforced by IPOB as well as the ultimatum given to ethnic Igbo to leave the North of Nigeria October 1, all hands must be on deck to resolve the lingering tension. There is a sense of sadness and desperation in the land. The people therefore need prompt action. This is therefore a call on the Senate not to wait for the 2014 National Confab Report to be resubmitted. The distinguished senators should retrieve the copies in their custody and get to work immediately.

Fortunately, the 2014 National Confab Report recommends a gradual introduction and implementation of measures to strengthen the faith of the citizenry in the amended constitution and the federation. Certainly, this will address the issues which centre on restructuring the country to give more powers to the constituent parts of the federation. It will douse the tension which has gripped the polity. This golden opportunity should not be missed either by design or by default. This nation cannot afford a second civil war, whether now or in the future. Consequently, all the statesmen in the Senate, as it is assumed they are, men and women who have served the nation in different capacities and who know that a stitch in time saves nine should rise to the occasion. That bill, ‘The Need for National Unity and Peaceful Coexistence’, sponsored by over one hundred serving senators deserves to be handled with utmost dispatch culminating in the adoption and passage into law of the 2014 National Conference Report.

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