OSADOLOR: The Proceedings Of The Confab Must Not Be A Waste
Professor Benson Osadolor is a public affairs analyst and a Professor in the Department of History and International Studies, University of Benin. He spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU in Benin City on the need to implement the recommendations made by the Confab.
Six months after the report of the National Conference was submitted to the President, not much has been heard about it; what is your opinion on this?
THE most worrisome aspect of the National Conference 2014 is the delay in responding to the report of the conference by the Presidency. This is because very important and critical issues were identified and addressed to ensure that the conference was able to dig deep into these issues and problems confronting us as a nation and a people.
The conference was split into 20 committees to address specific issues and the reports of these committees also reflect the kind of seriousness with which members addressed these issues and it is surprising that, long after the Presidency has received the report, nothing has been heard about it. One expected an immediate response in setting up an implementation committee; but, up till now, the Presidency has not done that. I don’t know who is advising the president about the outcome of the National Conference.
Political parties in Nigeria that were also represented would have taken interest in ensuring that it was not just another jamboree, where people just gather together, but none of them is addressing the issues. Is it that the parties did not show enough faith in the conference and its outcome or that it is something the political parties think they should address at this moment or that some political parties in the past objected to the conference and its outcome and therefore did not particularly want to follow up on the outcome of the conference; these are a number of issues and queries that one would want to raise.
The APC opposed the confab in the beginning, but many of its leaders were among the most vocal about restructuring Nigeria, part of which was touched by the Conference. Is that not a contradiction of what they preach?
My worry about all those opposition leaders is that, today, in our country, politicians are yet to understand the basis of opposition politics; they are yet to understand what opposition means in politics. Opposition is not the type we have in Nigeria; the kind of opposition in Nigeria is a warfare kind of opposition politics, where you are fighting as if it is do-or-die politics.
Opposition is supposed to address national issues and other matters of international interest affecting the nation, look at local issues and see how policies and programmes and even projects address all of these issues. And part of it is: ‘look, this country cannot go beyond where it is now, in terms of development, until there is a kind of restructuring.’ All of these issues were addressed at the National Conference.
Where the opposition failed here is to have boycotted the Conference.
I can refer you to what people like Nnamdi Azikiwe and others did in the days of the NCNC, when they boycotted the legislative council for some reasons and they returned to say this is why we did that, but in the interest of Nigeria, this is what we are doing next.’ This is why I strongly believe that the opposition has not acted in good faith, because what is important is not in the interest of the party but our national interest, which is our collective destiny to ensure that we don’t fail as a nation and as a people.
But the PDP government that convened the Confab has also failed to promote the report?
That may be true. For instance, I was at the National Conference, not as a delegate, but as a resource person and the calibre of Nigerians, the quality of Nigerians that were at that Conference cannot be got in any election; it was a big plus for the ruling party to have been able to mobilise such resource persons to the conference.
Now, unfortunately, the majority of the people from the West who were very active at the conference also understand the implications of the outcome for national development. But President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP did not see it that way; they believe that it might create other problems in the polity. Perhaps, they are thinking, maybe, after the elections, they can bring it back; but it is wrong. If that is his thinking, the President may have been ill advised.
The whole idea is to understand that there are issues, which must become part of our national debate, with or without elections and let us address them patriotically and with nationalistic feelings so that at the end, all of us will be happy from the East, West, North, and South and we will find a basis for addressing issues of national integration, national unity and cooperation among the various groups or people that are in this country. That is where the PDP, as a party, didn’t quite do well and the President of course did not also do well.
But I must also let you know that the president is constrained by some group of people in Abuja who do not want him to quickly articulate some of these issues.
And what about the National Assembly?
For the National Assembly, they see it that the process of rewriting the constitution squarely rests on them and that the idea of the national conference drawing up a draft constitution should not arise. But they failed to also realise that there are a number of issues beyond drafting a new constitution, they had suggested that this could be another draft, but however, there are policy matters which will not even be of concern to the National Assembly, but to the Presidency.
There are other matters requiring the laws to be amended, which will be of interest to the National Assembly, but Nigerians are yet to think as a people. And the fact that you are acting in the National Assembly as a representative of a particular constituency is not enough for you to brush aside a major national project like the Conference that was held last year.
By now, one would have expected that copies of that report would have been made available to the lawmakers in Abuja, at the Senate and the House of Representatives, where they will begin to look at the critical issues that were addressed, the recommendations on policy matters, the recommendations on implementation strategies, recommendations concerning the laws; to amend or not to amend. They should be addressing all of these at this moment and that is what should unite the peoples of Nigeria. But the National Assembly is not doing that, and it is very unfortunate.
Do you share the concern that the recommendation could go the way of similar reports?
I strongly believe in President Goodluck Jonathan; he has made his commitment to some traditional rulers in the South West and I am sure he knows the implication of saying, ‘I am sorry; I couldn’t meet up with those commitments; shortly after the election, we will do something.’ And, if he doesn’t do anything about it, it might be some people in Abuja who could be working against the report of the Confab. It should not be confined to the dustbin of history at all.
What if the opposition party wins the Presidency; will that not threaten the report?
It will not be a threat, because the party will not be able to convene another national conference to address the issues that have been addressed before; except they are going to be saying they want to convene a sovereign national conference, which will be different from a national conference or convene a constitutional conference that will address issues relating only to the constitution or issues relating only to sovereignty. Otherwise, the party will have to agree to step aside as it has happened in some other African countries and lose power to the Sovereign National Conference.
I am sure that is not what they want; so, definitely, they will find a way based on the role of the media and the public that will continuously put pressure on the federal government about the report.
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