DELEGATES at the ongoing National Conference may vote for restructuring of the governance structure in Nigeria with devolution of powers to states and local governments for enhanced development.
A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Adamu Aliero, during his contribution at the plenary on Tuesday, said there is currently over-concentration of governance structure at the federal level, making it impossible for reasonable development to take place at the grassroots level.
He said: “There is too much power in the centre. Power should be devolved to the state and local governments,” while also calling for exploration of mineral resources in various states of the federation to avoid over-reliance on oil revenue.
A South-West delegate, Chief Richard Akinjide, while also supporting the restructuring of the governance structure in the country, urged leaders to imbibe the legacies of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and others who had contributed to laying the solid foundation of Nigeria.
Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, who also represents the South West said in her presentation that the conference was an opportunity to fix Nigeria and restore its past glory.
She said: “There are two primary choices in life. One is to accept things as they are and the other is to accept responsibility to change things.
Once again, Mr. President has given us the opportunity and those of us in this room have accepted the responsibilities to change things in Nigeria.”
According to her, President Jonathan in his agenda setting speech, specifically mentioned areas where Nigeria needs fixing, adding that “I’m particularly gratified that my generation has again the opportunity to redeem itself in this room. Ours was the generation that took the risk of going down in history as the one that inherited the best from its forebears; but in danger of bequeathing the worse generation in which life is nasty, brutish and short.”
She recalled the incident that happened at the National Stadium and other parts of the country during the last Immigration recruitment in which several job-seekers were killed.
Awolowo Dosumu, urged the delegates to grab what she called the last opportunity offered by President Goodluck Jonathan to write history and make the conference succeed.
According to her, the President in his speech mentioned some countries that were at par with Nigeria in the past but have now developed.
She said that countries like Singapore and Malaysia were able to grow because they displayed single mindedness in their determination to succeed.
“And in order to succeed in Nigeria, we have to be very serious about development and you cannot develop without massive investment.
She stated further that the cost of governance was a clog in the wheel of progress in Nigeria, adding that any country that spends 70-75 percent of its budget on recurrent expenditure has little or no chance to grow.
She further said: “We need to try to reduce the cost of governance. Any country that spends in excess of 70, 75 percent of its budget on recurrent expenditure has a little or no chance of developing. And such decisions are going to require a great deal of courage because you will be stepping on huge toes but they are decisions that at some point have to be taken in this country. If we are to develop and prevent ourselves from moving straight into the brink or to the abyss.”
She reminded delegates of the words of the Sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he stated that Nigeria’s greatness will not depend on its size, population or the natural resources which are latent factors “but how well we harness those resources and the just and equitable way in which they are spent for the good of the people.
“We have to be bold and courageous in taking decisive steps for posterity,” she said.
However, Gen. Alani. Akinrinade, (rtd) in his presentation apologized to the youth of Nigeria for the ills that befell the nation in the wake of prolonged military rule.
He, however, sarcastically said he had no apology for the elders who aided and abetted the military rule, accusing them of painstakingly watching the military draw the 1999 Constitution, which he said encourages corruption.
He said: “The 1999 Constitution encourages corruption and should be thrown away. For now we are not a nation but we have the capacity to build one.”
Former Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, an Anambra delegate, said the conference was a welcome development, saying Nigerians have been clamouring for this kind of opportunity to discuss the nation’s problems and come up with solutions that would strengthen the foundation. “The conference is the best centenary gift to the nation.”
She alluded to the President’s speech that sovereignty belongs to the people as such the need to subject the outcome of the conference to referendum, adding that she was convinced that Nigeria would work and urged delegates to work together to achieve the desired unity and prosperity of the nation.
Hon. Justice Peter Akere (rtd), noted that Jonathan had called the conference to look at why things worked up to certain point before things began to go awry and come up with resolutions that would help address the challenges.
While contributing on the floor, former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmadu Alli, attacked Southern delegates for contesting the population of the North.
However, Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, said on Tuesday that consensus remained the best option for arriving at decisions in the conference.
He stated that the adoption of 70 per cent voting benchmark does not mean that the conference would not attempt to have consensus on all issues adding that the benchmark was secondary in the event that consensus was impossible on an issue.
He said: “Some of you seem not to understand what the deputy chairman was saying yesterday about the voting benchmark. The consensus is still there. The most important thing is consensus. It is when it fails that we vote. I might sometimes have to adjourn in order for us to reach a consensus. Consensus is the number one thing. It is when it fails that we go for 70 percent benchmark. Consensus is what will unite Nigerians.”
He also warned against delegates clapping their hands after contributions adding that it was uncivilized.
“It is very uncivilised for somebody to clap when people speak in a conference of this nature. Please, take note,” he said.
Again, religion splits confab
The plenary session of the ongoing National Conference on Tuesday was almost shut down when the issue of religious imbalance and gruesome murder of Christians in the Northern part of the country was raised by a delegate.
However, tempers rose but for the timely intervention of the leadership of the confab saved the situation from degenerating into chaos.
Trouble started when Pastor Emmanuel Bosun of the Christian Leaders’ delegates in his brief presentation pointed out “lapses” and imbalance in the 1999 Constitution, that tend to make Nigeria an Islamic State.
He noted that the same constitution recognises Nigeria as a secular state.
Bosun said: In the 1999 Constitution, Shariah was mentioned 73 times, Grad Khadijah 54 times, Islam 28 times, Muslims 10 times and there is no single mention of Christ, Christian, Christianity or church.
“Some mischievous elements are taking these lapses in the Constitution to come to the ungodly decision that probably the Nigerian state is an Islamic state.
“So what are Christians doing here? One hundred of our churches were burnt down, Christians are being killed.
“In fact it has reached the stage of genocide. I will cite one example-in one denomination in Plateau State, the Women’s Fellowship as of 2001 had 500 registered widows and by 2008, they had 900 registered widows. By February 2014, they had 25,000 registered widows.”
At this point, former Governor of Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero raised a point of Order 9 rule 7 for the leadership of the of the confab to stop the speaker.
According to him, a delegate must confine his contribution to the subject under discussion and will not introduce matters irrelevant thereto.
He added that “the speaker on the floor is bringing issues that are not related to Mr President’s speech. I therefore, want the chair to call him to order. He is bringing diversionary issues that are very sentimental.”
This point of Order elicited rowdiness with Christian delegates shouting Aliero down for Pastor Bosun to continue with his presentation.
However, Vice Chairman of the Conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, intervened after consulting with the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi (rtd).
He told Aliero that his point of order could not be taken because each delegate was given opportunity to speak his mind.
However, Pastor Tunde Bakare of Latter Rain Assembly, in his contribution canvassed for true Federalism.