By Oji Odu
Can implementing the 2014 Confab report solve the challenges confronting the country? Former South-west delegates to the 2014 National Conference on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, urged the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to immediately set machineries in motion to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference, because they see it a better solution to the problems of the country.
The delegates to the National Conference organised by former President Goodluck Jonathan have demanded that the 2019 general elections should be conducted on the basis of a new and truly federal constitution. They maintained it was the yearning of the people.
After a reunion yesterday in Abuja, the leaders said the implementation of the Confab report was the right tonic to move Nigeria forward and build a nation that works for the citizenry.
In a statement signed by their Chairman, Deputy and Secretary, Chief Olu Falae, Alani Akinrinade (rtd) and Dr. Kunle Olajide, the delegates urged the Federal Government to initiate the process for the National Assembly revisit and implement the report submitted to the immediate past legislative chambers for implementation.
Similarly, another group of delegates, who also met under the auspices of Forum of Delegates of the 2014 National Conference, vowed to apply several strategies to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the conference, including getting the citizens to demand from political parties and their candidates their positions on the implementation of the report.
Chairman of the Planning Committee, John Dara, stated that the conference delegates felt it is timely to dialogue with members of the executive to ensure that the conference report is utilised for constitutional amendment.
Addressing the gathering at a meeting in Abuja, Chairman of the Forum, Tanko Yakassai, said the meeting which was a private initiative of the former conference delegates is aimed at trying and devising means of encouraging the implementation of the recommendations of the conference.
Explaining, Yakassai said the conference report was divided into three categories- policy matters, issues relating to legislative enactment and matters requiring constitutional amendments.
He stated that the aspect of the conference recommendations requiring urgent attention is the one dealing with constitutional amendment, adding that the National Assembly should use the opportunity of the ongoing constitutional amendment to utilise the report of the 2014 conference.
Delivering a keynote address at the meeting, one of the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said the present All Progressives Congress, APC, administration must not take Nigeria’s unity and indivisibility for granted by refusing to embrace ideas and suggestions that would bring about an acceptable federal structure for the country.
“The simple answer is that we need to go back to the pre-January 1966 true fiscal federalism. The over 600 recommendations of the distinguished Nigerian patriots, men, women and the youth, from all works and strata of life of 2014 National Conference must be immediately retrieved from the archives where they are gathering dust and spider cobwebs by this government, put on the front burner, and utilised meticulously for the purpose of re-engineering, retooling and reformatting this Nigerian contraption that is still not working.”
Ozekhome described the present constitution of 1999 as a creation of the military Decree No 24 of 1999, adding that it is not a peoples’ constitution; does not enjoy the Nigerian peoples’ mandate, and so lacks legitimacy.
The participants noted specifically that the perennial problem of deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen would have been resolved if this administration had implemented the report.
The gathering which had the likes of Professor Jerry Gana; John Dara; Tanko Yakassai and Yinka Odumaki declared that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration must abandon its opposition to the implementation of the document.
The summit, which held at the Abuja residence of the owner of DAAR Communication, Raymond Dokpesi, held that, “no progressive government can and should dismiss the recommendations of such a serious and representative gathering…”.
July 13, 2016 Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, had assured Nigerians that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would revisit the report of the 2014 National Conference to implement some of the confab recommendations.
Speaking during telephone interview on ‘Journalists Hang Out’ programme at Television Continental (TVC), Osinbajo said there were some issues in the confab report that he personally agreed with, which Federal Government can implement with or without legislation.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier said that the report of the National Conference will be sent to the archives. But the Vice President revived hope of many Nigerians, saying that there were issues in the report that can be quickly implemented.
“I have read the (confab) report. There are several issues there that can be quickly implemented and there are issues that cannot be implemented without law and legislation. There are several issues in the confab report that require legislation.
“There are wide varieties of issues including so many issues that we are already familiar with; so many issues that we agree with or we may not agree with. I believe that there are many issues in the confab report that I personally agreed with, which I believe we can implement as a central government with or without requirement of legislation.
“I think it is a matter of looking at it one by one; is it something that we can do or we cannot do? State police is one of the issues and there are other issues we strongly believe in. But when people say government should implement 2014 confab report, they made it sound as if there are only three issues in the report. There are many issues in the confab report and whatever we find that we can do, we will do it. Whatever needs legislation, we will push it.”
On the agitation for restructuring of Nigeria, Osinbajo said he was in support of resource control and state police but against regionalism, which some Nigerians are clamouring for.
“I think that the whole idea of restructuring Nigeria is a major concept. There are many issues surrounding it. For example, I have always been a strong believer in fiscal federalism. That is to say the state must have more resources. I actually went to the Supreme Court as Attorney- General of Lagos State on issue of fiscal federalism. As a matter of fact, part of the thing we said at that point was that we were trying to restructure Nigeria federalism by court action.
“We went to court several times on issues like whether state has a right to certain degree of autonomy. We fully supported that and said to create right for autonomy; it could even be extended to their resources. VAT for example must be a state matter. I strongly believe that we must have state police,” he said, adding that he did not subscribe to dividing Nigeria, going back to the region and all those kind of things.
“ I do not believe in it. I don’t think we need to back to regions. If there are people who believe that we must restructure ourselves within ethnic lines, I don’t think that is right way to go,” he said.
By Oji Odu