The call by prominent Nigerians for President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the National Confab reports which final reports the past Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved and handed) over to the Senate for full implementation, has ignited a cross cultural and political concerns in the country. For the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, the reports should be implemented if the current government is serious about owing the path of true federalism in the implementation of its programmes.
Not so states the Arewa Consultative Forum which has given its reason why the report should be left to gather dust on the shelf. Afenifere particularly asked the ACF to “stop peddling the funny claim of the North being 80 per cent of Nigeria in land mass and with a higher population” because the “fallacies have been laid to rest.” A statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin over the weekend, said, “All the over 600 resolutions taken at the conference were by consensus as delegates never had to vote once.
The only issues that remained contentious were the percentages of increase in derivation, the minerals development fund and the disaster relief’s fund. “The point of disagreement was when some Arewa delegates insisted that they would only agree to the five per cent increase in derivation and same for mineral resources development all over Nigeria on the condition that the five per cent earmarked for disaster intervention fund should be only for areas where Boko Haram are operating, while other delegates frowned on making Boko Haram a derivation item.
“The compromise struck was to refer the items to the president for a technical committee harmonisation.” Afenifere added that the allegation “laced with the usual feudal arrogance, outright misinformation, atavistic obfuscation and delusory myopia” would have been ignored “were it not that falsehood repeated time and again may start to wear the garb of truth.” It said, “Let us from the outset make it clear that the unitary order, which the House of Arewa, has used to limit the flourishing of the component units of Nigeria for decades, has now entered a terminal crisis with shrinking receipt from oil and like a one-legged man dancing “skelewu”, will sure hit the ground even if he has all the stage to himself.
“And when the fall comes, ACF and co-travellers would wish we had done the needful. They should therefore perish the thought that Afenifere is cajoling them to allow a restructured Nigeria.” Afenifere said it was amused that ACF was still peddling the claim of controlling 80 per cent of Nigeria because it had thought the fallacies have been laid to rest in 2014 after some of their delegates had taunted their co-conferees from the South “with map of Nigeria drawn at the back of their babanriga showing the North as 80 per cent of Nigeria.”
Odumakin recalled that during the national confab, delegates were unanimous that the figures of all the censuses held in Nigeria till date had not been credible due to hegemonic interferences with what should have just been an exercise to provide scientific data to aid planning and development. It was also agreed that the natural boundaries of the North and the South are Rivers Niger and Benue “but the British drew artificial boundaries to favour the North and punish the South for agitating for independence.”
Afenifere also queried why the North would be using the issue of bigger land mass, which was allegedly cornered to its advantage, to harvest revenue from the central purse instead of cultivating it. The delegates, it said, also resolved that if the higher population claim were true, “why would a man say his neighbours should not send their children to the best schools because they have to cater for his own children who are more than theirs?” In a recent interview, elder states man Ayo Adebanjo, said the rec-ommendation of the confab has reduced the powers of the Federal Government by reducing the amount of money at the centre in favour of the states.
It is also recommended that all zones must have equal number of local governments. And I made the point that all reforms Buhari is talking about are okay but that should not prevent him from implementing the recommendations. The bottom line is that the recommendations of the confab are not inconsistent with wiping out cor¬ruption. So, my point is not because x or y is not corrupt. Somebody was ready to provide a leeway. This is not the con¬stitution the founding fathers gave the country. The constitution they gave the country was purely confederal and bal¬anced to the extent that each region as at that time had its own constitution.
It’s this position that recommendation of the confab has brought back. With that, we can look into all the conflicts. And mind you, nobody has faulted the recommen¬dations of the confab. If the bulk of the recommendation is right, why don’t we accept it and implement it and let’s move forward.
All the issues we are complain¬ing about go to the roots of the awkward constitution which was imposed on us by the military which is largely from a sec¬tion of the country. And that is why we have been talking of confab and none of the past presidents did that accept former Presi¬dent Jonathan. That is why Jonathan courts our favour. If today, Buhari ac¬cepts to implement the recommendation of the confab, he is my candidate. I know that by so doing, he will be solving a lot of problems. That’s why we said a man who was ready to give us a change of the constitution was our man.
We can’t get anywhere without changing the constitution. All the problems plaguing the sector, including the question of revenue allocation and Niger Delta agitations have been tak¬en care of in the recommenda¬tions of confab report. We pacify the Niger Delta people by reviewing allocation to them. So, many things were done. That was why a lot of things were done by consensus.
We didn’t vote at the place to ar¬rive at the recommendations; go and look into it. If we continue with the old constitution, our problem will continue. Adebanjo noted that is only in Nigeria you can see the more you go into the desert the more you see more population, meanwhile Geography taught them that the more you go into the desert the less you see population. However in reacting to Chief Adebanjo’s statement, the northern forum in a statement signed by ACF’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammadu Ibrahim, stated that “the attention of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has been drawn to a statement credited to Chief Adebanjo, an Afenifere chieftain that “a Northerner will not be so disposed to changing the constitution because they are the beneficiary of what we are complaining about.”
Ibrahim said “The 2014 National Conference was convened by former President Jonathan on 17th March, 2014 as a platform for dialogue as a result of agitations by various interest groups. It also discussed issues and problems that appear to inhibit national progress or challenge national cohesion. It also proffered appropriate solutions that would assist in moving the nation forward.”
“The selection process of delegates by President Jonathan’s government made the North that has a population of 75,268,686 people (NPC 2006) with a land mass of 730,885 square km (80 percent) as a minority with 189 delegates while the South with a population of 65,151,458 people (NPC 2006) with a land mass of 193,438 square km (20 percent) as a majority with 303 delegates.”
The Northern leaders further stated, “Despite this glaring injustice and disadvantage, the North as a region did not only participate in the overall national interest of Nigeria but also stabilized the conference on crucial issues of national unity.” According to the ACF chief, “the 2014 Confab was however, not a platform for constitution making and did not unanimously recommend a new constitution for Nigeria as claimed by Chief Adebanjo.
The learned Chief knows better the process of constitution making and certainly the delegates to the 2014 Confab did not qualify for such process, as they were not elected as representatives of the people but selected or nominated by government and interest groups. The delegates therefore, did not have the legitimate mandate of the people to draft or recommend a new constitution for Nigeria and did not even do so”.
“The 2014 Confab in which ACF fully participated made about 600 far reaching recommendations on policy issues, legal and constitutional amendments to the 1999 Constitution as amended and submitted the report to the former President on 21st August 2014 and not a new Constitution.”
Besides, Alhaji Ibrahim argued: “ former Jonathan had ample opportunity to implement some of the policy issues or even forward some of the recommendations that require legal and constitutional amendments to the National Assembly, but did not do so. He thus queried, “Was it the Northern interest that stopped him being a southerner or a southern interest? The Confab report now being a public property is subject to the usual due process of implementation through the three arms of government and not singularly by President Buhari as ChiefA debanjo is canvassing.”
-As the public continues to set agenda for the government, the confab report approved by the immediate past FEC and handed over to the Senate for implementation has taken a center state in national debate, writes Francis Moses