As the conference ends, the big question is “Has the Nigerians expectations been met?” Let the truth be told, very few Nigerians, outside the establishment purview, would adjudge the conference to be successful. Most of the problems envisaged to be solved by the conference were left unaddressed whilst the patterns of debate and cleavages of opinions constituted sad commentaries on the Nigeria’s claim to nationhood.
There is of course, nothing wrong with this geopolitical ideological cleavages and preferences, what was however wrong was the incapacity of the delegates to reach consensus through mature consensus building and tactical compromises on cores intertwining issues for mutual interest. It appeared, especially, through the eternal North/South dichotomy, that our peoples are inconsiderate of others’ plight, having been absolutely ensconced in their own interests and welfare.
To start with, in the speech in which President Goodluck Jonathan announced the convocation of the national conference, he managed to create appreciable dose of excitement by saying, inter alia, “The conference is sincere and constitutes fundamental undertaking aimed at realistically resolving the long-standing impediments to our cohesion and development as truly a truly united nation.”
The excitement was grounded in the interpretation of the above statement to the effect that the conference would not be foisted with the paralyzing virus of “No go areas” But the delegates soon learnt otherwise when the conference started; issues on unity of Nigeria are forbidden area of discussion as the our unity is not negotiable.
It was then the skeptics who had not even remained silent all along became more vociferous in their criticisms of the conference, stressing nothing good would come out of it and that it would go the same unproductive and useless ways previous conferences like the 1994 Constitutional Conference convened by the late General Sani Abacha, and the National Political Reform Conference convened by Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, had gone. These skeptics felt if our unity is not negotiable, the representatives of the people themselves should be the one to say so and it ought not to have been foisted on them as fait accompli.
Another criticism against the conference was its composition, both structural and qualitatively. In structural terms, the government representatives dominated the membership in what was seen as a strategic measure to engineer some pre-determined outcomes. Qualitatively, the conference boasts of many old worn-out people who have circulated around the government corridors for decades and had not proven they had anything to offer the country.
These, coupled with many other lightweights were adjudged to have gone to the conference to collect the mouth-watering allowances only. Of course, the most disappointing aspects of this conference is the utter failure to reach consensus and provisions on core issues of national importance. Precious times of the conference were expended on relatively insignificant issues like grazing reserves, homes and other non-critical matters while important issues were either rushed or ultimately reserved for “technical committee” to be constituted later!
For avoidance of doubt, there was no consensus on the issues like resource control, state creation and devolution of powers to the regions while the quest for removal of Land Use Act (LUA) from the 1999 Constitution could not sail through (though some amendments to LUA was approved)
On state creation, delegates met one day and approved creation of 18 more states only for delegates from North to return the following day to reject the proposal vehemently except if disproportional numbers of the new states were zoned to the North. The result was a stalemate.
On revenue derivation, the quest to increase the derivation formula from the extant 13 per cent to a more reasonable 18 per cent was opposed in another enactment of North/South dichotomous warfare. The conference Chairman, retired Justice Idris Kutigi, said the matter should be referred to a “technical committee” to be constituted to advise the Federal Government on what measure to take on the issue.
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