Last week, delegates from the northern part of the country disowned the entire final report of the 2014 national conference. The issue, which is generating ripples among other major stakeholders and delegates from the Southern axis that participated in the conference drew the ire of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere. In this interview with KUNLE ODEREMI, the immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and spokesman of Northern delegates to the Confab, Anthony Sani, sheds light on the latest action of the North on the report of the conference.
OBSERVERS say reforms are critical and crucial in the life of any nation. So, the agitation in most quarters now is, why is the North afraid of the need to carry out fundamental reforms in the Nigerian federal structure, based on some major decisions that were reached by consensus at the 2014 National Conference?
You are not wrong by saying reforms are part and parcel of mechanism of community living and should be continuous. That explains why Lee Kuan Yew, who founded Singapore, once wrote that order, justice, liberty, peace and prosperity for all are never natural order of things, but attained through ceaseless hard work by leaders and the led. That explains why the North is not opposed to joining hands with other sections in order to find how best, appropriate methods of solving the nation’s myriad of problems on a continuous basis. But, the North takes exception to any allegations that the region is afraid of any forms of reforms. What Northern delegates have said is clear: that a democratically elected government cannot reasonably be expected to undertake far-reaching reforms of the polity based on recommendations by a conference of unelected delegates, for the government to do so would be undemocratic and morally preposterous. More so, that the All Progressives Congress (APC) boycotted the conference of 2014.
But, most stakeholders contend that the decision of the Northern delegates to disown the report of the Confab is an afterthought, having unequivocally supported their Southern counterparts in adopting by consensus such critical issues relating to fiscal federalism/ resource control, part-time legislature; modified presidential system (a hybrid of presidential and parliamentary system); removal of immunity clause; power rotation, among others?
The North has not disowned the reports of the conference, however flawed the methods used in arriving at some of the resolutions and decisions. What the North has said is that the conference comprised unelected delegates, who cannot foist their preferences and decisions on the rest of the country that is under the watch of an elected government. The best which can be done in the circumstance is for the political parties to study the reports and pick what are agreeable to them into their own manifestos for the purpose of canvassing for the electoral mandate needed for implementations. That is how party democracy works.
By its latest action, the Northern delegates seem to have impugned the integrity of the chairman of the conference, who is a respected jurist and distinguished son of the North, as well as other eminent northern delegates that cut across professional backgrounds, who carried the baton of the region to the conference? Why is this so and in whose interest?
Northern delegates have not questioned the integrity of the chairman and the leadership of the conference nor of the delegates from across the country, but they are saying that the delegates were not democratically elected. It is, therefore, undemocratic and morally preposterous for them to insist that the recommendations be implemented by an elected government, whose political party boycotted the conference, and whose manifestos did not include the far-reaching reforms contained in the reports of the conference.
Is it not in the best interest of the North that all stakeholders in the Nigerian project continuously engaged in dialogue, consultation and compromise, in the light of the avalanche of contentious issues that have continued to threaten the corporate existence of the nation?
Why and how do you mean? The North is in support of any dialogue that can improve governance and living standards of Nigerians needed for the unity, harmony and stability of the country. This is because we all have stake in making the Nigerian project a success. But, this should not be done undemocratically. There are standard ways multiparty democracy works.
Some critics say the northern elite behaves as if the North owns the country and they must continue to dictate to other constituent units on how Nigeria must be governed and that the dysfunctional structure remains. Why such mentality, if the nation has to achieve enduring peace, stability and progress?
If the North believes it owns the country which must be ruled on its own terms, it would not attend the conference of unelected delegates amid existence of elected representatives of the people in the legislatures across the country at the instance of the Southern agitations which coerced the last regime to convene the conference. Can the North say the South is dictating to the country by its agitations for reforms based on reports of unelected delegates? It is worth noting that in every country, there is national consensus on the problems confronting the nation, but there is often no similar national consensus on methods of solving the problems.
What multiparty democracy does is to allow each party to have its own distinct method of solving the national problems. These methods are couched and contained in the party manifestos, which the political parties use to canvass for electoral mandate needed for implementation. To now depict the North as dictating to the rest of the country and to not see the South through the same prism when it insists on implementation of reports by unelected delegates does not add up and reeks of double standards.
We all have our preferences, but we must use democratic process to make our desires possible and then actual. Dictation, threats and intimidation are not allowed in democracy.
Do the Northern delegates realise the danger inherent in their decision to breach the agreement symbolised by the Confab’s final report, which it is now trying to consign to the dustbin of history, as the Emir of Kano recently declared that the North-East and the North-East would be in dire straits should Nigeria spilt?
There can be no cavil or danger in the significance of saying that far-reaching reforms of the polity of this country cannot be undertaken based on recommendations of a conference of delegates who were not democratically elected. Make no mistake. The insistence of the North for a united one country whose population and landmass are asset is not to suggest a section of the country is indispensable. It is because the North believes the certain benefits of one large country far outweigh the uncertain gains of split.
Why is the North still comfortable with the belief that the South must remain the hewers of wood and drawers of water, whereas the cash cows are based in the South, oil and Value Added Tax (VAT), and so on?
What is the basis of your conclusion? Of the 17 years of our nascent democracy, the South has ruled for 13 years? Are they truly short-changed? Please note that the military regimes often credited to the North is not correct because military is a constituency in its own right and could not reasonably be credited to a region. I hope you know that oil, gas and solid minerals are natural resources which have been in the exclusive list from the first constitution till date precisely because they are not result of hard work by anybody. The derivation paid is to mitigate the effects of environmental degradation. As of today, the littoral states take about 50 per cent of the proceeds from oil when we add those from derivation, from NDDC, from ministry of Niger Delta, from Amnesty, from PTDF and from IOCs. Even at that, one still hears oil-producing communities agitating that their proceeds from derivation be paid to them directly because state government short-change them by using it to build flyovers, five stars hotels and airports in the state capitals to the chagrin of oil-producing communities. That means even in Niger Delta, there are complaints by oil-producing communities against the state governments.
You may wish to note that a state in Niger Delta takes home what a whole geopolitical zone of non-oil producing area takes home from the Federation Account Allocation committee. It is noteworthy also that not all states in the Niger Delta are oil producing states. That is why natural resources are in the exclusive list in order to promote balanced development that comes with social justice. I read the other day reports in Tribune papers by a faction of Afenifere that one of their reasons which informed their agitations for restructuring of the country is because three regions in the South have 17 states while one northern region has 19. But, I thought they chose their facts in order to avoid inconvenient truth. I say so because the North was both a region and a protectorate just like the Southern Protectorate. The platform conveniently forgot to demand that the former Mid-West region should be given nine states in order to be at par with the former Eastern Region now with nine states. I think we should take into account all factors as we canvass for our preferences democratically.
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Last week, delegates from the northern part of the country disowned the entire final report of the 2014 national conference. The issue, which is generating ripples among other major stakeholders and delegates from the Southern [...]
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