Another perspective on the National Conference
It is not in dispute that there is an urgent need for a National Dialogue or Conference on Nigeria. This will enable us correct past mistakes and acts of injustice of the country and create avenues for a better and more united Nigeria under a generally accepted supreme constitution.
While we commend President Goodluck Jonathan for his decision to facilitate the National Dialogue or Conference and for setting up the Dr. Femi Okorounmmu technical committee to draw up modalities for the conference, we are concerned about the suspicion and lethargy that has so far trailed his decision.
Mindful of previous experience and the tendency for political calculations to derail the objectives of the conference, most people have questioned the agenda of the President - Why now, a few months to the 2015 general elections? Others point to previous committees and committee reports all of which have not been implemented by the government.
These suspicions are understandable that is why it is incumbent on the President to ensure the Okorounmmu technical committee deliver on its mandate within the agreed time frame which is 6 weeks.
We also believe that if the President wants to be successful at this exercise he needs to raise his trust quotient; one way to do this is to by word and conduct ensure the outcome of the dialogue/conference is not interfered with either by the executive or legislature.
Finally, we admonish the Okorounmmu technical committee to heed the advice of most elder statesmen by drawing up its modalities to adhere to these principles -
The opinions of the majority and that of the minority must be given equal expression.
The committee is drawing up its modalities must take into account the existing diversity in terms of language, age, gender, religion, ethnicity etc. The fact of diversity in Nigeria is a known one. Nigeria is made up of a multi ethnic and multi cultural, multi religious groups of people.
3. Elimination of No-go areas
There should be no no-go areas. Participants must be free to bring before the National Conference all issues.
This is another crucial bench mark. A transparent process is an open process that is bereft of fraud. Its importance in Nigeria where corruption has wrecked almost all public and private institutions has become extremely paramount.
The question now is: how do we ensure transparency in the current National Conference?
- We must ensure that the principle of inclusiveness enunciated above is followed.
- We need to see a documented effort of the people’s participation.
- If the outcome is a constitution, we must see the draft constitution.
- We need to feel free to criticize the draft and forward areas of further review.
- We need to follow up the drawing of the final copy to ensure that the people’s views are represented and not abandoned along the way.
The conference must be independent. It must be insulated from government control and manipulation. As such, the membership of the conference should not be accountable to the Executive but to the parliament (only for the purpose of giving legitimacy to its resolutions)
The eventual outcome of the review, i.e. the draft constitution, has to be legitimized by referendum and given legal status by the National Assembly.