Foremost constitutional lawyer and chieftain of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, on Monday said the ongoing national conference would be a ruse unless President Goodluck Jonathan gives it a legal framework and adjust the 75 percent condition for arriving at valid decisions.
Nwabueze said the essence of forming the Igbo Leaders of Thought was to enhance the nation’s unity. He claimed that only conference of ethnic nationalities would bring about a renegotiated Nigerian constitution and the “ongoing conglomeration of assorted bodies at the conference” was far for the aspirations of the front runners of the conference.
Nwabueze said: “Ethnic nationalities are the best suited to solve Nigeria’s problem. You can’t achieve anything except the ethnic nationalities come together. We all individually belong to an ethnic nationality; we cannot run away from that, it is a sociological reality.
“The problem is how you coalesce 389 ethnic nationalities? The day you find the answer to this question, then Nigeria’s problem will be solved.” On the 75 percent voting condition which raised a lot of controversy at the beginning of the conference, Prof Nwabueze said that the controversy was needless and avoidable.
He said: “The problem of 75 percent should not have been there, 75 percent is impossible to achieve. Muslims already, not the North as a whole, are over 190 (about 34 percent), they have equally created Northern Delegates Forum. And the other day the Sultan led a delegation to the President where they complained. I would have said let them try and achieve a consensus, but where it fails they should go for absolute majority, not necessarily on percentage.”
Nwabueze said that even the 70 percent said to have been agreed on by leaders of the delegation would still be difficult to achieve. He claimed that absolute majority, which means majority of 492 delegates at a particular sitting, would have taken care of the problem.
Nwabueze, however, said the group would remain a permanent advisory body to the Federal Government and Ndigbo on national issues from time to time. He said that the group came into being after the announcement by President Jonathan during his Independence anniversary broadcast last year to convoke a national conference.
Nwabueze dispelled insinuation that the group was being funded by a South-East governor, saying that members, including himself and a member of World Igbo Congress, Dr. Obi Thomson, bore the cost of printing the books and other documents distributed free of charge to Ndigbo both at home and in Diaspora.
He said: “This meeting is a crucial one for us; all the time we have not settled the objective of Igbo Leaders of Thought, but today we have defined it. The objective is how to achieve a new, better and united Nigeria.
The first step in the pursuit of the objective is the production of the position of Igbo nation for the national conference for a renegotiated constitution; we have accomplished the first step. “The production has cost us millions, the money was provided by myself and Obi Thomson of World Igbo Congress, no governor is funding the Igbo Leaders of Though as being erroneously speculated. As at today, no governor has given us one kobo.
“The second part is about the national conference as constituted by President Goodluck Jonathan. The question now is whether the conference as presently constituted will lead us to the realisation of the objectives, which is a new, better and united Nigeria? Though it appears a waste of time but I think something good might still come out from the exercise. “We have also agreed in the meeting that Igbo Leaders of Thought should be kept alive, we will continue monitoring proceedings at the conference and see where we can make contributions.”
The meeting was attended by Prof. Ginigeme Mbanefoh, Justice G. U. Ononiba, Prof (Mrs) Uche Azikiwe, Prof. Chinweite Ejike, HRM Eze (Prof) Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, Prof Elochukwu Amaucheazi and Evangelist Elliot Uko.
Others are Arch, Bishop Maxuel Anikwenwa, Chief Enechi Onyia (SAN), Col Emma Nwobosi (rtrd), Dr. Igwe Aja Nwachukwu HRM Igwe Emeka Onyeso, Chief Emma Okocha among others.