Issues bordering on corrupt practices, unemployment, restructuring of the country into federating units, economic development and national security topped deliberation today at the on-going National Conference in Abuja.
Each delegate who stood to comment on the President’s speech at the inauguration of the Conference also expressed concern over what would happen to the report of the Conference in view of the non-implementation of reports of previous Conference report.
Former Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet Group, Air Commodore Idongest Nkanga (rtd), in his contribution said the Conference has the capacity to either take the country to where it should be in the comity of nations or push it backward.
He said the solution to existing problems of ethno-religious and tribal sentiments lies in Nigeria moving from its current practice of fake federalism and restructure the country into real federating units that would relief the centre of the burden that has turned states into parasites.
Nkanga challenged the delegates to ensure that suggestions and decisions arrived at would not amount to presenting theoretical solutions to challenges that demand practical solutions.
He said that to build Nigeria where equity and justice would reign; the Conference must advance solutions that would eliminate the concept of first and second class citizens or the orchestrated settlers and citizens’ issue.
Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, said in restructuring Nigeria, geo-political zones and not the states should constitute the federating units while the power for creation of local government areas should be left with the states.
It was his opinion that the Conference must focus on the future of Nigeria by ensuring that the burden of power currently placed on the federal government was reduced and given to the federating units, the states and the local government areas.
His position for restructuring with the zones serving as federating units was supported by retired Maj.-Gen. Ike Nwachukwu who said the purpose of the conference was to negotiate for a new Nigeria.
Nwachukwu said that for the Conference to be a success, everyone must as a matter of patriotism, set aside his prejudices and make sure a new Nigeria emerges at the end of the day.
It was his view that restructuring of the country will result in national security; employment for the youth as people would stop focusing on the centre and looking inward; women rights and economic development.
Both Jim Nwobodo and Prof. A. B. C. Nwosu who spoke later supported the position of the previous speakers for fiscal federalism and devolution of power.
Chief Ajibola Ogunshola from the southwest cautioned against the excessive population growth which he said is not counter-balanced with adequate productivity as a major cause of massive unemployment and other social problems.
He spoke in support of restoration of local, state and zonal policing which was abolished during the military era. It was his view that the possible fear of abuse can be reduced by appropriate legislation.
On devolution of power, he said the federation should no longer fund local councils directly and that zones, as the federating units, can have as many states and local government areas as they need.
Former Information Minister, Frank Nweke 11, in a calm delivery, advocated a national economic development philosophy as applied in other parts of the world adding that other countries of the world have practically left Nigeria behind.
“The world is not going to wait for us. The world is not waiting for us,” said Nweke adding that nations are built by disciplined and committed visionaries and that Nigerians should never indulge in the belief that nations develop by accident.
He described the conference as a great opportunity for delegates to confront national problems on behalf of all Nigerians and not an occasion to bicker over issues that would take the country backward.
Moses Mgbale from Adamawa State described the Conference as a chance for the delegates to stand in the gap for every other Nigerian; an opportunity for elders to correct their ways and for the youths to learn from the elders.
He said for a stronger Nigeria to emerge from the Conference, every delegate must be determined to be a builder, not a destroyer and that this can be done through objective contributions and suggestions at the committee levels.
Hajiya Fati Mongonu, who said her father was kidnapped by the Boko Haram insurgents, alleged that unlike what used to obtain before, the military today has been infiltrated by the same malaise afflicting the larger society such as tribalism and sectionalism, an allegation that was immediately dismissed by Ike Nwachukwu as absolutely untrue.
Alexander Mshelbwala said President Goodluck Jonathan took a big risk to convoke the conference without minding what the outcome would be. He described the action as a show of courage.
Dr. Junaid Mohammed said although the President did not raise issues that agitate his mind, like security and corruption, he hoped that the outcome of the conference will not go the way of other conferences.
Lamido Adamawa, Muhammedu Barkindo Mustapha, said delegates must take a cue from the President’s speech instead of theories propounded by the west which were mainly meant to enrich them; and that the roles of traditional rulers need not be enshrined in the Constitution.
Mustapha Abdullahi in his contribution said the main problem with Nigeria and Nigerians is that “we emphasise our differences and de-emphasise those things that bind us together.”
Leadership as a panacea for a stable and progressive Nigeria was the focus of a short comment y former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba.
He said whatever the outcome of the Conference, except there is a political will guided by a sense of patriotism on the part of the leaders, nothing positive would be achieved.
In the same vein, Asabe Baba Nahaya said a situation where Nigerians keep cursing their leaders on the excuse that they do not have confidence in them was bad as that curse will continue to take the nation backward.
Leader of Labour Party, Dan Nwanyanwu, put the issue squarely when he said: “We are the cause of our problems,” and that both tribal and religious inclinations constituted the main reasons Nigeria has not moved forward.
He cited examples of Nigerian professionals in different disciplines who have won international recognition but cannot come back to operate in Nigeria because of the tensed environment characterised by hatred and favouritism based on ethnic lines.
Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche, told the Conference that Nigeria and Nigerians have exhibited signs of a failed state for a long time; and that it was time to arise and build.
Nwuche challenged delegates to ask the basic questions: where did we go wrong, at what point did we take the wrong turn. He traced the cause of the problem to a faulty structure which he said was not too late to correct.
He said Nigeria needs a structure that would enable its best to step forward and provide the required leadership; “history beckons, we have one more chance to right our wrongs.”
Former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, said solving Nigeria’s problems is like treating a patient in a hospital and that “you cannot treat an ailment you have not correctly diagnosed because for the treatment to be effective, the ailment must be properly diagnosed.
He said the Conference would only emerge with sound and acceptable report if the delegates place justice on the table, talk and listen to each other and sincerely address the fears of each group.
Bayo Ojo, former Justice Minister, spoke in support of the devolution of power that would ensure a weak centre and strong geo-political zones. He advocated free and compulsory primary and secondary education.
For rights activist, Joe Okei-Odumakin, the Conference must produce a constitution because, “it is going to be a colossal waste of time and resources if we don’t have a constitution emerging from this Conference.”
Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of THISDAY newspaper, lifted the morale of the Conference with a powerful speech that centred on the achievements of Nigeria and Nigerians both at home and abroad.
He said every country has challenges and that what to do is for the Conference to consciously figure out how to deal with the situation instead of lamenting over it, pointing out that poverty goes with corruption while unemployment incites violence.