There was a showdown yesterday between Northern and Southern delegates at the ongoing National Conference over voting benchmark.
For several hours, the session was rowdy, as delegates from the two political divide refused to shift ground on the two-third and
Mike Ozekhome (SAN) created the grounds for further debate on the issue when
he objected to attempt by Justice Idris Kutigi to have the rules of proceedings adopted as having been amended. Ozekhome, who called attention of the conference to the issue as being deferred, insisted that the rules cannot be adopted unless the issue of voting benchmark was resolved.
His views received a boost from Sen. Daisy Danjuma, who urged Justice Kutigi to lay the matter to rest finally before proceeding with adoption of the rules. However, tempers started flying higher when Chief Edwin Clarke spoke. He called on Justice Kutigi to adopt a position, insisting that consensus may not really work for the conference. He recommended
that two-third majority be adopted in the circumstance.
He said: “We have been on this matter for so long. No one owns this country more than the other. We have all come here to build a new Nigeria. In that regard, we have agreed to put Nigeria first in whatever we are doing. No one should come here with a mindset.
We have agreed that consensus should be the way out, but when we don’t have a consensus, what do we do? Do we close the
“We should not allow rules or orders to prevent us from taking decision. There is no reason for us to be here if there is no problem facing us. If we cannot arrive at consensus, we go with what is obtained all over the
world, which is two-third majority.” Though he received shouts of “no, no” and “yes, yes,” Clarke said: “None of us
here is party to putting 75 percent in the rules; only the chairman and his team. If the
majority here feel we should go with it, we adopt it, nut if majority think we should go with two-third majority, then, we follow it.
No one should tell us it is the mindset of Mr. President. If he said so and all of us say no, the President should listen.”
Meanwhile, while southern delegates insisted on two-third majority, their counterparts from the North insisted on 75
The issue forced some members to their feet, as shouts of “no, no” and “yes, yes” rent
the air. Justice Kutigi observed: “We are getting disorganized,” while deferring debate on the
issue to next week. However, interventions by Fola Adeola and Atedo Peterside saved the day.
Adeola had advocated that Justice Kutigi engages leaders of zonal delegations to
the conference to reach a consensus on the matter. Adeola’s position was further buttressed
by Peterside who emphasized on the need for more consultation on the issue before final decision was taken.
He cautioned the delegates against letting the issue of voting benchmark to destroy the
good work they were expected to do.
Deciding on the issue, Justice Kutigi, who spoke after his deputy, Prof. Bolaji
Akinyemi, has explained the need for more consultation on the issue, asked that he matter be put off till a further date. He also accepted the suggestion to meet with zonal delegate leaders to agree on the way forward. Earlier, during the debate, Bashir Albasu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police
(AIG), said: “If this issue is not handled very well, it will break this conference. If we cannot get consensus and the people cannot agree of 75 percent or two-third majority, then we refer the matter back to those that
set us up. There are people who are not ready to give way. If you give it to advocates of
two-third, some will think they are being intimidated because of their population. If you go with 75 percent proponent, some will also think you want to intimidate them. So, if there are issues we cannot get by consensus,
then, we should refer it back to those that set us up.” Contention on the matter started when former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, Labour Party Chairman,
Dan Iwuanyanwu and other southern leaders took on their northern delegates, who were
not ready to shift grounds on their position on three-quarter voting arrangement.
Apparently speaking on behalf of northern delegates, former Chief Judge of the Federal
Capital Territory (FCT) and Emir in Zamfara State, Justice Lawal Hassan Gunmi, insisted
that there was no going back on the threequarter voting majority.
Southern delegates who are scared of a strong opposition from their northern counterparts during the deliberations and
vote on core issues, as state creation, fiscal federalism, resource control, state police and gender equality, are opting for the two-third simple majority voting procedure.
An angry deputy chairman of the Conference, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, who made fruitless efforts to calm the agitating
delegates, warned that the chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, must
He criticised the habit of disobeying the chairman in the course of moderating the conference proceedings. Fierce clergyman and delegate from Ogun State, Tunde Bakare also warned delegates to see themselves as Nigerians in order
for them to make useful progress at the conference. He said: “We appreciate the effort of the chairman of the conference, but we have to do this right, for the sake of posterity. If we do it right, later or sooner, the other issues will be resolved. Things will be resolved when the north and the south see themselves as one.” Some South-West delegates, who spoke to Daily Sun on the condition of anonymity, said Kutigi is biased in the way and manner he pilots the affairs of the proceedings of the
conference. The South-West delegates said when contentious issues are being discussed that usually set southern and northern delegates against each other, the chairman tends to give preference to northerners. They warned that
if the attitude is not changed, this will affect the outcome of the conference.
STORIES IHEANACHO NWOSU AND FRED ITUA, ABUJA