A major crisis of confidence has hit the planned National Conference, following yesterday’s insistence of Igbo leaders on a new constitution.
Unless the Prof. Ben Nwabueze-led Igbo leaders of thought are persuaded, a credibility crisis is imminent for the conference, which is likely to begin before the end of March.
The Igbo leaders of thought, after yesterday’s meeting in Enugu, rejected the proposal of the Presidential Advisory Committee, led by Senator Femi Okuroumu, which recommended the amendment of the constitution. They are also opposed to the proposed selection of delegates on the basis of senatorial zones or federal constituencies.
The Igbo leaders, at the end of their third meeting, also gave an indication that they had initiated an action aimed at reconciling the various factions in the pan-Igbo
socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, that the Igbo should not be divided at the conference, they said.
The meeting was attended by prominent Igbo elders, including, Senator Anyim Ude, President-General of Ohanaeze, Chief Enwo Igariwey, Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Offia Nwali, Dr Chu Okongwu, Chief Ben Obumselu, Dr Dozie Ikedife, Mrs Maria Okwor, Chief Enechi Onyia (SAN), Mr. Chris Okoye, Elliot Uko and Igwe Aja Nwachukwu, among others.
The secretary of the group and former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Prof Elochukwu Amucheazi, told reporters that the Igbo position on the conference would be made public by the end of this month.
He said they were totally opposed to any recommendation that would have anything to do with the retention of any aspect of the 1999 Constitution. Only a new constitution would be acceptable to Nigerians, he said.
Amucheazi said the position of the Igbo leaders is that the conference should be for all ethnic nationalities, being the only way the people would be carried along in the process.
“The advisory council seems to be thinking of the amendment of the constitution and we met to see how to inform the president that this is not in order because we are thinking of an entirely new constitution. What we are saying is that we must have a way of informing the president and Nigerians that the recommendation is not in order and in trying to do this, you can see this is the meeting of Concerned Igbo Leaders of Thought and we are bringing in Ohanaeze to have a reconciliation in two weeks time because we want Ndigbo to be united in this.
“We want this country to survive and we are doing all in our power to make it survive. We are working out the content of the constitution and when we are through with it, we are going to invite all Igbo groups to have a say on it.
“In other words, Ndigbo have rejected the recommendation of PAC. If this is a conference of all nationalities, all ethnic nationalities should be represented. What we are saying is that if we are using the geo-political zones, we must make sure that all ethnic units are represented.
“Again, it is not delegates through adult suffrage by individuals on their own merit but that the ethnic nationalities will have a way of nominating people to it. So we are dealing with nationalities and this is an issue that seem to be misunderstood. We want ethnic nationalities and not senatorial zones,” he said.
The Igbo leaders also demanded that the new constitution should not pass through the National Assembly but should be subjected to a referendum.
The leadership crisis rocking Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amucheazi said, will be sorted out at their next meeting on January 18.