Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum, recently called for a National Conference within the first year of the assumption of office of the next president after Muhammadu Buhari. This Conference is to address issues on “inclusiveness, integration, allocation of resources, creation, and distribution of wealth,” all of which, combined, constitute what the Northern Elders Forum considers as what is wrong with the country.
The Presidency, National and State Legislatures are to play active and leading roles towards this Conference, despite the experience with such Conferences under Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan, whose conclusions, according to the Northern Elders Forum, were “filed away soon after the selected members of the conferences completed their sittings.”
The Yoruba Referendum Committee says that the problems alluded to by the Northern Elders Forum have been in existence since the 1966 Military coup which abolished Federalism. This singular act has been the underlying cause of the problems facing Nigeria. Every successive military or civilian government compounded these problems in such a manner that they have, today, become the talking points in the Nigerian political space.
Earlier Conferences by Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan also adequately identified these problems and proffered solutions; hence, there is no need to envisage repetition of the type of National Conference being promoted by the Northern Elders Forum as such a conference would be another waste of resources.
Nigeria’s problems, according to most of the presidential candidates, are too astronomical to be subjected to cliched phrases of integration, wealth creation, and distribution when it is clear to citizens that the country desires to be positioned for its constituent parts to be able to create and secure citizens and wealth.
Hence, the reason(s) for “filing away” the Conclusions of both Conferences must inform our approach to any future Conference, as this will provide a template for ensuring the success of any Conference contemplated for the future.
The Yoruba Referendum Committee makes bold to state that the major reason for the “filing away” of the conclusions was the fact that the delegates to both Conferences had no roadmap or pathway to legitimize their conclusions.
Delegates to both Conferences were not directly or indirectly elected as representatives of their various Peoples but were selected as appropriate representatives and accorded recognition by the state and central administrations, thereby turning the entire exercise into a political and bureaucratic process, leaving out the democratic will of the people.
The Presidencies were thus not bound by the conclusions, because they lacked Legitimacy, thereby making it possible for the organizers to file such conclusions away.
This view rests on the fact that the Presidencies were Legitimate administrations by virtue of their being democratically elected; hence, any solution to any problem they intended the Conferences to resolve must also be Legitimized by democratic means embedded in the process towards the Conference itself.
Therefore, when the Northern Elders Forum is looking towards the incoming President, National and State Legislatures to act and convene another Conference, this must rest on their capacity to Legitimize the aspirations and expectations of the People on questions of “inclusiveness, integration, allocation of resources, creation and distribution of wealth.”
To achieve this, the incoming President only needs to use his influence, in conjunction with the National Assembly, to encourage the State Legislatures to ensure the Legitimacy of the demands and aspirations of the people of their States.
This will be achieved through the instrumentality of the Referendum to be conducted by the various State Houses of Assembly, especially in cases where the Peoples are homogeneous and contiguous. Where this is not the case, Socio-Cultural institutions within the Nationalities can assume the task or the Houses of Assembly can be mandated to conduct the Referendum on their behalf.
The Referendum provides the route towards engaging the incoming President and National legislature as the most democratic route towards Re-Federalizing Nigeria to enable the post-Buhari administration adequately address questions on “inclusiveness, integration, allocation of resources, creation and distribution of wealth.” The outcome will become the backbone of the envisaged National Conference and by extension, the foundation for a new Federal Constitution.
Based on the above, the Yoruba Referendum Committee calls on the various Peoples of Nigeria to impress on their Houses of Assembly, the necessity for “Nationality Referendums,” preparatory to any future National Conference. The Yoruba Referendum Committee also expects the Northern Elders Forum and similar organizations to embrace this call for Nationality Referendums.
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