Delegates fail to adopt voting method

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Mar 26th, 2014
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For the second day running, delegates to the National Conference engaged in a shouting match over the mode of voting.

Just like it was the case on Monday, the contentious issue engendered a sharp North-South divide.

Delegates were so divided on the issue that some of them ignored the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi who laboured throughout the session to restore order in the chamber.

Kutigi’s continuous shout of “order, order, order,” was ignored by some delegates as most of them sprang from their seats to demand that they be allowed to speak.

It took the intervention of the Deputy Chairman, Bolaji Akinyemi, who appealed to the conscience of delegates to restore some level of sanity in the chamber.

He said delegates should give the chairman the opportunity to meet with delegate leaders on the issue of mode of voting to see whether a consensus will be reach on the issue.

To save the conference from abrupt end, Kutigi accepted the suggestion of some delegates that the matter should be deferred to unspecified date to allow for more consultations and to allowed frayed nerves to cool.

He also accepted that leaders of delegates should be consulted to obtain the aggregate of opinions on the issue.

Northern delegates continued to insist that three quarter majority vote should be adopted to decide any issue the delegates failed to resolve by consensus.

Southern delegates on the hand demanded that two-thirds majority should carry the day any time the conference failed to achieve consensus on an issue.

The conference failed to resolve the thorny issue, which some delegates described as the “soul of the conference” before it adjourned for break.

The contentious issue contained in Order 6 (4) and 11 (1) (2) states “Any question proposed for decision in the Conference shall be determined by consensus and when this is not achievable, by a three quarter majority of the delegates present and voting.”

Former Akwa Ibom Governor, Obong Victor Attah said that the issue on voting should be settled.

Attah noted that two-third majority vote has always guided deliberations in the country and all over the world.

He prayed the conference to go by “the time honoured and time tested” two-third majority as the basis to decide any issue.

He wondered why attempts were being made to introduce three quarter majority when even Chief Richard Akinjide used two-third majority to allow former President Shehu Shagari to win election and became president of the country.

Chief Dan Nwanyanwu who came on the platform of the Labour Party in his contribution noted that wherever three quarter appeared in the 1999 Constitution, the drafters of the Constitution did not want the Section to be amended.

Insisting that the conference should adopt two-third majority, he said that three quarter majority as the mode of voting should be sent back to wherever it came from.

He said that a simply issue of “he and she” was difficult for the delegates to achieve a consensus.

Nwanyanwu moved that decisions at the conference should be reached on the basis of two-third majority.

What followed was a huge “no, yes, no, yes.”

Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, the Emir of Gummi in his contribution said that three quarter majority should be adopted to achieve near unanimity on issues.

To Gummi, adoption of two-third majority was bound to do the country more harm than good.

As he spoke, there was revolt from the proponents of two-third majority.

Some of the delegates surged towards the chairman apparently to attract his attention.

The conference chairman continued to shout “order, order, order” but the agitated delegates refused to pay attention.

Akinyemi intervened and asked delegates not to disrespect the chairman.

The Deputy Chairman said that any attempt to disrespect the chairman would spell doom for the conference and lead to anarchy.

The Chairman noted that when the issue became hot on Monday, he ruled that full debate on the issue would be taken later.

He also ruled yesterday that full debate on the issue would be taken when delegates returned from their break.

Some of the delegates insisted that there was no need to postpone the evil day and demanded that full debate on the issue be taken.

When the delegates resumed after their break, the chairman attempted to call for adoption of the “National Conference Procedure Rules 2014.”

What followed was a resounding “no.”

Chief Mike Ozekhome said that if there was a motion that the rules should be adopted, he had a counter motion that the rules should not be adopted.

Ozekhome noted that on Monday because of the contentious nature of the issue on voting, whether it would be three quarter majority of two-third majority, the chairman advised that the matter should be stepped down.

He said that before the conference went on break yesterday the chairman again advised that the matter be stepped down.

He concluded that as far as he was concerned Order 6 (4) which deals with method of voting is an unfinished business.

There was applause by the proponents of two-third majority.

Chief Edwin Clark took the floor and advised that two-third majority should be adopted.

Clark who noted that no delegate should claim that he owns the country more than others said that it was obvious that some delegates came to the conference with mind set.

He cautioned that the only way the conference would achieve its purpose was for delegates to put Nigeria first.

Bello Mohammed (Kebbi State) noted that voting or no voting delegates came to the conference to decide issues by consensus.

Mohammed said that three quarter was chosen because it is near to consensus.

He cautioned that “those who think that they will use their number to intimidate others will not succeed.”

Mrs. Chidinma Uwajimokwu from Imo State said that two-third majority remained the best option for the conference.

She noted that it was obvious that achieving three quarter majority would be difficult for the conference.

Akin Arikawe who came to the conference on the platform of retired civil servants suggested that the issue should be deferred for another day to allow for consultation

He noted that the Chairman might need to consult with leaders of delegates on the issue.

Kutigi ruled that “decision on whether three quarter of two-third voting method is hereby further adjourned for further consultation.”

He did not specify when the issue will be decided.

Former Inspector General of Police Mohammed Gambo Jemeta said that the chairman should adopt the doctrine of necessity when it became necessary.

He noted that there was no need for delegates to be too hard on minor issues of procedure.

He said that since the conference will not be in session for two years, it was wrong for delegates to waste time on minor issues of procedure.

It was also observed that some delegates were already lobbying to be placed on what a delegate called “special committees”

But the chairman insisted that delegates would be given paper to indicate the committees that would want to serve.

Pastor Tunde Bakare suggested that group leaders and delegate leaders should be involved in selecting committee membership.

Bakare also cautioned that the right thing should always be done.

He noted that there was no need for delegates to sit for three months and produce a document that will be marked “KIV” (keep in view.).

Some delegates suggested that the conference should work toward producing a new constitution for the country.

Some opposed the proposed submission of the out come of the conference to the National Assembly while others wanted the conference resolutions to be ratified through referendum.

Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani said there was no legal backing for the conference for delegates to arrogate to themselves the powers the conference does not have.

He noted that the issue of referendum will be out of the way unless the National Assembly says so.

He said that delegates should not assume that the conference is a constitutional conference especially when delegates were not elected.

Attempts by Musa Elayo Abdullahi to guide the conference to make provision for secret meeting (executive session) was shot down.

Elayo noted that if all discussions were held in the presence of journalists delegates would be exposed and the country would be exposed.

Most of the delegates felt there was no need for secret meeting.

Festus Okoye who came on the platform of civil society said that he was worried that some delegates came to the conference with preconceived notions.

Okoye cautioned that no delegate should grandstand

He also cautioned that the media must be given unfettered access to cover the proceedings of the conference.

He called for the deletion of Order14 (7) which gave the conference secretariat powers to bar or withdraw accreditation of a media establishment.

Nduka Obaigbena also asked the conference to delete the offensive section.

Obaigbena said that no attempt should be made to gag, suppress or restrain the press from its duty.

The delegates agreed and deleted the proviso which states “provided that if the media publishes a report of the proceedings which the conference considers unfair, offensive and not a true reflection of what transpired, such permission may be revoked.”

What was left of the section reads “The Conference may grant approval to the representative of any media to attend the sitting of the Conference.”

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