‘National Conference modalities flawed’
Pan-Yoruba groups, comprising the Afenifere Renewal Group, Coalition of O’dua Self Determination Groups, O’dua Nationalist Coalition, Atayese and Afenifere Youth Movement, have described modalities for the proposed National Conference as “ridiculous.”
In a statement, they said: “The nation remembers the Independence Day broadcast of President Goodluck Jonathan, which rekindled the hope for a genuine National Conference. But the proposed modality for the conference has slaughtered that hope.
“President Jonathan promised that there would not be ‘no-go areas’ and that he will not tamper with the process. With these, Nigerians expressed the desire for a new constitution that would be ratified through a referendum. However, since the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, led by Senator Femi Okurounmu, submitted its report, we have witnessed disappointments. We are now presented with a conference, whose modalities are incongruous with the President’s promise and the expectations that Nigerians exhibited at the public sittings.
“Being consistent and strident advocates of a National Conference, Yoruba people expected socio-political, cultural and ethnic organisations to be the main, if not only, stakeholders at the conference, not a potpourri of “interest groups” that did not even deem it fit to make public presentations to the Okurounmu committee.
“For example, there would be five delegates representing five national academies and we are wondering what national interest these academies are pursuing that is not already covered by their parent ministries and, by extension, the Federal Government. The President would nominate six Judiciary delegates but the Nigerian Bar Association is allowed just one delegate, while the nomination of 24 delegates is ceded to civil society groups, which have no known umbrella or regulatory body. These examples are cited without prejudice to the fact that any Nigerian is qualified to be a delegate. However, after wide consultation with our people, we have decided to continue with the same cautious optimism we expressed when this initiative was unveiled.
“The Yoruba people will participate in the conference, believing it may be the step to take this process back to the sublime. We enjoin Yoruba individuals and groups to participate in the Yoruba Constitutional Conference on Feb 12 in Ibadan at the House of Chiefs in the Oyo State Secretariat, where we shall discuss the future of Yoruba nation and our approach to the National Conference.
“To President Jonathan, we say that this conference will make or mar your tenure. This trend of gaining public support and losing it too quickly is becoming characteristic of this administration and he needs to consider where his allegiance lies – whether as a statesman thinking of the next generation as espoused in his Independence Day broadcast or as a politician thinking of the next election.
“To the would-be delegates, we urge you to draw inspiration from the 55 delegates that wrote a new constitution for the United States. Nigerians have no business with poverty, unemployment, corruption, religious extremism, nepotism and other vices threatening the nation’s sovereignty. We will continue to clamour for Nigeria to be restructured into a true federal structure that will allow viable federating units to unleash their creative and developmental potential under an unfettered political structure.
“As a people, we are ready to work with stakeholders to ensure that the conference meets the aspirations of Nigerians anchored on a new constitution. However, Yoruba people reserve the right to take our destiny in our hands, if the present effort yields no desirable fruit.”