Sunrise Prof OyewoA former Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Oyelowo Oyewo, believes that the early issues being experienced at the National Conference are expected structural issues that would not affect the integrity and productivity of the Conference.

Professor Oyewo was on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday to discuss developments from the Conference and he was quick to admit that some of the issues should not have been, if there had been proper planning and creation of ground rules ahead of the convening of delegates.

Beyond this though, he believes “these are just preliminary issues, the moment they into committees and they have to discuss substantive issues, I think they’ll be more engaged with the substance than all these (issues).”

One of the substantive issues is the outcome of deliberations at the conference. He noted that there had been no constitutional provision for a referendum in the Nigerian Constitution and this should have been noticed in President Jonathan’s speech at the inauguration of the Conference.

He also said that the Government having acknowledged that there is an ongoing process in the National Assembly to amend the constitution and calling for the process to be hastened in order to accommodate a referendum is proof that Jonathan acknowledges that fact.

He, however, could not give a guarantee that this would work out as expected, citing the possibility of the constitutional amendment being concluded before the end of the conference. This also led to an admittance of the view that the National Conference might not be one that would be concluded in 3 months.

He feared that the outcome of the Conference may be in a limbo if the constitutional provisions are not resolved.

Composition of Delegates

Oyewo acknowledged that indeed he was aware of complaints that the representation at the Conference tilts more in favour of very old people, with some of having been in the system since the independence.

He expressed the view that arguments in this regard could be seen in different ways. While some people advocating for better youth representation are of the opinion that the older generation caused the problems in Nigeria, some others see them as being more experienced.

He noted that the composition was politically inclined and not based on a wide consultation for wide representation, but nevertheless they are all Nigerians. He said that the most important thing was to look at the substance, otherwise the Association of Law Teachers, which he belongs to should also be protesting non-representation at the conference.

Oyewo noted that there were too many problems that Nigeria needs to fix and the delegates would need to focus on solving issues of inept leadership, power, education, insecurity, inability to conduct free and fair elections, empowering the youths and many more.

Resource Control

Oyewo believes that resource control is the most prominent issues in Nigeria’s federalism and with the 75% requirement for decision making on substantive issues, it would be hard for any group to force through its own position.

He noted that there were many aspects of federalism to talk about; the structure of the Federal Government in relation to the states and local governments, which he said has been a challenge, the legislative competence of the Federal Government which tilts too much in favour of the Federal Government and the issue of state police, as insecurity is an issue that requires concerted efforts.

He opted for the term Resource Management rather than Resource Control, emphasizing the view that focus has been too much on oil, without considering generating other resources, forgetting that each region has resources that it can live on.

Professor Oyewo noted that Nigerians have not been considered in all the amendments made to the country’s constitution in the past and the National Conference provides the opportunity to build one that is truly by the people.

He said that the same constitutional provision that says every Nigerian has a right to get education should be given to them to determine how their resources would be managed and to compel every government to provide healthcare, housing, employment, security and other amenities.

Oyewo believes that while some people are at the conference just to fill up space and prevent good Nigerians from adding value, there are still people who are there with ideas and vision for Nigeria, and he prayed that those are the people whose voices would be heard at the conference.

If there was one thing Professor Oyewo would recommend to be discussed at the conference, it would be good governance. He explained that governance should be made to benefit the people and once this is achieved, other things would follow.