The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) has dismissed the proposed National Conference as a waste of the peoples’ time and resources if it is not sovereign in nature.
The Forum also noted that given President Goodluck Jonathan’s antecedents, he cannot be taken seriously on the National Conference.
According to the spokesman of the NEF and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi, while the Forum is yet to take a position on the conference “anybody that understands the constitution would tell you that there cannot be a sovereign conference with the President on his seat or the National Assembly in place.”
He added: “They all have to vacate so that the chairman of the sovereign conference takes over the leadership of the country and whatever the resolution is forms the basis of the new constitution.”
Explaining why he does not believe the planned conference is a radical departure from other past talks on the political direction of the country, he said: “This is the ridiculous thing about this country. If we go back to past constitutional conferences, beginning with the Lugard Constitution of 1914; Clifford Constitution (1922); Arthur Richards Constitution (1945); John Macpherson Constitution (1951), Oliver Littleton Constitution (1954), Independence Constitution (1960); Republican Constitution (1963) and 1979 Constitution, and, of course, there was another draft Constitution in 1989 prepared during the regime of former President Ibrahim Babangida which was never tried until General Sanni Abacha’s administration brought about the 1994/95 constitutional conference which laid the foundations for the 1999 Constitution.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, I accept all, except one of them because all the issues raised which are important to our existence as a country were there. To me, there must be some other factor that is driving those who think we should repeat the same activities we had gone through over the years.”
Raising suspicion over what he called Mr. Jonathan’s 360 degree U-turn on national conference, the former varsity don said, “Maybe he is under certain political pressure. Really, if President Jonathan is to be taken seriously and if he wants to be different from those who had this kind of conferences before, he should give Nigerians a sovereign national conference. Anything short of a sovereign national is diversionary. A sovereign national conference will create a new level playing field for Nigerians to decide their future.
“In doing so, everyone, including the President, governors, lawmakers at national, state and council levels must vacate their offices and allow for a truly sovereign national conference to take over the running of the country.
“It is left for Nigerians whether or not to take him seriously. But for me, it is a waste of the people’s time, waste of resources to engage in a discussion that is no way different from the ones we have had before, unless the discussion is going to take the form of a sovereign national conference”, Prof. Abdullahi maintained.