Jonathan never attempted to influence our report –Indabawa

Dr Akilu Sani Indabawa is the assistant secretary, conference proceedings at the National Conference. In this interview, he said contrary to speculations, President Goodluck Jonathan has never approached them to do anything for him. Excerpts:

Your position at the National Conference is very strategic, particularly as it concerned conference records. How has it been so far?

So far so good! We are not complaining. Things are going well. You can see from the deliberations we are trying to capture as deliberately as possible from the little resources and technology at our disposal the resolutions and proceedings of the conference.

If you observed at the plenary, some delegates are complaining that some of the resolutions adopted were not properly captured. What is it really happening?

No, no. They are not complaining that they are not captured. It is normal at the beginning of each day’s business to table what we called, votes and proceedings, which basically is the record of the previous day’s business. And naturally, before you start any meeting, you adopt the minutes of the previous meeting. If there are corrections, people can raise them. So it is normal, natural things. Some things were done, there may be mistakes. We are human beings. So once there are, it is the duty of the delegates to say no. So, what you recorded is not what I proposed, or is not what was adopted. So the correction can be made.

Looking at conference Work Plan, now the plenary is considering the workings of the 20 committees, do you think the conference has all the resources and even time to finish the considerations within its deadline?

The conference delegates are highly reputable and respectable Nigerians in their own rights, from different background. They are doing their work, and they know they have a work to deliver within a particular time that is allowed for us to work.
I am sure they keep this at the back of their minds. We are here to guide them, to support them and to make sure that we deliver within the record time.

What are the challenges your office particularly is facing?

There are so many challenges. One, is we have limited resources, obviously for reasons known to Nigerians. If government is to deploy the resources that we require, the allegations and counter allegations and the noise in this country will be high. So, we have to do with the little resources that we have.

Two, we try to capture in so many things using different technology as correctly as possible all the proceedings. But sometimes, the delegates themselves do not help us. They do not help us in those respects. Let me give example. We capture a report, there are buttons that each delegate is supposed to press, which means whatever a delegate says has to be credited to him or her. Most of those speakers would hardly mention their names, so when we capture that, we don’t have anybody to credit it to. At the end of the day, they will come back and say, “I say so, so thing, but it was not captured.” You are supposed to mention your name and the constituency you represent, so that we capture it correctly. These are some of the complaints we receive. As I said, you can’t have minutes and the minutes adopted as they are. Most of the time, 90 percent of the times, the minutes we produce are adopted as they are. So, I am not complaining on that. Of course, as human beings, we are bound to make mistakes here and there.

The convocation of the conference has created so many ripples from certain sections and interests of the country. Some people are saying the final report you are going to write may be doctored to suit the whims of President Goodluck Jonathan who convoked the conference.

The president has never spoken to me or to any official of this conference about any hidden agenda; about anything that tilt towards manipulation. The president has repeatedly said that his only interest is for the conference to succeed, in forging a greater unity of this country, succeed in coming up with resolutions that will address some of the contentious issues that bedevil Nigerian politics and economy. He has mentioned it several times to those who want to listen. He has not spoken to anybody, and I repeat, anybody about whatever may be that of his own agenda. So I want to confirm we are not available to be manipulated. The powers that be, as you mentioned, from all the evidence available to us, has not attempted to manipulate us. I want to believe that they’ll not manipulate us, nobody has spoken to me about any hidden agenda, and I want believe the readers know, about the integrity of the chairman of this conference. His integrity is highly unimpeachable. The same thing goes to his deputy.

When we come to this report, we will bring it back to the plenary. Delegates would be served copies of the draft report. They will go through it, they’ll advise us through the plenary, whether or not, what we captured represent their feelings, whether or not, what we present in the report captured what was agreed as the recommendations and resolutions. It is not something that you’ll sit down and write and then submit to government. No. Each delegate will have to sign the report at the end of the day. But before signing the report, they would have gone through, they would have corrected, and we would effect the corrections, and again, we will take it back to them and they will approve, by making sure that nothing has been doctored and nothing that they approved as resolutions were not cited. So, the process of working is a very transparent process. I for one, will never subject myself to anything of this nature that will not stand the test of transparency.

What about a delegate’s submission that there should be a moratorium of 18 months whereby elections won’t be conducted, but will be deferred by 18 months so that the president, the vice president, governors, members of the National Assembly and state assemblies would remain in power. Many believed the delegate did that at the behest of the presidency.

I can pass a judgment on my colleagues in the conference management secretariat; I can pass judgment on each of them. The way I worked with them for the past few months has shown to me that they are people of integrity.  When that delegate made that comment, we reacted immediately to dissociate ourselves from that comment given his rights of freedom of speech as protected by the constitution.

We have no quarrel about anybody who tries to exercise his rights of freedom of expression. What we object to is to try to drive the head of the conference to matters that have not been discussed. What is discussed and agreed on the floor of the National Conference, we will draft and report. Whatever the conference has not discussed, we’ll not allow anybody to manipulate us or to report anything that has not been discussed.

So, when that gentleman put forward those statements, we knew they were not discussed, we put them on the notice papers for the conference to confirm that it was not discussed and nobody has approached us on that matter up to this moment and we issued a statement. Nobody has approached us with any agenda under that table about extension or elongation of tenure or anything. Nobody! And government has made it clear that they’ll not interfere, and nobody has interfered so far.

Finally, are you assuring Nigerians that your report will be nothing but what the delegates resolved?

The delegates will indicate that after we draft the report, we will bring it to the plenary, they will look at it, if they will advise us, we correct, after we take all the corrections, we go back to the drawing board, correct whatever the conference directs. Again, we will come back to them, when they confirm, each one of them affixes his/her own signature and then it becomes official document, official report of the national conference.

Therefore, it is not for us to sit down and report and then submit it, no. They will be the ones to determine, to say this is what we agreed or this is what have not agreed. We are determined to report what they resolved as their position.


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