Two delegates to the National Conference have expressed divergent views over the possibility of the conference meeting the objectives for which it was convened.
While Auwalu Yadudu from Kano State said the conference might not achieve its objectives because of its timing and the suspected agenda, Jerry Gana, a nominee from Niger State disagreed, saying it would.
Messrs Yadudu and Gana, both professors, attended the 2005 National Political Reform Conference, NPRC, convoked by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
President Goodluck Jonathan had, while inaugurating the conference on Monday, said that the timing of the conference was right and that he had no personal agenda for convoking the conference.
Mr. Yadudu said though it was necessary for Nigerians to talk, the 2014 National Conference might not achieve its goals because its timing was wrong while its motive, however papered, remained in the background.
The delegate from the North West argued that with the 2015 general elections fast approaching, the politicians attending the conference might ignore the reasons for their nomination to pursue political interests.
“I am sorry to be some kind of a pessimist on the outcome of the conference. I think the timing is wrong, the motive however papered over, is unspoken, and it is in the background,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.
“And also with election fast approaching, this is the wrong time to convene a conference, I am aware that the president himself has recognized this fact, and he is of the view that this is the most appropriate time.
“I have a sense that politicians will be here to build bridges and create coalitions, all with a view to an impending election. This will be the preoccupation, regrettably in my assessment. If that is the case, I do not see the kind of report that the president hopes which will signal a new dawn for Nigeria, emerging from this conference.”
The delegate said there was not enough time for the conference to discuss, arguing ‘even if there is, the outcome cannot fly right away, it has to be subjected to the National Assembly, and even if you want to do referendum, the constitution has not yet been amended to allow for that. So, it is an idea, a good idea, but at the wrong time in my view.”
Mr. Yadudu, who was the legal adviser to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, however described the president’s inaugural speech as “refreshing and reassuring,” noting that it was important that delegates should not pay attention to the cleavages that pulled the nation apart.
He said he agreed with the president that the conference should give attention to the common issues that pulled all the sections of the country together.
“In that regard, it is a welcome address, and one hopes it will guide the deliberations of the conference,” he said.
He also said he would not rule out the possibility of the conferees personalizing issues during the current conference.
According to him, with the way the confab was convened on the basis of ethnic affiliation, members of the conference could defend ethnic considerations
Mr. Yadudu said, “With the way that the conference has been convened, specifically emphasizing what divides us, once you are inviting people on the basis of ethnic affiliation and you emphasize that, it has never been done, and you seem to be elevating, and actually dignifying ethnic agitation as a basis for discussion.
“I wouldn’t shut down anyone who agitates on the basis of ethnicity, I have not done so in the past, but this particular kind of conference is built on that premise that you are coming here to represent your ethnic organisation. It is very difficult for that counsel to be heard.”
However, Mr. Gana expressed optimism that the conference would achieve its desired goals, despite the timing.
Mr. Gana, a former Information Minister in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, told PREMIUM TIMES that the defunct conference did not succeed because of some personal agenda introduced, but which he declined to disclose.
“The difference would be that the implementation strategy for the recommendations of this conference is already being pre-determined,” he said.
“In the previous one you are talking about, we made recommendations, but at the implementation stage somebody added an agenda that was not part of our recommendations and that derailed the whole thing. You know it!”
Another delegate from Rivers State, Albert Horsfall, assured that the conference would do its best to come out with decisions that could work for Nigeria.