Agbakoba writes Mark on National Conference, suggests modalities

 The lawyer suggested ways of conducting such a conference.

A former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Olisa Agbakoba, has written the Senate President, David Mark, suggesting ways of achieving a successful national conference to move the country forward.

Mr. Agbakoba, who said civil society groups received Mr. Mark’s endorsement of a conference with mixed reactions, however said, in the letter dated September 24; it did so with reservations because of the no-go areas highlighted in the speech to the lawmakers upon their resumption on Tuesday last week.

“The Civil Society in Nigeria has always insisted that the people of Nigeria will have to authenticate, legitimize and endorse a constitution to govern the affairs.

“Unfortunately, this simple wish has always been denied by the colonial, military and even elected governments.

“It was the late Aka-Bashorun, my illustrious predecessor as President of Nigeria Bar Association, who articulated the collective disappointment of Nigerians by the call for a Sovereign National Conference as long as the 1990s.

“Civil Society in Nigeria has voted with mixed reactions your statement to distinguished senators on the floor of the Chambers that a National Conference is vital requirement for a Peoples’ Constitution for this country.

“Although many within the Civil Society disagree or have expressed reservations about the so-called ‘no go’ issues highlighted in your statement, it is commonly agreed that your declaration forms an important new development in the quest for a legitimate Peoples Constitution.”

The former NBA President said the Civil Society had always been straight forward and simple in their demands and that Nigerians would benefit from a robust full discussion on two vital questions that must be answered by them.

The questions, according to him, were – “One, do we want to remain as one country? Two, if the answer is yes, under what conditions?

“I respectfully suggest that Bola Ige’s questions are well framed as the National Questions we need to examine if we are to build a new spirit of commitment to National and service to Motherland.”

On challenges of logistics for the conference, which Mr. Mark alluded to, Mr. Agbakoba said they could be overcome, stressing “every stakeholder must give and take.”

He noted that a possible platform for a national conference could be set by President Goodluck Jonathan convoking it and declaring its resolution binding and subject only to a Referendum.

“This will give the conference confidence and integrity and compensate for matters related to this non sovereign status of the conference,” he said.

The former NBA President said it was not possible for the 160 million Nigerians to participate, saying “My suggestion will be to draw from ethnic nationalities and the five estates of the realm, namely Executive, Legislature, Judicial, Media and Civil Society.

“Civil Society is used in the broadest sense, to include NGOs, religions and traditional movements and of course labour, youth, and women.”

On the scope and items of reference, Mr. Agbakoba said in view of many conferences called in the past and ending without result, the proposed conference ought to consider structure of the federation and massive devolutions of powers, not necessarily at the federal level to state level.

He stressed, “It is of vital importance that the nature of our political arrangements is first discussed. The conference’s task is not simply the drawing up of a Constitution.

“For example, conference should first discuss personal arrangements and then solemnize by a marriage certificate. For Nigeria, we should discuss political arrangements first, then constitutionalize it by a legal document, that is the constitution.”

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Festus Owete is PREMIUM TIMES’ general editor. He also coordinates the newspaper’s politics desk, a beat he has covered for decades. He holds degrees from the University of Ibadan and the University of Lagos. Twitter: @FOwete


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