“Having waited for it for over 20 years, for this, Mr. Chairman we are here to make history. I will suggest that we support two-third majority,” Gani Adams.
The Chairman of the National Conference, Idris Kutigi, on Monday averted what could have been the first major crisis on the floor of the Conference.
The Conference, which had adjourned for one week to enable delegates receive and study some of the working documents supplied to them, had reconvened to among other things adopt its draft Rules of Procedure.
The debate started when a delegate, Mike Ozekhome, opened debate on Order 6(4) of the draft Rules which required that the voting procedure be based on consensus or ¾ of the delegates to reach a decision on any matter.
Mr. Ozekhone, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, argued that it would be near impossible for the Conference to take any meaningful decision based on the proposed voting system.
He said ¾ or 75 per cent of delegates needed to arrive at any decision translated to 369, saying that the number was bogus and unattainable.
Mr. Ozekhome said, “My Lord, 75 per cent is bogus, it is ‘elephantide’ and very unattainable by every standard. I know a lot of issues will draw emotions and primordial sentiments in this hallowed chamber.
“When issues like state police, regionalism, devolution of power and others come up as they will; it will be difficult to get 75 per cent to agree. The second problem is that we will be creating a tyrannical minority.
“It simply means that the minority could defeat a major decision and make it impossible for us to take any meaningful decision on any matter.”
Instead of retaining the voting procedure, Mr. Ozekhome moved that a two-third majority vote that is used in global legislative practice, be adopted.
Justice Kutigi immediately overruled Mr. Ozekhome and attempted to move to the next Order on the Rules paper.
But shouts of “No, no, no,” echoed all over the gallery, as delegates protested the Chairman’s unilateral decision on the matter.
From the left side of the gallery, some delegates shouted on top of their voices, “Mr. Chairman, you have no power to veto anything here. You cannot veto on anything here.”
When relative calm returned to the gallery, Mr. Kutigi moved to the next Order on the Rules book which dealt with the constitution of the Conference Committee.
He noted that delegates will decide which of the committees they wish to belong.
Some delegates, however, continued to protest the presiding official’s veto on the previous order.
A civil society representative referred the chairman to Mr. Ozekhome’s motion, stressing that the conference will not be able to take any decision if the leadership insisted that 75 per cent of delegates support every decision to be taken.
Auwalu Yadudu, however, insisted that the 75 per cent voting procedure be retained saying that since President Goodluck Jonathan had maintained that the indivisibility and indissolubility of the country would not be discussed, there was no need to worry.
A former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ahmadu Ali, supported Mr. Ozekhome’s position and called for the adoption of two-third majority as the voting procedure.
Tension was gradually building inside the gallery as delegates to the left side of the hall accused the Chairman of consistently recognizing their colleagues seated to the right.
A delegate, Gambo Jimetta, stood up to warn the delegates to desist from actions that would heat up the polity.
With the way the debates were going, Mr. Jimetta said, the delegates were capable of exacerbating the problems they were invited to help resolve through the Conference.
He said, “This Conference was borne out of the various misconceptions among the peoples of the country. But with what is going on, the Conference may rather cause more problems.
“It would be very difficult to get 75 per cent of delegates to support any single issue with the current mindset of the delegates.
“We should be very careful so that we don’t come here to destroy what we came to build. We will resist attempts by any group that attempts to constitute themselves as stumbling blocks in the Conference. That will not work. That will not work.”
Another delegate, Gani Adams, said the conference is very important and urged delegates to be wary of actions that would send wrong signals to Nigerians outside.
“Having waited for it for over 20 years, for this, Mr. Chairman we are here to make history. I will suggest that we support two-third majority,” he said.
Hassan Adamu also supported those who canvassed the adoption of two-third majority and argued that it would be difficult to get 75 per cent of delegates to support any matter.
He said, “If a consensus can’t be reached, the closest two-third majority is used. There is no need to raise tempers on this issue. Mr. President had said when we are here, we will be discussing like Nigerians. “
With a note of humour, Ayo Adebanjo told the Chairman that when a judge doesn’t want to grant bail to a suspect, he gives him an impossible condition.
He argued that it would be difficult to get 75 per cent to support any matter and asked the Chairman to tell him anywhere in the world where such voting procedure was used as a benchmark for taking decisions.
He said, “We should move with the world. Why are we always using the Nigerian factor in everything we do?
“Don’t let us fail by giving us condition that is unattainable in any part of the world. We should use two-third majority to take decisions here, my Lord.“Don’t’ give us an impossible task to do.”
He said it would be impossible to meet 75 per cent majority, adding that two-third majority is used all over the world.
The Conference could not take any decision on the matter before Mr. Kutigi adjourned the sitting for delegates to observe lunch break.
The matter was not discussed again during the evening session.