A Major crisis has broken out at the National Conference —the talkshop that is believed by the authorities to be the magic pill against Nigeria’s ailments— with the North threatening to pull out.
The North’s delegates have protested to the Conference’s Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi and his deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi.
Their demand: nullification of all resolutions so far taken through voice vote, which they said did not reflect the views of delegates.
They insisted on “a proper ballot process” and queried why the conference’s leadership refused to use ballot boxes and papers already with the secretariat.
They accused the leadership of alleged “floundering” on resolutions.
The Northern Delegates Forum( NDF) hold an emergency meeting at Gombe Jewel Hotel in Abuja to determine whether to go ahead with the conference or boycott it.
The displeased delegates met with Justice Kutigi and Akinyemi at the weekend.
Those who represented the Northern delegates are ex-Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Coomasie, Prof. Anwalu Yadudu, Senator Khairat Gwadabe, Mohammed Kumalia; and Mohammed Bello.
It was learnt that the delegates were angry over the conference voice vote resolutions on state police, rotational presidency, adoption of six geopolitical zones, deletion of local government from the Federal Constitution, nature of federalism to be adopted by the country, among others.
A source said: “After last Thursday, session, the Northern delegates issued a communique rejecting all resolutions/ decisions so far taken by the National Conference because they came about through voice vote.
“They alleged that sometimes, when the nays had it, the leadership will turn the result for the ayes.
“They then sent the delegation to Kutigi and Akinyemi to revisit the resolutions by allowing members to vote through the ballot process.
“They are demanding outright voting process on all issues to make the resolutions true reflections of the choices of delegates. They asked for the reopening of all issues.”
It was gathered that Justice Kutigi and Akinyemi pleaded for understanding and assured the delegates that their complaints would be examined.
“The leadership agreed that without physical counting, there was no way it could determine the real resolutions of delegates,” the source added.
A member of the National Conference, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, confirmed the anger of Northern delegates.
He said: “This protest was not the first time that delegates from the North will raise issues with the leadership of the conference. But the audience with Kutigi and Akinyemi last Thursday was the icing on the cake.
“I think Kutigi and Bolaji are behaving as if they have an agenda. Before we started, we had to adopt our rules. The government came up with a recommendation that for a resolution to subsist, it will require the consent of 75 per cent of the delegates.
“But, in the course of debate at the conference, it was reduced to 70 per cent. We agreed to bring down the threshold after two or three attempts at a consensus. Unless we have a physical count, there was no way to determine that all the resolutions allegedly taken had the consent of 70 per cent of the delegates.
“ Any time there was a voice vote, the leadership gave a wrong verdict. For instance, while considering the report of the Committee on Restructuring, I stood up to raise observation on the voice vote but it was not allowed. They get the ayes and the nays of the North wrong.”
The South’s delegates, The Nation learnt, have vowed not to allow a revisit of the resolutions already taken.
A delegate from the Southwest, Comrade Yinka Odumakin, said: “The rules of the conference say the conference cannot revisit any issue which decision has been taken.”
Another Southern delegate said: “Those who met Kutigi did not actually represent all Northern delegates. Those aggrieved were mostly from the Northeast and Northwest. Why are they trying to arm-twist Kutigi or intimidate Akinyemi when they were part of the resolutions at the conference?
“I can tell you that delegates from Northcentral or Middle Belt are not with these Northern delegates mounting pressure on the conference’s leadership.
“We are expecting stormy sessions as from Monday but Southern and Middle Belt delegates are ready for these Northern delegates. The battle line is certainly drawn.”
The concluding sessions of the Conference, which begin today, are likely to be stormy.
The gap between northern and southern delegates has widened.
Northern delegates, led by Yadudu, last week accused the conference leadership of working in concert with some southern delegates to rubber stamp an already prepared constitution.
Akinyemi’s explanation that the conference secretariat had nothing to do with the “new constitution”, our correspondent learnt, did not satisfy the northern delegates.
Meetings of southern and northern delegates were held at the weekend in Abuja.
The aim of the “secret” meetings, our correspondent gathered, was to enable the two sides perfect their game plans on how to handle the controversial conference committee report on Devolution of Power.
Northern delegates have rejected resolutions and decisions reached on Thursday from the report of the conference committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
Some northern delegates were also not happy that a state was approved for the Southeast geo-political zone to bring it at par with others.
Alhaji Magaji Dambatta from Northwest had argued that an additional state should not be “dashed” to the Southeast zone.
But Chief Olu Falae told delegates that “we were all dashed states by the military”.
Falae added that “in dashing the states, the military forgot the Southeast”.
Falae’s stand foreclosed further arguments on the issue but some northern delegates who waited for the voting to shoot down the proposal were disappointed when delegates overwhelmingly voted in favour.
The Devolution of Power committee, which was chaired by a former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie and co-chaired by a former Akwa Ibom Governor, Obong Victor Attah, made recommendations on resource control, revenue sharing formula, indigene/ settler problem and state police, among others.
Sources at the meeting of the northern delegates told our correspondent that the delegates insisted that the leadership of the conference “must cause delegates to rescind Thursday’s resolutions, if the conference is to go on”.
Southern delegates, on the other hand, are said to have resolved not to give in to the “antics of the North to always have their way in issues of national importance”.
One of the southern delegates told our correspondent that Professor Yadudu who is allegedly “spearheading the breakup of the conference does not mean well for the country.”
The delegate said, “We know very well that they are meeting. We are also meeting. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday sessions will determine the overall outcome of the conference.
“We are determined to do the right thing but delegate should think that he can railroad his wishes and desires on other delegates. It will be fire-for-fire.”[The Nation]