Delegates to the proposed national conference scheduled to begin on March 17, are set to defy President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s directive that they must not discuss Nigeriaâ€™s unity.
Findings by SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday showed that some delegates across the nation are insisting on discussing any and every issue relating to Nigeriaâ€™s unity as a country.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ayim Pius Anyim, while releasing modalities for the conference on January 30, had said discussions on the indivisibility of Nigeria were off-limits.
Anyim said, â€œThe national conference shall tentatively last for three months and shall discuss any subject matter, except the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a nation; therefore the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable.â€
However, the pan-Igbo organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on Friday said it would not be bound by the Federal Governmentâ€™s guideline.
President General of the organisation, Dr. Gary Enwo-Igariwey, told one of our correspondents that Ohaneze would not be restricted at the conference.
â€œWe have a position. All issues will be discussed. We will discuss all things. That is our position on that,â€ he said.
Similarly, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra said its leader, Ralph Uwazurike, was going to the conference to table the demand for Biafra State.
The National Director of Information of the movement, Mr. Uchenna Madu, who spoke on behalf of Uwazurike, told SUNDAY PUNCH that, â€œEverything will be discussed. Seventy per cent of those going to the conference are going there to discuss separation. At the end of the day, if we cannot agree on a united Nigeria, Nigeria will be dissolved.
â€œEverything has become clear that we cannot continue to be one. Amalgamation has ended. We are going to the conference to discuss dissolution.â€
Speaking in similar vein, National Coordinator of the Odua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams, kicked against the government directive.
He said, â€œIn my view, every section of the constitution should be discussed. On the issue of no-go areas, when we get there, we will discuss it.
â€œIf it is the issue of no-go areas and the issue of ratification by the National Assembly, we will discuss them when we get to the conference.
â€œI attended the pre-conferences by southern Nigeria leaders and most of the meetings we had before arriving at the Yoruba agenda. Majority of the people disagreed on the issue of no-go areas.â€
Similarly, one of the delegates from Kano State, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, dismissed the statement credited to the SGF.
He said, â€œThe one thing we want to do is ensure that even in discussing the most sensitive issues, there must be a sense of responsibility and once you do that, the no-go areas will take care of themselves. But you cannot say we canâ€™t discuss this or that.â€
President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, equally said issues that affect Nigeriaâ€™s unity must be discussed at the conference.
Kaigama said, â€œTUC can never compromise the unity of Nigeria. But still, within the realm of the conference, we should hear the agitations of Nigerians and make a comprehensive presentation at the end of the day that will capture everybodyâ€™s position so that Nigeria can be stronger. We can iron out our problems.â€
One of the delegates from Osun State, Chief Gbadegesin Adedeji, said his contributions to the conference would be in tandem with the aspirations of the Yoruba people. He added that as an individual, he believed that the unity of the country was negotiable.
Adedeji said, â€œI personally believe that the unity of this country is negotiable. The unity of this country will not be negotiable if all other things are equal. For all other things to be equal; there must be justice, fairness, peace and equity. You must have regard for my people, my culture and my religion.
â€œI cannot be a party to a marriage where I and my people will not be respected and will be treated like second class citizens. But whatever I will say at the conference will tally with the position of my group.â€
Another delegate from Osun State, Chief Femi Akande, said he would represent the position of the state and the Yoruba race at the conference.
Akande said, â€œI will represent the position of the state and the Yoruba race. But let us leave the issue of the no-go-area till when we get to the conference. It should not be the starting point.â€
A former Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Mr. Olawale Abdulsalam, who is a delegate, also said, â€œI personally believe that it we want to discuss, we should discuss everything and there should be no restrictions, but for now, we will wait till after the inauguration before we can examine whether the issue of the unity of this country would not form part of the debate.â€
On his part, Chief Olu Falae said all contending issues affecting the country and wellbeing of Nigerians must be discussed.
He said, â€œI think we would be naive if we expect that a topic like the indivisibility of Nigeria would feature for discussion but discussing any of the topics could lead to the issues bordering on the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation.
â€œApart from this, the action and inaction of members of the conference could also point to that direction because an issue may come up for discussion and a group might sharply disagree with the position of the conference on such an issue and decide to walk away.â€
The spokesperson for the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said delegates should be allowed to discuss the unity of the country to end the killings in the country.
He stressed that while the government was emphasising the indivisibility of the country, some Nigerians were making their demand for their desired country by killing other Nigerians.
Odumakin said, â€œThere are some people, who are presently renegotiating Nigeria with the blood of innocent souls; who are killing people to ask for the kind of Nigeria they want, which is not in the interest of all.
â€œFor those of us who are not killers, who donâ€™t suck blood but who are going to use our mouths to discuss, we should be allowed to renegotiate the unity of Nigeria on acceptable terms to bring peace, cohesion and orderliness that will stop the bloodletting and killings in this country.â€
When asked if the issue would be raised if there was an opportunity at the conference, he said, â€œDefinitely, there is no way most of us in Nigeria will come together and we will not discuss the killings that are going.
â€œDefinitely, we will discuss issues around these matters but not towards breaking of the country.â€
However, the radical cleric and President, Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, told one of our correspondents on Friday that he had not been officially informed about his nomination.
Two of the nominees to the conference from Plateau State, former governor, Fidelis Tapgun and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Gen. Jeremiah Useni, told one of our correspondents in separate telephone interviews that they believed the conference would be different from all other conferences.
Tapgun said, â€œI have been a strong advocate of the conference because I believe that there is need for us to sit down and discuss. We are not going there for ourselves, but for our children and our country, and I believe that by the end of the conference, we will achieve a lot that will cement the unity of our country.
On his part, Useni, said, â€œWe had this kind of conference before. But this time, it is going to be a different thing from what we had in the past. What happened yesterday should not be used to judge what is happening today.
â€œThere is no agenda. I am looking forward to it because, we are going to discuss frankly and openly.â€