Read Time:7 Minute, 35 Second
President of Aka Ikenga and a delegate at the National Conference, Chief Goddy Uwazurike spoke with Ojo M. Maduekwe on the state of things at the conference. Excerpts:
As a known proponent of National Conference, do you have any cause to relent in your support for it, given your experience in the current one?
As a matter of fact, with what I’ve seen so far, I am more convinced that this conference is necessary. Necessary because the kind of jaw-jaw we are doing there, at times tempers would flair, but we get to know who is who and which part of the country is proposing what and where everyone stands. The other good thing is that by the time you listen to other people, you may even be convinced to change your own views. As it is today, others have convinced some people; some people are still adamant, while others are saying look: let’s stick together and talk.
I can say without fear of contradiction that virtually every delegate is there because they believe there is something worthwhile. Even one of the eminent professors of law who said nothing would come out of it ended up being a deputy chairman and chairing a special committee that’s even the most important committee that would at the end of the day put everything in the legal language. Yet he did not believe in it when we started. I can say that we have done well and all the delegates have come to realise that something is going to come out of the conference.
It was initially thought that the North was against resource control, but then, it seems they are in favour of it with a clause that the federal government must first develop other mineral resources in other regions. Did this switch in position come to you as a surprise?
It was Lamido Adamawa who spoke and when he did, he made it conditional that the Niger Delta region can have 100 per cent of resource control provided they have 100 per cent resource control of land. In other words, federal government should pay for the land they’re using in Abuja and any other place. So, his own resource is land. It was conditional. But generally speaking, the idea of one North is not true. There is nothing like one North anymore; they are speaking in different languages. There is no way the Middle Belt would speak the same language as the far North.
Now, we have a good number of people who are in favour of increasing the percentage paired to anybody on whose land there is crude oil or any resource. Zamfara and Niger States have their own. So we are encouraging all of them to go ahead but, there is no way you’ll come and destroy my land and think I will be laughing and happy with you. So many of them from the North are changing and beginning to understand that those people who live in and own those lands need to be compensated for the loss and environmental degradation they’re passing through. Yes, many of them are changing.
There was another delegate who put the clause that the resources in the water belong to the federal government. What is your view on this?
That person is reopening an old argument. Let me put it this way: if you go to that same water, for instance, offshore bordering Akwa Ibom. If you go there and there is an explosion from the rigs in the sea, the entire pollution would move towards the land called Akwa Ibom. In other words Akwa Ibom is the land on which any nonsense from that water must come to. So that person is wrong to even consider distinguishing between offshore and onshore. Whatever affects that water near the land, affects the land. Therefore, if there’s any good thing coming, they should get it and if there’s any bad thing coming they should get it as well.
Some delegates like the Lamido Adamawa have been controversial and divisive in their statements. Do you see this affecting the outcome of the conference in anyway?
No it does not. I have a very good expression to describe the composition of delegates: the good, the bad and the ugly. We have those who when they talk would hide their heads. We also have those who when they talk you’ll pay attention and there are those who you already know what they’ll say. I don’t know where to place Lamido. But I think whatever he said was for himself and not for the Northern delegates because on that day, I noticed some other Northern delegates trying to calm him down.
And when he spoke a few days later he was even going further by describing the speech of an 83-year old man as ranting and everybody took it in their strides. Whether he apologised later I’m not aware. You’ll also see the youths threatening people at the departure lounge and women too threatening people. Now that’s the essence of the conference; different people with different views but at the end, we must have a consensus.
Have there been any ‘Northern Agenda’ or any other agenda from other regions that you personally consider to be anti-Nigeria?
None! The way I see it is that the far North is more of retaining the status quo, in other words, we are in the conference to make sure nothing changes. That is the way I see the North-west and some part of the North-east. Every other zone is out for changes. If you remember the argument of two-third or three quarter that would lead to change of decision, it pitched the North-west and part of the North-east against the rest of the country. But over time, superior wisdom prevailed and now in the committees you’ll notice people being friendly. At the committee level, the working relationship has been good. The issue of where you come from has not arisen.
There appears to be unity amongst the delegates. Do you see this lasting and if it does, do you see it transcending beyond the conference to affecting how Nigerians live afterwards?
The unity among delegates is person to person. When we go out to eat you’ll notice people mingling, you’ll also notice those who want to be isolated and hardly smile; they think the conference is a battle field. But generally, over 80 per cent of delegates are always mingling, irrespective of age, gender and political experience. You’ll even hear a lot of banter.
On the whole, the friendly atmosphere has improved a lot. This relationship we are building I’m certain will impact on each and every one of us and whenever we go back to our different regions, we will report to our people what has happened. And as long as we tell them the truth, we’ll be doing ourselves a good favour.
Those of us who are honest in our relationships with co-delegates are going back to give a proper report and at the end, that conjugal atmosphere will extend beyond the conference walls; which is why I wasn’t happy when the Governor of Adamawa State came up with the most insensitive statement. Good a thing we are in a committee level; most of us have discussed privately and condemned it. One-on-one, we are getting on well and I know it will extend to those we are representing.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said they were marginalised on the composition of the Committee on Religion. Do you think they have a case?
With due respect to my friends in CAN, I think they were wrong. What Dr. Obareke pointed out was that the Christian co-chairman representing the Christians, Bishop Felix Adekaye, is a delegate of Ekiti State and not CAN. There are two chairmen of equal status; one for the Muslims and the other for the Christians.
Of course, the conference chairman told them that Bishop Felix is a Catholic Bishop and that he doesn’t think there is anybody higher than him and I don’t think anybody is higher than him. For us at the conference, that was the end. Any other condemnations are outside and not within the conference.
The co-chairmen are from the North and South of the country. If CAN wants a representative from the North, someone who understands what Christians there are passing through knows that won’t work because you cannot have the two persons representing both Christians and Muslims coming from the same region.