….Warns Lamido, Nnamani Over Utterances
National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams has called on elders at the ongoing national conference to watch their ytterances and avoid a catastrophe in the country. He spoke with airport correspondents at Ikeja. CHUKWUEMEKE IWELUNMO of the Morning Mail was there
There is palpable confusion in the national conference. What is going on?
The confab is a starting point. It’s a mode of agreeing on certain issues, we want to agree that a certain percentage should be the starting point for any issue. There is a rule for you to start the conference, so, when we get to the section of that rule, the rule reflects on the voting patterns and most of the fundamental issues….. universally, there is no country that holds this kind of a conference that gives rule for 75 per cent decision. It is simple majority. That was the situation. The rule was proposed to us by the government to agree on. Apart from that rule, we have also agreed on many sections of the proposed rules. So, there is nothing like confusion so far in the national conference.
What caused the disagreement on the adoption of the rules?
There is a difference between confusion and disagreement. We can disagree when we are holding meetings. That doesn’t mean we are confused. We have to agree on certain things, it’s a conference and we have to appreciate our diversity. We have people from different backgrounds and different ethnic nationalities. In Taraba, there are about 200 ethnic nationalities. It’s only the Yoruba and Igbo that have homogenous regions. So, in this kind of situation, we should expect that and there is a lot of problems on ground in the country. Apart from 1963 conference, which gave birth to the Republican Constitution, Nigeria has never had an opportunity to have this kind of conference in our history. A conference that allows every section of the country to be represented, every relevant organizations to be represented except that the traditional religion is not represented, which they have already complained against. Most of the people close to them have told them to send a memorandum. So, this conference is different from most of the past conferences that had been held in the country. so, you should expect serious participation. It is either the problem is solved now or we all return to our bases. We can’t afford to waste Nigerian money. A delegate in the conference is being given about N12m and for a Level 8 officer who spent about 35 years in the civil service, if he’s retiring from the system he can’t get up to N12m. we are just to sit down for a period of three months and get the sum. So, we can not just waste the resources. We must ensure that we build a new Nigeria.
I want to say it here that the conference is not an advisory committee to the federal government. We are not politicians and we were never inaugurated in the villa. We are there to solve the problem of Nigeria. If there is no problem, there is no need for a conference in the first place. If there is no problem, the President will not call the entire nation since October 1st, 2013 to talk on how to resolve it. You can see the process, an advisory committee was set up, which went to all the geo-political zones in the country and forwarded their recommendations to Mr. President. We have to put that at the back of our minds.
I was so pissed off with the comment of Dr. Ken Nnamani. We are not in the conference to rob arms with the National Assembly. For the fact that he is a former Senate President and he seems to be representing the interest of the parliament. What we have there is a quasi parliament. It may not be a parliament by which people are being voted for by the public and the National Assembly has never had the history of solving most of the problems we’ve been having in Nigeria in the past. In 1979 to 1983, they could not solve our problem; from 1999 to date, our problems are still not being solved. Our problems are being solved through the national conference. You remember vividly, in 1995, the core Yoruba people boycotted the Late Sanni Abacha conference of that year, but the conference gave birth to the recognition of six geo-political zones of the country today and a lot of recommendations came out from the conference.
The military constitution of 1999 given to President Olusegun Obasanjo caused confusion in the system and there is a clause in that constitution that if there is no three-quarter majority, you can’t amend it. It’s even difficult for most of the people in the national assembly to amend it. What we should do is to ensure that we build a new Nigeria, recommend a new constitution for Nigeria, which should be subjected to a referendum.
What is your reaction to the threat of secession by the Lamido of Adamawa?
I was highly disappointed about his statement; an eminent royal father like the Lamido of Adamawa ought not to make such a statement. He’s one of the most respected emirs we have in Nigeria today. He should be number five most recognised emir in the country. I seize this opportunity to appeal to the royal fathers including the emir to watch their statements. Nobody should threaten the unity of Nigeria, we want Nigeria, but we should not be threatened. We the Yoruba people want to remain in Nigeria, but we shouldn’t be threatened. We didn’t have oil in 1954 to 1959, but we all know what Chief Obafemi Awolowo did for this nation through the western region government and when you study the Yoruba very carefully, our developments usually come from 80 per cent individuals and not government. We don’t rely on any development from government. It is the North that depends on the government, they don’t need Nigeria more than us, but we all need Nigeria because we have inter-married, done businesses together and Abuja solidifies us. There is a lot of interest between the six geo-political zones and Abuja and Lagos. It will be better for us to have one Nigeria so that our population can speak for us wherever we are.
So, it is unfortunate that such a statement is coming from the emir and he’s not the only one with such mind, some of the delegates in the conference are saying that if we don’t agree with them on three-quarters for a decision that they will walk out. Nobody can threaten anybody.
What is the Yoruba agenda at the Confab?
I’m ready to die rather than betray the Yoruba cause. Some people I believe were brought there to sabotage the interest of the Yoruba. It is just someone who is not a deep thinker that forget his roots. For me to be a Nigerian, I must be a very good Yoruba person. Chief Obafemi Awolowo said charity begins at home. Chief Obafemi Awolowo said before he could be a good Yoruba person, he must be a good Ikenne person, from an Ikenne person, then you must be a good Yoruba man before you become a good Nigerian. If anybody is telling you that I’m a Nigerian and he doesn’t believe in any sectional cause, majority of them were those that destroyed this country. They can’t love Nigeria more than me, but I must love my people before loving the people from other parts of the country.
We have had several conferences in this country to keep it as one and we used it to solve the problems of this country. It was the 2005 conference of Obasanjo that led to the derivation formular for each region of this country. The South south requested for 25 per cent, but the Northerners rejected it, and that is why we are where we are today. I was in Port Harcourt over the weekend where the majority of the oil is coming from, but there is nothing there, apart from the GRA; go to Bayelsa State, the situation is the same; Delta state is not different from the others.
The Yoruba will not agree to such’ if it is the Yoruba that gives 85 per cent of the resources of this country, you will not marginalize us the way you have marginalized the south south, we will fight with everything we have at our disposal and these people are crying that they want their allocation to be increased, but some people are severely kicking against this.
We are having almost a civil war in most parts of the north now including the Middle Belt. So, this is an opportunity for us to restructure the system. you can’t use a faulty system to develop the country.
The Yoruba people should put us on watch on this conference, they should monitor those from the south west. Whoever betrays the Yoruba agenda should die politically; should lose relevance in the scheme of things even socially. This is the last opportunity we have as a nation to be out of bondage. Also, the south east too should watch their delegates too because I’m not comfortable with the statement of Dr. Nnamani. Same thing goes to the South south people too, they should watch their delegates. After this conference, if we don’t get what we want, what else would we be calling for?
I’m not saying people should be hardliners, but they should bring out something tangible to move forward. Under normal circumstance, we should be asking for simple majority and not two-third.
Are you comfortable with the ‘No go areas’ set by the government for the confab?
We will abide with the no go area, which is the unity of this country. The unity of Nigeria must be sustained; it is a no go area, but we have to negotiate it. If we want unity, we need to restructure. We agree with Mr. President on this. Nobody will want Nigeria to break, but we have to negotiate Nigeria. When you have a relationship with some people for a 100 years, you are not moving forward and you are gradually becoming a laughing stock in the comity of nations, you need to negotiate your existence. How do we move forward if we want to remain.a nation? What kind of system must we use to remain in Nigeria? But anybody who says the status quo should remain, does not want the unity of Nigeria. we must learn to live on the principles of justice, equity and not be selfish. We have equal citizens in USA, but the reverse is the case here. If you go to some places in this country, if you don’t speak their language, you can not get a job or even get promoted. All our appointments are usually lopsided.
If we don’t live based on justice and fair play, there is no way we can have peace. People will always be suspicious of their leaders. The local governments’ structure is not balanced. Local governments from three states in the north are more than the entire local governments of the south east. All these things have to be readdressed.
We are not going to the conference for a jamboree. I have a lot of things to do in Lagos. I’m in Abuja because I love my nation. The Yoruba people should put all of us on the watch list because some of us there are sabotage.
The middle belt should look for a way to have their own identity. You said you are a northerner, and your people are being killed regularly in the same north.
We should go back to regional government. Majority of the wealth should go to the regions that produce them while only 25 per cent should go to the centre. The zone should determine how many states and local governments it will create by itself. Then, you can use that money to develop your zone and build airport or whatever you want to do with it. Federal government for instance does not have anything to do with power supply, water, road and others. Let each zone develop at its own pace.