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Afenifere group rejects David Mark's National Conference

By Segun Balogun

Afenifere Renewal Group has flayed the proposed national conference enunciated by Senate President David Mark in the speech he delivered to declare open a new legislative session.

The group, in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, said Mark's speech espoused good judgement to an extent, marking a majour detour from the one he delivered at the Nigerian Bar Association's Conference a few weeks ago.

Mark, at the NBA annual conference in Calabar had said Sovereing National Conference is not workable under the 1999 Constitution. But in his speech on Tuesday, Mark not only agreed that SNC is possible under 1999 Constitution, he saw it as a way for Nigeria to stop playing the ostrich and to "confront structural distortions".

The group however flayed Mark's propsed national conference, describing it as a piecemeal and democratic robbery.

However, Afenifere Renewal Group [ARG] has some reservations as we still consider Mark's proposal for a national conference as a piecemeal.

The statement said: "We condemn Mark's morbid obsession for the false inviolability of 1999 Constitution, a recurring theme in his speech. We wish to restate, for the umpteenth time, that Nigerians are not made for the law and as such, their fate cannot be sealed, as Mark wants, by the Constitution. His job will be more fruitful if he directs the affairs of his office by the conviction that NASS represents the people and not the constitution."

"We also found it distasteful for Mark to condescendingly regard leaders of ethnic nationalities as "an unpredictable mass", a description that shows he still bears vestiges of military dictatorship, even after more than a decade as the custodian of the nation's democratic institution."

"ARG believes the constitution derives its powers from the sovereignty of the people and not the other way round, as Mark wants us to believe. Another wrong notion in Mark's speech was his claim that SNC is a sectional agenda instead of national panacea. We do not believe that SNC will serve Yoruba interest the most. In fact, the Ijaws stands to benefit more. But of what use is prosperity when there is no peace? It therefore makes sense for peace that the Ijaws keep their oil proceeds and pay royalty to the Federal Government."

"Mark's proposed conference also stripped it of its God-given sovereignty. He offered no reason for this democratic robbery other than his morbid fear that doing so can lead to fragmentation of the country. However, the current situation in the country is such that the constituent ethnic nations do not need Mark's sermon to agree to stay together as a nation and he cannot stop them if they decide to part ways.

Needless to say that there is no need for such fears, even the foretold 2015 collapse comes to nought, if the Mark-led National Assembly has been using its constitutional powers to ensure democracy works for the masses and that transparency and good governance prevails. Instead, our lawmakers hold the global prize of highest paid legislators and their greed for constituency projects have allowed myriads of executive recklessness go unchecked."

The group also restated its belief that ARG believes "the lot of this country will not change for good until we find the courage to summon all ethnic nations to the table of brotherhood to fashion out a new constitution as the current effort at constitutional review is a futile exercise that can never foster our nationhood."

"We agree that SNC will bring its own challenges but those are blessed difficulties, the type that everyone prays for because it brings peace and prosperity. Convoking SNC is not a favour done to Nigerians but a golden service that will be cherished forever. It is not a question of "if" but "when" and we believe the time is now. Nigeria must restructure or it will rupture. Decentralising the pharaonic federal power and devolving same to federating units will make for a truly great nation, one which we will all be proud of."

Segun Balogun
Programme Officer
Afenifere Renewal Group
23, Fola Jinadu Crescent,Gbagada, Lagos.