Corruption, insecurity, religion and ethnic issues top debate
As the debate on President Goodluck Jonathan's speech entered its third
day on Wednesday, focus started shifting from issues raised in the speech
to matters central to the National Conference and what to make of them.
Opinions and counter-opinions flowed as delegates deliberated on issues of
corruption, security, economic development or the lack of it, religion,
and ethnic nationality with focus on the minority and majority question.
While some of the speakers suggested that corrupt officers, especially
those in public service, should face death sentence, others agreed that
economic development with the practical consequence of job creation will
check the issue of insecurity nationwide.
Former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae said
Nigeria's problem started when the military, in 1966, murdered regional
government which had served as a tonic for development of zones across the
He also stated that abolition of Parliamentary system of government where
power was with the entire cabinet and replacement with Presidential system
where powers lie with an individual had caused serious political crises in
Femi Falana, SAN, in a moving contribution, said the Conference, though
not sovereign, has provided Nigerians with a window of opportunity “to
find out why we are poor in the midst of plenty while a microscopic
minority of the population is rich and smiling to the bank.”
He said corruption has endangered the corporate existence of Nigeria, and
advocated political justice, social justice and environmental justice.
On the issue of ethnic minority and majority, Chief Edwin Clark pleaded
with delegates to give it priority during committee discussions so that at
the end of the Conference, existing controversies arising from it would
become a thing of the past.
He said the natural solution to the problem remains the realization that
no tribe is greater than the other, “no one is a first class citizen, and
no one is a second class citizen. Everyone is qualified to rule this
It was his view that in the absence of tolerance, the dream of nationhood
would be difficult to achieve; “if you are a southerner and the other
person is a northerner, if you cannot live together, then there will be no
Dalhatu Bashir from Jigawa State noted that at creation, Nigeria came with
a promise and it was that promise that moved the country in the right
For instance, he said the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo man was born in
Zungeru in northern Nigeria, grew up in Igboland but went ahead to win
election in the heart of Yorubaland.
It was his view that if at the end, the outcome of the National Conference
makes it possible for any Nigerian living anywhere in Nigeria to have
equal rights of citizenship, then it would justify the reasons it was
Describing the President's speech as stimulating, comprehensive and
forthright, Ibrahim Bunu said delegates should not fail to negotiate and
should not negotiate out of fear since Nigeria belongs to everyone.
On security, Abubakar Chika Adamu from Niger State said, “Nigeria is at
war with itself. Security remains our greatest challenge. We must stop
playing politics with it. We here must do what we ought to do and leave
the President to do what he has to do to solve this problem.
On corruption, he observed that Nigerians have moved from mere stealing to
looting and have graduated from looting to mass looting. His suggestion
was that a soft-landing should be created for those who stole public funds
to return them without being prosecuted.
“We must be serious about fighting corruption,” said Magayi Dambatta;
adding that for Nigeria to succeed in this, there was need to reorganize
the anti-corruption agencies followed by diligent prosecution.
A representative of Nigerian youth, Ben Dontoye demanded legal backing to
the adoption of capital punishment against corruption. He believed this
would be the only way to drive fear into people who have taken to corrupt
practices as a trade.
Former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie cited the absence of
sincere leadership at different tiers of governance as one problem that
Nigerians are worried about.
Added to this, he said, was the intolerable level of insecurity in the
country. He suggested that agencies constitutionally charged with
maintenance of security in the country should be restructured and funded.
Retired General Muhammed Mansur Dan Ali informed the Conference that out
of the 36 states of Nigeria, 33, if not more have soldiers deployed to the
He said the National Conference should recommend complete restructuring of
the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies for effective
performance of their duties.
Senator Seidu Dansadau made one appeal in his comment: that Jonathan
should ensure that the recommendations of the Conference are implemented
and not allowed to go the way of other recommendations in the past.
He said it was time for delegates to strip themselves naked, “not just to
say that we believe in the indivisibility of Nigeria but to practically
His position was supported by Professor Godini Dara who insisted that the
lofty ideas and recommendations expected at the end of the Conference must
be implemented to free Nigeria from the grips of economic apartheid.
On corruption, he said there was need to establish ethical standards; and
on the economy, Dara strongly urged the President to free Nigeria from
what he called the witchcraft of the World Bank while industrialization
should take the front seat both in budgeting and planning.
Both Illiya Danga and Burus Daleng remarked on the courageous decision of
the President to go ahead with the Conference in spite of oppositions and
wished that with the same courage, the President would implement the
decisions of the Conference without fear or favour.
Sale Dauda from Bauchi State attributed insurgency in every part of the
country to the failure of states and local government who he said were
totally dependent on what the federal government would do instead rising
to their responsibilities of providing leadership and governance.
He said in some parts of the country, it has become difficult and even
impossible to buy a piece of land for the purpose of building a church for
worship and that those responsible for such prohibition were the elite.
Francis Doukpolagha from Bayelsa State told the Conference that the
failure of the Nigerian State stemmed from the fact that democracy has
become government of the people by the people but not for the people.
Ignatius Kevin Edet lamented what he called inequality and imbalance in
the creation of local government areas in the country and urged the
Conference to use the opportunity of the dialogue to correct the anomaly.
He suggested the application of capital punishment as a check against
corrupt practices by public office holders, a position enormously
canvassed for by other speakers.
Correct census as a basis for revenue sharing and infrastructural
development was suggested by Charles Edosomwan, SAN, from Edo State who
also emphasized that “we need to put power in the strata of government
that is close to the people.”
Veteran journalist, Ray Ekpu, said the President's speech constituted a
new thesis for the reconstruction of Nigeria and that Nigeria as it is
today requires a new architecture.
Ekpu noted that Jonathan seemed like someone who does not want “this house
to fall,” still he said the house called Nigeria was too rickety and
weather-beaten to be left on the wish list of a permanent structures.
Ekpu said for a country that has had 14 different administrations in 53
years, “that is cyclical stability. There is no way a country can grow in
For Chief Chris Eluemunoh from Anambra State, “the Igbos have no other
country than Nigeria; therefore the unity of this country is paramount to
us. This unity must be anchored on equity and justice.”
Dr Osahon Enabulele of the Nigerian Medical Association proposed a massive
national health policy that would cater for the health needs of the rural
In addition, the NMA chief suggested that “a time has come for us to look
at the mental and medical fitness of our political leaders,” as a way of
ensuring that they are fit and proper to occupy public offices.
Dr Silas Eneyo from Rivers State likened Nigeria to a building with
collapsed pillars and advised: “Let us not pretend to be painting a
building whose pillars are collapsing.”
It was his view that the pillars of any federation lie in its justice and
equity system and that the Conference has provided the delegates
opportunity to rebuild the house with sound ideas and recommendations.
Gary Enwo Igariwe said Nigeria has been bleeding for sometime, has gone on
its knees and though it wants to stand, it was actually going down. He
urged delegates to identify reasons for conflicts and address them.
He cautioned against selective solution, “when you solve a problem in a
particular area and ignore the ones in another area, you have not done
anything; you are merely relocating the problem.”
He said most of the problems can be easily resolved through restructuring
of the country; advising that delegates should leave their ethnic
standards and discuss Nigeria.
Professor Eddy Erhagbe told the delegates that for Nigeria to move ahead,
the bottom-line remains good governance because “corruption is not
regional, it is not ethnic; corruption is an elite conspiracy.”