HOW much impact the national conference makes on the polity may now be dependent on the Council of State and the National Assembly.
This became clear Thursday during the submission of the report of the conference to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Assuring delegates that their recommendations would be given the desired attention, Jonathan said: “We shall send the relevant aspects of your recommendations to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On our part, we shall act on those aspects required of us in the Executive… Nobody has a monopoly of knowledge.
“As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure that your work is not going to be a waste of time and resources. We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations, which have come out of consensus and not by divisions.”
According to him, this is the time for national rebirth, “ the time to hit the track and take our proper lane for the race of progress.”
He said that there had been some remarkable improvements in the last decade in the socio-political, economic and other sectors in the country.
Jonathan charged Nigerians to avoid all stumbling blocks to the country’s progress and “steadily arrive at the juncture where strife, conflicts and mistrust would become distant echoes of our past.
“Our country must enter a new season of harmony, prosperity and happiness with justice abiding in every hamlet, community and our country. It is the dawn of a new day in Nigeria and the new nation is at the door accompanied by its great men and women, young and old.
“All those who have predicted the disintegration of our country at the end of our first centenary would wish they chose another country when the possibilities of the new vision for Nigeria are actualised. In place of disintegration we shall have integration. In place of bitterness and spilling of blood, we shall have sweetness and healing in our land. Henceforth, our country shall become like a running water that approaches a rock, rather than stopping it takes a curve and flows on.”
Jonathan who received the 600 resolutions contained in a 10,000-page final report in three volumes said that all those chosen to be involved in the conference as delegates or administrators, were qualified to pilot the affairs of the country and as such were expected to take the right decisions.
“One of the many reasons for our non-interference was we had at the conference 492 delegates and six conference officials who all in their individual rights are qualified to lead our great country and if they were unable to agree on how to take decisions, we would be in real trouble! Acknowledging the quality and patriotic content of the delegates, I was confident, the right thing would be done.”
The president said the time he would have intervened to ‘save’ the parley from collapse was when the issue of arriving at a decision on the appropriate voting percentage became contentious.
He said: “I insisted that beyond the inauguration we were not going to intrude into the conference in any manner. We kept our promise.
“Nobody was at the conference to be politically correct. People spoke passionately and argued strongly in favour of what they genuinely believed in. As a result, there were bound to be strong disagreements.
“If everybody agreed on every issue, the debate would not only be lacking in quality and passion, it would also be said to have been stage-managed. What we should worry about now is not that there were disagreements on one or two items, but how to manage these disagreements such that nobody walks away feeling short-changed and bitter.”
While reminding delegates of his decision last year to set in motion a platform for national conversation, Jonathan said his decision was based on the incessant agitation that “could no longer be ignored or delayed” and was “motivated by a genuine desire to make our country a better place where we can build consensus in the evolution of a New Nigeria.”
He recalled his call to the delegates to patriotically articulate and synthesise the people’s thoughts, views and recommendations for a stronger, more united, peaceful and politically stable Nigeria, the need for greater consensus to be forged among the delegates and “also warned that we should not be under any illusions about the task ahead because we would be confronted with complex and emotive issues.”
He also said the effort in “reshaping and strengthening the foundations of our nationhood to deliver better political cohesion and greater development agenda” was seen by some ‘cynics’ as a ploy for a hidden agenda, and they condemned the conference from the beginning, but they had been proved wrong as “what you achieved has contrary to their forecast diverted our country only from the wrong road to the right direction.”
The president said that the result of the conference showed that Nigerians were united, and that “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
While delivering the opening address to mark the end of the 2014 national parley which took place at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), the conference chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, disclosed that the summit inaugurated five months ago was characterised by obstacles, which threatened to mar the successful execution of its mandate.
He said that the successful conclusion of the parley had finally laid to rest the apprehension that it would lead to the disintegration of the country.
Kutigi who later officially handed over the 22 volumes of the confab report with 19 other supporting documents to Jonathan, disclosed that the conference approved over 600 resolutions; some dealing with issues of law, policy and constitutional amendments among others, which were adopted by the members through consensus.
“The magnitude of what we have done is reflected in our report and annexes of 22 volumes of approximately 10,335 pages which were adopted unanimously by the members,” he said.
He pointed out that with commitment, the country was capable of proffering solutions to the myriad of challenges besetting it .
“This is a message that we wish the world to hear loud and clear. Nigerians are capable of not only discussing their differences but are also capable of coming up with solutions to these difficulties,” he said.
Kutigi thanked Jonathan for allowing the leadership of the conference to pilot the affairs of the 2014 conference which, according to him, contributed to the resolutions which were unanimously adopted by the members.
His words: “Not once did you interfere or dictate to us in the course of this conference. The only time we tried to consult the president during the conflict over voting percentages at the very beginning of the conference we were told that the issue was for us to resolve. At no time after that did you meet with us or speak to us.”
Kutigi also paid tributes to four of the delegates who died during the pendency of the conference. They include Hamma Misau who died on March 27; Dr. Mohammad Jumare who died on May 5; Prof. Dora Akunyili on June 7; and Prof. Mohammad Nur Alkali, on August 1, 2014
In the post-independence history of Nigeria, there have been four conferences, including the 2014 National Conference. The 1978 Constituent Assembly had a membership of 230 people and met for nine months. The 1995 National Constitutional Conference had a membership of 371 people and met for 12 months. The 2005 National Political Reform Conference was made up of 400 delegates and met for five months, while the 2014 National Conference with a membership of 494 met for four and half months. The conference was inaugurated on March 17, 2014.