Confab: Delegates disagree on voting procedure

The proceedings at the National Conference were brought to an abrupt end on Tuesday following a disagreement among delegates over the voting procedure to be adopted.

Instead of adjourning at 6 p.m. as agreed by the delegates, the Conference Chairman, Idris Kutigi, was compelled to close sitting at 5:25 p.m.

No voting procedure

As at Monday, a crack had started to appear when the Northern delegates suggested a three-quarter majority voting system as against a two-third majority preferred by their Southern counterparts.

Mr. Kutigi was able to steer the proceedings off the cliff by adjourning the debate on the controversial voting rule. But when the matter resurfaced, after the Rules of Procedure were discussed, amended and readied for adoption, the chairman was helpless.

When he put up the question for the adoption of the amended rules, a Federal Government delegate, Mike Ozekhome, raised an objection.

Mr. Ozekhome argued that the rules could not be adopted because the Conference did not have a voting procedure to do so.

“Mr. Chairman,” he began, “we cannot adopt the rules because the Conference had not agreed on any voting procedure. I had drawn the attention of the Conference to this matter (Monday) but we failed to take a position on it. We do not have the basis to adopt the amended rules.”

Another delegate, Abdulasami Abdukadir, argued that since the rules were yet to be reproduced to reflect all the amendments made, the document should be taken back and worked upon by the Secretariat.

In view of the two motions raised by Messrs. Ozekhome and Abdukadir, a third delegate, Daisy Danjuma, called for a vote to be taken on the motions.

Adamu Aliyu, however, challenged delegates to stand firm and take a decision that would mark them out as people who defended the interest of Nigeria.

Mr. Aliyu said, “We are here to do justice to what we have done. Doing something else will not help us. The time is now. No amount of shifting will shelve us from facing what we have to do.”

In the interest of Nigeria

The Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark, said that whatever was done at the Conference, the overall interest of the country should be considered. While he agreed with those routing for consensus, he wondered what would happen when the Conference failed to arrive at one.

He said, “There was no reason to come here if there were no problems in Nigeria. If we cannot arrive at a consensus, what will we do? All over the world, two-third majority is used.”

Bello Mohammed warned that delegates should not allow the voting procedure to polarise them, adding that Nigerians expected so much from the Conference.

“What we are here to do is to look at the issues that are causing problems in this country. We have the opportunity now to sit down and look at which way the country should go. This Conference is not about majority or minority. The Conference is not about my region or your region. What we are talking about is consensus. Anything we can get the people here to agree on should be based on a consensus. Before (Nigeria’s Government) put it there, they must have thought very carefully about it. Let us not come here with agendas. Let’s come here as Nigerians. The idea that some groups are more in number than others will bring problems to this Conference,” he said.

A delegate, Idongesit Nkanga, on his part argued that the President had advised that the issues should be treated in the best interest of Nigerians. He said what was playing out on the floor of the Conference was in the interest of those who wanted the status quo to be maintained and those who want change. He, however, spoke in favour of adopting two-third majority in the voting procedure.

Jerry Oguenu said delegates could not continue to shelve the decision on the voting procedure and advised that whatever was done should be in the overall interest of Nigeria.

“I come from the part of the country where, even before the white man came, we took decisions based on consensus. Mr. President (Goodluck Jonathan) had talked about referendum whereas Referendums are based on simple majority. We are taking about adopting two-third majority so we can have something to take to Nigerians and stop pretending and hiding under the guise of preserving what Mr. President said,” he said.

The President of the Nigeria Youth Council, Abdulahi Abdulmajeed, said the vote about to be taken was the most important one at the Conference.

Mr. Abdulmajeed argued that the basis for taking decisions in the Conference should be that which would unite the country.

“If the Conference did not come to discuss the disintegration of Nigeria, then we should do the right thing. As a young person, I want to say that we are exhibiting the same tendencies that have caused the problems the country is facing today,” he said.

He said that Nigeria was on the brink of crisis and that only consensus decisions could avert the doomsday.

A near free-for all

As the floor got heated by shouts and screams from delegates, Frank Nweke Jnr was on his feet throwing his fist towards another delegate headed for him.

It took the intervention of other delegates to restrain the two from closing the gap and punching each other.

While the hall reverberated with shouts of disagreement, Mr. Kutigi begged and begged the delegates to be calm but his cries fell on deaf ears.

When relative calm was restored, Yusuf Abubakar said having listened soberly to the positions of delegates who have spoken, there was need to take decisive actions to move the Conference forward.

He argued that since the issues to be discussed and agreed upon at the Conference were more fundamental than constitutional amendment, which is done by two-third majority, delegates should adopt three-quarter majority as voting procedure.

A former Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Bashiru Albasu, opined that if delegates agreed that a consensus and three-quarter majority could not be attained, then the matter should be referred back to the Presidency.

He said, “There are those who have come here to intimidate others with their population and because of that we cannot reach any decision.”

When Mr. Kutigi still insisted on going ahead with the adoption of the rules, even in the face of the disagreements, Okon Osun demanded that the Conference be adjourned.

Zone leaders should decide

Mr. Osun noted that no decision could be taken and no other business carried out until the procedure for debates was agreed on.

Oyebode Akin, a Professor of Law, drew the attention of delegates to the fact that the Conference had no legal framework.

“We cannot proceed unless we would have adopted our standing procedure. We do not have a legal framework. We do not want to carry out an exercise that will end in nullity. Let’s go home and sleep on the proceedings of today and believe that there will be more lobbying during the night; so we reconvene again tomorrow to continue. We don’t need to be seen as unserious people in the eyes of the public,” he reasoned.

Bola Adeola suggested that since every zone had leaders, the leadership of the zones should meet, discuss and arrive at a consensus. He said each of the parties were digging deep and the deeper the digging, the deeper the Conference was sinking.

Atedo Peterside argued that more serious issues will be glossed over if the Conference allowed tempers to continue rising on the voting procedure. He, therefore, advised that the leadership of delegations should meet with the Chairman of the Conference to take a common position on the voting procedure.

The conference continues Today

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