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Issues before national confab

In

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this memo to the presidential committee on the proposed national dialogue, the Ndi-Igbo Council for National Coordination canvasses burning issuesthat should be discussed at the confab.

PREAMBLE: ITis a good thing that the President has seen it fit to set in motion the process that will lead to the holding of a national conference to give Nigerians opportunity to make their input in the making of a constitution that will govern our common life.

Except in 1949/50 when the colonial government of Nigeriasent questions to every clan council or Native Authority to seek the views of Nigerians from the grassroots up, no other constitution making effort hasinvolved such a widespread consultation and public participation since then.

People of the age bracket (80 +) will remember the Ibadan Conference of 1950 which was the culmination of that exercise which was started in 1949 at the various local government levels; then to the Provincial councils moderated by the colonial officers known as Resident; then to the Regional level (in 1948/49 parlance.

The presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue South west Interactive session meeting was held yesterday 010102013 at NIIA Kofo Abayomi V I LagosPixMr Bukhari Bello, Dr Akilu Sanni Indabawa , Senator Femi Okurounmu and Senator Khairat Abdulrasaq Gwadabe Photo Shola Oyelese

They were not called Regions but Groups of Provinces) where the views from below were harmonized and streamlined into a “Constitution” for each group of Provinces. And so we had a constitution for the Eastern Group of Provinces, another for the Western Group of Provinces and the third for the Northern Group of Provinces.

In the process, each Region built in the peculiaritiesof their region, for example, the West had aCouncil of Chiefs in addition to a House of Assembly, also the North had two chambers, butthe Eastern Region had a single-chamber legislature; aHouse of Assembly. It was from this build-up that the London Conferences that came later hammered outwhat we had as 1960 Independence Constitution.

This process had three effects: •It created awarenessthat something momentous was happening and gave the various groups in the country a sense of belonging as well as satisfaction for their aspirations; • It helped the people to identify their credible leaders; and •It substantially aided the process of nation-building and the awakening of national consciousness among Nigerians.

•Structure of the Dialogue/ Conference: It is being suggested here that the Advisory Committee should adopt a staggered multi-layered, bottom-up, and then up-down approach to this proposed dialogue/ conference.

THE bottom-up approach will primarily be in terms of raising the delegates that will ultimately represent each group or zone in the national conference as well as collate the opinionsand preferences of the people from down up. On the other hand, the up-down stage will come after the national conference when each federating unit will begin to work out its structure and the size of itsthird tier (and perhapsa fourth tier if so decided atthe national conference), and the constitutional arrangements from the level of the federating unit down to the third and, if need be, fourth tier. What we stress here is that it is the people themselves that should raise the delegates and not the state or local governments, and that their choices and preferences must be aggregated and taken to the ultimate dialogue; the national conference.

Let the people decide: Thus, each town or village in the country will be given the opportunity to nominate, select or elect (whichever method a town prefers) a given number of its citizens (preferably10per Town) to represent the town in aLocal Government Area (LGA) conclave in which all the towns in the LGA shall have equal representation. Delegates should include men and women, mostly between 30 and 50 yearsof age but also sizeable numbers of more elderly, politically consciousdelegates to guide them.

Ideally at thislevel, education, experience and maturitymatters. Each LGA conclave across the country shall also select, nominate or elect from among its constituent membership the people that will represent the LGA in the subsequent State conclave. Of course like what obtained at the lower levels, the State conclave or conference shall have equal representation for all the constituent LGAsin a State (say,10 per LGA). Similarly, the State conclave shall, from among its membersnominate, select or elect those that will represent the respective states atzonal or regional conclaves or conferences; again with representation on equality basis from the constituent States in the zone (say, 40 per State).

The zonal or regional conference shall then, from among its membership raise those thatwill represent the zone in the proposed national conference in which each zone is likewise to have equal representation (say, 60 per Zone), to create apeople-based constitution for the country. This will result in a national conference of 360 delegates from the six geopolitical zones of the country.

Actually, it mustbe noted that the above provisionsshould notobviate the rightsof a conclave at whatever level to draft, nominate, select or elect notable individuals or specialists in the community, from outside itself, to be part of the delegates of the LGA, State or Zone to the next level of conference.

Summary: •We want the conference/dialogue to be composed of respective territorial units of the Nigerian society; the towns, LGAs, States and Zones, and to be staggered to give each level scope to seat, starting from the lowest level

•Representation to be on equalitybasis

•Size to be 360 delegatesatthe national level

•Legal Framework for the dialogue/conference: We accept the authority of the President to convene the conference. We also urge the President to take every necessary step to put the legality and authenticity of the conference beyond doubt or question.

•Duration of the proposed dialogue/conference: We suggest one year duration for the four-stages of conferences including the referendum and the ultimate promulgation the national Constitution.

•Issues to be tabled before the dialogue/conference: Our treatment of the question of what issues are to be tabled is onlyindicative and not exhaustive. At town and local government levels, issues of local concerns are to be dealt with, e.g. discussion of the relevance or otherwise of traditional rulers/monarchs, etc. and what role for them if adjudged relevant. Each town shall decide if it wants to retain the monarchy as a facet of grassroots administration. Thisprovision is especially relevantin Igboland where the monarchical institution was imposed on the people byNigeria’s military rulers at the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war notwithstanding the fact that the institution had become anachronistic even in those sections of the Nigerian society where the monarchical system was traditional.After the national conference, the issue of structuringthe federating units and the third tier and creating constitutionsfor these tiers will then be holistically addressed,with critical inputs coming from the respective towns.

•Issue of what will constitute the federating unit of the country: At the national level, appropriate issues e g what unit of government should be regarded as the “federatingunit” – the state or the geopolitical zone? Where an ethnic nationality falls into two or more zones, should they be allowed to merge into one federating unit, say in azone?

Following on this, and considering the cost of governance, how many levels of government should the constitution allow – two, three or four? It might become appropriate to combine and subsume the state and local government areassystems into aprovincial (or Division) system. The Province as aunitwill then be slightly larger than the present LGAs and slightly smaller than the presentterritorial size of existing states. It will then constitute the second tier of government under the zonal or hoped for regional governments. In this way, a zone which today is made up of five to seven states might be turned into 30-50 provinces, replacingits constituent states/LGAs.

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