Unfortunately, nothing is being done about the implementation of its report seven years after. At its meeting in Abuja in 2017, the 2014 National Conference delegates, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, to implement the report of the conference.
The delegates who met under the auspices of “The Re-union Summit of Delegates to the 2014 National Conference”, (TRSDNC), also requested the 8th National Assembly to make the report of the conference their primary and principal reference material for amending the extant 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The above meeting would have been informed by the pressing need to counter the outcome of a previous meeting put together by some delegates of the same Conference who were mainly drawn from the Northern part of the country.
The Northern delegates who met under the aegis of “Northern Re-awakening Forum,” (NRF) advised the President to throw the resolutions and recommendations of the 2014 National Conference into the dustbin of history. They contended that the Conference failed to discuss the key challenges facing the North. Furthermore, members of the NRF, argued that the Conference delegates were not elected by the people.
And so, given the above scenario, the group contended that the far-reaching Conference Report cannot be implemented by a democratically elected government symbolized by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government at the centre. Incidentally, the APC which at that time was at its embryonic stage, having been registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) barely eight months before the inauguration of the Conference on March 17, 2014, by then President Goodluck Jonathan, had distanced itself from the Conference.
The nascent party then argued that the Conference would serve no useful purpose. One can easily understand why President Buhari on assumption of office literally swept the Conference Report under the carpet. However, the kernel of the matter is that the 494 National Conference delegates drawn from all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, were in agreement that the Conference constituted a veritable forum to discuss and find amicable solutions to the myriads of socio-economic and political problems that had for several years militated against the cohesion, peace, prosperity and development of the country.
In fact, while submitting the 2014 National Conference Report on August 21, 2014, to former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Conference Chairman, and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutugi (rtd), said: “Mr. President, time will not permit me to list all the critical and fundamental resolutions adopted. But let me emphasize this: all our resolutions were adopted by consensus. Not once did we have to vote or come to a division. 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 to coming up with solutions to these difficulties.”
Interestingly, many Nigerians welcomed with both hands a good number of the recommendations of the Conference, particularly, those dealing with the creation of new states, resource control/derivation principle/fiscal federalism, public finance/revenue allocation, and creation of special courts to handle corruption cases. The point has often been made that the erstwhile British colonial masters never cared to consult the disparate peoples that make up the present day Nigeria before their crony – Sir Frederick Lord Lugard – coupled them together in 1914. Not a few stridently argue that if such consultations had taken place before the amalgamation, perhaps some constituent parts of today’s Nigeria wouldn’t have agreed to be part of the union.
But having been lumped together to form one country despite their glaring ethno-religious, cultural and linguistic differences, successive governments of the country have for long been trying to convert these diversities into strength. And quite frankly, this objective cannot be achieved without bringing together, under one roof, the representatives of the dissimilar peoples of Nigeria to discuss the best ways to live in unity as one people, one nation. That was the essence of the 2014 National Conference, and the previous National/Constitutional Conferences.
Also, the point has been made that except perhaps the pre-independence constitution, the peoples of Nigeria or their authenticated representatives, have never actively participated in the making of successive constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Many had, therefore, thought that by putting together the 2014 National Conference, the former administration of President Jonathan had given Nigerians ample opportunity to evolve through the National Assembly, a home-made Constitution that would embody the laws and principles governing the country.
We at THIS NIGERIA resolutely posit that since the 2014 Conference delegates unanimously approved over 600 resolutions dealing with fundamental issues of law, policy and constitutional amendments, and even went further to unanimously adopt the official Report of that Conference, they (delegates) should collectively persuade the Buhari administration to do the needful by implementing the Conference Report. We appeal to President Buhari to rescind his earlier decision not to touch the Conference Report even with a six-foot pole but insist that the conference report be implemented before the 2023 general elections.
This is not the time to adopt divergent views on the outcome of that conference. Different ethnic nationalities, political and professional groups across the country are in support of the implementation of the report of that conference. Therefore, subjecting the collective anxiety of Nigerians to the whims and caprices of an individual or even a political party is unacceptable and can spell doom for the future of the country. It is in the interest of all Nigerians and in furtherance of the peace and development of the country for the hope and aspirations of the people to be respected.
We recall that the Conference gulped huge sums of public funds, and so if members of the NRF, who were also delegates to the National Conference, had had problems with the mode of selecting delegates, or thought that the Conference was not worth the while, they ought to have boycotted the forum. We think it smacks of brazen immorality to have signed and collected several millions of Naira as allowances, only to turn round after about three years to pick holes with the mode of constituting the conference. The magnitude of the 2014 outing is reflected in the Report and Annexures of 22 volumes of approximately 10,335 (ten thousand, three hundred and thirty-five) pages.
We can ill-afford to consign these monumental documents into the waste paper basket. We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to ensure that the Conference Report is translated into law. Given the turbulence the country is experiencing now as a result of bad leadership, the time to act is now. The National Assembly should save Nigeria from the danger of going through another debilitating political upheaval as in what happened between 1966 and 1970 by commencing the process of implementing the report of the confab without further delay. It can be done before the next general elections.