Senate to Consider National Conference Report


Damilola Oyedele

The Senate Wednesday called on the executive to transmit to it the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference for consideration by the National Assembly in order to fashion out solutions to agitations in different sections of the country.

It also urged the security agencies to arrest and prosecute persons making inflammatory comments, or taking actions that were capable of jeopardising the corporate existence of Nigeria as one indivisible, indissoluble sovereign nation.

The resolutions followed a motion sponsored by all 108 senators (Anambra Central seat is currently vacant) on the need for national unity and peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.

The senators also agreed to intensify their representative roles by embarking on sensitisation campaigns in their various constituencies to highlight the importance of harmonious and peaceful co-existence.

Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) said most of the challenges leading to the agitations in all geopolitical zones had been addressed by the National Conference under Justice Idris Kutigi and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi.

“I agree that there are problems and there are challenges and those challenges should be addressed. And that was why in 2014 the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, decided to convoke what was called a National Conference and it was a conference where all the ethnic nationalities, states and geopolitical zones were represented,” he said.

“I will recommend that the Senate should ask for those recommendations, to be tabled before the National Assembly because a lot of recommendations on all the agitations in all the geopolitical zones were addressed.

“I don’t know why we are not asking for those recommendations to be brought to us. They should be implemented where necessary,” Aliero added.

Senator Jonah Jang (Plateau North) lamented that the Seventh Senate refused to recognise the National Conference on grounds that the senators had argued at the time that they were the true representatives of Nigerians.
“It is now time to consider the recommendations,” he said.

Jang added that the agitations in different parts of the country were caused by a failure of leadership.
“It is not that the youths do not believe in the unity of Nigeria, but by their agitations they are trying to draw attention to the fact that they are not assured of their future,” he said.

The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said while the forces of division and disintegration had risen all over the country, some of the agitations were caused by feelings of marginalisation and the federal character.
“Some people are feeling left out in the affairs of this nation. When they look at appointments they see lopsidedness, while some agitations have come from the feeling of persecution,” he said.

Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) said it was necessary that the possibility of restructuring and redesigning the country be considered.

He added that politicians from all sections of the country must unequivocally speak about the unity of Nigeria as one nation, and condemn all separatist agitations, anarchists and ultra nationalists who are trying to set the country ablaze.
“It is only by taking a definite position, not sitting on the fence and not playing the ostrich by covering our heads with sand, that issues like this can be addressed.

“Agitations, complaints and grievances are genuine national issues; we are here to look at them in every possible way,” Sani said.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa East) said government’s seeming attempt to obliterate the Biafra war from Nigeria’s history had buoyed those clamouring for a divisive war.

He added that the government removed the Bight of Biafra from the map, while the educational policy does not allow the teaching of the civil war in history.

The policy, Bruce said, was counter-productive as there now exists a generation of Nigerians who are not fully aware of the details of the war, and therefore do not know about the destruction, famine and other effects of the civil war.

“They don’t teach this in our history books. We do not tell our children what war is all about. Those talking about bloodshed have not even carried a gun,” Bruce said.

The senator cited nations like America who educate the young generation on the American civil war, the first and second world wars, Korea and Vietnam wars, to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

“So here we are 50 years later talking about something that could be avoided if the federal government at the time understood the value of history.

“We erased the civil war from our consciousness, so generations of people do not know we fought the war or why we fought the war.
“They say the Igbos, were marginalised, right? But today they are the most industrious in the country, they are the richest Nigerians in the country today, and amongst some of the most educated people.

“Yet, they feel marginalised, if you compare the Igbo man to other sectors of the society, you will say the Igbos are privileged because of what they have.

“Yet, a generation of Igbos say they have been marginalised and they want to secede and want a nation,” Bruce added.
The issues must, however, be addressed, he said.

Presiding, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, called for restraint from all Nigerians to ensure a sustainable prosperous and egalitarian society.

“We are better off united, we are better off a just and equitable society. It is not time to look at ourselves as either black or white. Our beauty lies in our diversity,” he said.

“We must show leadership as leaders. It is not time to leave the leadership of this country to ad hoc tendencies. In doing so, we must address the fears and complaints of our citizens. I believe this is what we have started today,” Ekweremadu added.