Good News: Jonathan May Convene Sovereign National Conference

Sept. 15, 2013

THERE are indications that President Goodluck Jonathan may soon consider the option of a national sovereign national conference to douse political tension ahead 2015 presidential elections.

A group of political leaders from the South East and South South geopolitical zones were said to have prevailed on the President to wield it as master stroke that would put a stop to the crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the current political instability.

The group, made up of hardcore supporters of the President, said immediate convocation of a Sovereign National Conference among the 389 ethnic nationalities, would douse the tension in the polity and cause combatants in the political arena to pause and think as all component groups in the country take advantage of the platform, where the basis of Nigeria’s existence will be “fully discussed and agreed.”

They are also advising the President that, in case his convoying a SNC makes it difficult for him to run for second term in 2015, he should work to hand over to a President from either the Middle Belt (North Central) or the South East geopolitical zone.

The memo, which is receiving “serious considerations” from President Jonathan, also said the SNC is needed to put a stop to the “blackmail and balkanisation” of the PDP, and give the President “the needed Plan B and C whereby he would shame his critics and stop the domination of Presidential politics by any group or region.”

Presidency sources in the know of the “strong memo to the President” canvases that President Jonathan should “think seriously of convoking Sovereign National Conference in which he will be the one to midwife it. It will bring out a “We, the people…” constitution, which would be an answer to the agitations of Nigerians for a forum to decide on how they want to live. After the SNC, if he contests and wins, he will be a national hero.”

The group, however, said the move would be the best way to strengthen and deepen Nigerianism. “This makes sense because the South East has not produced a Nigerian President. They have always been denied this opportunity. Only recently, they were allowed to get the office of the Chief of Army Staff and leadership of key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“For the minorities of the Middle Belt, they have always succeeded in keeping Nigeria one. If the office of the President is aimed at satisfying the North, it should be to the Middle Belt minorities and not go to those who have not only produced dictators and a civilian President.”

Though President Jonathan is yet to give his reply to the contents of the memo “sent by some of his loyal supporters”, he is studying it and would soon give his decision to them.

Jonathan has said that while he does not oppose a SNC, he feels that because of constitutional issues, it is better for the nation to have a national dialogue. But the new push, which is quickly gaining converts within his administration, is a direct move to permanently change the political history of the nation.

On Thursday, August 30, 2013, President Jonathan affirmed the belief of his administration in the rights of the nation’s constituent parts to come together to discuss how they will continue to live in peace and unity.

The President told a delegation of The Patriots, which submitted a memorandum, which, among others, demanded the convocation of a sovereign national conference to discuss Nigeria’s future, that the issue of Nigerians coming together to discuss their future should not be out of place.

He admitted that there have been discussions within his government on how to create an acceptable and workable platform for a national dialogue that will reinforce the ties that bind the country’s many ethnic nationalities and ensure that Nigeria’s immense diversity continues to be a source of strength and greatness.

According to Jonathan, “the limitation we have is that the Constitution appears to have given that responsibility to the National Assembly. I have also been discussing the matter with the leadership of the National Assembly. We want a situation where everyone will key into the process and agree on the way forward.”

Leader of The Patriots, Prof Nwabueze stated that the sovereign national conference should be convened before 2015 elections because the 1999 Constitution was not prepared by the people but a schedule to Decree 24.

Calling for a new constitution derived from the people, the renowned constitutional lawyer noted: “We have done our own research and we have in this country 389 ethnic nationalities. We need to bring these nationalities around a conference table to discuss how we are going to live together as one country – in peace, in stability, in security – as one country with the aim of achieving national unity. But as of today, we are not a nation yet. We are a state. This conference should be convened as a matter of priority as soon as possible, in any event before the 2015 general elections.”

On the position of the National Assembly that there is no need for a sovereign conference since there is an elected National Assembly in place, Nwabueze said: “It is important that what the National Assembly is putting forward is their powers under sections 8&9, which is to alter the Constitution. Power to alter is not as important as the power to abolish what you are altering and to replace it completely. It must be directly from the people and that is the position of, at least, 85 per cent of the countries of the world.

“If you read Section 1(1) of the Decree these are all preambles to that decree and the 1999 Constitution that you are talking about, it is a schedule to Decree 24. Repeal the decree and the constitution will disappear and you enact a brand new constitution, which would derive its authorities from the people. That was done in 1963 when we adopted the Republican Constitution to replace the Independence Constitution. That 1960 Constitution was also a schedule to British Order-In -Council just as the 1999 Constitution, is a schedule to the Decree 24.”

Author of this article: From Madu Onuorah (Abuja Bureau Chief)