Monday, 17 March 2014

Jonathan's National Conference and people's expectation



Delegates to the "national Conference"
President Goodluck Jonathan has made an history today for inaugurating the 492-member national conference with a charge to delegates to shun all manner of selfish personal agenda in favour of the more important national agenda.
Nigerians what are your expectations of Confab?

Speaking at the inauguration, which held at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja and was witnessed by some former presidents and heads of state, leadership of political parties, members of the National Assembly, state governors and members of the Federal Executive Council, among others, Jonathan said the conference is being convened to engage in intense introspection about the political and socioeconomic challenges confronting the nation, and to chart the best and most acceptable way for the resolution of such challenges in the collective interest of all the constituent parts of our fatherland.
He reiterated that he was convening the conference due to his belief that his administration must assume responsibility for ensuring that the long-running national debate on the best way forward for the country is not in vain.
He urged participants to patriotically articulate and synthesize peoples’ thoughts, views and recommendations for a stronger, more united, peaceful and politically stable Nigeria, forge the broadest possible national consensus in support of those recommendations, and strive to ensure that they are given the legal and constitutional backing to shape the present and the future of our beloved fatherland.
He acknowledged arguments against the conference since an elected Parliament and an elected government are already in place, but he maintained that in the truly democratic nation his administration is striving to build, it must never ignore the loudly expressed views of the majority of ordinary Nigerians.
“I have heard that majority say, that we need to rebuild trust by involving them in the process of developing a guiding document of our national political relationships, which is more acceptable to all sections of the country. I have heard our people say that we need to openly and frankly discuss our problems and seek acceptable solutions instead of allowing them to fester and remain sources of perennial conflict”, he said.
“I have also heard them say that, as the elected representatives of our people, we must never arrogate to ourselves all knowledge and wisdom regarding the development of our country. And I am in full agreement with our people. The power we hold is, without question, in trust for the people. Sovereignty belongs to the people. Their voices must be heard and factored into every decision we take on their behalf”.
He described the conference as a very important avenue for the voices of the people to be heard, their yearnings and desires discussed. He assured that delegates were neither usurping the role of the National Assembly nor the Executive, but are only complementing them in the country’s march towards a greater and stronger union.
He further disagreed with the argument that since several conferences had been held in the past, another one is not needed.
“I do not share that view at all. A deeper look will reveal that the challenges we faced before each of the preceding national conferences were different. The challenges of 1956 are certainly not the challenges of 2014, and definitely not the challenges that the nation will face in years to come”, he said.
“It makes sense, therefore, that as the challenges before us evolve, we must be constant and proactive in our search for fresh solutions. We cannot continue to proffer yesterday’s solutions for today’s problems”.
He again urged delegates not to approach the issues to be discussed with suspicion and antagonism, but to be open-minded and work to achieve what is best for Nigeria.
“Even though you come to the Conference as nominees and representatives of different interest groups, I urge you all to make a more united, stronger, indivisible and prosperous Nigeria your preoccupation and reference point at this national gathering.  Whatever the pressures on you may be, I call upon you to put the best interest of Nigeria before all other sectional or group interests”, he said.
“Indeed, I am quite worried when I hear people say that some participants in this National Conversation are coming here to defend and promote ethnic or clannish agenda. It is very regrettable that there are persons who believe that we cannot undertake any collective task in our country without the hindrance of ethnic rivalry even after 100 years of nationhood.
“This conference gives us an opportunity to prove such persons wrong and I believe it will. As we start a new century of nationhood, we have an obligation to reshape and redirect our country for the benefit of our children. There should be no room for divisive cleavages and ethnic jingoism. There should be no room for selfish considerations that defeat the purpose of national progress. There should be room only for the national interest”.
The conference, to be chaired by erstwhile Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Retired Justice Idris Kutigi, will last for three months.
Recently, national conversations around its tasks have been dwarfed by reports that each of the 492 participants will receive a bumper pay of N12m, sparking widespread condemnation from leading civil and political organisations.



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