Security operatives were on Monday deployed in the entrance to the venue of the ongoing National Conference, apparently to forestall unsavoury occurrence as delegates expressed anger over the confab’s recommendation for creating new states.
The National Conference had last Thursday endorsed the carving out of 19 new states from the existing ones but some delegates were said to be unhappy with the formula for a creating the additional states and were poised for showdown during Monday’s consideration of the minutes for the Thursday sitting.
Delegates had arrived early for the sitting, which was considered very important due to the controversies generated as a result of the considerations and decisions reached on other reports by the conference last week.
As a result of the reported anger by some delegates over this, the security operatives were stationed at the main entrance of the hall where the sitting took place.
Trouble started when Yusuf Abubakar, from Sokoto State, drew the attention of the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, to the letter he said delegates from the northern part of the country sent to him on some of the decisions taken in the past.
Kutigi had called delegates to suggest amendments or move for the adoption of the minutes of the debates and proceedings of Thursday.
“Mr. Chairman, it is very important to let us know your reply and we are serious about the issues we raised in the letter. We cannot adopt the minutes without hearing from you,” Abubakar said.
He reminded the conference that it must abide by its rules, which provide for unsatisfied delegates to call for a division where such delegates are not pleased with the outcome of a voice vote.
The proposal for the creation of additional states was adopted via voice vote.
Kutigi however ignored Abubakar and called for any further amendment to the reports of the committee that recommended the creation of the new states but Abubakar insisted that the issue he raised must be addressed, saying that the conference had taken some decisions in error.
A Labour delegate, Issa Aremu, also faulted the recommendation for the creation of new states, saying that it was wrong to create more states when those in existence had been battling to pay the salaries of their workers.
This comment further emboldened Abubakar who stood up and said, “We are making an error because the proceedings are wrong.
“I won’t sit down because these are fundamental issues. It is my privilege under Order 10 Rule One that says all decisions shall be by consensus or be decided by 70 per cent of delegates present. I called for a division, but we are being ignored. We have to use the law and not convention.”
At this point, Kutigi became angry and said, “I can rule you out of order. I then rule you out of order.”
A former Minister of Women Affairs, Josephine Anenih, advised the delegates to mind the way they speak, just as she advised the chairman “not to allow anyone raise your blood pressure; we don’t have to die because we want to make Nigeria great.”
Another delegate, Aisha Madawaki, wondered how the names of the states were arrived at and demanded the modalities used, insisting that the delegates were not consulted.
Abdulsalam Olawale, in his submission, said it was wrong for the conference not to have named Ose as one of the states to be created, saying all the people from the area where the proposed state would be created had agreed to its creation.
Robert Audu told the conference that the compilation of the states to be created was fraudulent, saying the list did not emanate from any of the conference committees.
A traditional ruler from the South-West, Oba Aderemi Adedapo, insisted that Oduduwa State was on the list of the states recommended to be created.
He said, “The agitation for the creation of this state, whose capital would be in Ile-Ife, has been on for the past 30 years. We want the state; every Yoruba believes that he hails from Ile -Ife.”
Senator Ibrahim Idah also queried the allocation of two states to the North-West, saying the zone remained the most populated in the country, just as Talatu Nasir from Katsina State, wondered why states like Kaduna were omitted.
As delegates were booing many of the speakers, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari appealed to delegates to stop shouting down other delegates even if they did not agree with the views being expressed.
He reminded them and the conference leadership that the Northern Delegates Forum had drawn the attention of the conference leadership to the abuse of the voice votes and that they felt very strongly that amendments should not be considered as the final outcome of the conference.
He said the conference leadership promised to look into the matter and urged the leadership to continue to guide the conference well.
A former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, regretted the action of some delegates, which he said was becoming negative when the conference was winding down.
In anger, he said it was wrong for anyone or tribe to assume that Nigeria belonged to them.
Clark said, “This country called Nigeria was made up of equal citizens, and that was the basis of its amalgamation. We are all the same and no one is bigger than the other.
“We have children that went to some of the best schools in the world, so, no one should come to flaunt his professorship here. No one must insist that only his point of view should be reflected.”
He particularly frowned on Prof. Awwalu Yadudu’s letter to another delegate, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, in which Yadudu said delegates from the north were withdrawing from a committee of 18 delegates who met earlier to arrive at positions on behalf of all the zones.
Another former minister, who was also a former Acting National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Haliru Mohammed, said though he agreed that consensus had been reached on the committee report and that the conference should stick to it.
“The report of the committee is not sacrosanct and we should be allowed to meet and talk on issues that are not agreeable,” he said amid shout of ‘no, no,’ by some delegates.