2014 NATIONAL CONFERENCE
AUGUST 21, 2014
This report will not be wasted—Jonathan tells Nigerians as he closes 2014 confab
“You have done your patriotic duty; we the elected people must do our own…Let me assure you that your work is not going to be a waste of time and resources…”
With these reassuring words, well applauded by an excited crowd, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan brought to a close on Thursday August 21, the 2014 National Conference inaugurated on March 17, 2014.
He said with the conclusion of deliberations at the conference and with the voluminous reports submitted by the Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, GCON, “Our moment for national rebirth is here. We have to rekindle hope.”
The President, accompanied by Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo and some ministers, praised the 494 members of the conference for arriving at every decision through consensus without an option of a vote or division.
He said the quality of debate and the depth of contributions added to the ability of the delegates to resolve every argument without burying or suspending them was indicative of the fact that “it is a new dawn in Nigeria and a new nation is at the door.”
President Jonathan expressed gratitude to the delegates for displaying deep patriotic zeal which has led to the successful accomplishment of the idea behind the conference which was that of creating a platform for sincere dialogue among the citizens.
The President was emphatic that the success of the conference has proved cynics wrong in many respects and has built a new architecture of national development as the country moves into the next 100 years of its existence.
He promised that since nobody has monopoly of wisdom in national affairs, the relevant aspects of the reports and recommendations would be sent to both the Council of States and the National Assembly for necessary action.
He paid tributes to four members of the conference who died in the course of the national assignment. He also consoled Justice Kutigi on the death of his wife during the conference period.
Secretary to Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, in a brief remark, said the event of the day was based on the invitation of the Conference Chairman indicating that the conference had concluded its proceedings and was ready to submit the report.
While submitting the report, Justice Kutigi said the purpose of the conference included addressing the fears, disappointments, aspirations and hopes, “which have accumulated over 100 years.
Under the circumstance, he said “it is only to be expected that the debate would be robust; and indeed the debates were robust. It was only to be expected that tempers would fly; and tempers did fly.
“We did not try to ignore or bury our differences. We addressed these differences while respecting the dignity of those holding these differences and sought to construct solutions which would become building blocks for a just and stable nation.”
Justice Kutigi disclosed that at the end of the conference, more than 600 resolutions dealing with issues of law, issues of policy and issues of constitutional amendments were approved.
He assured that the resolutions did not deal with inconsequential or frivolous issues; “we showed courage in tackling substantial and fundamental issues.”
The chairman said adopting all the resolutions through consensus; “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 of coming up with solutions to these difficulties.”
Submitted to the President on Thursday were 22 volumes of reports and annexures totaling about 10, 335 pages.
Justice Kutigi explained that with the submission of the report, “we have finally laid to rest the apprehension that a national conference will lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. We have held a national conference and we are more united today than ever.”
The conference chairman disclosed that not once did President Jonathan interfere in the work of the conference.
He said: “the only time we tried to consult the President during the conflict over voting percentages at the very beginning of the conference, we were told that the issue was for us to resolve. At no time after that did you meet with us or speak to us.”
The chairman expressed to the National Assembly “the greatest respect of all members of the 2014 National Conference. We accept that the National Assembly has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the conference report translates into law.”
Earlier on Wednesday, at a dinner hosted by Justice Kutigi for the delegates, Vice President Sambo had praised the delegates for successfully accomplishing the mission of the national conference describing their effort as a “no mean feat.”
He said despite all odds against the hosting of the conference, delegates stood firm and delivered to Nigeria a living document that would usher the country into the next centenary.
The Vice President described the 2014 National Conference as the “broadest national conference” where all matters for the stability of Nigeria were freely discussed without any interference from any quarters.
He said the quality of deliberation was not only outstanding, “your capacity to pull back from the brink was the hallmark of 2014 National Conference.”
While recalling some strategic moments at the conference, Sambo declared, “Because you stood up for Nigeria, Nigeria will stand up for you.” At this point all the delegates rose to applaud him.
Justice Kutigi had congratulated and thanked all the delegates for the nationalistic roles they played in ensuring that the conference came to a memorable conclusion, adding: “history will forever be kind to you.”
He said the delegates were outstanding both in deliberation and contribution of ideas which enabled the conference to accomplish its mission.
“Your comportment, mature reasoning, and articulate presentation of persuasive opinions towards resolutions of critical and even controversial issues will always be remembered.
“It was my joy and national pride to serve as chairman of the conference in which you played such a significant role as delegates. My interaction with you has once again rekindled my hope of a better Nigeria for the present and future generations.”
He paid tributes to some of the delegates who died in the course of the convocation namely: Barrister Hamma Misau, Dr Mohammed Jumare, Professor Dora Akunyili and Professor Mohammed Nur Alkali.
Conference Deputy Chairman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, in his remarks, said the conference was only a success because of the maturity and comportment of the Conference Chairman, Justice Kutigi.
Describing Justice Kutigi as a righteous steadfast judge, Akinyemi said the chairman was prepared at all times to over-rule anybody in defence of the vision and principle of the conference.
“We had in our chairman, a Nigerian without any trace of prejudice. If every Nigerian behaves like Justice Kutigi, this country is set on a path of greatness.”
Also speaking, Chief Ediwn Clark who led the southern delegation said: “we came in, we came out and we conquered.”
He said the conference has brought a renewed Nigeria ready to face the challenges of the future.
He earned a huge applause when he called on the President to ensure the implementation of the resolutions of the conference to justify its convocation.
Clark said at the beginning of the conference, it was clear that the delegates would disagree to agree; describing the conference as a forum where Nigerians decided to discuss and debate the Nigeria of the future.
He said the conference has proven that “we will continue to live together in this country; we have nowhere else to go. We are all true Nigerians. A new beginning has started, a new Nigeria has started.”
In his comments, former Inspector General of Police and leader of the northern delegation to the conference, Ibrahim Coomasie harped on the need for unity of the country.
He said whatever the northern delegates protested or shouted against during the conference, “we did so for one Nigeria.”
Coomasie thanked the leadership of the conference for managing the delegates in spite of the load of work before them.
It was his believe that after the conference and with all the resolutions adopted, the next 100 years will be a better 100 years for Nigeria.
Every delegate to the conference was decorated with a medal of honour by the Vice President. They also went home with certificate of participation, a diary, a conference plaque and a photobook.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
Jonathan closes the National Confab
Remarks by His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR On the Occasion of the Submission of the National Conference Report
1. Mr Chairman, very distinguished delegates, it is with all gladness that I address you this day. After nearly five months endeavour to find the appropriate verb for the noun of our country within the syntax of human experience, you have brought to a grateful Nation, the report of the 2014 National Conference.
2. I want to congratulate the Chairman and his able team, the Delegates, all Nigerians and indeed everyone who has contributed one way or the other to the successful convocation and conclusion of the Conference.
3. I also congratulate the Presidential Advisory Committee which developed the framework for the Conference after travelling around the country. We cannot afford to take for granted the efforts and commitment that the delegates and the leaders put into the Conference to make it a success. The patriotic zeal was evident in the inputs of the delegates into the dialogue and how these have now formed the basis of the report.
4. On behalf of all Nigerians, let me thank you most sincerely for your hard work. Your tireless efforts aimed at coming up with recommendations to chart a path of peaceful coexistence, sustainable development, justice and progress as we march into our second centenary shall not be in vain.
5. To my mind, one of the main reasons for which the Conference was convoked was fully achieved: that is, to create a platform for a genuine and sincere dialogue among Nigerians. Even in moments when things seemed ready to boil over, it was evident that the Delegates were only disagreeing to agree.
6. It is now very clear that as Nigerians, we have devised a way of addressing and resolving our differences amicably: we dialogue and dialogue until we agree! This is most heart-warming indeed!
7. My dear brothers and sisters, I am not unmindful that there were delegates who were in this hall when I inaugurated this conference who today are not part of this closing event as the cold hands of death have snatched them. I pray that Almighty God will grant eternal repose to the souls of our departed patriots and protect all the families they have left behind. They would be proud of what you, their living colleagues, have done to end what we started together.
8. On the occasion of the 53rd Independence Anniversary of Nigeria last year, I made a promise to set a National Conversation in motion in order to advance the course of nation-building. The agitation had been there for a while and we could no longer ignore it or delay the process. I was motivated by a genuine desire to make our country a better place where we can build consensus in the evolution of a New Nigeria.
9. When I was inaugurating the Presidential Advisory Committee in December last year, I made it very clear to the committee that it was a sincere and fundamental undertaking, aimed at realistically examining and genuinely resolving, longstanding impediments to our cohesion and harmonious development as a truly united Nation.
10. At the inauguration of the National Conference in March, I told you the Delegates our expectations. I did say that I expected participants to patriotically articulate and synthesize our people’s thoughts, views and recommendations for a stronger, more united, peaceful and politically stable Nigeria.
11. I urged the participants to forge the broadest possible national consensus in the process. I also warned that we should not to be under any illusions about the task ahead because we would be confronted with complex and emotive issues.
12. I am very satisfied that the Delegates navigated these obstacles in a very mature manner. There were those who set out to input ulterior motives to our modest efforts at reshaping and strengthening the foundations of our nationhood to deliver better political cohesion and greater development agenda. The naysayers raised false alarms over some phantom hidden agenda and called to question our sincerity and did everything possible to derail this noble project.
13. The success of this conference has proved the cynics wrong in many respects. Those who dismissed the entire conference ab initio as a “diversion” have been proved wrong as what you achieved has contrary to their forecast diverted our country only from the wrong road to the right direction.
14. They said the conference would end in a deadlock as Nigeria had reached a point where the constituent parts could no longer agree on any issue. We exploded that myth by suggesting that you should arrive at your decisions by consensus or 75% majority threshold.
15. That was the first challenge you had at this conference when it appeared you were going to break up. There were suggestions that we should intervene as government to “save” the conference at that dicey moment but I insisted that beyond the inauguration we were not going to intrude into the conference in any manner. We kept our promise.
16. One of the many reasons for our non-interference is this: we have at the conference, 492 delegates and six conference officials who all in their individual rights are qualified to lead our great country and if they were unable to agree on how to take decisions, we would be in real trouble! Acknowledging the quality and patriotic content of the delegates, I was confident, the right thing will be done.
17. I understand, there were a few outstanding issues yet. That you did not agree on all issues shows the sincerity of the discourse. Nobody was at the Conference to be politically correct. People spoke passionately and argued strongly in favour of what they genuinely believed in. As a result, there were bound to be strong disagreements.
18. If everybody agreed on every issue, the debate would not only be lacking in quality and passion, it would also be said to have been stage-managed. What we should worry about now is not that there were disagreements in one or two items, but how to manage these disagreements such that nobody walks away feeling short-changed and bitter. It is a major challenge in nation-building as experienced by the biggest democracies in the world. You managed them well and came out tall, fellow citizens.
19. I must congratulate you! You not only worked out a compromise but you never had to divide the house to take over 600 resolutions which I understand you passed at this conference. You have indeed built a new architecture of negotiation based on trustful give-and-take that is going to be a permanent reference point in our national life.
20. There were many other moments of anxiety at the conference with avalanche of headlines about possible “walkouts” and “show-downs”. However with your sense of maturity and abiding presence of God who put this country together, what we have today is a walk-in and a show-up!
21. In my inauguration speech on March 17, 2014, I enjoined you as follows:
“We need a new mind and a new spirit of oneness and national unity. The time has come to stop seeing Nigeria as a country of many groups and regions. We have been divinely brought together under one roof. We must begin to see ourselves as one community. We are joined together by similar hopes and dreams as well as similar problems and challenges. What affects one part of the community affects the other.”
22. I’m greatly delighted that you worked that out in practical terms by your patriotic demonstration of the truism that “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”.
23. The result of the conference has shown that we are not enemies, neither are we antagonists, no matter our religion, region, state, and tongue. This Conference has reinforced what I have always believed: that Nigeria is here for our collective good.
24. Mr Chairman, distinguished delegates, there is a wisdom saying that if two siblings went to the inner recess to dialogue and they are grinning from ear-to-ear when they are done, truth must have been in short supply in their discussions. However, no matter the bitter truth they shared behind closed doors, holding hands when they emerge and not disowning each other is the hallmark of blood being thicker than water.
25. This dialogue reflects the current issues in the light of the socio-political evolution of the world. I did say before that we cannot proffer yesterday’s solutions to today’s Nigeria’s problems. The challenges we faced at Independence or even at the beginning of this democratic experience in 1999 are not the same challenges we face today.
26. The discourse reflected our latest challenges. We shall send the relevant aspects of your recommendations to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On our part, we shall act on those aspects required of us in the Executive.
27. Let me reaffirm this: Nobody has a monopoly of knowledge. We who are in government need to feed from the thoughts of those who elected us into power. You have done your patriotic duty, we the elected, must now do ours.
28. As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure that your work is not going be a waste of time and resources. We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations which have come out of consensus and not by divisions.
29. In this regard I appeal to all arms of government and the people of Nigeria to be ready to play the different roles that the volumes of reports you have produced would assign to you. It is my hope that with what you have done, our country is on the right road to getting the job of nation building done.
30. The report of the National Conference, coming 100 years after the Amalgamation, promises to be a landmark in our history. I have always believed that dialogue is a better way of driving change in the community and I am happy that this dialogue has gone very well. With the far-reaching recommendations touching on several areas of our national life, I am convinced that this will be a major turning point for Nigeria.
31. We have gone through many challenges in our first centenary, now is the time to hit the track and take our proper lane for the race of progress. Our moment for national rebirth is here. We have to rekindle hope not only within our country but in the entire African continent where collectively our leadership is acknowledged.
32. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in every governance index, we are making progress. In 2009, our life expectancy was forty seven years, it has now risen to fifty-two. We were spending over a trillion naira importing food four years ago, it is now down to a little over six hundred billion naira and still falling! The size of our economy has grown.
33. We are improving on our infrastructure and now well on our way to self-sufficiency in energy security. We are focussing on education with a view to banishing illiteracy from our country. We have revived our railways and our airports are undergoing massive repositioning. Our sports men and women are now hungrier for laurels and we are recalibrating our security forces to meet the challenges of newer security threat that was brought to us!
34. Very distinguished delegates, this administration has made the sanctity of the ballot a cardinal focus. Our successes in polls in different states in recent past have shown we are making substantial progress in the direction of making the polls attractive to all categories of citizens in our land so that our best and brightest would not continue to shun the electoral process. Our goal is that Nigeria must quickly arrive at the point where every vote is not only counted but counts. It is free, fair and credible elections that we crave.
35. Now is the time that we put behind us all the drawbacks that have inhibited us from fulfilling our manifest destiny and realizing our full potentials. We must steadily arrive at the juncture where strife, conflicts and mistrusts would become distant echoes of our past. We must make every inch of our country a space for joyous habitation. Our country must enter a new season of harmony, prosperity and happiness with justice abiding in every hamlet, community and our country. It is the dawn of a new day in Nigeria and the new nation is at the door accompanied by its great men and women, young and old.
36. All those who have predicted the disintegration of our country at the end of our first centenary would wish they chose another country when the possibilities of the new vision for Nigeria are actualised. In place of disintegration we shall have integration. In place of bitterness and spilling of blood, we shall have sweetness and healing in our land. Henceforth, our country shall become like a running water that approaches a rock, rather than stopping it takes a curve and flows on.
37. Mr Chairman, we arrived at this point with praise to God and gladness in our hearts. I once again congratulate you and your wonderful team and all of you the distinguished delegates, for the great job that you have done in these five months. I would like to implore you all to continue to make yourselves available for service to the nation as that is the hallmark of every patriot.
38. We are grateful!
39. On this note, I hereby accept the report and declare the 2014 National Conference closed to the glory of our Almighty God.
40. I thank you all.