Seyi Oduyela
First, let me state from the onset that I am not one of the fans of the Conference. I just cannot see anything fruitful coming out of it except for making the attendees richer, serving the purpose of the convener and deepening the crisis in Nigeria.
History has it that none of such thing has ever worked and this will not be an exemption. The reason is very simple, it is not people based. The gathering does not like former ones represent the genuine interest of the people. The only one that represented the wishes of Nigerian people was the Political Bureau set up by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in the early hours of his regime. This Bureau went round the country consulted and came up with a political ideology that the people wanted, but Babangida responded that he was not ready to impose ideology on Nigerians. Appointees of the conveners and the inept governors of various states populated the other ones convened.
So where are we coming from and where are we going? What is the difference between Sovereign National Conference and National Political Reform Conference? Whose idea is this idea of the Obasanjo's Circus Show? Who were the architects? In my "who is fooling whom" I tried to mention some individuals who played certain roles for Obasanjo and were dumped.
In about 2000 an organization was formed, called the Patriots, headed by Chief FRA Williams. Chief Richard Akinjide, Late Chief Bola Ige, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, are members. At first, it appeared like a Pan-Yoruba group, and the Ohaneze was invited. Professor Nwabueze and others from the East joined. Around this time, Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State also facilitated the forming of the Southern Governors' Forum. The emergence of these groups jolted the their counterparts in the North. While the core north were meeting and strategizing, the Patriots were recruiting and they were able to win the Middle belt. But the Southern Governors were just meeting discussing strategies of how to loot their various States' treasuries and hosting birthday parties for their children. Nothing meaningful has ever come out of the many meetings they held. Though the Patriots appeared to be a non-partisan organization, its agenda was to protect Obasanjo and support him against the northern oligarchy. All members of the group may not know this, but the core members knew why it was formed. Invariably, Patriots became a tink tank for Obasanjo. Sometimes in 2000, there was an attempt by the heavily politicized Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, with his other two friends- The Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero and the late Obi of Onitsha to get ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to meet and discuss the problem of Nigeria. This move came from the Emir of Kano.
Oba Okunade Sijuade, using the Awolowo connection called Pa Adesanya and the other members of Afenifere to consider the meeting of ethnic nationalities, the late Obi of Onitsha also called the Ohaneze for same reason. This was discussed at the Patriots meeting and Chief Richard Akinjide, who had been a friend of the north for many years warned that it, was bait. He alerted the meeting that his old friends who have been using a First Republic Minister under Sir Tafawa Balewa to court Chief Richard Akinjide muted the idea of the meeting of ethnic nationalities; the duo had served together in the same cabinet. This was at the wake of many provocative writings and presentations of Chief Richard Akinjide at different fora in Nigeria then.
It was Chief Akinjide who warned the Afenifere and Ohaneze not to follow the lead of their traditional rulers. According to the planning of the tripartite traditional rulers, the ethnic nationalities will send representatives and the north had group the Middle belt as part of the north, but the Middle belt declared, then it was not part of the north.
The Patriots after consultation with Obasanjo agreed to the meeting but made some changes, initially, Obasanjo did not want it, but he was convinced. They will attend the meeting but at the instance of the Patriots. The Patriots truncated the first meeting that was scheduled for March 2000 because they were not prepared and it changed a lot of things in the plans. It was after they had perfected how to hijack the meeting that hey now agreed to holding the meeting, which had increased the number of participants. This was the meeting held in Abuja, where some northern members walked out. What happened was that when these elements from the north who felt 'marginalized and betrayed' Obasanjo saw that the Patriots was making moves for Sovereign National Conference, apparently afraid that it may lead to division of the country, they used the Ooni of Ife to talk to the Afenifere, Obi of Onitsha to talk to the Ohaneze for a meeting to forestall the move for National Conference.

It then became Obasanjo's secret agenda to organize the conference once he wins the second term. But as time went on and the Patriots saw that the Leopard cannot change its spots, they came to the open through Chief Akinjide and it make a roforofo fight. At least Chief Akinjide was compensated with a political appointment, his daughter Jumoke was appointed as Special Assistant to the President on Federal Capital Territory 2002-2003 that was the time Bukola Saraki was fired as a Special Assistant. Saraki had barely settled down when he got the boot.
It is not new that I don't believe in the conference, but it is not a crime for me to share my views on the issue at stake in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. We are known to waste time in attacking ringworm and ignoring leprosy. Just as we had many people standing on June 12 that it never saw the light of the day, we have so many versions of National Conference. There is the Sovereign National Conference, Conference of Nationalities, National Political Reform Conference and many more. Each of this has its meaning close to chest of its proponent. It has become a ticket for acceptance in the public now. We have started dividing along the line of for and against.
I am always worried how fast we forget things in Nigeria. What has Obasanjo embarked on that yielded success? The first Bill sent to the National Assembly in 1999 when Obasanjo came was the Anti-corruption Bill. A commission was established and no result. It is as if the establishment of the commission enhanced corruption and not killed it. It has no effect. At a point when Pius Anyim was to be arrested and prosecuted, he used all his co-travelers in the ship of corruption to change the Act. We see people who went to public office on kabukabu and now controlling fleet of cars, we see people who were tenants before they got to public offices now having houses in Aso drive and high brow places in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and no one is there to ask questions.
Oputa Panel was set up millions of Naira were expended and we need another million naira conference to discuss the report of the Oputa Panel. Who is this body? What legal backing does it have to discuss my place and stake in Nigeria? These are bunch of illegal bedfellows gathered across the country to discuss what they do not know and come out with more confusion.
I do not need to go into personalities but it is clear that these people are representatives of the "Owners of Nigeria" camouflaging as the masses representative in helping to renew the mandate of the "Owners of Nigeria." They are there negotiating our future again, mortgaging our children and the generations-to-come future at our expense, spending our taxes and oil money. Many of the attendees are broke; some need the allowances and opportunity to get busy doing nothing. It is nothing but disguised unemployment.
Another funny issue is the apology of the military officers and the noise over banning military men from running an election. It is absolute nonsense. What is the need to cry when the head is already off? Why do these people think that they can insult our sensibility by begging us why killing us? The issue is not whether military men should run or not. Babangida banned Yar'Adua and others categorized as old politicians, but they have their able lieutenants who will represent their interests their. Yar'Adua used Abubakar Atiku in 1993 to negotiate for power and many others like that. Duro Meseko is now a member of the House of Representatives. Before now, he was the Public Relations Officer of Albarka Airlines, Gen Buba Marwa's company. It is not a secret that General Marwa bank rolled Meseko's ascendancy to the Federal House of Representatives, obviously to do some leg works for on his presidential ambition. We have many of these men in politics that are being sponsored by ex this ex that.
Banning of ex-military men is never a solution to the problem, they have the resources. Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe is more comfortable with his illegal bunkering than getting himself into active politics. It is more important for him for the likes of Tony Anenih there, as covers than for him to go into active politics. The shout on the ban of the ex-military guys is just a waste of time, so also the apology.

We know that the "eminent personalities" sitting in Abuja now are not the people's representatives, they are not as ethnic representatives neither are they there representing any religion. They are representatives of the ruling class. They were all nominated by Governors and the President, so the issue of sending their reports to the people of Nigeria for referendum does not arise. No one sent them there. Obasanjo, Tinubu and others called them to go there. They should go back and report to them.
To me the decision of the National Assembly not to support the Conference makes sense. As far as the law of the land is concerned, these people have the mandate to be there. Under normal circumstances, I will never vote for Dr. Olusola Saraki, or Barnabas Gemade to go and represent my interest or the Awujale of Ijebu Ode to represent me at that conference, so coming to give me the report of where I did not send them is absolute rubbish.
Everything is wrong with the conference, from the composition, conception and what to discuss. The Nigerian masses did not draw the agenda. We did not set it up. There are a lot of people there with questionable characters.
I am angry at it because it is another way of wasting the resources of the country. The money wasted on the conference can give the people of Adamawa light and good water, assist in repairing the Ore-Ondo road, and create more jobs to reduce insecurity and crime. It can also be used to enhance the services of the Police and give them a better condition of service. Do they look good in that black uniform with bathroom slippers, some of them cannot even afford to buy a pair of socks? Security Officers here in the US are well kitted than our Nigerian Police. So what are we discussing at the conference with such decay?
I am surprised at some personalities at the conference, but I later realize that we all have our parts to play. It is their turn to play their part. They are trying to do the right thing at the wrong time with a wrong party. Many of them see themselves as heroes in solving the countries problem but I am afraid they may end up as heroic fools.
I read through Dr. Femi Ajayi's Outlook on the Conference and at the conference agenda, I discover that something was missing: CORRUPTION! I am sure it will not feature in the conference, no one has ever taken it serious because it is like the case of whoever has not sinned before should cast the first stone.
The commission fighting corruption is not even free of it. I am aware from a reliable source that some dirty things are going on at the commission unknown to the venerable Judge Akambi Mustapha. We shall leave that for another day.
Why are we calling for Sovereign National Conference? To discuss what? Ethnic issue? Religious issue? Do we have ethnic and religious problem in Nigeria? No! As a person I have no problem with Ikechukwu, Lawan Bulama is my friend and relating with David Lar is well with me. I have lived in the North, Borno State, traveled to almost all part of the North. I have been to Zamfara state, I saw ladies in trousers, on motorbikes. I have been to Aba (not on business), Enugu, Port Harcourt, Ikot Ibritam, Ikot Inue and most places in Nigeria and get on well with the people. An average poor Nigerian is at peace with his fellow poor man any other place in Nigeria. The problem is rulership, the thieving leaders and their collaborators. We do not need any conference to discuss that.
The same old people, who have been participating at old Constitutional conferences, are there again holding reunion meetings. They know it will lead to anything, they already know that outcome, at least Dr. Olusola Saraki, Barnabas Gemade and some others are old timers. They are idle and using the forum to get busy doing nothing. I feel sorry for Justice Nikki Tobi and Father Kukah. Now the Oputa Panel report will be used as framework to do what? How would the victims of abuse feel? So they have suffered in vain, and it is the same people that will approve this Conference decision at a referendum? What an insult!
When it is time for our own conference, we do not need a venue, it will happen from village to village, town to town and state to state. We do not need to vote millions to achieve it.

We shall wait and see.

Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta insists on control of
oil wealth
   ABUJA, March 16 (AFP) - Delegates from Nigeria's
oil-rich but ever volatile and restive Niger Delta
participating in a political reform conference
Wednesday renewed their demands for the control of the
country's oil wealth.
   In the past years, irate Niger Delta youths have
embarked on murder, kidnapping of oil workers,
vandalisation and invasion of oil installations and
threats as weapons to press their demand for
employment and larger share in oil resources.
   Nigerian law, which provides that the federal
government controls all oil and mineral resources,
makes special concessions of 13 percent of accrued
revenues to the oil communities in southern states
where the fuel reserves are exploited.
   "All over the world, minerals are owned by the
communities and states in which they are located,"
said Itse Sagay, a renowned constitutional lawyer and
campaigner for larger share of oil resources for the
Niger Delta.
   "Nowhere in history and in justice does somebody
come to your home, take your property and say take 13
percent and I will keep the rest," said Sagay, a
university law teacher.
   His contribution drew applause from his supporters
and jeers from those opposed to the idea he espoused.
   A businessman and former budget minister, Gamaliel
Onosode, said that a large chunk of money spent by the
government was derived from the oil-rich Niger Delta
region but that people in the region have been left in

abject poverty.
   "We must address this issue and return resources,
whether oil and gas or any other resources to where
they belong so that they can be used ... to right
this wrong without introducing injustice," said
Onosode, who hails from the region.
   A government nominee to the conference, Bola
Ajibola, who was former justice minister expressed his
sympathy for the Niger Delta people and advocated for
them by saying that the "deserve to be given their
   "In sincerely have sympathy for our brothers and
sisters in the Niger Delta area. They deserve to be
given their right," said Ajibola, a close friend of
President Olusegun Obasanjo.
   But for Mahmoud Yahaya, a delegate from
northeastern Bauchi State, the resource control
agitators "are really not very realistic in their
   The three-month conference, inaugurated by Obasanjo
last February 21, is aimed at seeking ways to better
unite and govern Nigeria, a divided and
poverty-wracked nation of 130 million people.
   Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, derives
more than 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings
from oil.