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Published On: Wed, Mar 26th, 2014

Confab: 3/4 majority order pitches Northern against Southern delegates

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Confab Chairman KutigiBy Lawrence Olaoye

Resumed debate on the desirability of the 3/4 majority for passing resolutions or otherwise at the National Conference (Confab) pitched delegates from the North against their Southern counterparts at the plenary yesterday.

While conferees from both the northern and southern parts of the country had all agreed to abide by the order made by President Goodluck Jonathan that the delegates should try a much as possible to explore the option of consensus to arrive at decisions at the congress, the issue of attaining 75 percent vote, where consensus fails, divided the delegates along regional lines.

Delegates from the northern part of the country maintained that ¾ majority suggested by Jonathan should be adopted as the standard voting pattern while their southern counterparts insisted that the pattern known to the Constitution of the country and the world over is 2/3 majority.

Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, had called on the Chairman of the confab, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, to rule on the debate by putting the matter to vote to determine the popularity of the opposition to the 3/4 majority order by the president.

“Mr. President has proposed a 3/4 majority as the rule and if the majority of us here feel that we should stick to that one, Mr. Chairman, listen to us. But there is need for us to follow the normal pattern all over the world, that is 2/3 majority, follow it. If he (president) has suggested this and majority of us here say no, he should listen. So, I am suggesting that this matter has come to the end. We should discuss it. Let’s put Nigeria first, the country belongs to all of us. So, put it to vote if you cannot decide it”, he appealed.

Perhaps sensing that the 3/4 majority position may be defeated if put to vote, a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed insisted that the conference is essentially not about majority or minority but about Nigeria and its people.

He said the underlining agreement between the convener of the confab and the delegates was that resolutions would be reached through consensus and that the issue of majority or minority should not be pursued so that the real intent of the parley would not be lost.

“We have the opportunity now to decide dispassionately and look at those issues and decide on which way we want Nigeria to go. Therefore this conference is not about majority or minority; this conference is not about your region or my region; this conference is about Nigeria.

“I therefore implore delegates to know that this conference is to decide the way we want our country to go. The issue is not the issue of voting, it is not the issue of 2/3. What we are talking about is consensus. Any issue the people assembled here cannot get through consensus, then we must as much as possible go close to consensus.

That is why people who put 3/4 put it there. Before they put it there, they must have thought carefully about it.

“This conference is not about majority and minority, otherwise we know the composition of these delegates. We deliberately accepted it because we thought that resolutions would be reached by consensus. If it is about majority and minority, we would not have accepted to be part of it. Let us forget our sentiments; let us not come here with agenda. Let us come here as Nigerians,” he pleaded.

There was rowdiness immediately after his submission which nearly resulted into fisticuffs in the chamber.

But a former Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Mr.Akin Arikawe, pointed out that sentiments have been introduced into the debate and moved that further deliberation and decision on the issue be carried forward. The motion was adopted and passed.

In their separate contributions, Fola Adeola from Ogun State and Atedo Peterside moved that the conference chairman meets with leaders of delegates from the six geo-political zones for further deliberation on the issue and report back to the congress.

This position flowed from a contribution by Okon Osung (Akwa Ibom state) that, “we cannot discuss any other issue successfully except we are guided by our rules”. He was supported by Professor Akin Oyebode from Ekiti state.

The chairman therefore ruled that discussion on the 3/4 impasse was suspended, assuring the delegates that he would meet with the zonal leaders and arrive at an acceptable conclusion.

Meanwhile, an attempt to gag the press was overturned overwhelmingly by delegates at the plenary yesterday.

A delegate, Mahmud Aminu, representing civil society organisations (CSOs), had complained about what he termed “slanted” reportage of conference proceedings by the media.

Aminu particularly, queried the reports of requests by some delegates for aides and the publishing of “sleeping” delegates at Monday’s plenary in a national daily.

However, his observation was immediately rebuffed by most of the delegates, who said that the media had the right to report the proceedings of the conference to the public in their exact form.

Similarly, a clause in the rules and proceedings of the confab seeking to gag the press was expunged.

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