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Published On: Thu, Mar 27th, 2014

Confab: Sultan leads protesting Muslims to Jonathan

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  • Delegates may settle for 70% voting majority 
  • Lamido threatens to pull out of Nigeria

By Patrick Andrew & Lawrence Olaoye

Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday led a delegation of prominent Muslims in the country to President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to complain of marginalisation in their representation at the National Conference (Confab).

The Muslims, under the aegis of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), had a closed door meeting at the Presidential Villa with the president and his vice, Muhammad Namadi Sambo, where they decried the lopsidedness in the composition of the delegates at the Confab.

Secretary-General of NSCIA, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, who spoke with newsmen after the parley, said the president assured the delegation that his administration is committed to ensuring justice and fairness in its dealings with all Nigerians, irrespective of their religion or tribe.

He said Jonathan asked members of the delegation to convey his message to all Muslims in Nigeria, that even if there were issues that are not as they ought to be, they were not done deliberately.

“We are happy we consulted with the president, and he has given us reasons to re-assure the Muslims in Nigeria they are not deliberately marginalised and he has asked us to convey the feelings of the government, the genuineness of the government, the fairness of the government to the entire populace.

“He said that if there are issues that are not as they ought to be, they were not definitely deliberate and we want to believe that Mr. President told us his mind but we also want to believe that it is proper to protest, it is also proper to assume that a leader will always be just even if there are mistakes thereafter.

“We just felt that we must convey the feelings of the Muslims in Nigeria to Mr. President and he has given us his words to re-assure the Muslims community that he is a genuine and committed Christian who will not be unjust to others”, Prof. Oloyede stressed.

The Sultan, when approached for comments, refused to speak to journalists.

Meanwhile, there are indications that the caucus consisting of 50 men and women selected to consult with the leadership of the Confab chaired by Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, may resolve to recommend 70 percent voting majority to get motions and resolutions passed at the parley.

This hint was dropped by a respected member of the leadership yesterday. According to the delegate who pleaded not to be quoted, the 70% majority resolution was a middle way approach to the two extremes of 3/4 and 2/3 that have caused crisis at the conference.

“It is the opinion of majority of the leaders that neither of the two groups pushing for either position should be humiliated. The middle ground where there would be no victor and no vanquished would be the 70% and I believe that this suggestion would be acceptable to all the delegates when presented on Monday, following another sudden adjournment in view of the impasse.

“It is important that we get the impasse behind us so that we can make progress. There are so many issues of national importance to be discussed and we cannot afford to dwell on this argument though it is important for us to agree on modalities for reaching decisions,” the delegate said.

However, the crisis rocking National Conference sitting yesterday assumed serious dimension with the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Barkindo Aliyu Musdapha threatening to lead his “kingdom” out of Nigeria, should the trend of discussions at the parley continue in the current divisive manner.

The Lamido, who is at the National Conference as one of the 13 persons representing the Traditional Rulers Council of Nigeria, threatened that his people could rejoin their kith and kin in the Republic of Cameroun and leave Nigeria with its numerous problems.

Apart from this, the traditional ruler also threatened to lead delegates from his area to stage a walk-out from the conference.

“I have been sitting here for three days now watching and listening. We should not take cue from the so-called civilized people of western countries because they are always after their own interests and they can use anything, including coercion, to protect that interest.

“Listening to the debates and behaviour of some of the delegates here, it beats my imagination why a gathering of people like us will behave the way we are behaving”, Musdapha queried.

At that point, some delegates started calling on Justice Kutigi to intervene and stop the monarch. Kutigi’s attempt to call him to order failed as the royal father insisted on concluding his address.

“The president delivered an address and laid down what we are supposed to discuss and what not to discuss. But many people here, some of them elder statesmen, who claim to be strong loyalists of the president (the delegates increased their murmur) unfortunately, these people are in the forefront to contradict what the president has said.

“In the long run, if we are not careful, this conference will flop. God forbid. If it flops, the resultant effect will not be imaginable. If anything happens and the country disintegrates, God forbid, many of us who are shouting their heads off may not have anywhere to go.

“My people and the people of Adamawa have got somewhere to go. I am the Lamido of Adamawa and my kingdom extends to Cameroun. The larger part of my kingdom is in Cameroun. Part of that kingdom is today called Adamawa state in Cameroun.

“You see, if I run to that place, I will easily assimilate”, he added.

Though his comment was greeted with shouts of no, no and calls for point of order, the royal father however urged Kutigi to take charge of the conference and not allow himself to be pushed too hard by the delegates, emphasising that he and his people may stage a walk out if need be.

“I want to call on the chairman to please thread the path laid down by the president which includes the pattern of voting. If we are pushed to the wall, we will easily walk out of this conference. Jingoism is not the exclusive preserve of anyone. Everyone here is a potential jingo”, he further threatened.

His comment elicited serious uproar from delegates who called on chairman of the Conference, Justice Kutigi, to call him to order.

The conference however agreed that memorandum be received from the general public to facilitate debates at the conference.

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