Former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and minister of education in the military era, retired Col Ahmadu Ali, is a delegate to the sixth National Conference. He believes tribal tendencies are gradually giving way to national concerns and that the conference will bring about understanding as well as forge unity subsequently. He spoke with Patrick Andrew on sundry issues at the conference. Excerpts…
Has the deliberation so far capture the essence of the conference?
The proceedings so far is going on very well, it is gradually capturing the essence. Yes, in our coming to meet together there will definitely be some sectional tendencies. People come with very hard views but as everyone comes together and bare out his or her mind, you can see that we are beginning to understand one another.
We are beginning to zero in on the nation more than our individual our original religious and tribal leanings and this will continue and this will until such that at the end what will submit will turn out to be perfect.
Some are worried that the resolutions of the previous conferences were not implemented, are you not worried that whatever resolutions emerged from here will go the same way?
No, I am not worried because it is part of the learning process. The previous conferences were set up not because anybody demanded them, but this one everyone has been crying for national conference and the president responded to the yearning and we know that a Sovereign National Conference is unacceptable because a sovereignty of Nigeria today is vested in President Goodluck Jonathan. You can’t have two sovereignties at the same time so we can’t have a sovereign National Conference, but we can have a national conference and that is what we are having.
Now, this will bring out all the nitty-gritty of our differences, and then we iron them until we have an amalgam. This meeting is the crucible of this nation, where an amalgam will be forged: an amalgam of unity will come out of it.
But there is this suggestion for the recommendations of the conference to be subjected to a referendum, considering that this a constitutional matter will this really be possible?
It is possible because the president did not say we should do a referendum but reminded us that the National Assembly is already debating the insertion of the referendum clause in the constitution. So what he is telling us here is that if anything needs a referendum, it will be easy when the National Assembly passes it in the amendment of the constitution.
But what happens if they don’t?
If they don’t, the conference can recommend it and the National Assembly would be directed to consider it since they are representing the people and if it is the yearning of the people they would have to oblige them.