The sixth National Conference is the gathering of ex- this, former that. Men and women that had seen it all in the administration or like some would say maladministration of the country.
Two groups of persons, men, who at some point were the leading light, former governors and ex-senators of the Federal Republic, are conspicuous by number. No, not ordinary senators, but principal ones, are duly represented at the forum.
The delegates includes three former Senate Presidents and they constitute a strong force on matters of legislation. They are also heavily backed by former Speakers from the various states. The three former heads of the upper chambers are Iyorcha Ayu, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani.
On the side of the former governors, you couldn’t miss Obong Victor Attah, Akwa Ibom, Sam Egwu, Ebonyi, Chief Peter Odili, Rivers, Muhammadu Adamu Aliero, Kebbi and Olusegun Osoba. Together, they formed a formidable force ready to counter any move from the ex-senators.
Ideally, they should enrich debates and provide certain insight in comportment and logic.
But not where the senators are involved. That manifested when Order 5 Rule 7 came up for debate. Leading the charge in what turned out to be a battle between the governors and senators was Segun Osoba. He had issues with length of sitting for each day. The Secretariat recommended 10-6pm with 2 hours break in between, that is from 2-4pm.
Hear Osoba. “I hope some members will not be attempted to take siesta after helping themselves to some lunch. We need time for many things: there will be horse trading, lobbying, committee meetings to settle issues. We need time for behind the scene meetings and negotiations, time to meet at caucuses. Now, if we end the plenary at 6 pm what time is there for all these?” he queried.
It seems logical as many apparently nodded in agreement especially when Victor Attah corroborated with the argument that tended to say that most delegates will not return after lunch. “I am glad Osoba left the time open and I want to support his proposal by stating that we should sit straight for six hours then break for lunch and close from there,” he said meaning that delegates should sit from 10 am to 4 pm.
He added this for effect, “If we don’t the afternoon session will be totally empty, we shall see.”
Then came the obvious gang up. Adamu Aliero, the ex-governor, who seems happier with the prefix senator than he does governor, launched the first salvo against his former colleagues. He said the two former speakers had no basis for their proposals. According to him, Rule 8 makes provision for extension of sessions to Saturday, if need be.
He hardly sat down when Chukwuemeka Ezeife took the floor and dismissed Aliero’s as could be done to one who probably turncoat. “I appreciate the copious suggestions that the time for sitting be reviewed. We need to listen and I suggest that we either sit from 10 am and close at 4pm, so that we go for lunch and then meet at various committees or we start at 9 am and close earlier. “If we don’t, after lunch, its bye bye.”
Iyorcha Ayu, Senate President in the 3rd Republic, had issues with the positions of the ex-governors. He saw nothing wrong in the proposal before them. Yes, session begins at 10 am, breaks at 2pm, resumes at 4pm to close at 6pm. If any, he pursues, is uncomfortable, then he is not ready for the serious business for which they are gathered, he insisted.
That logic sounded laudable in the ears of Adulphus Wabara, so he snapped it up. “Much as we cannot intimidate the leadership of the secretariat, the leadership cannot also intimidate us. If you want to eat pounded yam and amala and fall asleep, good luck to you. Let the time remain as it is,” he said with obvious scorn.
The lawmakers had the support of the young radicals. Musa Rafindani and Chinonso Obasi. They wanted the delegates to consider the seriousness of the conference and treat it as such. Musa in particular thundered, “We are here to amend some of the wrongs that some of the people here had contributed. They should resign they cannot cope with the rigours of the sessions and allow those of us with young blood to take the rigours of the debate,” he advised.
The death knell was sounded on the proposal and then the coffin nailed on it when retired Col Bala Mande. “One hour for lunch is not enough. I support what is on the paper and that should be it. It was obvious the governors were beaten and they conceded by making no further effort to sustain the debate.
However, the ever laughing Chairman, Retired Justice Legbo Kutigi divided the house on the matter and expectedly the ayes had overwhelming triumph.