It is unimaginable how an action intended to provide remedies to a peculiar and difficult situation could end up creating more problems than the probable solutions. That was exactly what President Goodluck Jonathan’s national conference, convoked to find a way out of the present socio-political and economic predicaments in the country. The multi billion Naira conference which sat for five months almost ended in a fiasco having failed to achieve its surreptitious objective of foisting a controversial document on the country, labeled 2014 draft constitution, presented to the delegates along with the final outcome of the deliberations.
As was to be expected the inclusion of the so-called 2014 draft constitution caused much uproar, chaos and mystification with Northern and southern delegates pitched against each other. While the northerners were alleging that the draft constitution, prepared by the leadership of the conference, was a hidden agenda to grant the president and state governors’ tenure elongation, their counterparts from the southern and north-central political zones were condemning what they termed plans by a section of the country to sabotage the success they have recorded.
Some Northern delegates to the conference had alleged, last June, that there was a plot to introduce a new constitution but Justice Idris Lebo Kutigi, the conference’s chairman, vehemently denied that, but when the suspected 2014 draft constitution, prepared by the secretariat of the conference, mysteriously surfaced after a three week’s recess, northern delegates smelt a rat and rightfully concluded “that the conference had been infiltrated by a fifth-columnist whose real goal was to subvert democratic processes and plunge the country into deeper political crisis.”
When President Jonathan inaugurated the national conference he did not give any hint about the need to draft a new constitution for the country but gave a veiled reference to subjecting its outcome to a referendum even though the extant constitution did not allow that. With the production of the 2014 draft constitution it was obvious the conference, which was purely consultative and advise-giving had actually overstepped its mandate. It was not surprising, therefore, how the Northern Delegates Forum expressed dismay and shock over the draft document even after the conference’s chairman, Justice Kutigi himself had earlier said similar document in circulation among the conference’s delegates was not part of the conference’s mandate.
Why then did Justice Kutigi turn around to tell a select committee of delegates that President Jonathan mandated him to draft a new constitution for the country? It may be possible President Jonathan had secretly advised Justice Kutigi to actually produce or cause such controversial document to be prepared.
Conversely, few weeks before the commencement of the national conference which President Jonathan set up rather reluctantly last March, a renowned constitutional lawyer, Ben Nwabueze (SAN) had offered to single-handedly write a new constitution for Nigeria to replace that of 1999. So it may even be possible the draft constitution in contention could be the handiwork of the professor in complicity with President Jonathan’s political godfathers to perfect a document that will suit their design for clinging on to power indefinitely.
Whatever else influenced the coming into being of that mysterious document it was roundly rejected by the Northern delegates because Nigerians did not give the government the mandate to bring about a new constitution through that conference.
Accordingly the plenary of the conference changed the document’s nomenclature from that of a potential draft for a new constitution to a mere proposed amendment to 1999 constitution. That brought to an end the intense power play and disagreement between Southern and Northern delegates which threatened to widen the already existing rapture between them. With that development the Northern delegates also backed down on their stiff opposition to the draft which they feared would wholesomely replace the 1999 constitution currently being amended by the national assembly.
Now that the deliberations of that august assembly have been rounded off on a harmonious note, after hitting the final nail on the coffin of the objectionable draft constitution, it was to be subsequently adopted in the final report as one of the numerous proposed amendments to be consigned to President Jonathan this Thursday in Abuja. It is likely he will consign it to the National Assembly to supplement his earlier bill on the ongoing amendments to the 1999 constitution.
Perhaps the ending of the national conference without the 2014 Draft Constitution sailing through could put paid to the issue of the referendum to which the President had earlier intended to subject the conference’s outcome. With that development the amendment processes of the 1999 constitution will now take the normal course dictated by the provisions of the same constitution which do not support any referendum. That was not the original expectations of President Jonathan or that of his people who prodded him to hastily convene that costly conference ostensibly to produce a document that will augment their political pre-eminence. Now as the final report is being handed over to President Jonathan Nigerians are saying good riddance to bad rubbish which like its precursors could eventually be tossed into the dustbin of history.