There was mild drama at the ongoing National Conference on Monday when Northern delegates accused the confab leadership of habouring a hidden agenda.
Trouble started when Ishaq Modibo drew the attention of the Conference, under a matter of urgent national importance, to media reports which he said, questioned the integrity of the Conference leadership.
Mr. Modibo said two reports on Daily Trust newspaper indicted the Deputy Chairman, Bolaji Akinyemi, of lobbying Northern delegates in order to smuggle in a demand for a new Constitution in the Conference final report.
He also drew the attention to another publication in a section of the media, alluding that the Conference was trying to adopt a geo-political arrangement in the country.
“Mr. Chairman, I want to urge that the leadership should come out and clear its name from the allegations contained in the newspaper report,” Mr. Modibo said.
But Sergeant Awuse disagreed with Mr. Modibo, saying that the Conference should not be distracted from doing its job because of unfair media reports.
To buttress his point, Mr. Awuse said, “We should avoid grandstanding. Most of those sponsoring these publications are from this Conference. I am pleading that we continue the good work we are doing.
“There are many people who do not support the Conference but there are more people in support of what we are doing here.
“If there is a delegate here who has been approached by the Deputy Chairman, such delegate should rise up and say it. But if there is none, then we should ignore the publication sponsored by people inside this Conference.”
Mike Ahamba, however, disagreed with Mr. Modibo on the need for the Deputy Chairman to address the Conference on account of the allegation in the newspaper report.
“We must always try to act in accordance with what we know. When we started, a lot of people said the Conference will break in down less than two weeks,” he began.
“But they have failed. We have a duty to disappoint them. There is no young person here; even those who are youth here are not very young.
“When people start writing about things that are not true and quote sources that are nonexistent, we should not be pulled into it. If there is anybody that has been lobbied, he should stand up and tell us.
Haruna Yerima, however, insisted that dismissing the newspaper publication would not be in the best interest of the Conference.
He said Mr. Akinyemi has been mentioned and the onus is on him to rise up and clear his name.
Mr. Yerima said, “You either clear your name here and now or you will have morality demands that you take it on yourself to defend your name in this Conference. This is the opportunity for you to clear your name. I am advising you as a patriot, as a friend and as a true Nigerian.”
Given the opposing views on the matter, Mr. Ahamba moved a motion to invite those who were lobbied to speak up publicly.
This was supported by Ken Nnamani who argued that it was necessary for the Conference Vice Chairman to clear his name.
He said, “Whereas God gave us two ears to hear two sides of the story, I hereby move that the Vice Chairman should clear his name from the allegation made against him in the media report.”
Responding, Mr. Akinyemi said, “Since the beginning of this Conference, whenever I find controversies arising, I have always tried to reach out to people on both divides to resolve them.”
We have an issue coming up which has to do with the modality for implementing the outcome of this Conference.
“I approached those who say they want to write a new Constitution. I also approached those who kick against the writing of a new constitution. I had approached Ibrahim Kumasi, who is the leader of the Northern delegates.
“And I said to them, I have spoken to the people who say they want us to write a new Constitution and those who say we don’t need a new constitution. I had told him we need to build a consensus.”
Mr. Akinyemi argued that he was merely trying to build bridges between the two groups in a bid to create a consensus when the matter came up for debate on the floor.
He listed some of those he approached as Iyorchia Ayu, Mr. Kumasi, among others.
Ibrahim Ida argued that two issues where involved in the controversy, saying one had to do with a document which he showed to the Conference.
He explained that what was contained in the document were some of the things already rejected by the Conference.
He warned that anybody propagating a report that claims to be an agreement made by the Conference was trying to scuttle the entire process.
He said, “Mr. Chairman, it is even carrying the logo of the Conference. It is now an opportunity for the leadership to come out before the world and disown this document. I believe this is the time for this Conference to come and disown this document.”
The Conference Chairman, Idris Kutigi, said he has not seen the document referred to.
“I know nothing about this. I have not seen this before,” he said.
Since the name of Mr. Kumasi was mentioned in the newspaper publication, he was asked to stand up and clear the air on the matter.
Speaking, Mr. Kumasi explained how the Deputy Chairman had sent a note inviting him for a meeting with some persons.
He told the Conference that he accepted to attend the meeting but noted that since Mondays were his regular fasting days, he opted to send some delegates to represent him.
He named some of the delegates he sent to attend the meeting to include Iyorchia Ayu, Jerry Gana, among others.
On the final note, Mr. Kumasi said, “Raymond Dokpesi has been organising meetings among Northern and Southern delegates. I was told that a new constitution has been written.
“Later, Dokpesi came over to me and handed to me the document and from that day, the Northern delegates have not attended the meeting. The document has the logo of the Conference and even has the name of the new state to be created.
“I wanted to meet the Northern delegates but I found this published in the Daily Trust today.”
When Mr. Dokpesi rose to address the Conference on issue, he agreed that he was involved in the activities of the National Consensus Building Group headed by Ibrahim Gambari.
He said the objective of the group was to close the gaps in the decisions taken by delegates at the Conference, adding that membership was extended to as many members as possible.
Mr. Dokpesi said right from the outset there were fears that there would be problem in achieving consensus on some of the reports, saying that leaders of the geo-political zones nominated three delegates to join the Gambari-led group.
According to him, during the first meeting, the group tried to harmonize the position on the report of the Committee on National Security.
He said the group agreed that there was need for a multi-tier policing in the country, adding that five other reports of the Conference were considered.
“Any person that is honest will say that all the reports of the committees are embedded in that report as well as the concerns of the all the groups,” Mr. Dokpesi said.
He noted that Mr. Yadudu was not nominated to join the group but he came into the meeting, adding that the document prepared was merely a working document covering all the issues discussed at the Conference.
Mr. Dokpesi continued, “I want to aver that the leadership of this Conference has no hand in this document. There is nobody who does not know that what we have is a working document and not the decision of the leadership.”
After Mr. Dokpesi’s contribution, Mr. Kutigi said, “It is now clear, that the leadership of this Conference is not aware of the report.
“We know nothing about the technical committee. If you want to do anything for yourself, you are free but don’t bring us into it.”