Written by Prince Martins Wednesday, 19 March 2014 07:25
Proceedings of the national conference was on Tuesday adjourned 24 hours after inauguration,in order for its secretariat to formulate the ground rules that would guide debates.
The chairman of the conference, retired Justice Idris Kutigi, adjourned sitting after the Secretary, Mrs. Valerie Azinge, told delegates that the rules would be ready by Thursday.
In the interim, however, delegates had been handed copies of reports of past conferences to study.
“We adjourned till Monday for obvious reasons: first and foremost for them (delegates) to go and study the voluminous materials given to them and also the rules that will govern them so that when they have studied them, they will come here with an informed opinion on which way to go because they need those rules so that if they have apprehensions on the way to go, we can amend before we start,” Azinge told journalists after the adjournment.
In the bags handed over to the delegates were the main report of the 2005 National Political Reforms Conference; the main report and executive summary of the report of the Presidential Committee on review of outstanding issues from recent Constitutional Conference, July 2012; and the National Conference report of the Political Bureau, March 1987.
Other documents in the bag were the Implementation Guide of the National Political Reforms Conference, 2005; the Report of the 1995 Constitutional Conference, containing the draft Constitution (Volume I and II); and the Policy Recommendation for Presidential Committee to review outstanding issues from recent Constitutional conferences, July 2012.
Meanwhile, the sitting arrangement to be adopted while the conference lasts on Tuesday sparked a debate among delegates who expressed diverse views.
A delegate from Rivers State, Chief Sergeant Awuzie, had suggested that delegates from states and ethnic composition should sit together in order to afford them the ease of conferring with one another on issues whenever the need arises.
Mr. Charles Edosomwan (SAN) from Edo State suggested that those who preferred to sit in the front row should come early in order to avoid a situation whereby the younger delegates would be forced to vacate their seats for the elderly ones. Edosomwan’s suggestion however drew a murmur of disagreement from the delegates.
But the suggestion by a former Ogun State governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, for the conference to adopt a sitting arrangement that would promote friendship across ethnic divides was greeted with applause by delegates.
Osoba, who is the leader of the former governors’ forum at the conference, said delegates should sit in alphabetical order of their names but with special consideration for the elderly and the physically challenged.
Responding to the former governor’s suggestion, Azinge said, “From the preponderance of views, when his Excellency (Osoba) was speaking, it seemed it was the views of the delegates. We will carry your votes.”
Also, one of the voices heard at the conference on Tuesday was that of a delegate from Ogun State, Pastor Tunde Bakare. The convener of the Save Nigeria Group asked Kutigi for a standard language of communication.
Pastor Bakare had respondend to thhe chairman’s opening greeting in Arabic. Kutigi had shouted, Asalam Aleikum Warahamotulahi Wabarakatuhu, meaning, ‘peace and mercy of God be upon you all.’
He said the chairman used the same language on Monday during the inauguration of the conference and that he (Bakare) had to ask a fellow delegate the meaning of what the chairman said.
He said there could be a problem if he started his speech at the conference with a request that delegates should shout halleluiah.
When asked by journalists later if his comment would not create a controversy, Bakare said, “There is no controversy at all. I just said that we must adopt the language of communication while we are meeting here so that we are sensitive to other people’s need.
“For example, the secretary said there is room for those who want to say their five times prayer, we accept that room should be made for them but they should have thought of Christians also; it is Lenten season. Is there a place for them? They should have thought of that. Those are the things that are dividing us; they do not need to divide us. We refuse to be divided along the path of religion.
“I was a Muslim as a little child. I grew up studying the Koran so I know the values of both religions. I am now a pastor but let us have a language of decorum.
“If I am going to say ‘Praise the Lord somebody’, I am having a church service; the same thing goes for Asalam Aleikum Warahamotulahi Wabarakatuhu. So let’s adopt the common language that we all use here and let us stick with that, that’s all. No controversy at all and let us keep time; punctuality is the soul of business.”