Delegates to the National Conference on Tuesday failed to adopt the National Conference Procedure Rules 2014 as there was no agreement on what should constitute the majority vote in the absence of consensus on issues.
While most delegates from the North supported the retention of Order 11 which requires three-quarter majority, the delegates from the South clamoured for two-third majority.
Although debate over voting was initially deferred by the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi (retd.), the delegates insisted on settling the matter before the draft rules could be adopted.
At a point, a delegate jumped off from his seat in an attempt to snatch the microphone from an official to gain attention of the conference chairman. Other delegates including a former Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jnr. resisted and scolded him for his conduct.
A delegate from the South-West, Abdul-Salam Taofiq said, “We have to see the corrected copy before we can adopt it.”
Prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who called for voting on the issue said, “Nobody owns Nigeria more than the other. We have agreed that whatever we are doing here, we should put Nigeria first. We should not come here with a mindset. We have said consensus should be the order of the day. In the event that we do not agree, are we going to close down the conference?
“There would have been no reason for us to come here if there was no problem in Nigeria. The practice all over the world is two-third majority. The chairman and his team drafted this rules; we were not there. If delegates feel that it should be two-third majority, you should listen to us. If Mr. President suggested so and we are saying we want something else, Mr. President will listen. Let us put Nigeria first. Whether you are talking about 75 per cent or otherwise, it is our country. Put it to vote and let us decide.”
A delegate from the North, Dr. Bello Mohammed, who argued in support of three-quarter said, “What we are here to do is to look at issues that militate against the progress of this country. We have the opportunity to sit down and decide on the issues on which direction we want the country to go. We should look at this conference as that of Nigerians. Those who put the three quarter majority thought it out.
“If we were told that this conference was going to be about majority or minority, we would not have come here. We know the composition of this conference. Because some groups feel they are more in number, it will not work. If some people think they are going to use their number to intimidate us, then this conference will fail.”
A former vice-presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Fola Adeola, who expressed fears over the direction of the discussion, appealed to the chairman to allow for further consultations on the matter.
He observed that the issue was already creating a crisis of confidence among the delegates.
The Deputy Chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, appealed to the delegates to allow the chairman to meet with leaders of delegates across the geo-political zones, to explore consensus on the matter.
Consequently, Justice Kutigi adjourned the debate for further consultations with zonal leaders.
Meanwhile, a delegate from the South-West and National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, on Tuesday allayed fears that the National Conference would fail.
In his submission to the Secretary of the conference, Mrs. Valerie Azinge, titled, “Notice of motion on Order 6 Rule 4 of the Procedure Rules,” he stated that the above rule “is against a carinal principle of democratic order that majority should have their way while minority have their say.”
He said, “If this rule is sustained, Nigeria will be exporting a new order to the world where majority have their say and minority have their way. This defeats the whole essence of consensus which this provision seeks to build. A minority that is against an issue in focus does not have to persuade the majority.” – Punch.