In an interview with vanguard ,DR. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, is a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. In this interview, he speaks on his experience at the just concluded national conference, the politics in the country and the forth coming general elections. Excerpt:
ON the outcome of the national conference, will you say that issues affecting the country were exhaustedly dealt with?
When we started the conference, we just could not move forward. We did not go in-depth, time was against everything. So the quality is not as sharp as it ought to be. I thought that the national conference was really on how to forge a new Nigeria. I did not see us coming to discuss on how to eradicate corruption or how to make the Port Authority more effective, so I wrote a paper called “core-issues.” Many people came to the conference with pre-conceived motions. The core-issues were defeated. A lot of us came there just for the money. So the longer we stayed, the better. We were so widely spread and the kind of debates that I thought would come out did not come out at all.
The conference should have been a game changer. Something that you do and be excited that ‘yes,’ this is a new Nigeria because it had people who knew the issues. I must be honest, I was very disappointed and I am happy that I did not accept the money. My conscience is clean. The conference ought to have produced better results. But we still have to appreciate President Goodluck Jonathan for putting it together. Other presidents had used it for their own agenda, which was not the case with this one. As far as I could see, I just knew that the discussions were allowed to flow.
The issue of resource control generated ripples at the confab, what was the final conclusion on the matter?
The issue of resource control was bracketed. First of all, when we started the conference, Lamidi Adamawa made his remarks which made him popular. Therefore, it was felt that a smaller group of wise men should go and set the tone. I was part of it. So we came back with reliefs. One of the reliefs was that we will fight to achieve consensus and I agree with that. Consensus was the right thing to do. We agreed that difficult questions would be bracketed. That means, when we come to a point that we do not agree, we will put it in bracket and continue. So we bracketed the issue of resource control. The frame work for a special fund such as Boko Haram was a challenge, it was bracketed as well and sent to the Federal Government.
Will you say that the conference had too many issues at a short time, therefore it did not achieve its objective?
People may say that the conference failed. But if you step back and look at troubled areas around the world, I would say it is good thing that we had a chat. One thing that happened with the chat was that we knew how sick we are. If you go to a doctor, you will know how sick you are. Even though the time was not enough, we knew where the shoe was pinching.
What I think is left for us now is for the President to deal with some of these challenging problems, like the resource control problem. I will suggest that the best the president should go is to do what Obama did when the Republican congress wanted to frustrate the Obama Care, he appealed directly to Americans. The difference is that there the people responded, but here, the response is poor. But I will still appeal to the president to get Nigerians to support his programmes. There is no broad conclusion on the viability of the conference.
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