There was a shuffling of positions in the North ahead of the proposed national conference as Governor Babangida Aliyu, yesterday, proposed a hike in derivation to 25-30 percent and a reversal of the north's opposition to establishment of state police.
Governor Aliyu's assertions nonetheless, Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State dismissed the proposed national conference as waste of time and priorities. He was joined by Senator Ali Ndume, PDP, Borno State who dismissed the conference as a sheer waste of time, saying that the country should rather focus on promoting good leadership.
Governor Aliyu, chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, spoke when he received members of the Senator Femi Okurunmu-led Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue who were in Minna, Niger State in continuation of their consultations.
Confab should not be used to beat drums of war
Aliyu said: "The national conference should not be used as a platform to beat war drums or sow seeds of disunity. He said that tribe, ethnicity or other jingoistic inclinations should not be the basis of policy formulation.
"Anybody who feels that he wants to get out is free to go on exile. If you don't want to be a Nigerian, you are free to go on exile and stay wherever you want but you must not use the conference to think that you can dismember the country."
Aliyu who suggested a total membership of 900 delegates with one representative from each of the 774 local government areas, with 100 participants to represent special interest groups and another 36 to represent traditional institutions.
While calling on the committee to critically examine the derivation principle in revenue allocation, he said that even though oil is a natural resource found in the soil, there are many other natural resources those with oil may not have.
Governor Aliyu in a dramatic shift from northern postulation proposed a 25 to 30 percent for derivation to oil producing communities which he said should, however, be channeled directly for the development of the oil producing communities and not shared among their leaders.
He said: "I think we should be able to come out clearly to say this money must be used for this particular thing. If I must suggest, I would want to see derivation coming between 25 and 30 percent constitutionally so that if you do cocoa or you do rice, you can have 30 percent derivation, if you have oil or you have gold. If you have gold and it is in the ground and you have not brought it out, it is useless; bring it out for it to be something else."
Governor Aliyu also kicked against the present revenue sharing formula, saying that the 52.8 percent allotment to the Federal Government is too much, rather the revenue formula should be redressed in favour of states and local governments.
Announcing the reversal of opposition to state police hitherto strongly pushed by northern governors, Aliyu said they were forced to change their stance following recent developments, especially in Rivers State.
He said: "If you recall, in a meeting of the northern governors, we were opposed to state police based on two issues, including lack of funds to fund the police and we examined abuse of the regional police on the way and manners they were being used during elections where a ruling party will get the opposition arrested until after the election when they are released.
"After seeing what happened in Rivers where again the federal agency can use another federal agency against the state government, we thought there must be delineated responsibilities for police at the federal, at the state and even at the universities" he remarked.
The governor tasked the committee to re-examine the system of government asking, "Is it the system that is expensive or corruption that has eaten deep into the fabrics of most Nigerians? This is part of what we must discuss," the governor suggested.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Femi Okunronmu had asked the governor and the people to advice the committee on how long the assignment should last, their views on delegates to be chosen, composition to the conference, legal frame work among others.
Suggestions were given by stakeholders, including top civil servants, opinion leaders, politicians among others that were present.
An attempt by the committee to see the two former military Heads of State from the state, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar for their inputs was unfruitful as both men were said to be out of the state.
National confab, a waste of time -- Kwankwaso
Meanwhile, Governor Kwankwaso who was on a visit to Dutse, Jigawa State yesterday, dismissed the proposed national conference as a waste of time, saying that there were more important things facing the country.
Governor Kwankwanso spoke following a closed-door meeting with his Jigawa State counterpart, Governor Sule Lamido.
He said that instead of the national conference, efforts should be devoted towards more pressing issues so that the country could move forward.
The governor, who like Lamido belongs to the Kawu Baraje-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said the G7 governors were awaiting a response from the national leadership of the party to move the reconciliation forward.
An unnecessary aberration--Sen Ndume
Senator Ndume has also dismissed the national conference as an unnecessary aberration that is of little concern to majority of the citizenry.
In an interview he said: "For me national dialogue is not our major problem now. It doesn't even have a place in our constitution. This is the constitution that's supposed to guide this country and we had this kind of conference before. What happened to the previous ones? We had a national dialogue in 2005 by President Obasanjo. What happened to it?
"Now, our attention has been diverted from real issues affecting us: closure of universities, problem in the health sector, poverty among our people, insecurity. We have been engaged in dialogue since 1914 and I think it is time we pay attention to good leadership and good governance. It is time Nigerians demanded for good leadership and not endless talk.
"In my zone with nine local governments, national dialogue is not their problem. They have not spoken to me about it. They are rather concerned about Biu-Maiduguri road, Maiduguri-Gwoza road, Biu Dam and insecurity, the level of unemployment in the area. So when some people say so many Nigerians are clamouring for national dialogue, that is basically untrue." No Nigerian is better than another Nigerian but because you are a degree holder, a former minister, lawyer or what have you, you have access to the media and you assume you are speaking for a people, I think no, that is not right. So as I said my people like most Nigerians are concerned about fundamental purpose of governance, security and their welfare."
Saying the north is not afraid of a national conference, he added: "The north is not afraid of any confab, the issue is that some northerners that have spoken about the dialogue are concerned that some people may be participating in the exercise with a mindset."