National Conference: Don’t bow to pressure – CAN tells Jonathan

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan not to succumb to the intimidation by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III-led Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) over what they termed marginalisation of the North in the ongoing national conference, saying “Sultan and Oloyede cannot hold Nigerians to ransom.”

The Sultan of Sokoto under the aegis of NSCIA had, on Wednesday, led some prominent Muslims in the country to President Jonathan to protest the composition of the confab which they claimed was skewed against them.

Just as the House of Representatives has also come out to state that as far as it was concerned the issue of a referendum for decisions reached at the ongoing National Conference was not possible, as it will be unconstitutional.

While tacitly rejecting President Jonathan’s bid to subject the outcome of the conference to a referendum, the House disclosed that there was no proposal on referendum before it.

Reacting, the CAN Director on National Issues, Sunday Oibe, who warned NSCIA to desist from act that is inimical to the success of the conference, queried if the confab was convened on the basis of religion.

Oibe, in a statement, said the Sultan of Sokoto and the Secretary General of NSCIA, Prof Ishaaq Oloyede, should not be talking about marginalisation because they perpetuate the act within their fold and against the Christians as well.

“The confab was not done on the basis of religion. So why are they introducing religion into it? Which set of Islam are they representing when they visited President Jonathan? Are the Salifins part of the delegation to see the President? Are the Shipe Muslims part of the delegation? Are the Shunis part of the delegation?

“If they are talking of religion, these are the same people who went and intimidate former President Obasanjo that they should not put religion in the census exercise. And now, they are saying Muslims are 62 per cent,” he said.

According to him, the Shunis and the rest of them are marginalised within the Sultan-led NSCIA and in the northern states, particularly in Sokoto State.

“Besides, Christians are denied land to build churches. So what has Sultan done to address this marginalisation?” he asked.

His words: “He who comes to equity must come with a clean hand. They cannot hold us to ransom. These are the people who have benefitted from the system and now, they want to destroy the system. The Sultan and Oloyede should not be talking about marginalisation here. If Sultan wants to correct any imbalance, he should start from his domain because the Christians, under his watchful eyes, are not faring better.

“The same Prof Oloyede, who went to National Orientation Agency that the confab will not work, now led other Muslims to intimidate the Federal Government yesterday. If Oloyede says confab will not succeed, why did he accept to be delegate to the confab, collecting tax payers’ money? We have not forgotten what Oloyede did to Christians in Kwara State when he was the Vice Chancellor.

“So these people cannot come to speak for Muslims who they claim they represented when the Muslim community was not even consulted.

“Jonathan should ask them if they are the only Muslims because the Muslims community in the country are not happy with the delegation. They are not consulted.

“We want to warn that if they scuttle this confab, then we will have big problem in our hands. Anybody who wants to bring confusion, let them know they have a big problem in their hands.

“If Jonathan decides to bend the rules, let him be ready to contend with problem also. We cannot allow this to continue. Nigerians do not make up Muslims and Christians alone. We have people of other persuasions. Nigeria is bigger than any individual or group of persons and anyone who loves this country should be thinking Nigeria and not sentiment.”

He said it was disheartening that the Sultan of Sokoto did not see anything wrong in what Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Mustapher, said on the floor of the conference.

“Lamido Adamawa’s statement that they will pull out of Nigeria shows that they are not Nigerians and the likes of these people are the one causing problem. Those who have dual citizenship should allow peace to reign because we don’t have another country to run to should they destroy Nigeria,” he said.

The Christian body, which also frowned at the idea of 75 per cent voting procedure for decisions to be arrived at in the ongoing national conference if they failed to agree through consensus, said it was obvious that the Federal Government did not want the confab to succeed from the outset.

“There is nowhere in the world where you say it is only 75% that can decide on any decision. It is either two-thirds or simple majority. We want to tell President Jonathan that there is nowhere in the world where you say 75 percent takes decision even in the National Assembly; two-third majority or simple majority is the practice. He should allow the chairman of the confab to decide on either of the two,” Oibe advised.

Speaking yesterday while briefing House of Reps press Corps, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene noted: “On referendum on the confab, as a House the only document we swore to uphold is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and if you go to Chapter 1, Part 2, Section 9, of this document it clearly prescribe how any provision can be altered.

“Section 9 of the constitution, you need a two third majority of each House of the National Assembly and another section talks about taking it to the states where the same two-thirds of the Assembly is expected to approve for rectification.

“If you are talking about a referendum, there is nothing before the House of Representatives today suggesting it and if it were to come. If you are to even talk about that you are talking about four-fifth of each House of the National Assembly voting for such a provision after which it is also turned over to each of the states Houses of Assembly and two- thirds translates to 24 states in the federation. Nothing on referendum is before the House of Representatives yesterday and today”.

The issue of the constitutionality of subjecting decisions taken at the confab to a referendum has been thorny issue with people arguing that without a constitutional backing, the entire exercise might become a huge joke as decisions arrived at will be annulled by a court of competent jurisdiction.


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