Why the North rejected 2014 Confab report – Paul Unongo

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The Deputy Leader of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) has said the politicians and people from the Northern part of the country rejected the 2014 report of the National Conference convened by the Goodluck Jonathan administration because it does not reflect the will of Nigerians.

Unongo faulted the way the Jonathan Presidency allegedly handpicked ‘friends and cronies’ to articulate the provisions of the confab report, stressing that the people were supposed to choose their representatives in an ideal situation.

He also accused Jonathan of bribing those who wrote the report to design the blueprint for Nigeria that was currently causing political tension across the country.

Unongo, who said the North was not even involved in any debate about resturcutring Nigeria told the SUN: “That conference was not representative of the will of Nigerians and I have always said Jonathan handpicked his friends and cronies who have their own ideas about Nigeria and the people who gave him those ideas.

“I was also invited with Prof. Ango Abdullahi, my friend, Ben Nwabueze to a hotel room and we were told to write the guidelines for the national conference and I said we couldn’t do that. A national conference is not done like that.

“My goodness, you want to talk about the life of the people and try to implement your resolution as parts of the fundamental law of the country and you don’t want to involve the people?

“We said let the people choose those to represent them; they should choose their representatives from the local governments and they should gather in Abuja and be paid their legitimate entitlements but when you select your friends and some of us who are lucky that can think, then you bribe them with too much money what do you expect?

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“Everybody who went for this conference, I am sure came back with not less than N5 million. What is that for?

“Yes, I consider it bribe. What do you mean? I should just go for one or two months doing a job that the president called me to do; to debate this and that and at the end of the day I am paid huge sum of money? It’s bribe.

“If you don’t want to say it’s bribe, you can use the word corruption, but I see it as bribe. It’s an inducement to make us agree because we are all gentlemen. We took like N5 million to go home in two months. That’s good business but I was not for that. I still believe that Nigeria should be allowed to meet.

“If we want to convene a conference, I will advise it should be a sovereign national conference, because there is too much talk, let’s hear the real Nigeria. If they come for a sovereign national conference and they fashion out a constitution that will guide their togetherness, who are we to reject it? We are not in a military regime.

“I’m among people who support a sovereign national conference and I speak as a leader of Northern Elders Forum.

“At a press conference, I told Nigerians that the North is not afraid of restructuring and that whatever we can restructure that is in the interest of the unity of Nigeria, that will make us more productive and love one another and develop. Let us do it.

“Nobody has written more constitutions than myself. I was privileged to have drafted what my party leader presented at the London constitutional conference of 1957/958 but I was not qualified to appear in Jonathan’s constitutional conference. I attended all the conferences that were convened by the military and even the failed one convened by the late Sani Abacha. I was chairman of states creation committee.

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“Nigerians don’t hate one another, Nigerians acknowledge that there are problems; they articulate them very well when they meet and they resolve them. It’s the people in authority that made magomago of the whole thing. You can’t come behind the door and say your friend wants a state created in his village and you agree with him.

“The states we have created are not viable and you are now thinking of adding more states. It’s a gentleman’s agreement between big people when they want to confuse the people. You can’t run a country like that. Jonathan was misled.”

On the ongoing debate about restructuring Nigeria, Unongo said: “there hasn’t been any lively debate in the North. The North that we know has not been debating anything.”

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