National Conference: Delegates Reject Tenure Extension For Jonathan, Others

Delegates attending the National Conference have said they will not extend the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan and other elected government officials.

A member of the conference from South-South Chief Okon Osung, who is making the proposal, had on Friday said he had already distributed the proposal to some delegates, including all the 24-members in the Public Finance Committee, headed by a former Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Adamu Aliero.

The delegate insisted that the proposal for postponing the 2015 elections for 18 months was to take the “wind out of the sail of coup enthusiasts and proponents, and thereby deny them the excuse of plotting coups.

“The inbuilt mechanism inherent in democracy should be allowed to operate so that coup plotters will be deprived of the opportunity of arguing that African leaders lack the capacity for institution-building.”

He denied the insinuation that he, being a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party from the South-South, was speaking the minds of others like him, that President Jonathan was afraid of losing the election.

But some delegates said the call was uncalled for and that it must be disregarded by their colleagues.

One of them, Chief Paul Enebeli, who was a former President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, said there was no need for the call and that it was not part of the mandate given to them by President Jonathan.

He said, “There is no need for any tenure elongation. It is not part of our mandate and it is a thing we should not dabble into.

“That will bring more confusion into the country and I will ask my colleagues to please not dabble into it.”

Another delegate, Prof. Isaac Albert, who said he was astonished when he read about the call, described the action as uncalled for.

“We are here to strengthen the country and not to further cause confusion. We should ignore the call, which I know is part of the personal agenda of some people,” he said.

He called on the plenary which commences on Monday (today), to caution proponents of such calls, which he said was capable of affecting the unity of the country.

The Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Issa Aremu, who is also a delegate, said though he had yet to be informed about the proposal, “the call was not part of the mandate given to us by the President.”

On his part, a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said that the call that the 2015 general elections should be postponed showed that the promoter was ignorant of the fact that elections were being conducted periodically in more troubled countries including Afghanistan than Nigeria.

He said that the insurgency in the North could therefore not be a basis for the postponement of the 2015 elections.

He stated, “I am personally persuaded that Nigeria as it is today is not a place where you can conduct a successful election in less than a year, except we are able to build consensus in 2014 and reduce tension.

“But be that as it may, the conference should not be contaminated with such an issue in order not to give the wrong impression that it is a conference agenda.”

Another Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said the call was unconstitutional and amounted to a call for war.

Also, the All Progressives Congress said news filtering from the National Conference about a plot to elongate the tenure of President Jonathan was a vindication of its earlier warning to Nigerians.

The Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this while responding to inquiries from The PUNCH, in Abuja, on Sunday.

He explained that from the beginning of the conference, the party had warned that the whole “charade” called the National Conference was part of a grand design to hand Jonathan tenure elongation through the back door.

Mohammed said, “We said so from the beginning. We said the whole thing about this National Conference is about tenure elongation. We said so. When (the late Gen. Sani) Abacha did his own, it was for tenure elongation, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo did his own, it was about tenure elongation, why would Jonathan’s own be different?”

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