By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Nigeria’s former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday said if President Muhammadu Buhari could implement key recommendations of the 2014 National Conference report, Nigeria will be out of the wood.
Jonathan, who spoke at the launching and presentation of the Memoirs of Senator Femi Okurounmu at the University of Lagos, also gave reason why he could not implement the report before he left office.
While noting the role played by Okurounmu at the conference, Jonathan, who was the chairman of the occasion, said the conference was convened in accordance with the yearnings of Nigerians for a dialogue to reconcile ethnic differences.
He said all the issues were discussed as he gave them the freedom to discuss all and that the recommendations were far reaching in setting an agenda for today and tomorrow.
According to the former president, the conference took out politics and that the recommendations would have taken Nigeria out of the woods.
Jonathan noted the counter narratives about his inability to implement the recommendations before leaving office, saying that the report was handed over to him on 21 August, 2014, at a time members of the National Assembly were busy running around for re-election.
He added that if the report was to be implemented, it required an amendment of parts of the 1999 Constitution and that it was not a thing to be rushed.
“I initiated and inaugurated the conference because I believed that the call for a National dialogue could no longer be ignored. It was a decision taken to reconcile ethnic difference, heal old wounds and address mutual suspicions. The recommendation of the conference is far-reaching in setting an agenda for peace and unity. They amply captured the solutions to the problems of today and made suggestions that will address the worries of tomorrow.
“I believe that the solutions to most of the problems we face today lie in our honest assessment of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. If we take politics out of consideration, there is every likelihood that a diligent implementation of the key recommendations of the conference will lead the nation out of the woods.
“This will heal frayed nerves, promote solidarity, engender peace and reposition our nation for meaningful growth and sustainable development,” he said.
Jonathan also said democracy was key to achieving the dreams of the people, but noted that the electoral process must be credible to achieve better living.
“An electoral process that does not earn the support and participation of the citizen is a recipe for violence and political crisis. It is necessary for democratic nations to take relevant measures to ensure the impartiality and independence of the Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), as a means of guaranteeing the credibility and legitimacy of electoral processes.
“We understand that there are no perfect elections anywhere in the world. However, there are minimum standards expected of every nation that is desirous of organising credible elections. In this regard, the process of constituting the EMBs is very critical. In many thriving democracies, the responsibility of appointing electoral umpires is no longer left in the hands of one powerful politician,” he stated.
This, he said, was because no matter how he went about it, his intentions and choices would not be entirely trusted by the stakeholders, stressing that one way this could be achieved was for the relevant arms of the National Assembly to study the different models of recruiting members of the EMBs in other countries as a guide towards establishing a functional template that would secure true independence for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Jonathan said that in Canada and India, the president did not play any role in the appointment of the EMBs, saying that such could happen in Nigeria where INEC chairman would not be appointed by the president.
According to him, “if we have to grow politically in the desired direction as a democratic nations, the independence and impartiality of INEC cannot be compromised.”
At the event were: Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Anthony Adefuye, Dr. Wale Babalakin, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Chief Harry Akande, Yinka Odumakin, among others.