Frank Odita, retired police commissioner, speaks to Anayo Ezugwu, Realnews reporter, on the proposed National Conference. Excerpts:
Realnews: What is your impression of the modalities of the confab?
Odita: There is nothing wrong with the modalities. The modalities are OK. They reflect the thinking of the government. They are not the thinking of the people. Whatever the government says, it is a government organised conference. So, it has the responsibility to turn out the modalities.
Realnews: From the security point of view, do you think that the confab will solve the security problems in the country?
Odita: I am of the impression that the conference is not about addressing the issues of security of this country alone, but getting Nigerians to believe in themselves and to accept to live together. That is the essence of the conference and those areas of the constitution that are not in consonance with the thinking of many Nigerians should be amended. And that is my impression about the conference.
Realnews: The APC has said that it will not participate in the confab, what is the implication? Does that have any security undertone?
Odita: It is a conference, like I said organised by the government. The party will be anti-people if it takes the position it is taking. If I were the APC, I would not for any reason shun the conference. I would attend it and make my own points known because if you are not part of something you cannot contribute to it. The reasons for your rejection will not be known, so it is, as far as I’m concerned, out of place for the party to say it does not accept the conference and does not believe in what government is doing.
Realnews: How do you see the number of elder-statesmen the president is going to nominate for confab?
Odita: If the president is nominating 37 elders, elders are not children, they are not boys, they are elders in the sense that they have seen Nigeria, the good, the bad and now the ugly. So they will be able to bring their experience and knowledge into play at the conference. It is possible that if they were to be nominated by politicians, the elders may not be nominated. So, I see it as a wise thing to do, to bring in elders so that everybody except those who have excluded themselves will not say that they were not part of it or they didn’t know.
Realnews: How do you want the outcome of the confab to be treated?
Odita: For me it can only be best decided through a referendum because if you say it should go to the National Assembly, why are we having the conference? Because the National Assembly is already representing Nigerians so they should have allowed the National Assembly to go ahead with the review of the constitution. It is because Nigerians will not believe that their representatives are either not their true representatives or that they don’t have confidence in their ability to deliver. The cry was for a sovereign national conference that would be convoked by Nigerians not by the government. But this time it is the government that is saying: ‘I have listened to the people, I have accepted the cry of Nigerians and I want to believe that since Nigerians want a conference, let us have a conference organised by government, funded by government and modalities provided by government.’ So let us see how it goes. In my own opinion, I want to believe that we are not going through another Oputa Panel or Abacha’s vision 2010 or Yar’Adua’s vision 2020, that all the reports are gathering dusts in some offices. It is my wish that the conference should produce a document that will be presented to Nigerians through a referendum and after which it goes to the National Assembly for passage.
Realnews: You made mention of funding, do you think that the N7 billion budgeted by government is not too much?
Odita: It is better you have a surplus than having a shortfall that is my opinion. Look at the number of people coming for the conference, they will be accommodated, they will eat, after which there is going to be a referendum and you cannot go back to ask for money to do all that. So it is better that a fund is presented after which it should be accounted for.
— Feb. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT