Signs of a huge crack in the on-going National Conference emerged yesterday, with the North’s delegates threatening a walkout over the unresolved mode of voting.
The Lamido of Adamawa, Dr. Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha, dropped the bombshell immediately the delegates settled for the day’s business.
Dr. Mustapha was nominated for the conference on the platform of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria.
Although conference Chairman Justice Idris Kutigi called for comments on whether the conference would call for memoranda from the public on its assignment, Dr. Mustapha sidetracked the issue to deliver what some delegates described as “an attempt to frighten the South”.
Dr. Mustapha’s comment, a delegate said, “may have been rehearsed at a meeting of a group of northern delegates last night”.
The royal father warned that the North should not be pushed to the wall.
He threatened that if pushed to the wall, they would simply walkout of the conference.
To underscore the point he was making, Dr. Mustapha declared that when they walk out there would be great consequences for the country.
Some delegates attempted to shout him down, but he was not deterred.
Even when the shout of “no, no, no” persisted, Dr. Mustapha was not dissuaded.
At first, Justice Kutigi attempted to call him to order; he later urged him to continue.
The royal father made it clear that he was sounding a “note of warning” before it is too late.
He noted that it was obvious that if the country broke up many of those shouting him down would have no place to run to.
And for all he cared, the people of Adamawa and a lot more people he did not specify will be accommodated in Cameroon.
His kingdom, he said, extends to the Republic of Cameroon, especially the place called Adamawa State in Cameroon.
He said: “I just want to sound a note of warning and that is why I requested to be given time to speak before the start of business today,
“The note of warning I want to sound is that we should not take a cue from the so-called civilised people of western countries because they are always after their own interest and they can use anything – coercion, force and other means to protect their interest.
“Listening to the debates and the behaviour of some delegates here, it really beats my imagination how a gathering of people like us will behave like the way we are behaving.
“Mr. President delivered his address here and he laid down what we are supposed to discuss, but many people here, sorry to say, especially some elder statesmen who claimed to be strong loyalists of Mr. President…”
There was shout of “point of order” from those who felt belittled by what Dr. Mustapha was saying.
Justice Kutigi said: “Mr. speaker, the issue is whether you want the public to be invited to serve memoranda here.”
Dr. Mustapha responded: “Mr. Chairman,that is not my request.”
There was more shout of “no, no, no”
Justice Kutigi interjected and said “Order, order; Mr. speaker, please continue”.
Dr. Mustapha went on: “But, unfortunately, these people are in the forefront to contradict what Mr. President said. At the rate we are going, in the long run, this conference may not achieve its purpose.”
There was another bout of “no, no, Mr. Chairman, no”.
Justice Kutigi asked the delegates to allow Dr. Mustapha to conclude his speech.
“Let him land; let him land; allow the speaker to land,” the chairman said.
Dr. Mustapha continued: “In the long run, if we are not careful, this conference will flop – God forbid. And if it flops, the resultant effect can not be predicted by anyone of us here.
“If something happens and the country disintegrates – God forbid – many of those who are shouting their heads off will have nowhere to go.
“I and the people of Adamawa – and many others – have somewhere to go. I am the Lamido of Adamawa and my kingdom transcends Nigeria and Cameroon.
“A large part of my kingdom is in the Republic of Cameroon, apart from my kingdom in Adamawa.
Justice Kutigi interjected again: “Speaker, please answer the question on memoranda and stop wasting our time. Carry on.”
Dr. Mustapha continued: “Part of that kingdom in Cameroon is called Adamawa State, in Cameroon. So, you see, if I run to that place, I can easily assimilate but I want to plead with us to adhere to laid down rules by Mr. President in his address, which include issue of voting.
“Unless you want to disobey the President, then you can do whatever you want and if we are pushed to the wall, we will easily walk out of this conference.
“Jingoism is not a preclusive of anyone; everyone here is a potential jingoist.’
When Dr. Mustapha said “if we are pushed to the wall, we will easily walkout of this conference”, there was a sustained “no, no, no”, which apparently forced him to sit down.
The conference adjourned plenary to tackle the controversial mode of voting.
Deputy Chairman Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi announced a long list of delegates who had been selected to resolve the problem.
The list, Akinyemi said, was the product of painstaking selection that lasted till the early hours of yesterday.
The list contained mostly names of leaders of delegation and elder statesmen from various states, geo-political zones and groups.
On the 49-member list are Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, Chief Edwin Clark, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Awwulu Yadudu, Olu Falae, Justice Hassan Gummi, Iyorcha Ayu, Senator Ita Giwa, Atedo Peterside, Nduka Obaigbena, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Mallam Tanko Yakassai, Chief Mike Ahamba, Prof Jibril Aminu, Prof. Jerry Gana among others.
It was, however, apparent that some delegates were not comfortable with the list.
A delegate simply said: “We are waiting and watching how the issue will be resolved.”
Before adjournment on Tuesday, the delegates mandated the chairman to consult with leaders of delegations to reach a consensus on the thorny question of whether the conference would decide issues by three-quarters majority or two-thirds majority, if consensus on an issue fails.
For two days, the conference could not agree on the issue.
The controversy threw up a North/South divide.
Northern delegates are rooting for three-quarters majority. Southern delegates want two-thirds majority as the mode of voting.
As at the time of filing this report, the behind-the-door meeting to resolve the voting pattern was still on.
Shortly after the announcement by Akinyemi, Justice Kutigi adjourned the session and announced that delegates were to resume by 4pm.