By Law Mefor
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Peterside AtedoPeterside Atedo?s mission in the diatribe entitled ?Letter to My Countrymen: This Conference Must Succeed? as recently published in Vanguard is clear. It was to disparage the Office and person of the Deputy President of the Senate; to portray the whole constitution amendment effort as a worthless venture; to impugn the institutional integrity of the National Assembly (NASS); and to totally defame and bring its members to public odium.
For those who did not know, Peterside Atedo is the founder and Chairman of the Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Chairman of Cadbury Nigeria Plc, a Member of the National Economic Management Team, and, above all, a delegate to the ongoing National Conference. Ordinarily, when such a person speaks, wisdom and sense of responsibility should flow. Unfortunately, in a nation where some elders have refused to behave their age, such level of maturity has become a tall order. His missive reminds one of the saying that ?My son has grown tall does not necessarily mean he has grown up?.
While I would not like to join issues with him on his deliberate insults on the person of the Deputy President of the Senate, it is just right to state that what Senator Ekweremadu has achieved or is working towards achieving with his colleagues as Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution are all facts of history, which no amount of distortion and insult would change. It is a fact of history that all efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution concocted and handed over to Nigerians by Atedo Peterside?s military friends and benefactors had suffered two consecutive failures in the 4th?and 5th?National Assembly before the jinx-breaking Senator Ekweremadu took over the driver?s seat in the whole?quest. Under Ekweremadu?s Chairmanship, the nation achieved extensive electoral reforms and the independence of critical institutions of democracy, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly.?Major constitutional amendments are also underway in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in this 7th?NASS. I guess Atedo may not know this because he has been preoccupied with the juicy business of selling Federal Government assets.
Atedo claims that ?Our National Assembly is almost solely pre-occupied with annual budgetary matters ? fighting over how to slice a cake today?, but he strenuously tried to justify the N7 Billion earmarked for the National Conference and the ?miserly? N12 million he would earn in 3 months.
He further claims that the National Assembly only enjoys ?perfect bipartisan harmony on matters where their collective personal and/or pecuniary interests are affected.? Well, I recall that the first South-South presidency, which Atedo is reaping abundantly from, came courtesy of the courage of the NASS Members (including the Ekweremadus of this world, who came up with a Doctrine of Necessity) to salvage the country from a serious political crisis. There was UNANIMITY and PERFECT BI-PARTISAN HARMONY on that Tuesday, February 9, 2010 when the Senate, and two hours later, the House of Representatives, adopted a motion making Goodluck Jonathan an Acting President.??It is, therefore, puzzling how big beneficiaries of that decision would suddenly turn round to assault the lead actors. When the talking drum begins to rain insults on its maker, it is only natural to remind it the animal skin it was made from.
Peterside called NASS Members ?a coalition of kleptomaniacs?. His words:??According to the Oronsaye Report, close to N123bn (in the most optimistic scenario) can be saved annually by scrapping and/or merging some of these parasitic agencies, but it will not happen because these agencies have their ?protectors? in the National Assembly, who hail from our two largest political parties. Who will save the nation from this unholy coalition of kleptomaniacs??
To put the record straight, the?executive has failed to initiate any bill to merge/scrap any ?parasitic? agencies. If therefore the Orasanye Report is left to gather dust like thousands of others before it, doesn?t Atedo know whom to hold responsible? Indeed, labeling all of NASS an ?unholy coalition of kleptomaniacs? is the height of irresponsibility, which must not be glossed over.
Back to the constitution amendment, the National Conference, and the future of Nigeria, let me admit that Mr. Peterisde Atedo has the right to expect much more from the National Assembly such. Efforts by the Constitution Review Committees to address the problems of structural imbalances, fiscal federalism, and other critical defects of our federalism are always sabotaged. This is where the confab comes handy as a veritable platform for consensus building, hence Ekweremadu?s recent assertion that the Conference could help reposition Nigeria if well handled.
However, Atedo needs to be reminded, as he would soon find out at the Conference, that there is a world of difference between both constitution amendment and confab on one hand and setting skimpily dressed young ladies in pursuit of scandalous financial targets with all ?assets? at their disposal as we have it in the banking industry. They are also different from the lucrative business of ?privitisation?. He would learn that articulating the interests, opinions, aspirations, and challenges of over 160 million Nigerians and harmonising same through the democratic instruments of dialogue and compromise are no child?s play.
Instructively, the Senator Ekweremadu Committee and indeed the Senate had, even long before anyone knew this Conference would take place, been taking visionary steps to amend Section 9 of the Constitution to provide for procedures for enacting a new constitution. This includes a referendum. Incidentally, whether Atedo agrees or not, it is on the basis of such amendment that the product of the National Conference stands the chance of seeing the light of the day. Otherwise, it could end up as one of our many talk shops. This is the more reason Atedo should find better ways to seek attention or justify his presidential patronages than abusing NASS Members and making things difficult for President Jonathan and the nation. A word is enough for the wise.
Law Mefor?is National Coordinator, Transform Nigeria Movement, Abuja; Tel.: +234-803-787-2893; e-mail:[email protected]

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