President Goodluck Jonathan has inaugurated the 492 –member National Conference in Abuja on Monday.Before proceeding with his address however, he led the delegates and officials to observe a minute’s silence to pray for the young Nigerians who were killed during the stampede at immigration recruitment centres across the country.At least 16 people lost their lives in the stampede.
In his address President ,Jonathan denied having any personal agenda. “Let me again repeat what I have been saying that Goodluck Jonathan has no personal agenda in convening this national conference” the president said as he proceeded to declare it “open, for the good of our Nation and to the glory of God Almighty who has brought us together.”
He also hinted at the probability of the outcome of the national conference being subjected to a referendum.Jonathan made a subtle call for a referendum when he said,“Let me at this point thank the National Assembly for introducing the provision for a referendum in the proposed amendment of the Constitution. This should be relevant for this Conference if at the end of the deliberations, the need for a referendum arises. I therefore urge the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to speed up the Constitutional amendment process especially with regard to the subject of referendum.”
Jonathan also outline some of the critical issues the conference to discuss . “This conference is open for us to table our thoughts and positions on issues, and make recommendations that will advance our togetherness. The issues range from form of government, structures of government, devolution of powers, revenue sharing, resource control, state and local government creation, boundary adjustment, state police and fiscal federalism, to local government elections, indigeneship, gender equality and children’s rights,
He advised that “We must not approach these issues with suspicion and antagonism.Rather, we should be open-minded and work to achieve what is best for Nigeria. Even though you come to the Conference as nominees and representatives of different interest groups, I urge you all to make a more united, stronger, indivisible and prosperous Nigeria your preoccupation and reference point at this national gathering. Whatever the pressures on you may be, I call upon you to put the best interest of Nigeria before all other sectional or group interests.
“ Indeed, I am quite worried when I hear people say that some participants in this National Conversation are coming here to defend and promote ethnic or clannish agenda. It is very regrettable that there are persons who believe that we cannot undertake any collective task in our country without the hindrance of ethnic rivalry even after 100 years of nationhood.
Jonathan said the conference gives Nigerians “ an opportunity to prove such persons wrong and I believe it will. As we start a new century of nationhood, we have an obligation to reshape and redirect our country for the benefit of our children. There should be no room for divisive cleavages and ethnic jingoism. There should be no room for selfish considerations that defeat the purpose of national progress. There should be room only for the national interest.
“I expect that, as persons of integrity and honour, you will do nothing in this Conference that will undermine our efforts and desire to build a truly great nation. I also expect that your discussions will be informed only by the noblest of instincts and persuasions.
“Our sole motivation for convening this conference is the patriotic desire for a better and greater nation. We are determined that things must be done in a way and manner that will positively advance that objective.