Without adopting and fully implementing the report of the 2014 National Conference, progress in all facets may continue to elude Nigeria, as the document contains the antidote to the political and socio-economic problems confronting the country.
This was the consensus of the opinions of political, economic and academic leaders who converged on Lagos during the public launch and presentation of the autobiography of elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, “Brutally Frank.”
Among the speakers were Clark himself, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Chief Mrs Kofo Bucknor- Akerele among others.
According to them, the over 600 decisions arrived at during the conference were done with the consent of over 70 percent of the delegates.
They also emphasised the need for the country to be restructured and that true federalism be entrenched for all the federating units to progress at their own pace.
Speaking from Abuja via Zoom, Clark said that as a matter of urgency, the nation must toe the path of restructuring for her to achieve her potential.
“For over 70 years, I have participated in governance at various levels in this country. I talked about my family so that people would know where I am coming from and why I have been outspoken and have been a fighter. When I clocked 90, my boss, General Yakubu Gowon sent a message to me where he wrote “E.K, that is what I used to call you, you are a very forthright Nigerian and who is brutally frank”. That is where I took the title from.
“I want a Nigeria where everybody is equal, where every citizen can aspire to any position in the country even becoming the president. Restructuring is vital for the survival of the country. Without restructuring, there may be no Nigeria. It is what Nigeria needs urgently. The regions must develop at their own pace,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Pa Adebanjo said history would be kind to former President Goodluck Jonathan for the assemblage of people who took part in the conference and the decisions they took and the report they wrote.
“I implore Nigerians not to play with the report and recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. Whether we like it or not, President Goodluck Jonathan meant well for the country regarding that conference and history will be kind to him. You cannot get such a group of people to come together again for such national assignment.
“The greatest job we have on hand today is to change the current constitution to be in accordance with the 2014 conference. Nigeria should not waste money on any conference again. We are going nowhere if we don’t implement the report and recommendations of the conference,” he opined.
Also speaking, Prof Anya O. Anya, said it was to the credit of people like Clark, Adebanjo, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and others that the decisions arrived at during the conference were done with more than 70 percent of the delegates concurring.
“History is not made in a day. I must give kudos to Chief Edwin Clark for his role in the conference. He is multi-dimensional and he truly loves this country. I recall that after the Nigerian civil war, Chief Clark helped the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to restart. I beg Nigerian youths not to lose confidence in the country. It will be celebrated for righteousness soon,” he noted.
Prof. Utomi lauded Clark for speaking out on national issues unlike some elders who would keep quiet when things are going wrong in the society.
He said only competitive federalism would make Nigeria develop, as all units would be competing to achieve greatness for their people.
Former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, noted that during the conference, a commitment was given President Jonathan that there would be no walk out and that it would end in success.
He described the enthusiasm and passion with which Clark took the conference assignment as commendable.
‘He was never late to the conference and the Chairman, Justice Kutigi used to cite him as an example to the younger ones who would come late for the proceedings,” he stated.
The Chairman of the occasion, Senator Anthony Adefuye, described Clark as a nationalist and somebody who has tried to bring the people of the Southern part of the country together.
“We have people of different political foundations and views here today, this is because Chief Edwin Clark is a nationalist. Nobody has done more than him to bring the people of the South together. He was the brain behind the 2014 National Conference. If the decisions were adopted and implemented, Nigeria would not have been where it is today.
“It is unfortunate that the decisions were not sent to the National Assembly before the then President left office. But I can tell you that some of the things being done at the National Assembly have their roots in the 2014 conference. We need another Edwin Clark and I hope he comes soon,” he said.
In his message to the occasion read by Chief Densol Kentebe, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said he was happy that Clark has joined the league of authors.
While saying that he was closer to Clark’s younger brother, the late Prof. John P. Clark, he added that the honour being done the author was meritable.
Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Chief Mrs Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, said Clark was also among those who fought for the enthronement of democracy through the activities of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, even though he worked behind the scene.
A panel of Profs. Odion Akhaine, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika and Edward Agbai later did a panel review of the book.