Professor of Law and human rights activist, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, has described the decision of the All Progressives Congress to boycott the national conference, billed to start on Monday, as unreasonable and childish.
According to a report by SUNDAY PUNCH, the distinguished legal scholar added that he was disappointed by the position of the APC on the conference, considering that the Yoruba were in the forefront of calls for true federalism.
He said, “APC’s decision to boycott the conference is the most unrealistic, unreasonable and childish thing I can ever imagine, considering the fact that the Yoruba are the progenitors of true federalism. Awolowo was a person who articulated that point most in the whole country, and wrote books about it.
“He plotted the way forward, the Awo Road, which the whole of the West and the Yoruba have followed and which the rest of us have come to imbibe. They have educated us; they are the ones who opened our eyes to the possibilities of true federalism and that it is the only way for the country to develop. That is why I am so disappointed”.
Sagay noted that the conference was crucial to the existence of Nigeria, saying without it, the 2015 elections would be a waste of time.
He said there was a slim chance of establishing true federalism through the conference, which would lead to devolution of power from the centre to the various federating units.
He said, “Most of the things which are exclusive to the Federal Government will become concurrent, so that states or regional governments can operate in those areas, and so that federal powers will be fewer.
“In the states, we will have most of the power and only critical things will be exclusive – things like foreign affairs, customs, and immigration. Basically, we’re talking about empowering the states politically, in terms of resources, and reducing the powers of the Federal Government”.
Speaking on the likely stumbling blocks at the conference, he stated that northern delegates would be opposed to federalism, adding that they preferred a unitary system of government.
He said, “They (northerners) believe that, if you capture the Federal Government, then you can have direct access to Niger Delta oil and gas, Lagos State duties, customs and all the other things they’re getting now. That way, you don’t need to work hard in order to enjoy resources”.
When contacted to react to the statement by Prof. Sagay, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said the party has tremendous respect for the legal icon and would not join issues with him on the pages of a newspaper.
“Our party has a very healthy respect for Prof. Itse Sagay and we are confident that if we have the opportunity to properly brief the professor on our position, his judgment may not be as harsh as it is”, Mohammed said.