President Goodluck Jonathan at 5.06 p.m today formally flagged open the National Conference, being attended by 492 nominated delegates to deliberate on the future of Nigeria. The conference holding at the National Judicial Institute in Abuja, will gulp N7billion. It comes up in the wake of the first century of the amalgamation of the southern and northern parts of the country by British colonialists and almost nine years after another conference was organised by the old regime, of Olusegun Obasanjo.
Jonathan read an opening speech, in which he flatly debunked the idea that he nurses a hidden agenda in convening the conference.
He urged the participants to shun all primordial sentiments in their dealings to promote national interest and rapid development of the country.
He said that the sole motivation for convening the conference was the patriotic desire for a better and greater nation.
‘‘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,’’ the president said.Jonathan’s Remarks at Inauguration of 2014 National Conference He called on the participants to come up with recommendations that would enhance the unity and stability of the country.
According to him, Nigerians must see themselves as one unique people as the conference is meant to strengthen national unity and nation building for the general progress of the country. He thanked the National Assembly for introducing the provision for a referendum in the proposed amendment of the nation’s constitution. The president urged the National Assembly and the state legislatures to speed up the constitutional amendment process, especially with regard to the issue of the referendum. 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 said. He charged the participants to ensure the completion of their assignment before the commencement of the 2015 political activities. In his remark, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Anyim Pius Anyim, said all 492 nominated members of the conference had accepted their nomination. The Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, thanked the president for the confidence he reposed in them and promised that they would discharge their duties diligently