Because historically we have been at the fore of the social forces agitating for and demanding for a National Conference, we have chosen to engage robustly and critically with the National Conference now being convened by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
We understand full well that the decision to convene the National Conference was not an act of gratuitous charity on the part of a benevolent regime; but that it is rather a concession wrested from the hesitant hands of a regime facing increasing isolation and reduced popular acceptance.
Precisely because of this exceptional circumstance, as well as because of its timing; on the anniversary of a hotly divisive centenary and on the eve of a general election expected to be decisively contested; because of these reasons, we welcome the convening of the National Conference as an opportunity for decisive and potentially national transforming engagement.
OUR DEMANDS AND AGENDA:
The historical demands of the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria, driven by our collective aspiration for National Liberation, Social Emancipation, and fully participatory democratisation process shall remain the main pivot and shall be central to our participation in and engagement with the National Conference.
For the avoidance of doubt, these demands can be aggregated as follows;
- A comprehensive Bill of Rights spanning and including all known civil, political, socio-cultural and economic rights and which shall be consolidated into a single justiceable and enforceable chapter of the Nigeria Constitution.
- The adoption of a socio-economic framework aimed at guaranteeing the basic minimum to every citizen, and prioritising an inclusive economic revival plan that will eradicate poverty, hunger, homelessness and joblessness in the society.
- A regime of fiscal federalism that encourages healthy competition amongst constituent units of the federation while also ensuring that no section of the federation shall be left uncatered for.
- A genuinely mass participatory democratic polity that ensures the full involvement of citizens in decision making and implementation at all levels of government.
- A single citizenship of the Nigerian Federation for all citizens, with the only qualifying criteria for representation being agreed minimum residency status.
- Consensus on enforceable guiding principles for a comprehensive reform of the justice, security and law enforcement system, including a determination to expose and severely punish corruption.
- Open, unfettered discussions of all issues on the agenda of the National Conference in the full glare of Nigerian citizens.
- A National referendum as the only means for validating the resolutions of the National Conference.
OUR WAYS OF WORKING:
In order to be able to achieve these at the conference, Prodemocracy Civil Society organisations and their delegates shall commit to the following:
- Establish a National Pro-Democracy Civil Society Coordinating Secretariat in Abuja as interface between delegates, the wider civil society community and citizens in general. This National Coordinating Secretariat which shall be fully representative and which shall organise and coordinate technical support for civil society delegates and their allies as well coordinate the feedback processes shall be hosted in a central office in Abuja.
- Run the Pro-democracy Civil Society Coordinating Secretariat as a decentralised entity by establishing Zonal Pro-democracy Civil Society Coordinating Secretariats in each of the six geo-political zones – (Port Harcourt, Lagos, Owerri, Jos, Kano, and Maiduguri). These zonal coordinating secretariats shall be hosted by Pro-Democracy Networks/coalitions/organisations with effective presence in each zone.
- Throughout the duration of the National Conference, mass and representative meetings of civil society and citizens shall be organised on a weekly basis, every weekend, by the National and Zonal Coordinating secretariats to enable a continuous aggregation of the views of the citizens and ensure that delegates are accountable to their constituents.
- Weekly mass delegates meetings of citizens shall also be encouraged in each state of the federation before, during and after the National Conference.
- Active engagement with the media, as well as active utilisation of social media platforms for effective and widest possible interactive engagement with citizens as well as to disseminate updates and receive feedback.
IN LIEU OF A CONCLUSION:
Finally we are determined not only to utilise the National Conference to discuss all contentious issues in our 100 year history; but also to utilise the Conference to set the agenda for the 2015 general elections in particular, and for inclusive, participatory democratic governance beyond 2015.
This is the program of the Pro-democracy Civil Society Organisations for the National Conference. While as a general rule we shall not enter into any ambiguous broad alliances and blocs at the National Conference, we shall however conclude tactical alliances for the purposes of getting ours and other pro-people positions approved only on a case by case basis.
In this regard we welcome the active engagement of other delegates who share our determination to actualise the aspirations of other Nigerians, and look forward to working together with such delegates on areas of common agreement.
This piece was issued by the Pro-Democracy Civil Society National Conference Engagement Secretariat, in Abuja, on the 9th March, 2014