Press Statement Issued By The Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL)

A Call For The Inclusion Of Ogoni And Itsekiri Nations In The National Conference And Matters Arising

The case for inclusion

The inadvertent omission of the Ogoni and Itsekiri nations from the list of delegates to next week?s National Conference is a poor advertisement for a Conference majority of Nigerians has come to accept as an extra-constitutional framework imperative to the broader reconstitution of our society, nation-state and the institutions of government. Important as the both ethnic nations are to the organic evolution of Nigeria, we should not forget in a hurry the contributions of the Ogonis to the recognition of the historical and political rights of minorities within the Nigerian federation and the vassal and commercial relationships established by the Itsekiris with European powers, and the long years of struggles of the peoples of the lower Niger against vassal and colonialists? oppression. To omit both ethnic nations is to de-recognise their historical contributions to the birthing of post-colonial Nigeria.

For us, Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), and for reasons stated above, we decry their inadvertent omission and we call for the immediate inclusion of Ogoni and Itsekiri delegates in the list of national conferees. It serves the ends of fairness, justice and equity to do just that. However, in the event that they are not included, we hereby serve notice that the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) shall take steps within its public interest mandate to represent the interests of the Ogonis and Itsekiris at the National Conference. As a first step, we shall as soon as possible visit Port-Harcourt, Ogoni-land, Warri and Ode-Itsekiri to consult with leaders and youths of both ethnic nations.

PUBLIC INTEREST LAWYERS LEAGUE (PILL) AT THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE

A different modernity

Our country holds itself out as a basket case. When great nations of the world are making giant strides in all fields of human endeavours, our country plumbs the shallows. Flayed by the deplorable conditions many modern states have long overcome, there appears no conscious desire by the governing classes to arrest the Nigerian drift. We suffer no illusion that the National Conference is the fix-all- and-fit-all remedy; but we are confident that it provides us the extra-constitutional and institutional framework for addressing our condition. And perhaps, too, it provides a vast array of choices for arresting the Nigerian drift and the choices we must make about class and ethnic nationalities? relations, about social contract, governmentality, power, rights, justice, security, and more importantly about interests.

Finally, beyond the negotiation of specific intersection of interests which the National Conference provides, it is important to recognise that negotiation can only take place when delegates recognise and accept that, within the framework of the different modernity they propose for New Nigeria, unity is forged out of mutual respect for individual and ethnic nationality interests. The duality of recognition and acceptance constitutes the basis of dialogue. The 2014 National Conference cannot be different.

Abdul Aminu Mahmud, ESQ

(President and Delegate)

12th March, 2014

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