Jonathan said that he decided to conduct the national conference while in office in order to address some key challenges confronting the country, adding that the conference was organised in the interest of the nation and the recommendations were taken by Nigerians from across the country.
Speaking as one of the guests at the Golden Jubilee Anniversary Lecture and Documentary on Rivers State, in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, the former President noted that he resolved to conduct the conference after Prof. Ben Nwabueze led the Patriots to him, requesting for the conference and added that the reasons the Patriots gave him on the need for the national conference were in the country’s interest.
He said: “I insisted on the National Conference after Prof. Ben Nwabueze led the Patriots to demand a National Conference to address those areas regarding our growth.
“Every decision taken at the National Conference was by consensus. If the government implements the recommendations, some of the things agitating our minds will be addressed,” he said.
The former President also spoke on the practice of true federalism, stressing that every part of the country is viable, but should be encouraged to generate revenue.
He also spoke on the Niger Delta, saying that a lot of funds came to the interventionist agencies saddled with the responsibility of developing the region, but that very little was done in terms of projects arising from the issue of tenure and the lifespan of the office holders.
He said that state governments should do more with the direct 13 per cent derivation that come to them.
“The interventionist agencies leave behind uncompleted projects. The 13 percent that come to the states, I have seen better utilisation of that money,” he said.
Speaking further, the former President argued that reforms should ensure that more resources get to the states, rather than the interventionist agencies already affected by politics.
Jonathan, who was accompanied to the venue by Governor Nyesom Wike, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and members of his National Caretaker Committee (NCC), took a swipe at the situation where council chairmen collected allocations without using them to impact on the people only to sit down and wait for another allocation.
The former President declared that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, was working hard to transform the state and take it to greater heights.
He said: “Having had the opportunity to serve at the state level for eight years and at the centre for eight years, I can attest to the fact that Wike is working.
“Every day I watch television, I see programmes going on. Commissioning of projects are taking place. It takes somebody with commitment, somebody with foresight and somebody with a strong team to achieve all these,” he said.
Jonathan stated that he was not surprised that Governor Wike was living up to the expectations of the people, “because as a minister, Governor Wike excelled.
“Let me specifically thank the Governor of Rivers State, somebody who worked with me, somebody I believe in. That is why I conferred on him the prestigious title of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).”
He said that the states in the Niger Delta had achieved more in terms of development since they started accessing 13 percent derivation than interventionist agencies have achieved.
Also speaking, National Caretaker Committee Chairman of PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said that only PDP has the capacity to embark on the restructuring of the country.
He said: “In PDP, we believe that our Federation needs to be fixed. We will ensure reforms in a manner that every federating unit will know that they will not be abandoned.”
In his lecture entitled ‘Democracy and Development in Nigeria: The Case of Rivers State’, Prof. Godini Darah, advocated resource ownership for the Niger Delta.
Professor Darah also called for the practice of true federalism, adding that it was no longer workable for the wealth of the state to be used in developing non-viable states in the name of federalism.