By Abdullahi Olesin,
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday assured Nigerians that the defeated bill on devolution of powers still has chances of being passed again as part of the amendment to the 1999 Constitution after federal legislators resume from their annual recess.
Saraki gave the assurance in Ilorin, Kwara state while speaking with newsmen in Ilorin, shortly after receiving a delegation of the #NotTooYoungToRun group in the state.
The senate president, traced the defeat of the devolution of powers bill to the current wave of hate speeches across the country.
He added that the current mistrust among Nigerians also contributed to the defeat of the bill.
He said some stakeholders had misunderstood the intent of the proposed amendments in the bill as a clever way of introducing restructuring and were not ready to back such without proper consultations with their constituents.
The #NotTooYoungToRun group, led by its state coordinator, Olasupo Abideen had visited Saraki to express gratitude over the passage of the NotTooYoungToRun bill and solicit his support for the remaining part of the legislative process to make the bill a reality.
Olasupo thanked Saraki and members of the 8th Senate for their interest in the future of the youth which made them to pass the bill.
He recalled that agitation for the passage of the bill started in 2012, adding that the Nigerian youths will forever remain grateful to Saraki over his kindness towards them.
Saraki, while expressing confidence that with more consultations Nigerians would have a bill that devolves more powers to the state, therefore appealed for calm and understanding of Nigerians over the current development.
He said the fact that the bill was defeated once was no reason to conclude the battle had been lost in the legislative process and tradition.
He added : “As you know we have three senators representing each state and FCT and they all represent their constituencies and whatever they do there they must engage and have feedback from their constituencies. I believe that if this constitutional amendment had come maybe eight months ago, the devolution would have passed easily.
“But I think we must be honest with ourselves that presently there is a lot of mistrust in the country at the moment; the air is very polluted and lets be very frank that blame must go all round; whether it be the politician, or some who are doing commentaries and even some of you in the media who sometimes write stories that are more like hate speeches, that are inaccurate.
“And I think what happened was that a lot of people misread or misunderstood or were suspicious of what the devolution was all about; whether it was the same thing as restructuring in another way. And the y made a lot of appeal that we had not consulted with our constituencies and you can see what is happening; there was a meeting in Kaduna yesterday where it was clear that certain part of the country wanted more time to understand what restructuring is for discussion.
“ So its clear that not all senators were on board. My own advise; we have spoken a lot with the senators because we cannot bully them or stampede them, because at the end the day this country belong to all of us; you cannot hassle me out of the country neither can I hassle you out. What we must do is dialogue; reassurance and let people understand that this is for making a modern Nigeria; that it is not going to in any way undermine any part of the country.
“I want to appeal for calmness. Im sure with the engagement going on there will be dialogue, and Im sure that by the time we come back people generally would have a better understanding that devolution as regards some of the issues that were there, is not a threat to any part of the country and I’m hopeful.
“ I think in the meantime we all have a role to play; we must continue to have an understanding and that is what the constitutional amendment talk about two thirds; so that majority of the country will always be on the same page. Even if half wants it, it will not scale through so what the half should do is to lobby and cajole the other to get the percentage required; not to harass them and hope that by so doing it would happen and you can see it was not just in the senate, it also didnt scale through in the House of Reps. But I’m confident that it will happen.
“Nothing is foreclosed in this exercise; you dont foreclose passage of bill. We must have a good understanding of who parliament works; it is not foreclosed. It has been defeated as at that day but it does not mean that it would be defeated when it comes tomorrow. The gender bill was defeated in not being brought into the constitution but what was not reported is that they got a victory in that they got an undertaking that what was defeated would be included in the gender bill.
That was something that would not have happened before. So the fact that devolution lost that day does not mean that after the recess, if a lot of consultations are done again it will not scale through.”