Peculiar Conference And Peculiar Expectations
Like a soldier that has just returned from the war front, I was engaged in the past-time of admiring what looked like a 'war trophy' that is a colorfully made 1,148 page book I recently bought in Enugu during my recent trip to the South East for some speaking engagements at the behest of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
It was therefore in that convivial atmosphere that I glanced through it and read what Marcus T. Cicero once said that; “I Shall always consider the best guesser the best prophet”.
Ironically, this pleasant discovery of a wise saying was made by me approximately twenty four hours after the 2013 Independence Day national broadcast by President Goodluck Jonathan in which among other things he promised to convoke a national conference.
Putting President Jonathan political promise to organize a national conference side by side with what I have just discovered from the book titled “World famous quotations”, compiled by R. N. Munshi, in which I encountered the above mentioned quotation by Marcus T. Cicero, then it could rightly be said to be a worthy trophy.
Importantly, Marcus Cicero's wise saying as encapsulated in the book aforementioned spurred me on to further ruminate on the recent scholarly work of the late Professor Chinua Achebe titled “there was a country: a personal story of the Nigeria – Biafra war” in which he masterfully sketched Nigeria's political firmament as a huge circus stage whereby the players are adept at unleashing series of jokes all aimed at grand deception.
The thought therefore flashed in my mind that Professor Achebe will for all times occupy the center stage of our intellectual debate as one of the finest prophets who devoted substantial segment of his meritorious life to show Nigerians the light which if we follow those prescriptions with devotion, then the sky they say is our limit.
It was my reflection on the just unveiled determinations of the current federal government to organize a national conference that makes good the belief by Professor Achebe that Nigerian contemporary political rulers are masters of deception and deceits. The contents of the Independence day national broadcast by President Jonathan therefore is a true reflection of the saying that Nigerians are still dancing around our fundamental challenges and are largely unwilling and lacked the will power to do the needful to take Nigeria to the much talked about promised land.
In the national broadcast aptly titled: “We have a duty to put Nigeria first”, President Jonathan who is on record as the first doctorate degree holder to have mounted the highest political office in Nigeria said his administration has listened to the groundswell of agitation for the convocation of a national conference and has thus decided to do just that.
His words: “Fellow Nigerians, our Administration has taken cognizance of suggestions over the years by well-meaning Nigerians on the need for a National Dialogue on the future of our beloved country. I am an advocate of dialogue. When there are issues that stoke tension and bring about friction, it makes perfect sense for the interested parties to come together to discuss.”
President Jonathan further offered reason for his type of national conference thus; “In demonstration of my avowed belief in the positive power of dialogue in charting the way forward, I have decided to set up an Advisory Committee whose mandate is to establish the modalities for a National Dialogue or Conference. The Committee will also design a framework and come up with recommendations as to the form, stricture, and mechanism of the process.”
True to the peculiar expectation of disappointed Nigerians, the current administration followed the already notorious module practiced by his discredited predecessors in office by appointing same old foxes that have actively participated in the under-development of Nigeria to form the core of the people to work out mechanisms for the convocation of the Jonathan's brand of national conference.
"The Committee will be chaired by Dr. Femi Okurounmu while Dr. Akilu Indabawa will serve as the Secretary. The full membership of the Committee will be announced shortly. I expect the Report to be ready in one month, following which the nation will be briefed on the nomenclature, structure” and modalities of the Dialogue”, he stated.
Laudable as the above decision may seem on the surface, deep inside the mind of the current government, just like past administrations, the national conference will definitely be choreographed to achieve a pre-determined agenda which substantially will not fundamentally alter or tinker with the faulty foundation on which Nigeria's formation was laid by the British Colonial over-lords both in 1914 (amalgamation of North and South protectorates) and the October 1st 1960's declaration of political Independence from Great Britain.
To be fair to Jonathan; it is unlikely that a contemporary Nigerian political office holder deeply entrenched in the merry-go-round of spoils of political office could supervise the eventual demolition of the structures that enables the political elites to continue to hold Nigerians as hostages.
That said, it is also not impossible to find a person with the patriotic zeal to lead the crusade for Nigerians to democratically decide whether to continue to remain as one united political entity or for the component parts to go their separate ways.
This writer is not one of those in support of the national conference as contemplated by President Jonathan.
I support the convocation of a national conference with all the sovereign power to so determine the final fate of Nigeria. I believe that power and sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from where government officials derive their authority and legitimacy and so there is nothing wrong in the owners of the sovereignty to so decide to fashion out ways, means and strategies of our co-existence.
The national conference being contemplated by the current political administration in Abuja will be spearheaded by the same old dramatis personae who ruined Nigeria and as the saying goes it will be “garbage in, garbage out”.
The talk shop would be choreographed to gulp huge public fund in meaningless monologue that wouldn't be far-reaching enough as to determine once and for all the future of Nigeria's diverse nationalities in view of the fact that the hurriedly packaged amalgamation of 1914 by the British Colonal over-lords is no longer sustainable and was indeed ab initio, a calculated mischief to perpetuate inequities and injustices and the Jonathan's national conference is an attempt to assuage the agitation for the convocation of a sovereign national conference which has been roundly rejected by all the forces in the legislature and the executive arms of government who are neck deep in the destruction of Nigeria's Commonwealth and Patrimony.
From 1999 till date, different leaders of ethnic nationalities and civil society stakeholders have always called for the convocation of sovereign national conference so Nigerians can peacefully and peaceably determine their future in compliance with international humanitarian laws.
Part one Article one of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights provides thus; “All People have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic; cultural and social development”.
Besides, Nigerians ought to pursue meaningful activities that will inevitably promote their collective right to development as members of the global village.
The right to development, according to those who know, places the human person at the centre of the development process and recognizes that the human being should be the main participant and beneficiary of development.
By and large, the convocation of a sovereign national conference would have permitted Nigerians the opportunity of not just self determination politically speaking, but would have become an avenue for pulling Nigeria and Nigerians away from the heavy weight of mass poverty and the other institutionalized inequities and injustices that have combined to make Nigeria a poor nation even when the country is endowed with abundant human and material resources. Sovereign national conference would have addressed the situation whereby states in the North treat a particular religion as state religion as against section 10 of the constitution therefore allowing fanatics and extremists to unleash violence against adherents of other religions other than theirs.
Now that the current powers-that-be has chosen the charade and gambit of a national Conference, it may not be out of place to suggest some basic agenda for the delegates.
To a lot of Nigerians, the widespread cases of impunity and break down of law and order characterized by unprecedented violence and organized crimes therefore makes it imperative that the nation's policing system must be reformed and transformed and the need to create state and local police has become even more imperative.
Besides, the justice delivery system in Nigeria is skewed in favour of the rich even as corruption has taken the better part of the nation's judiciary.
The National Conference should devote time to understudy why the two anti-graft bodies set up over one decade ago have failed to check the rampaging incidence of widespread corruption and economic crimes among political office holders and their surrogates.
The National Conference delegates must also address the corrupt electoral system in Nigeria with a view to suggesting strategies for making the electoral panels at all levels Independent and transparent because if the 2015 general election is perceived to be manipulated to favour the powers-that –be, then we can begin to sing nunc dimittis to Nigeria.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko; Heads; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria; [email protected]; www.huriwa.org.