The Internal dialogue before the National conference.

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There have been optimism and pessimism about the proposed National conference. The announcements about the conference and the outcome of the consultations by the conference committee led by Senator Okurounmu have generated mixed feelings. The reason for such is not far-fetched as a result of the country past experience. We all shout and mouth the Nigeria problem as if it is only about structure and composition of the country. There are some other issues we need to address for us to achieve our potentials.

The committee set up for the conference have released modalities for the convening of the conference. The government and other interest groups are putting finishing touches to the convening of the national conference. Critics of the conference are of the view that the timing of the conferences and past experiences of the previous administrations that convened similar conference places doubt on the out-come of the conference. They argued that the conference would not be of much benefit to the country; and the outcome of the conference will be predetermined by the government. Although this doubt linger there are growing readiness among the various interest groups on the conferences; and the need to make sure their views are heard and protected within the federation. It is not in doubt that the country needs to dialogue. We need to change certain things in order to ensure that we remain a viable and prosperous country. There seems to be many structural and other issues wrong with the Nigeria set-up just like most countries of the world. We are not the only country that is multi ethnic and multilingual neither are we the only countries that were coupled together without our consent. Also in most areas of life be it political, economic, social sectors of the Nigeria society are effected. We seem to have good policies and programmes but we have failed to get the best out of it. It appears no policy ever works well in Nigeria because of the 'Nigeria factor'. Considering the above and many other positives within our status book, we should be looking at some other factors that have made us not to progress and forge a strong nation.

The question every right thinking Nigeria should ask ourselves is why we are still struggling as a country in spite of the numerous blessings and opportunities that abound in the country. Is there something wrong with the water we drink or the food we eat? It is important that we dialogue within ourselves individually and collectively to enable us tackle the numerous challenges facing our country. If the outcome of the conferences comes out with a unique structure and constitution genuinely agreed by the entire participant without tackling the fundamentals of our problem, we are back to square one. This problem is not structural or policy related but the humanity in us. In addition, how we can overcome some issues that border on individual and collective will to thrive as a nation.

Some of these issues that we need to sort out for us to move as a nation includes the following: greed, dishonesty, attitude, good neighbourliness, cooperation, corruption, fairness, nepotisms , rule of law, humanity and political will, selfishness and sound mind-set and ethnicity, oneness , -self before them syndrome- and delayed gratification. There are some other small issues that we need to tackle to ensure that we leave a prosperous and egalitarian country to the unborn generation.

Although some of the concept listed above appears intermingled as one leads to the other, it is good we look at it individually and see how it applies to the root cause of our failure as a country.  In as much as we blame the leadership, we the followers are also as guilty as the leadership. The only difference is that some have not been given opportunity to exhibit the same traits that our leaders have. Moreover our leaders did not emerge from the moon neither were they imported from abroad.

 A look at some of the issues raised that involves our individual characters not only hinders our collective goals and aspirations but affects our nationhood. It is not a malfunction constitution that encourages and abets corruption in both our individual life and public service. It is not the composite constituents of our country that harbours greed and high level of dishonesty. It is not because of Mr Shehu, Akintola or Chike that we decides to cut corners in almost all the things we do.  There is nowhere in the constitution of the Federal republic that encourages an individual to steal 1 billion dollars or to take a collective wealth and appropriate it as an individual wealth. How do you describe such scenario? Is it the structure that encourages nepotism and tribalism at the expense of meritocracy and obedience to set rules and procedure? Is it the rules or our system of government that encourages the delay and distortion of facts and figures to favour some people over others? What name can we place a situation where some are constantly maimed and killed with the most flimsy excuses?  Why is it that some believe that they are superior to others and some are treated as second and third class citizens? We all profess one form of religious affinity or the other yet we don't imbibe one of basic tenants of every religion which is love. There are many questions that we need to answer before the conference; but I also think we need to pose some pertinent questions to ourselves. These questions are beyond constitutional and structural challenges we face as a country. Some of these questions and answers will continue to hurt us even with the best and most progressive framework guiding our nationhood. We are also unique as a country and should look towards any structure and constitution that are uniquely ours.

One of the things we actually need to dialogue on and change is our attitude. The attitude to our neighbour, country, religion and ethnic groups needs to change for there to be any meaningful change in Nigeria. The attitude of both the leadership and followership is also negative and does not promote the growth and development of the country. These can be seen in the co-operation and direct and indirect support of corruption and corrupt acts. As the leadership and civil services are corrupt, the followership seems in support of the act but has not had the opportunity to dip their hands in the public purse. These can be seen in our daily acts and actions which portrays the deep rooted societal ills. We can also see that in the level of impunity exhibited by Nigerians depending on the level of responsibility entrusted on them. At the root of this our flawed attitude to the nation wealth and resources is our instantiable greed. Apart from greed that is affecting the governance of the country is also the issue of dishonesty by Nigerians. Truth is no longer a virtue in Nigeria. We are living in a country that sees truth as abnormal. This also affects the transparency in our life and governance.

We are also lacking in our humanity. We need to seriously look how we treat our neighbours. The absence of this has also lead to selfishness in the leaders and followers. The humanity in us should prevent us from committing acts that debase the human nature. We seem to have lost the kindness and benevolent nature which makes us to care for the less privilege and those entrusted in our care. It is this lack of humanity that will make those in authority to commit corruption or acts that affect the common man. Corruption affects all aspect of the country and dehumanises the humanity in us. The lack of humanity leads to the unwarranted and unnecessarily killing and spilling of blood. The killing of people because they are different from us in terms of religion and ethnic group makes us less human. We need to dialogue on how to restore our humanity and see our neighbours and friends as part of us. For somebody and some people not to see the ill in killing of fellow human being is not caused by the structural or constitutional problem. No matter the outcome of the National dialogue, there will still be killing and disruption of peace in every part of the country except we address some fundamental problems. We need a national rebirth more than we need a new document.

We also need to install in our leaders and followers the need to abide by the rule of law. The non -compliance to the rule of law is a contributing factor in virtually all the ill bedevilling our country. Our status books and most of our policies and programmes are well thought out but the implementation is among the root cause of our problem. The non -compliance to the rule of law affects all arms of the government and breads lawlessness. If we had followed the recommendation and implemented these recommendations from several committees, board of inquiries on the disturbances and religious riots, the Boko Haram and other issues that frequently disrupted the peace of the country would not have happened. It is the same lawlessness and impunity that encourages corruption, nepotism and embezzlement. The society and culture encourages corruption. We should actually look at our value system and other factor that encourages or facilities corruption.

The conference should endeavour to look at the issue of fiscal federalism, citizenship and the type of government practiced in the country. There are other issues that need to be addressed but we should also bear in mind that even with the best constitutional provision  the country will still not improve our lots unless we addresses some fundamental issues that has to do with our collective attitudes and individual mind-set.

As for the no go- areas of the dialogue, we should all understand that there is strength in unity. We are great because of our collective contribution as a country. Nation building is a gradual and continuous process even for countries that have existed for centuries. A lot of the advance countries we copy and emulate still have some separatist tendency within her population. In the US, Uk ,France, China and Russia there are still some areas that wants to cave out their own independent country. It is in the interest of every section of the country that we remain one but that must be done in a fair and equitable manner. We need more of a national rebirth.

Ogwu Paul Okwuchukwu.
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