STATE OF THE NATION: WILL NATIONAL CONFAB CHART WAY FORWARD?
BY DAPO AKINREFON
ON-GOING events in the nation suggest that, indeed, there is need to chart a way forward. With the suspended nationwide strike called by Labour unions to protest increase fuel price, and growing insecurity in the land especially with the activities of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, some leaders have restated the need to convene a national confab to address the anomalies in the polity.
Though many have proffered different approaches to solve the problems facing the nation, analysts are of the view that the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference, SNC, would assist in restructuring the polity. In the past, calls had been made for such a confab which many, especially those in power see a recipe for chaos and perhaps disintegration of Nigeria.
The National Consensus Group of Progressive Political Leaders (NCG) has declared its plan to convene an emergency National Summit on the state of the nation.
At a crucial parley hosted, recently in Lagos by Tunji Braithwaite leaders of the NCG endorsed the proposed national summit as a strategic means of urgently intervening in the crisis currently rocking the country before it degenerates into a full blown civil war between northern and southern Nigeria.
Unilateral hike in fuel price
The leaders, who voiced their displeasure at the state of the nation noted that the insurgency of the Boko Haram bombers as well as the unilateral hike in price of fuel by government by over 120 per cent has exacerbated the instability in the country.
It was also aimed at compelling the immediate convocation of Nigeria's peoples' Conference to renegotiate Nigeria's corporate existence and it governance structure'
Braithwaite, Dr Kalu Idika and Prof Utomi all expressed optimism that the emergency National Summit slated for next week in Lagos will help articulate and give direction to the aspirations of the Nigerian peoples in the geo political zones, labour, civil society groups among others.
The parley, the trio explained, was used as an avenue to request the federal government to reverse the price of petrol to the status quo to allow for more consultations and dialogue on the issue and other profound matters such as the endemic corruption in government aided by the lopsided structure foisted on the country by successive rulers.
Aside, the dialogue is expected to x-ray government positions on burning national issues such as deregulation of the economy, the Boko Haram hostilities and stability among others before drawing up proposals and modalities for a peoples' National Conference, where the country's crises are expected to be addressed.
Need for dialogue
Perhaps, towing the same path, the Nigeria Summit Group, NSG, a coalition of some prominent Nigerians will on Monday commence a national summit.
Convener of the group, Professor Utomi, said the meeting was imperative to review the present state of the nation.
He was of the view that such summit was a means to urgently stem the perceived civil war 'presently being perceived by the outside world.'
While he maintained that the summit would address the present circumstance, which has led to mass protest against government's policies, Utomi lamented that the country was again gradually returning to the brink. He said that Nigeria could no longer continue in this manner, noting that 'our coming together as eminent Nigerians is to see how we can look for a way forward. And one of the issues that would be on our agenda is the issue of subsidy.'
Expressing optimism that the dialogue would go a long way to help articulate and give direction to the aspirations of the Nigerian people, he said the summit was expected to x-ray the government positions on burning national issues such as deregulation of the economy, insecurity in the country and national stability among others.
According to Utomi, the organisers of the summit have invited 'eminent leaders in our country from across the federation, professional and generational lines, to dialogue about the situation in the country - whether you talk about pricing of petroleum products, or security problems in the country, or about the ground norm, the Constitution of our country - the moment is now.
'We owe it to our country to do something because people are afraid that a certain prediction that the country will become a failed state by the year 2015 will be fulfilled. We have told ourselves that we cannot stand by and watch our nation degenerate', he stated.
He said though consultations had been made, it was imperative for Nigerians to come to a round table to dialogue. 'We have, after very widespread consultation, decided that this moment - a very trying moment for our country - on account of what has been happening in the last couple of days, it is time to dialogue on how to get Nigeria working again.'
He disclosed that the removal of fuel subsidy and the activities of the Boko Haram sect were some of the issues to be addressed. As eminent Nigerians converge on Sheraton Hotel, in Lagos on Monday and Tuesday next week, it is expected that urgent measures would be taken to address the multifarious problems besieging the nation. Whether these lofty expectations would be realised is a question of time.
Commenting on the summit, General-Secretary of NSG, Mr Tony Uranta, President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima; Civil Rights Activists, Amara Nwosu and Dr Bala Zaka said it was imperative for Nigerians to chat a way forward in order to prevent disintegration of the country.
Besides, Mr Uranta explained that among the critical issues on the agenda would be the provision of basic commodity for the people of Nigeria, security and most importantly the constitution. He added that despite the crisis currently facing the nation, there was so much for Nigeria and Nigerians to live for.
'For a very long time', he said, 'Nigerians lost their voice. What is happening across the nation shows that the Nigerian people have discovered their voice. Such a dialogue at this point unlike in the past has greater possibility of bearing fruit.'