By Godwin Onyeacholem
For the genuinely selective compatriots as well as foreign observers who are immune to delusion, the painful hint of a far-reaching implosion is building up to its climax. All impartial submissions on Nigeria’s destiny over the past couple of years have repeatedly come up with a forecast that holds out terror and fear, instead of promise and optimism.
Of course, it has to be pointed out that a string of hopeless governments – military and civilian – which has exhibited nothing but acute leadership emptiness should be held responsible for this frightening profile.
Consequently, more than ever before, this period calls for a deep pause within the circle that is truly concerned about the fate of this rotten nation so as to re-strategise in favour of a concerted crusade against the false mantra of “things are getting better” being forced upon a hapless people by a useless ruling class and their misguided supporters. In the envisaged campaign, no effort should be spared to discourage the gullible from embracing this fraudulent catch phrase.
The victims already include our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties, friends, colleagues and children, who may currently be doubtful of the certitude of the chorus of “things are getting better” but who, indeed, are hopeful that as the years roll by and with the status quo firmly in place, things will surely get better.
But they miss it completely. The sooner they grasp this the better for them: Nothing is ever going to get better, and the 2015 elections will likely consume Nigeria by altering its present configuration as long as those who control the levers of power revel in silly arrogance in the manner they have persistently turned down legitimate demands from well-meaning Nigerians for a national conference and a people’s constitution.
The Nigerian people are not asking for something unusual. The constitution that the National Assembly has wilfully set itself the task of amending or reviewing as it may wish to delude itself does not belong to the people; it’s not a people’s constitution.
To that extent, it is not democratic. Therefore, all that the people want is a chance, before any talk of elections, to convene a conference of the nationalities and ethnic groups comprised in Nigeria so as to give them the opportunity to exercise their inherent right to determine democratically for themselves the constitution by which they wish to be governed in one united Nigeria. In other words, for once, Nigerians are asking for a long-denied opportunity to build a new country of their dream. No more, no less.
Beginning from the mid 80s, many great concerned Nigerians like Alao Aka-Bashorun, Beko Ransome-Kuti and Gani Fawehinmi to mention just a few, have shouted themselves hoarse on this matter but the mandarins in power chose to block their ears to this valid demand. Nothing can be more condescending.
In fact many would recall that at the height of the cold contempt displayed by the authorities, Beko, in the characteristic bluntness of the Ransome-Kuti family, plainly foretold a Nigeria that would “continue to go round and round,” unless a sovereign national conference was convened to spell out the terms of co-existence among the various ethnic nationalities.
The three (Aka-Bashorun, Beko and Gani) have since taken a glorious exit without seeing a functional Nigeria they had hoped to create. In a certain realistic way, it can be argued in some quarters that it is that disappointment, the colossal frustration resulting from the crass unresponsiveness of the so-called leaders, which bred the weariness that fostered the ailments that speeded up the death of these remarkable gentlemen.
However, today Beko stands vindicated. True to his prophetic statement, the country has been going “round and round,” and so dangerously so under this fake democracy like a drunken man who cannot find his bearing after drowning himself in drums of Ogogoro.
Still, in the midst of the feasting and fiddling while the country is literally on fire, the leaders, merrymakers more appropriately, want the people to join them to sing “things are getting better” or “I can see everything turning around….” No way. A countervailing melody of equal measure, if not more potent, has to be invented. As much as possible, true agents of change should open the ears of the people to the lie in that song.
Meanwhile, The Patriots, a group of highly credible Nigerians whose leading light is the erudite legal luminary and veteran of constitutional law, Professor Ben Nwabueze, have since the 2001 been making a lot of critical moves re-echoing the imperative of a conference. What this group is calling on this government to do now is to organise a national conference which will be convened and held under the authority of a law passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the incumbent President, so will a referendum to approve the constitution after it has been debated and agreed upon at the conference.
The process for the selection or election of delegates, quorum at the conference, conduct of proceedings and so on is contained in a National Conference and Referendum Bill dated October 14, 2001. The executive and the legislature at federal and state levels and several private organisations have copies of the bill.
Thus, the Presidency and the National Assembly are already presented with a golden opportunity to fall in line and be part of the process as the circumstances now seem right for a properly guided conference. On no account should they be dissuaded by the fear that some rabble-rousers might use the conference to destabilise the country.
A greater risk of destabilising the country no doubt exits in refusing to hold the conference. With the right political will the conference can be concluded inside one year. Republic of Benin did it in 12 months. Until this vital bridge is crossed, the next presidential election in Nigeria should be put in abeyance. Otherwise, the country would be courting disaster.
It is no longer news that the country is already fractured along a myriad fault lines. Make no mistake, 2015 election is bound to be governed by the same crude factors that attended previous elections except that of June 12, 1993. The election would be decided mainly on the basis of ethnicity, religion and geo-political considerations, and there are clear signals that whatever the outcome is would be bitterly contested on all fronts by those who find themselves on the losing side.
Indeed, 2015 will make or unmake Nigeria as it has the greatest potential ever to tear the country to pieces depending on the road taken. At worst, it’s a chilling scenario. It is for this reason that a national conference is a necessity before the election to resolve some fundamental issues in a re-designed superstructure (constitution). That is the only way to save Nigeria and avoid a looming catastrophe.
Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist based in Abuja; can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
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