By Kayode Ketefe
President Goodluck Jonathan
“Fellow Nigerians, our Administration has taken cognisance of suggestions over the years by well-meaning Nigerians on the need for a national dialogue on the future of our beloved country 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.”
With these words made in an early morning Independence Day broadcast, President Goodluck Jonathan finally capitulated, demonstrating his readiness to accede to the request Nigerians of various hues and persuasions, (save some minority vested interest) have been calling for.
Our sitting presidents over the years tended to have some apathy, even phobia, for convention of national conference. This disenchantment stemmed from some strange assumption that the conference could undermine their authority, or if made sovereign, could lead to the breakup of the country.
But finally President Jonathan has jettisoned this unfounded fear by moving decisively in the right direction. From the wordings of the president’s speech, it is apparent that this committee which is headed by a former Senator from Ogun State, and has the former youth leader of the People’s Democratic Party, Akilu Indabawa, as its Secretary, has not been curtailed by any behind-the-scene script. This means it would have unfettered discretion to work out its modalities without prior encumbrances of “no go areas”.
There is no denying the fact that the divergent peoples of Nigeria need authentic convergence to address all the underlying problems pulling the nation apart.
We need to go beyond the cosmetic unity to lay the foundation of authentic and useful unity.
The 1999 Constitution fraudulently alluded to this cosmetic unity when it provides that “Nigeria shall be an indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God” Now, that is both historically false and ridiculous – it is historically false because Nigeria peoples have never communed in a genuine sovereign conference to determine they wanted to form a nation, its people having been welded together by a colonial fiat in 1914. It is ridiculous because there is nothing that can be put together by human beings that cannot be put asunder.
So we really need to correct this foundational defect by making the proposed conference sovereign. It is when peoples come together voluntarily and agree on some cardinal issues haunting our multi-layered federation that we can have genuine commitment to nation building. The sovereign national conference would not break us up; it would strengthen, rather than dissolve Nigeria. It would afford an opportunity for the people to provide curative prescriptions for all the problems scourging the country’s present brand of federalism.
President Jonathan himself agreed that problems confronting the nation is multifarious and require some drastic measures to address them. The president said, “I admit that these may not be the best of times for our nation. Our people are divided in many ways – ethnically, religiously, politically, and materially. I cannot hide from this reality. I cannot hide from my own responsibilities.
“When there are issues that constantly stoke tension and bring about friction, it makes perfect sense for the interested parties to come together to discuss.”
From the words, it is ostensible that no topical cosmetic surgery can fix the nation; we need a general surgery to excise the malignant cancer afflicting various parts of organic Nigeria. Unless we make the conference sovereign it might just end as yet another time and money-consuming national ritual – a jamboree conference of people converging just to be “blowing grammar” in Abuja with nothing substantive coming at the end of the day.
On the other hand, sovereign national conference will afford us the opportunity to redefine out lost vision. The vision that drove emergence of Nigeria was magnificent; the dream to form a great nation of the largest concentration of black people in the world. The peoples comprising the country, like the Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Urhobo, Efik., etc., are after all distinguished, accomplished, great and culturally advanced people in their own right. Our lands boast of all sorts of people including the extremely talented humanity.
By ordinary reckoning, our coming together ought to have provided amplification of the greatness on the synergy of mutual cooperation and envisioned commonwealth. But today, 99 years after amalgamation and 53 years after independence, the golden vision seems to have given way to enervating catalogue of woes!
Surely, the requisite conditions for a viable nation with limitless potentials were all present. But the vision became blurred along the way while the nation lost its sense of direction. The nation needs to undergo an ocular surgery to remove the cataract and conjunctivitis in order to restore her vision that is now so dimmed.
With sovereign national conference our peoples would most likely ensure that our unity is based on the solid ground of pragmatic and sound philosophies tethered to the peoples’ wishes and aspirations, rather than on the quicksand of enforced bonding. We need to redefine the organisation of our governmental powers, using the paradigm of a true federalism.
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