By Akeem Lasisi
- What kind of negotiation do you envisage when as your book insists ‘Nigeria is Negotiable’?
To negotiate Nigeria is not to ask for the break-up of Nigeria as some people mistakenly say. Some people have also tried deliberately to be mischievous because of their self interest and so they distort the argument. To answer your question directly, the statement “Nigeria is Negotiable” is just saying that we have too many problems as a nation and it is only proper that we sit down to discuss these problems and find meaning and lasting solutions. I don’t think it is asking for too much.
Do we really have a choice? The alternatives are too grim. We need to understand that many, if not all, of the problems that we face in Nigeria are rooted in the structure of the country. But we need to understand that restructuring Nigeria through a process of negotiation is not a cure-all for our problems. That is just a first step in the long journey of nation-building.
- How have your recent experiences in the country affected your stand in the book?
Much of what is in the book is really a reflection of my past and present experiences in Nigeria. Our country is in dire straits and there is too much of apathy and forgetfulness going on. Our elite have not been fair to the country and her citizens. For all the opportunities that this country has given either in terms of education, making money or enjoying a good life, they have not paid the country back accordingly.
The other day, I met a little girl hawking groundnut around the premises of a government agency. I asked her how old she was. She said 10. I asked her why she was not in school and she said she had not paid her school fees. Now, how much is the school fees? Two thousand five hundred naira. We are mortgaging the future of our mothers for as little two thousand five hundred naira, the cost of a few bottles of beer.
There are laws in this country (the Universal Basic Education Act and the Child Rights Act) that guarantee free and compulsory education for children like the one I referred to, yet we have more children out of school in Nigeria than any other country. When I reflect on things like these, you can only come to the inevitable conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with Nigeria.
- What are your expectations from the book launch?
My expectation is that the book will help expand the debate about the future of Nigeria. You will agree with me that there is an urgent need to convoke a Sovereign National Conference of the genuine representatives of Nigerians to discuss many if not all the problems confronting us. Talking about the structure of Nigeria or its unity has become a taboo topic. My aim with this book is to break down the barriers and demystify the issue.
- How do you plan to distribute it?
We hope to make the book available at bookshops, airports and stores around Nigeria. There are plans to also have serious online presence to enable Nigerians outside the country have access to the book. Such online presence would include the ability of readers to order hard copies of the book as well as the e-version.
- What would be the main features of the book launch?
Even though it is a book launch, my plan is to have a national conversation, a people-centred debate around the many issues in the book like our leadership crisis, the need to restructure Nigeria and of course the urgent convocation of a Sovereign National Conference.
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