That may be the conventional and constitutional thing to do in situations where the legitimacy of the Constitution is not itself in dispute. But is it appropriate in our Nigerian situation where that legitimacy has been challenged in the courts, and where the courts have for 6 years now and counting (May 2007-Nov 2013), through endless adjournments, evaded their responsibility to make a determination?
What role therefore, if any, is appropriate and legitimate in this National Conference process for a NASS that was set up under that fraudulent constitution? That question should also be part of the Dialogue-–and a very important part too, I think.
Should the resolutions be sent to NASS rather than directly to a referendum for the sovereign people to decide on? Should the Sovereign people delegate this vital decision-making to their NASS employees? Those who think so should tell Nigerians why? I myself think not, and here’s why not:
The institutional as well as personal interests of the NASS members implicitly compromise their impartiality and disinterestedness in the outcome of this process. There are probably only some 10,000 Nigerians who are direct beneficiaries of the frauds of the 1999 Constitution. The NASS and its members are among the major institutional beneficiaries.
In August 2013, Pan-African News Wire carried a story, sourced from ThisDay and headlined “Ezekwesili Challenges Nigerian Lawmakers To Declare Remuneration” http://panafricannews.blogspot.com/2013/08/ezekwesili-challenges-nigerian.html (Accessed Oct. 2013)
Ezekwesili accused the National Assembly of guzzling over N1 Trillion in eight years, a figure she described as a huge drain on the economy. She also mentioned a report by the Economist magazine which said that Nigerian federal legislators, with a basic salary of $189,500 per annum, were the highest paid lawmakers in the world.
Ezekwesili simply added fresh details to what, in 2010, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank Governor, had presented to the country through televised Senate proceedings—a very expensive NASS: Total federal overheads, N536.2 billion (100%); NASS share, N136.25 billion (25.41%).
What we have here is Nigeria’s Fortune-500 Club. Unlike the US Fortune 500 of corporations which produce goods and services that make life better for their people, Nigeria’s Fortune 500 is a cozy club of less than 500 members out of a population of 150million, who are the highest paid legislators in the world, and who consume 25% of the huge “overhead” funds federal officials spend on themselves. Is it reasonable to expect such a club to vote to end the arrangement that is so enriching to themselves?
Can they, in particular, be expected to enact an enabling legislation for a National Conference process that would terminate a constitution on which their bonanza is based? What do you think?
In light of the serious conflict of interest it would involve, referring the National Conference decisions and recommendations to the NASS would be like referring a fraud case to a High court whose members are beneficiaries of the fraud. You can expect them to use their positions to protect, not terminate, their bonanza. They would be saints to do otherwise. And saints in politics are more rare than hurricanes in Nigeria.
Given their powerful self-interest in the matter, the honorable thing for the NASS is to excuse itself from the National Conference process. But waiting for these honorables to do the honorable thing may prove to be like waiting for 500 miracles.
So, isn’t it better for the people to decide this matter by themselves? In the world of business, there are times when the owners/shareholders must directly exercise their duty and right to decide what their company does; when it would be irresponsible of them to leave a decision in the hands of the management team they hired and pay to run their company for them. I think Nigeria is now in a comparable situation.
Having argued why the National Conference process should bypass NASS, whether for an enabling legislation for the conference, or for a law to implement its decisions, or for anything else, let me raise some other key issues that, I think, should be part of this National Dialogue.
The Boko Haram sect, like all other Nigerians, should now argue its case and convince the rest of us, not just about why it is right that it should impose its sectarian version of Islam on Christians, Polytheists and other Muslims; but even more importantly, it should present its case for why Christians and Polytheists should not retaliate and impose their preferred religions on all of Nigeria’s Muslims, even by resorting to Boko Haram methods.
Of course, it is predictable that Boko Haram will spurn any invitation to participate in this National Dialogue, just as it has spurned invitations to discuss its grievances with the Govt. Nevertheless, its Caliphate and ACF sponsors, as well as other sympathizers, are undoubtedly taking part. Some have spoken up, airing their opposition to the National Conference. They should publicly present the views held and the justifications proffered by their shadowy agents and protégés and let all Nigerians judge the matter.
If the Boko Haram sect and its sponsors continue to reject a resolution of our differences by democratic discussion, then it is clear that they insist on a resolution by civil war against the non-Boko-Haram majority of Nigerians: the peace-loving Muslims, the Christians and the Polytheists. Then this majority combination of Nigerians must openly accept the challenge and declare and wage war, total war, on the Boko Haram sect, and let’s see which side crushes the other.
Yes, war is hell. So let’s consciously give them hell. What we are being put through by Boko Haram is war, civil war. And you can’t win a war by pretending to yourself that what’s going on isn’t war but a polite, due-process-observing, counter-terrorism operation.
The alleged non-negotiability of Lugard’s One Nigeria:
Some, like Shehu Sani, have recently claimed that the dialogue will divide North and South, as if North and South have not already been bitterly divided on many unresolved issues in the past century. So what’s new if it does remind us of our intractable divisions? And what’s wrong if it forces us to finally confront them?
Nigerians should specially invite OBJ, IBB and those others who insist that the Nigerian union is not negotiable to present their full and best case for their position.
And we need to remind ourselves that we live in a world of changes, a world where, since 1970, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Sudan, and even the mighty Soviet Union, a superpower of the 20th century, have broken up.
If the Nigerian union is non-negotiable, or is indissoluble; if Nigeria must not break up, is it because
(a) it is in the eternal interest of the 84% of Nigerians who have been needlessly impoverished by Nigeria; or because
(b) there is some secret decree by God/Allah/destiny, some doctrine much like the Papal dogma that marriage is a union eternal and indissoluble because it is a holy sacrament instituted by and pleasing to the Lord, God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; a divine doctrine that this Nigerian union must last forever, and at whatever cost to the people, because what Lord Lugard, the Lord Almighty, once joined together, no mortals shall ever put asunder; or because
(c) as Jigawa state Gov. Sule Lamido recently boasted, Nigeria’ elite of vampires “will never allow Nigeria to break because once it breaks, we will lose”;
Here he is in full on ‘Why Nigeria can’t break’:
Lamido also said he was in agreement with President Goodluck Jonathan that Nigeria cannot break as he said that members of the elite class in the country were united in preserving their advantages over the masses irrespective of tribe and religion.
“Who will break it? The ordinary person in Jigawa or the ordinary person in Sokoto or the ordinary person in Bayelsa?”
“Is it the Ibo vulcaniser or the Yoruba woman that is selling kerosene by the roadside or the Okada man in Delta?
“They don’t have the capacity to unite because they are burdened by poverty. We have taken away from them their dignity, their self esteem, their pride and self worth so that they cannot even organise.
“Up there, we (elite) unite, we sing and so we will never allow Nigeria to break because once it breaks, we will lose.
“But the common man loses nothing. What is he losing? He is already living in hell; he cannot lose anything more than this hell.”
— Posted by: The Citizen in Governance August 12, 2013
If this indissolubility is not justified by of any of the above, then what justifies it? Those advocating indissolubility have their chance now to present their case in full to all Nigerians or forever remain silent. They should thoroughly argue their case.
Fairness and reciprocity also demand that those who disagree with them should present their case and let the Nigerian people as a whole make their own unfettered decision on this most basic and contentious issue.
Why the National Conference should be open-ended
I earlier suggested that the National Conference process be open-ended. Our elected office holders, and other politicians, are not likely to welcome this suggestion because it would affect their plans and ambitions for the 2015 elections.
We, however, need to realize that the elections scheduled for 2015 are not sacred. Maybe they are sacred to the politicians; but are they, or should they be, to us the people? If it turns out that we need ample time to discuss and decide our long-term future, why should we shortchange ourselves to suit the politicians?
What interest should guide us on this matter—theirs or ours?
Given this their wayo and wuruwuru Constitution, whose interest should this National Dialogue/Conference serve? The interest of the 10,000 gangsters, the likes of Sule Lamido and his band of elite vampires who want to keep on sucking the peoples’ blood and want the 2015 elections to take place on schedule; or the interest of their victims—the 150m rest of us Nigerians of today and our generations of descendants into the long and indefinite future? Which interest is more important? Therefore which interest should decide the conflict in schedules between the National Conference and the 2015 elections?
We will do ourselves and our descendants a grave disservice, I submit, if we limit our considerations and issues to those of interest to our politicians. This may well be our last chance to sort out our differences by dialogue, rather than by war, so let’s take however long it takes to jaw-jaw our way to peace, rather than hurriedly plunge into war-war, by cutting the talking short. For, as they say, when talking is frustrated, blows follow.
Why only ethnic nationalities should be represented at the National Conference
What entities should take part in the National Conference? I have argued earlier that there is no legitimate basis for religious groups and the 36 states to be represented at the National Conference. For the reasons already presented, the structures of the fraudulent 1999 Constitution have no legitimate place in the process for selecting delegates to the National Conference and should be bypassed.
This applies not only to the “states”—as argued before (see “Proposed suggestions”)–but also to the “LGAs”. In starting the delegates-selection process at the grassroots, we should revert to the constituencies which were similarly used for the 1949-1950 consultations that produced the Federal Constitutions by which Nigeria was governed till 1966.
But it appears that professional associations, trade unions, NGOs and the like are keen to send delegates. Should they? I don’t think so, and here’s why. Every Nigerian belongs to an ethnic group (“tribe”), and would have his interests represented once his ethnic group is represented.
For a professional association or trade union to send delegates would mean that its members will have additional representation to the one through their ethnic group (multiple representation). Is that fair to the other Nigerians who belong to no professional associations or trade unions?
In the case of NGOs the over-representation and unfairness would be even worse: Many of them are just one-or-two-person outfits, so their operators would be greatly over-represented. Besides, those funded from foreign sources would be a conduit for the influence and views of their foreign paymasters/funders. To admit such would be to admit foreign powers, through their Nigerian compradors, into our National Conference.
If they are admitted, what would stop Shell, Chevron, Mobil, ELF, AGIP and other transnational corporations from being represented? Or British Airways and Air India and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC)?
The issue of the principle aside, there is the practical issue: God knows how many tens of thousands of NGOs, foundations, LLCs and PLCs operate within Nigeria! How would participants from such outfits be selected? Or is a conference of 10,000 or more delegates feasible?
We would be wise to make this a Conference of Nationalities only. We should bear in mind that by recognizing only ethnic nationalities and blocking entities like professional associations, trade unions, NGOs, and the entities created by the fraudulent 1999 Constitution, every Nigerian would be represented, and none would be given the unfair advantage of multiple representation.
If you want your diverse interests represented, please channel them all through your ethnic group like everybody else. That’s the route to a level playing field for all Nigerians.
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© Chinweizu 2013