Nigeria: Sovereign National Conference and Critical Questions
On Wednesday, on a Lagos based radio station Nigeria Info 99.3fm I had the privilege of discussing the issues around the Sovereign National Conference. Professor Pat Utomi was part of the discussion. We differed on the Sovereign National Conference. For me that was supposed to be a hard ground to stand because the SNC is now the word on the lips of most politically conscious folks and here I has taking a stand different from the revered Professor Utomi. What I had going for me was two things; I have a history of not joining the crowd except the crowd is right and I was in a position to know that the SNC is just another distraction for our country to forget the essence of its nationhood.
Apart from bad governance and corruption, one of the things that have stalled development in Nigeria is the continuous pre-occupation of the elite on mundane issues rather than a dedicated focus on what really matters to the real Nigerian. The battle for the soul of Nigeria is not a battle being fought for the real Nigerian, it is a battle being fought by the elite for the elite. When the die is cast though, the Nigerian becomes the tool of war and s/he more than anyone else suffers the consequence of that elitist war of attrition.
What would the farmer in Potiskum have Nigerian elites talk about? What would the fisher man in Hadejia prefer we go for now as a group of learned Nigerians? What would that poor family in Igbokoda expect we talk about now? Are they in their predicaments because Niigeria is yet to have a Sovereign National Conference? Will an Oduduwa, Niger Delta, Arewa add-all-the-other-possible-Lilliputian-divisions Republic mean that all of the problems of the Nigerian entity will disappear? So a certain Ibori would have been a good president of Niger Delta Republic? An Akala as President of Oduduwa Republic would have done better and an Akwe Doma would have performed better as President of whatever republic he falls into? Sheer nonsensical hypocrisy!
While you think through the questions, let me say to you that Nigeria as it is is an anomaly. The 1999 constitution is more a curse than a blessing. The structure and form of government is a conduit of underdevelopment and corruption. We are a nation that needs a healing from many diseases. We are confronted by challenges on all fronts. Do we kill a man because he is at the point of death and has no chance to live? Does Nigeria have a chance? Does the 1999 constitution allow for its amendment or is it cast in stone like the Laws of Moses or the Persia-Mersia Law that cannot be altered or amended? Let us not deceive ourselves; most of those who are calling for the SNC are ethnic jingoists who have lost out in the power game. A lot of them were in power, what did they say or do about an SNC then? Are they calling for this Conference for the sake of the real Nigerians or their perennially destructive selfish interest? Will the SNC solve all the problems we are battling as a people?
Let us even assume the SNC is the way forward. The representatives of the different ethnic groups will either be selected or elected. Either way, most of those that will emerge are the same old rogues who are yet to pay for their rape of this country. Going by the cost of the last elections, it would cost us some N100 billion to get these folks elected/selected and would cost us just about the same amount to organise and execute the conference. Is that what the real Nigerian wants? Talking about attendance, is it the same old folks who have consistently and unrepentantly raped this country that will be represented or those who are generationally bound to live with the consequences of the decisions that are made in today’s Nigeria? If we do not trust those we supposedly elected to represent us in the Sovereign National Assembly to do what is right about restructuring the country, are we going to get angels to conduct the process to get a new set of people to meet at the neo-SNC?
Each time the National Assembly meets, a Sovereign National Conference is going on. A conference is a meeting of two or more persons for discussing matters of common concern. Sovereignty is authority. The Assembly has all the elements of an SNC. We cannot have a National Assembly and also have another Sovereign National Conference going on. One issue of concern for proponents of an SNC is the issue of fiscal federalism and the derivation formula. The 1999 constitution itself was sincere about the fact that it could fall short of the expectations of Nigerians so it set aside Section 9, subsection 1-4 for its own amendment. Every part of the constitution can be amended. Most of us say “We the people” had nothing to do with we the people when the constitution was signed into law in 1999. That can change if we the people look at the wrong things about the constitution and get to correct them.
No nation or country started with a perfect constitution. The world’s most referred-to-country especially in terms of democracy, the United States has had 27 amendments; 17 regular amendments and 10 bill of rights which are the original constitutional amendments. The United States will be 236 years old July this year. There have been 94 amendments to the Indian constitution with the last one on the 12th of June 2006. We cannot birth a perfect constitution or a people representative constitution with an event. It is a process. Nation building is a process.
Those who want change must bury their egos and come together. Evil people have been together for 13 years of our democracy because they always agree to loot our money no matter the other disagreements they have. Progressives must agree to come together for the sake if our country if they disagree on other fronts. Country first before egos.
If we want change, we first must educate and enlighten our people. We must get involved in the process of governance by demanding for good governance on all fronts.
Those who want a Conference should tell us all the issues and processes around it. Even if ethnic nationalities will bear the cost, it is important to know how much it will cost each part and the whole. Objectives, expectations and outcomes must be spelt out. We cannot afford another journey into another kind of darkness.
Nigerians want good governance and a post Sovereign National Conference Nigeria does not guarantee that if we still get to have the same set vampires ruling our people. Do we need a National Distractions Committee to help us manage distractions? We are a perpetually distracted people. God help Nigeria!