Dear Fellow Nigerians,
We thank God the cocks are starting to crow at dawn again. A section of the Arewa Consultative Forum led by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Chairman of the Board of Patrons of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has seen the sense in a national sovereign conference. In addition, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) seems to share the same opinion as reported by The Guardian newspaper. This is a bad omen, not good news. Why this sudden change and what particular reason can we attribute for this type of Saul’s Damascus change of view? We should remember that the Arewa Consultative Forum has always held the opinion that the National Assembly is adequate to handle all the national questions and that there was no need for a national sovereign conference. The members of the ACF are ruthless politicians. They do not give support to any principle lightly unless they are sure there is something to gain. What have they seen as probable political gains in the National Sovereign Conference (NSC) at this particular time? We can only hazard guesses but as at this moment, we cannot envisage anything yet. However, they might be sensing a change of tide and if so feel there is a need for them to be in a good position to influence the trend of ensuing events.
This is where Awakened Nigerians need to be on their guides as they stand on their well-founded principled ground. We must not allow the politicians of whatever shade and colour to hijack the momentum and the direction of the NSC. The main objective of NSC is to pull out the societies of Nigeria away from the deadly hands of all politicians both civilian and military. These people called politicians are enemies of Common Nigerians. We have ample evidences of their inhumane machinations and deadly acts on the people of Nigeria. We must not trust them with our lives anymore. We must be vigilant to sense all their actions as loaded and self-serving and we must refuse to yield any moral ground to them. We must aspire to build our civil societies on a different principle based on love and respect of fellow humankind and not on hate and bigoted belief of superiority of persons, which is the foundation of the current arrangement.
In our first essay written in January titled, A Reflection on National Sovereign Conference, we suggested the idea of phasing out the sovereign conferences in stages. We suggested Family Sovereign Conferences, Community/Village Sovereign Conferences, Local Administration Sovereign Conferences, State Sovereign Conferences, Regional/Ethnic Sovereign Conferences and National Sovereign Conference. We also mentioned that it was not the business of a tyrannical government to organise the process for its annihilation. We still believe it is the business of an oppressed slave to seek every means at his disposal to throw off the yoke of his oppressor. If a slave waits on the benevolence of his owner to offer him freedom on a platter of gold, then he has merely confirmed his status as a slave for life.
As we mentioned in the last letter, Nigerians must understand that as at today, our political arrangement is still of a slave colony. From what we are seeing and hearing, we have now realised that our so-called leaders from every community have been trading with our lives for money and honours. It is with our lives they make pacts, deals and compromises. They trade us off like commodities over the years in various clandestine pacts. They promised their masters during election time that they would deliver us like cargo of sheep. They insult our intelligence and degrade our human dignity in the name of national unity. How can we, the Common Nigerians, redress this absurd state of affairs?
This writer will like to remind the reader that we are addressing these letters principally to Common Nigerians. We are more than doubly sure that any Nigerian who regards him/herself as an eminent Nigerian will not have the time to read them. They will be too busy counting and overseeing their ill-gotten loots than surfing the Internet. Therefore, we are hoping that the message is safe for the eyes and ears of Common Nigerians only. The situation of our country has gone from worse to worst. The next stage of development cannot be anything else but social implosion. In order to prevent the avoidable disaster, Common Nigerians must begin to put heads together as we rethink the best way to refashion our deplorable situation. We sincerely believe Common Nigerians can still save the day. We must learn to boycott our so-called eminent Nigerians; they have never proved to be our friends. They seem to hate us and they do not care if the entire lot of us rot in hell as long as their ration of ill-gotten comforts are safe.
Those who have made attempt to reflect on the organisation or have actually organised the Family Sovereign Conference, would have gained some salient understanding about the concept of sovereignty. It must have brought into the open some of the grey areas that make relationships difficult even at the family level. If these difficulties have not been resolved, there would have been a clearer understanding of their origin, nature and probable steps that we can take to correct them. We must expect this type of insights when Nigerians begin to undertake intelligent actions based on results of intellectual appraisal of the problems confronting us and not indulge in beer parlour dialogues that have neither head nor tail. In this essay we shall examine why Community Sovereign Conference is necessary and offer suggestions on procedures for its organisation.
Justification for Community Sovereign Conference
The principle of a republic, to which Nigeria State professes as its fundamental political ethos, informed the idea and the necessity for Community Sovereign Conference. The ideology of a republic polity centres its belief on the inalienable notion that every member of the republic is equal; that there is neither master nor slave in the polity; that there is neither royalty nor serfs in the polity; and that there is neither eminent member nor common member in the polity. It is also an accepted norm that there is no special privilege or favour for any member under the law. Under the law of a republic it does not matter one jot where a man was born, who is father/mother is, what religion he practices or his sexual orientation, or ethnic affiliation or tribal origin, etc. since equality of persons is fundamental to the spirit of a republic.
However, the situation of Nigeria since 1960 has amply demonstrated that equality of persons in Nigeria is a farce; that there are some Nigerians more superior to other Nigerians; and that there are naturally eminent Nigerians who do not have to struggle to earn a living. As it were, these eminent Nigerians were born with silver spoons in their mouth. We have evidence of some Nigerians that started their working lives as public servants as soon as they were out of their nappies. All their lives, these eminent Nigerians have known no other jobs than that of State Commissioner, Federal Minister, Ambassador, Chairman/Secretary of Government Corporations, Director of Companies, Politician, etc. These special breeds of Nigerians have commandeered all the juicy political positions in the land and it is through these posts they were able to amass unearned wealth. We could say these Nigerians were born with their hands glued to the national treasury of Nigeria.
The injustices of nepotism raised fundamental questions when we traced how the national treasury secured its wealth. We discovered that the national wealth is the result of callous, persistent armed robbery operations conducted on the communities of Nigeria. It is a fundamental sociological fact that Nigeria State is the combination of communities and that the resources of these communities fatten the treasury of the Nigeria nation. It is on this wealth that the super-privileged Nigerians, born with silver spoons in their mouth, have fed on. While the communities are dying off, these job-for-the-boys groups are robust in wealth and health. If we understood the Agura Hotel Affair correctly, we would remember that the concerns of the negotiators were solely for the sharing of lucrative federal appointments and not for the economic welfare and social well being of Common Nigerians.
Our eminent Nigerians since the colonial time have never had any moral concern for our welfare. As soon as they secured their prestigious appointments the rest of Nigeria can go to blazes. The ridiculous thing is, when some of these cruel and irresponsible Nigerians are found misbehaving or have gone over the top in their greedy endeavours, it is the forgotten members of their communities that will again rise in one accord to give them protection and moral support. The question is why are Nigerians so gullible? Why should we allow this fraudulent culture of superiority of person, of official nepotism and of corporate fraud to continue in a polity that claims to be a republic? It is our contention that we can find the answer to this dilemma in the community. Yes, the same community that is presently bearing the brunt of the Federal Government callousness and indifference. We believe the Community Sovereign Conference is a good step in the right direction if we truly desire to find solutions to the national questions of injustice, inequality and enslavement.
The end goal of each community should be towards gaining sovereignty, as defined by the constitution, from the hand of the indifferent Federal Government. It is the greatest perversion of societies when every community, the possessor of all the natural resources that nature bestows, has to beg for pittance from the Federal Armed Robber of Nigeria for sustenance. In an essay titled, Nigeria’s Moment of Truth, we have made suggestions with respect to the moral and philosophical principle that ought to govern the federally constituted polity of Nigeria. Let us quote a passage from the essay:
“The Federal Government of New Nigeria shall own and shall have nothing except the contributions made freely by all the constituting states. Similarly, the state government shall own and shall have nothing except the contribution freely made by all the constituting local governments. Similarly, the local government shall own and shall have nothing except the contribution freely made by all the constituting communities or villages. Finally, the communities shall own nothing and shall have nothing except the contributions made freely by all the constituting families or households. This shall be the moral and philosophical principle that will govern the New Nigerian nations under preparation.”
It is unbelievable that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is completely silent on the administrative arrangement of our communities. It is as if the communities do not exist. All government policy papers make provisions for the three tiers of government but you hardly find any whatsoever made for the communities. There is an assumption that traditional rulers are in charge of the communities. If this is true, why did the writers of the Constitution refuse to address the role of traditional institutions as a political issue? Why did they refuse to accord the monarchy some constitutional roles like raising revenues and managing fiscal budget of their communities? The answer is obvious. The institution of traditional rulers contradicts the declaration in the opening statement of the constitution that says, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolve, … to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, …”. The hereditary principle and other cultural practices of traditional institutions negate the spirit and the principle of equality of persons in the republic.
We have a duty to turn this deliberate oversight into blessings and opportunities. We must turn the neglect of the community in the constitution into advantage under the Community Sovereign Conference. We have the liberty, though unintended by the constitution, to organise our communities to meet our identified pressing needs. We have the liberty, given through the carelessness of the authors of the constitution, to establish modern and progressive administrative institutions to take care of our community affairs. We have the liberty to control and manage our human and natural resources, though the constitution tried to steal some of these from us, to the best of our ability and capability. We shall not be breaking any law because, in the first place, it was the law that ingeniously left us out of its consideration and jurisdiction.
We believe a properly constituted community must have the wherewithal to provide for the needs of its members without recourse to begging. When a community is not able to provide adequate sustenance for its children, youth, women and the elderly; not able to fund the education and the health care of its members; not able to take care of its environment; and not able to provide and maintain its own social infrastructures then it has lost the moral right to exist. The same goes for a local government, state government and national government. The situation where every level of existence in Nigeria has to hold out a begging bowl to survive is a perversion of the truth of existence and it is unacceptable. Do you know that even the Federal Government of Nigeria is a beggar? The relationship between the FGN and the multinational oil corporations plus World Bank, IMF and others has nothing desirable in it that can make a truly free independent country proud. In fact, it is a relationship between a ‘Bad Samaritan’ and a foolish beggar.
Like everything else in our society, the military decreed it and later the military constitution succeeded in imposing Local Governments over the communities without seeking the input of the communities. No wonder chairpersons of local governments have since turned into little colonial Governor-Generals. The communities have no power whatsoever to influence the policy directions of the councils. These arrangements are intentionally generated contradictions enshrined to destabilise and to pauperise the societies. The maintenance of the institutions of traditional rulers during the military occupation serves the purpose of purchasing legitimacy for the armed bandits. The military prodigal sons knew that this institution contradicts the avowed principle on which Nigeria built its republic. Who cares? As long as they could use and abuse the traditional institutions to serve the purpose of the military force of occupation, nothing else matters.
The Community Sovereign Conference must have to resolve in each community the political role of the monarchy. Should there be a role for the monarchy in the administration of a modern community? If the royal fathers must retain their traditional duties, the sovereign conference must define these traditional duties without any ambiguity. We cannot run away from it. It is crucial to the future of Nigeria. We have three options, to move forward into civilization of 21st century, to remain stationary or to regress into the ancient times. Some communities will find this bit a hard nut to crack more so if keeping and protecting their traditions, either good or bad, mean more to them than progress and prosperity.
We cannot fail to remember the late Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, at this stage. He was definitely a prophet before his time. In one of his many so-called idiosyncrasies, he named his house in Lagos, Kalakuta Republic. Unknown soldiers, as they told us, later burnt down this house during General Obasanjo’s military regime. To most of us then we had no idea of the political message Fela was sending out but it seems the military boys understood. It is only now that this writer has come into some understanding of the concept of Kalakuta Republic. Simply, Fela was saying let each household see itself as a republic and to behave like one; and that each household has the right to rule over itself and should not relinquish this right to anyone. It is a fundamental human right.
It is under the household republic concept that we can practice the principle of partnership, the cornerstone of republican spirit. When every household is a republic then it behoves on each household to enter into bilateral and multilateral agreements with his/her neighbours, if they intend to live in harmony. It is when there is a mutual common respect between the republics that a community of households can secure peace, unity, progress and prosperity for all. In other words, to become a true community, each household must enter into a pact with other households in the neighbourhood. It is the duty of the households to define the basis of their associations and the common objectives that the community can, must, or ought to pursue together. In the process, the community will fashion a memorandum of understanding or constitution in which members shall state all the issues they have formally agreed to cooperate. The document shall become binding on all the participating households. It shall become the referencing and guiding principles of the community. Each community in Nigeria has a duty to embark on this exercise.
It is a fact that most communities have evolved without any formal debate as to their cardinal objectives as a community of households. Each community merely followed the tradition and culture of their ancestors. However, the world is entering a new age and this informal arrangement is no longer good enough. It is under this haphazard set up that all despots had found a hiding place. The communities have no guidelines on how to deal with all kinds of invasions either be it of individual bandits or of government bandits – foreign, national and local. Each community in Nigeria needs to set out a formal document of understanding if we intend to survive into the far future.
It is under the Community Sovereign Conferences that each community can secure its freedom from the over-bearing Federal, State and Local Governments. The exercise we are suggesting shall be a prelude to the formal and legal incorporation of each community as an autonomous economic unit and civil, legal and political entities. As a legal entity, it will have protection and control over whatever it identifies as its resources – human, land, water, mineral, etc. As a constituted political entity, nobody marches into the community to confiscate property or other goods without first dealing with the formal body the community has set up to deal with its affairs. An incorporated Community is one of the steps that can put a stop to the present brigandage of the multinational corporations under the tacit support of the puppet Federal Government that the colonial government set up for the exploitation of colonial territories even after the purported independence.
Unfortunately, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in the 1999 Constitution did not forbid exploitation of human or natural resources in Nigeria, it only gave a tepid condition. The constitution says it is all right to exploit if it is for the common good of the community. Chapter 2, Section 17, Schedule 2(d) of the Constitution says, “Exploitation of human or natural resources in any form whatsoever for reasons, other than the good of the community, shall be prevented”. How can any exploitation – particularly of the type done by the multinational corporations and the Federal Government of Nigeria – be for the good of a community? This is one of the many double speaks in the body of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The initiative for the organisation of Community Sovereign Conference shall rest with the awakened and enlightened members of the community. It is important to remind this group that they must not see themselves as leaders but as lights to their communities. The awakened Nigerians are lights to their communities and as lights your effectiveness will depend on how bright your lights are. You are simply to light up the path of the community. Each member of the community must walk the walk into freedom. No Nigerian can purchase freedom for another Nigerian. The duty of the awakened Nigerians is to serve as lampposts and bestow light on all that decide to walk the walk of freedom. We must allow each Nigerian to find his/her own way but the light of the awakened Nigerians shall help them to see where they intend to go without encountering mishap on the way.
The present situation where Nigerians buried their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich is what has led to the adoption of every scoundrel in every community as leaders. Since Nigerians assumed they have leaders, most Nigerians went back to sleep leaving hoodlums to take charge of their affairs. The result is predictable to all those who have not buried their common sense in the sand. The fundamental intention of the Community Sovereign Conference and the other stages of the Sovereign Conferences are to make leaders of every Nigerian. Every Nigerian must take charge of his/her affairs. In situation where we delegate our powers to any member of our community, it is a moral duty for each of us to understand the nature, the limit and the checks and balances of the powers we are delegating.
As mentioned above, the organisation of a Community Sovereign Conference shall rest on the shoulder of the enlightened members. The task shall entail serious networking to link the shakers and movers of the community together. It shall call for a logical presentation of convincing argument to bend the ears of those who might feel threatened by such novel ideas. The enlightened members shall need loads of grace, humility and patience to combat the activities of the natural spoilers found in every society. The spoilers do not listen and they do not hear because they are probably hard of hearing. Unfortunately, they are very vocal, very cantankerous, very quarrelsome and destructively very brilliant. They are the greatest handicap to progress in every society on earth. The enlightened members must seek the wisdom of heaven on how best to deal with the spoilers without compromising the objective of the Community Sovereign Conference.
Communities that wish to embark on the Sovereign Conference can put forward a mission statement that says, “We desire to ensure that no member of our community shall ever go hungry, homeless, unclothed and uneducated.” After stating this cardinal goal, the community conference shall then proceed with the analysis of the present social, economic and political situation of the community. It will be advisable for each Community to commission this kind of analysis to knowledgeable members of the community who can perform scientific investigation on the state of the community. The local analysts would thereafter present holistic analysis of identified problems and propose suggestions on strategies for solutions in terms of formulation of policy guidelines, institutional arrangements, identification of programmes and projects and the implementation procedures.
The intellectual reflection and analysis must include evaluation and assessment of the community latent and potential resources. The Conference must set up various committees like, economic committee to identify all the local resources, the ways and means to organise and cultivate community resources, the development and management of community resources and the establishment of justifiable methods of allocating community resources among members. It must set up a survey and mapping committee to carry out a survey and mapping of the community land and other natural resources; and a legal committee to draw up the memorandum of understanding or the constitution as agreed by the Sovereign Conference of the community. The survey and mapping committee must work with neighbouring communities to resolve areas where disputes on land might arise or have already arisen. Briefly, enlightened members of each community must canvass these core objectives and proposals to members of their community for popular support before the actual organisation of the Conference.
The organisation of the Community Sovereign Conferences will be trickier and more complex to handle than the Family Sovereign Conference. Historically, most traditional communities started as homesteads of a single family. As the family grows in number, the homestead also grows to become a hamlet, a village, a town or a city. The location and the industry of the homestead often hasten its growth. If the homestead were a trading centre, it would attract other people from far and near who either settled or made the homestead a transit camp. However, some communities, even after many generations, remained wholly a collection of relations – fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties, cousins, nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters and in-laws. Such communities are of homogeneous blood relations. It would be expected that the social bond that holds the members of a homogenous community together will be greater than the community that has grown into amorphous, monstrous cosmopolitan city.
There is a need to understand that the approach to adopt for the conference shall vary from community to community. A homogenous community of close and distant relations cannot use the same approach a cosmopolitan city will use. As human beings are unique and different from each other so also are communities unique and different. It is therefore impracticable to suggest a single approach for the organisation of the Community Sovereign Conferences. The important thing we can do is to promote the principle and to allow members of each community to use their ingenuity and God-given wisdom to combat the unique problem of their community. Whatever method is used, the goal should be the same. It is to assure the fundamental human rights of the members of the community to freedom, justice and equality and to use these rights as the platform for building harmony, securing peace and pursuing progress and prosperity of the community.
In all we have said above, we must be realistic and sensibly cautious of the inherent difficulties. It is a known fact that the problems of day-to-day living have completely overwhelmed Nigerians at home at this moment in time. The economic, social and political conditions in Nigeria are totally against intellectual reflections and therefore application of knowledge and intelligence to problem solving is desperately lacking all over the country. Living in any of the cities of Nigeria is enough to sap the body of physical and mental energy with nothing left for mental exercises. A situation where workers leave home before the sunrise to beat traffic congestion and return home at dusk into darkness because NEPA has cut off electric power supply definitely takes away the desire to study or engage in intellectual activities. Most educated Nigerians have not visited a bookshop to buy books or the library to borrow books for ages. Most cannot afford to buy the daily newspapers or the weekly magazines for lack of fund. It is therefore very difficult if not impossible for fellow compatriots to think beyond survival. Moreover, thinking and doing something about survival in a seemly-unstructured environment will definitely bring out the worst of the human nature. Our environment has a lot to do with the unpalatable state of affairs in the country.
As Nigerians in sojourn abroad, you have great opportunities to reflect, to research, to stretch your intellectual imagination, to widen your spiritual horizon and to dream big dreams. The realisation of the tremendous opportunity for spiritual and intellectual development accruing to Nigerians in the Diaspora informed the six letters we wrote to them between January and August 2002. In the letters, we urged Nigerians in the Diaspora not to allow this unique opportunity to go to waste at the altar of mammon. We were of the opinion that if these fortunate Nigerians could spend some quality time on the problem of Nigeria, they would be able to see the problems more clearly and be able to proffer intelligent solutions than those under direct yoke of the problem. With this insight, we were convinced that Nigerians in the Diaspora should be able to rescue Nigeria from the abyss of darkness.
From the erudite submissions we read on the Internet, it is true Nigerians in the Diaspora are brimming with knowledge, ideas and insights. We shall use this opportunity to call on them not to waste this acquired knowledge on mere propagation of theories. We believe this is action time. There is no community in Nigeria that does not have sons and daughters in the Diaspora. Let us begin to think about how best to make our acquired knowledge relevant to the needs of the community of our birth. From most of the essays written by Nigerians, we detect the knack and the compulsion in the writers to think and concentrate their analysis on the national matters while wilfully forgetting the local issues. It is good intellectual sense to think national but it will make more pragmatic sense and of more benefit to suffering Nigerians to act local. It is good to understand the Nigerian problem from the national and even international perspective but in the design of solutions let us act from the community level.
The organisation of the Community Sovereign Conference is an area where Nigerians in the Diaspora can offer the services of their various expertises. We observe that the politically conscious Nigerians are canvassing for popular participation in the foreboding forthcoming elections. We think this is a waste of time, energy and resources. The political electioneering process of filling the legislative assemblies with robbers and hooligans cannot rescue Nigeria from the chasm of destruction. The spiritual decadence in the land has gone too deep into darkness for us to see anyone worthy of receiving popular intelligent votes to represent the interest of the people of Nigeria. We can only see hoodlums in the political arena who have succeeded in driving off or killing off sane Nigerians who decided to brave it and swim in the shark-invested political waters. Therefore, the project of recycling this calibre of Nigerians into the legislative houses and state houses cannot do Nigeria any good but grievous harm. It is going to be perversion on perversion and the result shall be the extinction of Nigeria sooner than later.
However, Nigerians in the Diaspora can expend time and resources to sell the idea of a community sovereign conference, can participate in the organisation of various committees, can coordinate and synthesise the various analysis and can organise the Community Sovereign Conference of their individual villages/communities. This shall be a safer and surer way to seeing Nigeria out of the woods than to continue to tread on the beating but unfruitful path of western political model. As we said, the nature of the Sovereign Conferences we are proposing is unique and new. It does not condemn outright all the models of governance in place in the world but it is saying let Nigerians build their own model from the foundation upward unlike the present model, an outrageous imposition from the top. It might take a while to finalise the design and the actual construction of the structure but it will be a beautiful edifice if only we can allow knowledgeable architects to do the design.
Who else could these architects be than our true sons and daughters who have travelled the world and have seen the beauty and the beast of the world? These are Nigerians who have refused to be intimidated or bamboozled by the hugeness of the world they saw but have used their senses to see the hidden flaws and the imperfections in the glittering superficial world system. These Nigerians are those who have resolved to apply their acquired knowledge to build better political, social and economic structures in Nigeria. We believe these awakened Nigerians are ready to work for love and not for profit. They are not coming home to buy up Nigeria for self-aggrandisement but to invest their hard earned resources for the glory of their communities.
In order to free the Communities from the stranglehold of the three tiers of government, community members, both leaving outside and inside the community, must have to use their intelligence to address the challenges that a century (more in some places) of colonisation has put before them. Nigerians are aware that those leaving in the cities have dual allegiances. However, there is no doubt, where the primary allegiance lies. To a Nigerian the city shall remain, any day, the farmland; a place suitable for business only while the village shall never be anything else but the real home. This is the reality of our existence. This is the more reason why we can no longer neglect the communities, our true homes. We can build it and we must build it to the highest standard of our dreams.
Let us remember that each community is unique and therefore the approach to finding solutions must be unique as well. Communities cannot copy another but a community can learn from the examples of other communities and can adapt the examples as it soothes its community. Let us put on our thinking caps as we address this problem of covert slavery. As each Nigerian succeeds in freeing him/herself mentally and spiritually, the next stage of action is to stretch forth a helping hand to those who are still under the yoke of mental, spiritual, economic, social and political slavery. A community of free souls will have no problems in building a paradise that will befit their new status as free men and women. We should expect nothing less than this edifying result from a properly constituted Community Sovereign Conference.
In The Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Common Nigerian