Their stance is that our recent experience demonstrates beyond al doubts that we are a nation of incompatible tribes and ethic nations. Are we really incompatible? Is it really a mistake that British Colonialists amalgamated the north and south in 1914? Is there any hope for the minorities under the present arrangement? The diversity of tribes and nationalities in Nigeria is a point of strength rather than a weakness. No convincing evidence has been shown to support the assertion of incompatibility.
We have been interacting socially since the British brought us together prior to independence in 1960. This argument of incompatibility is faulted by the stance of our past leaders most of whom were believers in one Nigeria. The vision of Nnamdi Azikwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello was that of one Nigeria, having been premier of western region it was the ambition of Obafemi Awolowo to rule the Nigerian nation. M. K. O Abiola (like Awolowo) before him had a chance to lead to lead the Yoruba nation into secession but he never succumbed to the temptation.
The Ibos have suffered the most injustice (of the three major tribes of Nigeria) yet their current leaders have expressed unshaken confidence in the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria opting to constitutionally redress past injustices. In fact the Igbos of Nigeria will be favorably adjudged by posterity for their massive 1999 nationalistic votes that brought President Olusegun Obasanjo to power despite opposition from his Yoruba tribesmen’s then leadership. The Hausa/Fulani i.e. North have dominated power almost all the time since 1960 Independence from Britain hence, they are not heard to complain. Today a Yoruba man is in power as President; it is doubtful if any of the other tribes can take the current clamor of a few outspoken Yoruba radicals for re-structuring
and sovereign national conference serious.
As far as the other tribes and nationalities are concerned the Hausas have passed the baton to the Yorubas (but many forget that the Yorubas paid dearly to have that baton). With publication of the report of the Federal Character Commission on the composition of the officials Obasanjo’s federal government we are still waiting for the SNC protagonists’ own definition of the term “re-structuring”. We have not reached “eldorado” but it cannot be fairly asserted that the same group that dominated Nigeria under Sanni Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida are still ruling.
What many SNC protagonists actually desire is the dismemberment of Nigeria i.e. let us meet and agree to part. How practicable is this? What is the guarantee that if the SNC is convened the consensus is going to be part rather than to stay together? If a section wants to part, can it do so against the wishes or consent of the others? Can we by consensus at the SNC achieve what Gideon Orkar sought to achieve by way of coup d’etat i.e. the creation of the Republic of Southern Nigeria.
What evidence (without a referendum) is there of irreconcilable incompatibility among the peoples of Nigeria? Do we cease to be compatible at the mere suggestion of our foreign detractors? The SNC Protagonists must disclose (in any case) their agenda. That agenda must include their own models or proposal as to how the country should be broken or how it should be held together. Right now the only sensible proposals on ground are the Gideon Orkar Proposal and the National Political Conference Report. Nigeria of the new millennium has no room for iconoclasts. It is up to others to submit theirs for consideration rather than continually berate those submitted without proposing alternatives.
The present efforts at Constitutional Amendment (2006) affords opportunity for a peaceful and amicable route for parts and nationalities that desire separate sovereign existence to pursue that objective. It is unfortunate that some have gone ahead to unilaterally declare secession in utter disregard of the binding provisions of the 1999 Constitution. No responsible Government would suffer indefinitely such illegalities despite warnings. It is sensible for any part so desiring to come to the conference (National Assembly) table to convince the others to allow it to opt out of Nigeria. But such agenda is fraught with difficulties and the attendant challenges may result in frustration and violence and (if the experience of the Ndigbo is anything to go by) any violent secession is likely to suffer the same fate as did Biafra.
In conclusion, the sheer size and diversity of Nigeria and its potential as world power constitutes a worrisome circumstance for the neocolonialist and even intimidates some African countries. Nigeria is today and remains the largest concentration of Blacks in the universe and therefore the hope of our race. We can turn it from the sleeping giant of today to the world power and model God has designed it to be. By our sheer population alone, the entire continent of Africa is likely to suffer adversity and grave economic and refugee problem if any crises erupts that causes violent disintegration.
As late as February 1999 we had the chance to (and in fact some NADECO leaders did) insist on a sovereign National Conference before democratic rule under 1999 Constitution. We opted to forge ahead on present terms which have so far proved workable and wise. There is no guarantee that the SNC is the sure road to more favorable terms of co-existence and there is not much room nor time for profitless experimentation.
The phenomena of ethic and religious violence are not conclusive evidence of incompatibility or constitutional defect. They are the natural incidence of our new found democratic polity and would not go on forever. There is no time to meet and discuss interminably. The urgent need of the day is poverty alleviation, economic development and prevention of military take over. In short good governance is sine qua non to the sustenance of our fledgling democracy. The agitation for SNC is therefore an unnecessary distraction. What is needed is comprehensive constitutional amendment NOT a complete jettisoning of the 1999 Military-Imposed Constitution – a distorted version of the excellent 1979 Constitution. The Presidency and the National Assembly have rightly commenced the amendment Process although rather late. Those great ideas that the SNC protagonists have should be made available to the National Assembly’s Constitutional Amendment Committee. The Presidency has done its part by forwarding the Report of the National Political Reform Conference. Our Freedom of Speech under the 1999 Constitution is wide enough to encompass memoranda that propose the constitutional break-up of Nigeria and it is hoped that those who favor that ideal would not let this opportunity slip by while awaiting the remote possibility of a Sovereign National Conference.
NB: Extract of Author’s Book titled “NO TO SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE”. E-Mail the Author for copies.