Local, State And Ethnic Sovereign Conferences

by Sam Abbd Israel

Dear Fellow Nigerians,

We started the year 2002 by raising and promoting the idea of sovereign conferences as an agenda item worthy of pursuit by every living Nigerian. This writer like every other awakened Nigerians was concerned about the Nigeria’s political structure that tends to be much of a handicap than a catalyst for growth, development and prosperity. We were worried sick about the carnage of woes, suffering and human deprivation that the political structure and its supporting institutions are inflicting on the innocent peoples occupying the geographical space called Nigeria. In the search for answers, we realised that knowledgeable Nigerians have since 1993 persistently raised the need to convey a National Sovereign Conference as one of the first steps towards finding a long lasting solution to the problems of inept governance, injustices, inequalities and camouflaged chattel slavery in Nigeria. This writer concurred with this brilliant idea and has no qualm to add his voice to the knotty question of logistics that would arise in organising the National Sovereign Conference. It is in order to overcome the logistic problem of organisation, representation, cost, etc. that prompted the suggestion for a manageable phased out Sovereign Conferences. Since January, we have joined hands and voices with other concerned Nigerians to sing along about the inevitability of NSC as a necessary and unavoidable project.

The fundamental principles that informed the need to join voices with other Nigerians on the idea of NSC are the convictions that the present Federal Government of Nigeria is an inherited political force of occupation. That the unitary system of administration favoured by the military and the feudal lords was a cruel imposition that came first from the British Colonial Office and lately from the military prodigal sons of Nigeria. That the current political system in Nigeria, because of its lack of foundation from the community grassroots, has become inadequate to sustain development and growth.

In addition, that the historical objective which set up the Federal Government of Nigeria was first and foremost to serve the national interest of Britain and secondarily, to satisfy the greed and vanity of the puppets selected to manage it. Because of these incontrovertible historical and political facts, FGN has remained unquestionably an albatross on the neck of the indigenous population. Its purported claims of protecting and providing for the welfare of the peoples of Nigeria have remained a farce since 1914. The ever increasing untold cost and injury to the peoples are raising concerns of a probable social implosion if awakened Nigerians failed to take intelligent steps to redress the obvious imbalances of inequality, injustices and the high rate of state legalised robbery that is crippling the economy and the peoples of Nigeria.

In the five submissions so far presented to fellow Nigerians we have looked at what the personal role of each living Nigerian should be along the line of seeking and searching for the truth of our existence. We have offered suggestions on the contribution that political enlightenment from practical experience gained from Family Sovereign Conference can make to the mental and spiritual emancipation of Nigerians. We have tried to promote awareness that a properly organised Community Sovereign Conference can make a critical difference to the present institutional arrangements that depend on begging for handouts from the central government for their existence. In this essay, we shall like to look at the three penultimate stages – local, state and ethnic sovereign conferences – that should be organised before we can move to the final stage of organising the National Sovereign Conference.

Local Sovereign Conference (LSC)

We shall define local as the communities under the present administrative set up called local government. As we know, the past military administrations created most of the local governments by fiat. The creation of most of these local government generated hate-love scenarios across the country. The mischief-making military politicians did their best to sow a legacy of bad blood even in this important political assignment. They managed by design and thoughtlessness, as they played the politics of divide and rule, to sandwich incompatible communities together. In addition, they cited the headquarters of some of the local governments to spite one community leader in favour of another. They set aside or refused to allow historical antecedents of power inter-plays in these communities to inform their judgement and decisions. Consequently, most local governments have since been embroiled in cold and hot wars. Communal peace, unity, progress and prosperity have since disappeared from most communities.

The convening of a Local Sovereign Conference can therefore not be an easy task considering the seeds of bitterness and hate that the military marauders sow in the communities. The organisation of LSC shall call for more than a serious human effort from the enlightened indigenes. The tasks shall entail cultural and spiritual programmes of reconciliation of aggrieved and feuding communities. It shall call for the healing of the sores and scars of bitterness intentionally stoked up by the military and left behind to fetter the communities. The enlightened indigenes must appeal to their community members to allow the highest noble virtues of love and forgiveness to prevail. They must urge them to give a chance to the spirit of truth to take control of their communities and to guide the awakened members as they create, nurture and promote new moral and ethical values.

The justification for organising the LSC is based on the rational logic that stresses the wisdom of the dictum, which says, ‘together we stand, divided we fall’. It is a proven sociological fact that societies evolved as humankind discover that the common needs of survival are easier to achieve and manage in organised communities. The ancient people recognised the distinctions in talents and skills and appreciated that pooling these disparate natural gifts together would augur well for the happiness and safety of the commonwealth. The political theories that emerged shortly after the end of the Italian Renaissance reinforced the wisdom of together we stand, divided we fall. The commonwealth principles spiced with the truth of equality, justice and freedom have been adopted by every progressive society ever since.

In this discourse, we shall like to promote the idea of a LSC as a process that can establish a people-initiated, people-desired and people-supported local government. The LSC should be a carefully considered deliberate action from the heart of the common people. The promoters and organisers must be able to work tirelessly among the people, to educate them about the needs, the gains, the sacrifices, the contributions and the dedication expected from each member of the communities to a people-sponsored local government. There is a need to expose every member of the communities to new ideas and new values of governance and government. The colonial inherited attitude in the communities that handed over the responsibility of managing communities to a foreign manager called District Officer has since been transferred to the foreign educated sons of the soil. Most members of our communities have grown up to believe that the administration of their society is beyond their competence. That it is only the English-speaker, certificate-holder and honorary-titled citizen that is capable of serving the community in a political capacity.

We must endeavour to correct this type of myth and fallacy and to expunge them forever from the minds of the people. We must promote the need to accept popular participation, not as a mere election-voting citizen, but actual participation in the running of our communities as a primary condition for the establishment and management of local government. We must discourage professional politician since the constitution in the making must mandate every citizen to volunteer two-five years of ones life in service to their communities and governments.

As it was in the Community Sovereign Conference, the LSC participants duly appointed by the resolution of the Community Sovereign Conference must divide themselves into various committees that suit their competences. They must endeavour to marshal out workable working papers for the consideration of the Conference. The grand objective is to write a memorandum of understanding with respect to social, economic and political objectives for the joint administration and management of the participating local communities; and to make recommendation for institutional arrangement for cooperation and development of their communities. The delegates must remember that the simpler the memorandum is the better and more promising it shall be for successful implementation.

State Sovereign Conference (SSC)

The 36 state structure of Nigeria is one of the Trojan gifts bestowed on Nigeria by the military. The military aided by political collaborators conceived the breaking down of the pre-1966 four regional governments into smaller states as a panacea to the tribal and ethnic problems of Nigeria. The history of state creation moved from 12 states created in 1967 to 19 states in 1976, 21 states in 1987, 30 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FTC) in 1991 and finally to 36 states plus FTC in 1996. Unfortunately, these expensive exercises have not solved the ethnic and tribal problems. The creation of states actually intensified and enlarged the scope of the problem. It has exacerbated the awareness of differences in language, culture and religions. The further we go in the direction of state creation the deeper we fell into the snare of human differences and cultural diversities.

On reflection and with hindsight it is obvious that the physical adjustment of boundaries is not really going to solve the problem of political nepotism, religious bigotry, ethnic domination and enslavement and all kinds of economic, political and religious corruption. It seems the problem has more to do with our nature as human beings. If we had understood this truth maybe it is to our human nature we could have addressed our energies and resources in the search for solution. We could have spent more time to discover our human nature, to understand its strength and weakness, to cultivate and harness its virtues and to weed away and destroy its vices.

The lesson learnt from the short history of Nigeria should guide us in our search for fruitful solutions. In organising the SSC we need to recognise that each state boundary is an artificial construct. The military split many communities with common historical lineage into two or more contiguous states. These oversights or clever designs under a divide and rule policy, has ensured a continuous strife and bitter feuds in the states concerned. This is particularly noticeable in the Niger Delta region of the country where the country derives most of the resources that fattens the treasury of Nigeria. The splitting of the people of this region into several states under a state creation arrangement that aims at putting people of similar culture and language under the umbrella of a state cannot be an accident. It must definitely be a political design to ensure disunity among these marginalized and exploited Nigerians. Without a united front, it becomes extremely difficult for them to articulate a common agenda against the stranglehold of their exploiters.

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