Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum or NDLF, held a resoundingly successful public event at LaGuardia Marriott Hotel on Saturday March to discuss Nigeria’s political future, it was presided over by Dr. Adegboyega Dada the chairperson and Mr. Bukola Oreofe, the executive director and general coordinator of Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum respectively. The event witnessed vigorous and vibrant debates among Nigerians across the United States, and it lasted beyond the originally scheduled and allotted time
The event was well attended by notable Diaspora Nigerian intellectuals and it was titled the people’s parliament, and business was conducted with all parliamentary accoutrement of proper procedures and of an actual parliament anywhere in the world. I have never seen anything like it! I have attended previous events organized and hosted by Nigeria Liberty Forum during which I presented position papers on Nigerian national issues and or challenges, but the format.
Matters of urgent national importance were tabled and discussed, amongst which were, constitutionalism, democracy, resource control, environmental pollution, active participation and engagement in political and constitutional processes by Nigerian citizen, voting rights by Diaspora Nigerians, including the most effective ways within which Nigerian abroad can positively impact the lives of Nigerians in Nigeria and the general conditions on ground in Nigeria, and much more were tabled and discussed, with resolution passed and committees set for further dialogue and actions.
The proceedings began with the election of Professor Okey Ndibe as the speaker of the Nigeria People’s Parliament, and Pastor Laolu Akande a journalist and The Guardian Newspapers bureau chief, as the deputy speaker. A clerk was also elected, the clerk, whose name, I cannot immediately recall. The leaders of NDLF assured the parliament that the clerk took copious records of all of the Nigeria People’s Parliamentary proceedings.
There were those, however, who were advocating, what in my view, were extreme positions.
There were certainly those who wanted us to declare ourselves as a shadow government or government of Nigeria in exile, and therefore a substitute to the current government of Nigeria for Nigeria, but this was voted down by the majority of those in attendance
There those for instance, who also opined that Nigeria currently does not have a legitimate constitution and government, arguing that the drafters of the constitution did not reflect proper democratic process and true representation, as the erstwhile constituent assembly members were not necessarily elected representatives of the electorate.
The Constituent Assembly were merely appointed by the then military government, and hence, one of the participants described the current Nigerian constitution as merely from the pocket of the former military head of government who handed over power to the civilians in 1999. Whereas, the proper view and my preferred view, is that the constitution and the government have arisen from imperfect processes, requiring more work, through constitutional amendments, electoral reforms and fine tuning of the entire constitutional and democratic process. Nigeria currently does have a defacto, dejure constitution and a government with legislative, executive and judicial branches. And the National Assembly is actually undertaking a review of the constitution and electoral laws in pursuits of needful reforms.
During these proceedings by the Nigeria Peoples Parliament, many issues were proposed and voted upon, amongst which were issue citizenship, ethnicity, nationhood, constitutional amendments, law reforms and electoral reforms, ways to tackle corrupt practices, the establishment of local and police, resource control and resource allocation, the environmental impact of oil exploration and prospecting, immunity clause, security votes, the role of Nigerians in Diaspora in Nigeria’s development and much more.
Nigerians in the audience displayed the usual notable swaggers and superb intellects at our very best, in debate substance and style. There were sundry agreements, and disagreements of course, but, all in all, the debate were cordial and conducted in decorous manner. It was a profound and poignant reminder, that when and if, all Nigerians put aside those negative denominators of ethnic, religious, regional and sectional differences, there are indeed capable Nigerian brains who are able to solve our national challenges effectively and efficiently.
This parliamentary session was an eye-opener for me on a personal level. I met some participants in person for the first time, among these persons were persons with whom I have sparred and have had strident and vehement disagreements on matter of intellectual. Professor Bolaji Aluko traveled all the way from Washington DC and Professor Okey Ndibe traveled all the way from Connecticut, Dr. Warbiko traveled all the way from Boston, and there were attendees who announced themselves as participants from Michigan, California, Texas, and from other places, far and wide across the United States.
Many other Nigerians attended this event, notable among them were, in Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters, Rudolf Okonkwo a New York City based writer and frequent contributor to debates of Nigerian national issues at Nigerian related websites, including the Nigerian Village Square and Kwenu. Towards the end of the day’s events, I heard it whispered that Rudolf Okonkwo’s lovely wife, had prepared a feast of pounded yam dinner to which Professor Okey Ndibe and others were invited, but the invitation was not extended to me and on this ground, I finally have a legitimate grudge against Dr. Damages!
Also in attendance at the Nigeria Peoples Parliament, was gentleman whom, I have only known as Tonsoyo at the Nigeria Village Square , he also traveled into New York City to attend the Nigeria Peoples Parliamentary session and it was the first time that we were meeting in person, event though we have debated each other vigorously for so many years at the Nigeria Village Square! Nigerians merely have philosophical disagreements as to the methods, procedures and perhaps, the quickest route to Nigeria’s best national and strategic interests, there is surely no doubt that we all want and desire, what is best for Nigeria, even if we may differ on the best and fastest road to all these.
It is was nice to finally meet Tonsoyo and others, with whom I have debated and sometimes disagreed on sundry issues. It is the case and it must be stated, that Nigerians love Nigeria, even despite loud disagreements. Imagine for instance, that the Nigeria Peoples Parliamentary session was so well attended, despite the treacherous weather, windy torrential rainstorms. The bad weather which blanketed New York City and most North East region since Friday could have been a good reason or justification for not attending this event, even for residents of New York City. Anyone can then, only just have to imagine, the plight, predicaments and therefore, the commitment and determination of those attendees from Washington DC, Boston, Michigan, Connecticut, California etc who had to incur travel and hotel expenses and, or, drove in, bracing the bad weather, all this, in the name of Nigeria’s best interests!
The huge attendance despite the torrential rains which did not impede attendance, and the vibrancy of contributors debates and vigorous engagements between participants, was testaments to the dedication, commitment and passions of Nigerians in the Diaspora toward Nigeria. There are clearly more common grounds than differences between Nigerians on national issues which affect us all.
The maiden session of the Nigeria Peoples Parliament ended with many resolutions passed and many decisions made. There were working committees established to analyze, examine and evaluate many issues in more details, and of particular note, is the Niger Delta intractable issues.
It was also
agreed that members of the general session and working committees shall continue discussions and conversations through teleconferences and through emails and other forms of digital media, even as subsequent parliamentary session was tentatively scheduled for June 2010, the June event will be organized by the Nigerian Democratic Liberty Forum. NDLF it was, which provided the fulcrum and wherewithal for this epoch making event in the first instance and they deserve our applause and gratitude
Nigeria really should lack nothing, what with 150 million citizens at home and abroad,150 million citizens, amongst whom are the most talented, the most creative and the most intelligent and brilliant minds in the whole world? It is time for us to put our distractions aside and get to work for Nigeria.