Sovereign National Conference: Misguided Approach

by Ritchie Ejiofor

I have always advocated for a discussion of the “national
question” bordering on Nigerian federation. Right from the scholastic
expose by Prof Emeritus Ade Ajayi on the National Question, I undertook the
issue which became the central theme of my under-graduate final thesis. I
became impassioned about how the structural defect deliberate or otherwise
had fashioned out today perception of the Nigerian Nation. We, as a nation
have come to believe that our problem was structurally created by British
colonial Imperialist who created a convenient structure that was manageable
for them to govern, and easier to serve their colonial interest.

It is well over 50 years since the rein of government passed fully
to Nigerians and I am still amazed that some people in different quarters
still believe that we need to discuss or convene a conference to solve or
discuss the national question. Ultimately, the question has already started
and anyone hoping that an advisory committee would provide solution, has
blatantly refused to see beyond their myopic blindfold.

The reason I had canvassed for the convocation of the SNC in the
past was based on the belief that the military through decree can effect
arbitrary changes like revenue derivation formula, resource allocation,
decentralization of the police, restructure of the institution of Statism
and citizenship questions. To the dismay of many Nigerians, the military
further perpetuated and exacerbated the very problems we as a nation was
trying to eradicate.

The complexities with the President inauguration of an advisory
panel is compounded by the fact that ethnicity and ethnic chivalry has
assumed the largest chunk of the desire for a sovereign conference. If such
a conference is to be convened, how are the delegates to be determined? Who
makes such choices or determines representation? Is it such
pseudo-social-cultural organization like Ohaneze, Afenifere or Arewa? Or
are we going to use states criteria?

The president has the ball in his court to engage the country, in a
discussion of the “National Questions”. The issues in the national
questions are determined from the personal, religious, ethnic, economic,
political background of who is asking and how the questions are answered.
There is however consensus opinion about the issues that threatens
Nigeria’s’ match towards a better federation. The president belong to the
ruling party that controls overwhelming majority in the National Assembly,
the president can and should lead the discussion. The various States
Assemblies should spear head the discussions in their various states. The
various Local government areas council should initiate discussion and get
the whole country involved.

Those who believe that is Advisory Committee, without reducing the
renowned integrity of their composition is capable solely of channeling
national discussion, must believe that, this present group, differs from
their predecessors. Before we begin to look at superciliousness, let us
start by asking ourselves what type of federation do we desire? The
president can lead the way by lobbying for changes in resource allocation
and sharing. The center is too strong and has successfully strangled the
states autonomy. States governments are not more than dependent unit on the
federal government that is why the center is overtly too attractive.

We can start the discussion by addressing the issues of citizen
deportation within the Nigeria state. We can lead the discussion by
improving on the electoral system. We can start the discussion by
challenging the introduction and application of Sharia laws in some states
in the country. We can state the discussion by making the States autonomous
from the federal government. We can start the discussion by making the
Local government autonomous and the various cities within become chartered
by Law. We can start this discussion by finding out the culprits of Bola
Ige (Former Federal Attorney General) assassinated. We can start the
discussion by taking a closer look at the issues of “State of Origin”
syndrome. We can start this discussion by periscoping the role of police in
perpetuating electoral corruption. We can start this discussion by bring to
court the civilians who kidnapped a seating governor, and all those who
breach the constitution and oath of office they swore to uphold. We need to
discuss how to cater for the disabled, mentally challenged and our senior
citizens retired, and our veterans.

Those who think that the Advisory committee would usher in an
atmosphere of uhuru must be wallowing in “lie-lie land”. We must cease
blaming 1914 Lord Lugard era as the foundation of our problems. We have
been ruling ourselves since independence. Yet, we have been unable to
figure out what we really want. It typifies “One nation, different
destinies”. This sovereign conference is another attempt at identifying
issues that we all know yet, we are awed at the fanfare and amused at this
futile efforts.

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