Much pessimism has been expressed with regards to the ongoing National Conference in Nigeria. One can understand the reason for such pessimism, what with the many conferences of the past that have not brought meaningful changes to the country. I however think there are great possibilities that can come out of the ongoing exercise. Already there are indications that delegates know their onions, having laid fingers one of the most crucial points: our present federal system of governance. It is simply not working and has dragged the country behind for the past decades of her life. I can hardly believe we have waited for so long to realize we are technically stabbing ourselves in the back making the centre government so powerful and therefore almost unknown and uncontrollable, at the expense of regional governments which usually impact more on the people’s life. Our history illumines this fact better.
The truth is that Nigeria is so rich that we can hardly control the wealth. It is ironical but that is the truth. As far back as 1973 Yakubu Gowon is quoted to have said our problem is not money but how to spend it. Disappointing as that statement was (remembering that Nigeria did not have and does not still have a system of metropolitan trains, social infrastructures were begging for more investments, education which is the hope of any serious nation could still do with a lot of support etc.) it remains true to this day. Due to this strange situation (which is common in many African countries by the way), unworthy individuals have always found themselves into our system of governance, ruling with impunity and ruining with glee. Our wealth, immense as it is, has always brought the common man sorrow, and the entire country shame. One way or the other the wealth ends up in some foreign private accounts, of course maintaining the economy of such countries. It is not a strange phenomenon, this madness. The African man continues to sell his people for a mirror, and the oyinbo man shamefully continually brings the merchandise of mirrors around. Who can blame him, goods sell when there are buyers. Forget o, those international guys know what they are doing o. They simply want you to be where you are. So na Nigeria know if she wan rise. It pays them just like this, just as we are. It is not surprising some of them are even speculating we shall break up. I hope the government can read between the lines. But, again, I digress.
I do think the present Conference promises some possibilities. Surely it is yet to be fully discovered if there are no illicit reasons behind its strategic timing at this period (very proximate to the general elections of 2015), but we cannot continue to live in suspicion. Let us take what the present time offers us and make the best of it. We are aware of the presence of several individuals who led the country to this drunken state participating in the very Conference which is meant to raise her from her stupor. But be that as it may, we also know there are several individuals, men and women of mien and integrity who have so much to offer this country, participating in the Conference. In them we repose our trust and hope they can come up with tangible suggestions that would move the country forward.
But beyond the conference, the usefulness of the debates and resolutions would lie in the hands of the government. Would it sell Nigeria again for pittance by making this whole event a waste? I do hope not. It is for this reason that I call on the President, following up on his goodwill to call this sort of Conference, to ensure that the voices of the people are not only heard and respected and that the resolve of the Conference be put to a referendum, be a cause for a redrafting of our constitution and subsequently assume the status of rule of law in the country.
I am particularly concerned about our Constitution. A nation thrives on the quality of her laws and her capacity to protect and ensure compliance to those laws. It is evident that that our present Constitution as it is, is weak to ensure the needed change to take Nigeria to the desired position in the committee of nations. Maybe rightly so since it was not produced under a democratic dispensation. No matter whose ox is gored, the desire of the leadership of the present government should be a revamping, a rewriting and a promulgation of a robust and pragmatic constitution which would reflect the wishes of the people and adequately attend to the needs of the nation.
We are at a very delicate time in the history of our country. On the one hand the country has very bright possibilities (it is visible from several factors including the just officially verified fact that Nigeria’s GDP ranks first in Africa), but on the other hand these possibilities have not been explored for the good life they promise. And thus we suffer in the midst of plenty. The situation has also brought in some attendant security challenges. Of course the Yorubas say if a big problem floors one, smaller ones would have a free day inflicting their own pains.
This Conference offers yet a possibility to make things right. The decisions coming from it should therefore be given ultimate attention, no matter how difficult they might be in implementing. Making a referendum of such decisions would help us know if they are indeed the feelings of the general body of Nigerians. And if they are, it is about time we acted to salvage our situation.
Perhaps the President has not been right in a number of things (and these we have made known in some past of publications), but if an opportunity does present itself, it is but an act of truth to recognize it. Shall we make things right with this opportunity knocking on our door? It is a billion Naira question begging for an answer.