• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Chibok, confab report and Jonathan’s speech


In spite of the extensive scope of President Jonathan’s October 1st speech, some people still had cause to criticize it, and for good reason. As the argument goes, the President made no mention of the Chibok school girls who have been languishing in terrorists’ captivity for about four months running. Apparently, those Nigerians and others who have taken that step may have a point; but they seem not to have taken time to study the entire speech, closely. One is not holding brief for the President but, to be fair, it should be pointed out that he did say something about the terrorists, which Daily Sun succinctly captured on its front page (2/10/2014) in four words: “YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED”, with a rider: “Jonathan tells Boko Haram, urging it to surrender.” In my view, therefore, because it spoke volumes, this said it all.

Certainly, if the safe liberation of the girls depends on the ultimate fate of the terrorists who up to now have refused to see reason but who are now systematically being dislodged, then, logically, it stands to reason that Jonathan, by extension was also saying in the same statement that the captivity days are no less numbered. Being a careful person, and knowing the depth of public feeling on the matter which has been unnecessarily politicized, it is possible that by avoiding any direct or categorical mention of it, he was deliberately trying to steer off monotony or a situation where people would accuse him of “raising another false hopes” on it.

Be that as it may, our main concern here is the fact that the President struck a beautiful chord in our national life when he made reference to the fact that not only that Justice Idris Kutigi and co. had submitted the National Confab Report to him but he also promised to implement it. In this regard, Jonathan, true to his characteristic consistency, did not disappoint because none of the several similar reports of past conferences still gathering dust in official drawers and on shelves today had the chance to reach the level of consideration by any executive implementation committee.

For the same reason, if as they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the President’s courage is laudable. Considering the crucial gap the conference’s resolutions will fill in Nigeria’s constitutional evolution, the Report deserves every attention this administration can pay to it. That was why every well-meaning Nigerian was held in suspense as the delegates moved out of one controversy into another, quarrelling over every conceivable important issue, but in the end arrived at what many, including the greatest antagonists and cynics alike have described as “wonderful.” All eyes will now be on the Implementation Committee, which should follow the footsteps of the Okrounmu and Kutigi committees and mortify every parochial interests in order to take the Report to the ultimate level, so that Nigeria can move forward in unity and peace with all sections feeling a real sense of belonging.

I am no Jonathan’s fan, I must confess, but had started taking gradual interest in his administration from the moment it became clear that the opposition platform has dropped their sing-song charge of “non-performance” against him. I felt that the new turn of events couldn’t have been for nothing; something interesting and positively worthy of note must have happened in the realm of federal governance. Anyway, the important changes or accomplishments I have noticed so far, besides the historic conference, which posterity may well see as the magnum opus of this administration, are outside the purview of this short piece.

Given his ample knowledge of the sordid political history of Nigeria, the President has no choice but to ensure that the Report will be implemented, giving Nigeria a brand new constitution because the future of the country, to a great extent, now depends on it. Every Nigerian student of history, who has sufficient bias for International Relations and Politics, knows why ancient democracies in Greece and Achaea woefully perished, with the result that great political thinkers of that period got fed up with the whole idea—great minds like Aristotle, Plato, Xenophon and Thucydides. Conscious of the incurable foibles of men in politics, namely greed, corruption, nepotism etc., 18th century political thinkers like Jean Rousseau, Edmund Burke and others, whose views influenced the writing of the American constitution did not hesitate to make recommendations charting a fresh democratic course, believing strongly as Rousseau did, that “pure democracy is not good for men as they are.”  It is on record that in spite of the efforts of earliest reformers and “lawgivers” like Solon and his contemporaries who did everything in an attempt to save the Amphyctionic Council and the Achaean League, attempts in antiquity at democratic federalism still ended in tragic failure, just the same way modern democracies quite frequently come to ruin due mainly to the inadequacies of politicians. Therefore, copying either the British democratic model as Nigeria first did in 1960 to 1966 or the American model which has been here since the end of the Civil War is one thing and getting it right in practice is another. The fault as Shakespeare wrote is not in our stars but in us.

Not minding the far-reaching resolutions in the Report which Justice Kutigi submitted to the President, our politicians and indeed Nigerians generally still need a change of attitude tinged with a certain spirit of give and take in order for viable democratic federalism to be entrenched here. In addition, there is a crying need for a culture of not only mutual respect and respect for the rule of law, but also respect for democratic values and institutions. Take for example the institution of the Presidency and Military. In civilized climes it is not done that anybody could have the effrontery to abuse or insult them, calling a sitting prime minister or president unprintable names like “nincompoop”, “idiot” “a fool” etc. But it is happening here in the life of this administration. We should thank God we have in the leadership saddle today a man whose cool-headedness is legendary; whose patience and capacity for tolerance can hardly be overstretched. Obviously, as many people have observed, Jonathan may not be an angel but he is perhaps the best thing that has happened on the Nigerian scene today.

Incidentally, like Gen, Yakubu Gowon, another gentleman had happened on the scene at another moment of national trial in 1966/70, Jonathan is also coming from the so-called minority background. Gowon inherited the crises that led to the war he prosecuted. Jonathan also inherited the crises that led to the anti-terrorism war which he is prosecuting. There must be a divine dimension to the situation, which is perhaps why we should cooperate with this government and build our country.