The perennial outbursts by almost every ethnic group against perceived or real marginalization, inept and corrupt leadership class, discontentment over the unpleasant state of affairs in the country has always generated the rancorous clamour for the political re-engineering of the country. In response to this clamour, elaborate discussions have been held in the past.
However, such attempts ended in stillbirth. The polity is still being heated-up by persistent agitation over power sharing among sections and cries against non-visionary political elite.
Many Nigerians believe that the current political architecture in the country cannot guarantee the prosperity and well being of all sections of the country, thus the overriding cry for a national conference that would enable all ethnic nationalities to fashion out a suitable political arrangement that will ensure equitable access to power and national resources.
In responding to this request for a forum to discuss the Nigerian question and issues bordering on political inclusion for all groups, the Goodluck Jonathan’s government has no doubt taken the bull by the horns in an area where previous leaders have shied away from. We commend him for the courage and conviction.
Though there had been allegations from critics of this proposed national conference that the President wants to create a diversion, or seek a Plan B to ensure his continuity as President or that the selection process for the talks is skewed to favour Jonathan’s agenda: complaints have also been raised on the alleged poor number of delegates allotted to ethnic nationalities.
According to the modalities as released by the Federal Government, the government at the centre would singlehandedly nominate 20 delegates with at least six women, while state governors and the FCT administration will nominate 109 delegates, three from each state and one from FCT.
Associations like the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, Nigerian Bar Association, the Judiciary, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Nigerian Environmental Society, National Youth Council of Nigeria and National Association of Nigerian Students will nominate members. There are also several other groups to be represented at the event.
We are of the opinion that the conference is necessary in view of the increasing agitation for talks over Nigeria’s political arrangement and destiny across the country. We think it is a good opportunity to address the issues that had kept Nigerian groups suspecting each other and thus hindering national unity that is fundamental for progress and development.
While it may be said that the N7 billion voted for the exercise is on the high side especially when one considers what that sum can do in terms infrastructural provisions in a country that suffers a dearth in critical infrastructure, but still this sum will not be too much if the talks can help Nigerians to achieve that much needed unity of purpose.
Irrespective of the criticisms of this national confab, we have elected to give the President the benefit of doubt over the objectives and modus operandi of the talks. To this end, we believe the President and other actors in the project should show commitment and political will to ensure that the forum will not go the way of others before it.
We must also place on record that the conference may not fare well by the no-go-area specified by government. The so-called no-go-areas may after all be the most vexed issues bothering Nigerians, and creating disunity in the country.
Our view is that Nigerians should be allowed to voice out their grievances properly and in fullness. It is only by doing this that all parties can have a full understanding of each other and enable a basis for sincere discussions on how to live together and move forward.
So long as we continue to sweep under the carpet the issues that divide Nigerians, believing that they may tear us apart, so long will Nigerians lead a life of mutual suspicion, acrimony and fear that does not augur well for nation building.
We believe that Nigerians do not really desire breaking the country into tiny strips that will be of no meaningful political and economic value. What Nigerians really desire is to have in place a political configuration that can guarantee the well being and inclusiveness of all groups and individuals.