• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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National Political Summit: New wine in old bottle


They came from different states of the country and diverse political persuasions; the gathering was inside the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, the nation’s federal capital territory. It was not the first time such a gathering was held and it is not likely to be the last of it. Most faces at the event were familiar and topics of discussion were not unfamiliar either.
The summit with the theme “2015 General Elections: Consolidating the Gains and Building Positive Political Culture for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria,” was said to have attracted 2,752 delegates and 56 resource persons.

Over the years, there have been all manner of conferences, workshops, summits and other forms of meetings where discussions were held on the way forward for Nigeria. Despite all these programmes, the country has moved from bad to worse, with the ruling class working hard to sink the ship of the country, by their actions and inactions.

The summit ran for three days. The Save Democracy Group of Africa (SDG-Africa), which put together the programme, said it aimed at deepening Nigeria’s democracy and improving on the gains of the 2015 general elections.

As in other gatherings of its nature, discussions were centered on the nation’s political environment. And as usual, there were too many recommendations, which analysts say may likely be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Although some analysts have commended the organisation of the event, they however, pointed out that the Abuja gathering was nothing more than a talk shop.

Those who hold this view explained that there was nothing discussed at the summit that was new; they pointed out that the only new thing was that it was organised by a complete new group, but “yesterday men.”

Biodun Sowunmi, a public affairs commentator, said that the President’s speech at the summit, read by Yemi Osibanjo, vice president, indicted all those who sat at the meeting.

According to Sowunmi, those who listened to the President’s speech were the same men and women who brought the country to its present sorry state through their actions and inactions.
The analyst wondered why the summit was necessary at this point in time, noting that recommendations made were the same that had been made over and over again by individuals and groups.

He believes that what is urgently needed is for the new administration of Muhammadu Buhari should strive to implement the recommendations made by the National Conference put together by the Goodluck Jonathan administration; the Steve Oronsaye panel report on the need to cut down on cost of governance and the Justice Uwais committee report on electoral reform.

Some observers have also said that the organisers, who have been part of the political class, who have at one time or the other held prominent offices in the country, may have tried to re-launch themselves into relevance through such avenues.

Indeed, while the President, at the event, stressed on his administration’s focus on ridding the country of corruption, many of those present at the event may not have shown any interest as their sole aim of attending was to socialise and make more contacts.

“What we have been doing over the years is to point out the problems of this country without coming out with any solution. We have a way of dancing around. From 1999 till date, this country has witnessed all manner of summits, conferences and workshops on the nation’s problems, yet, we have seen no changes, instead, things are going from bad to worse,” Mike Okamgba, a legal practitioner, told BDSUNDAY.

Okamgba also alleged that it could be that the organizers came up with the idea just to have something similar to the existing National Economic Summit.

“For me, when I saw some old faces that had graced such meetings in the past, I knew there’s no difference. If we are talking about corruption, if we are talking about those who have ensured that the health sector does not work; those who have destroyed the education sector; those who have ensured that the necessary infrastructure that could enhance the growth of this country are not put in place- these are those who sat to tell and hear same old stories. For me, these summits do not make any sense,” Okamgba further observed.

He also said: “Nobody is in doubt about where our problem as a nation lies. We do not need to be told what our problems are; we are only interested in getting solutions. Who are those behind the new initiative? From what I read, they are mainly former national lawmakers. Then the question is, how well did they impact the lives of their constituents when they were in service? Now, they have regrouped to seek relevance in a new dispensation. They fouled the air yesterday only to come today to tell a new story,” he fumed.

Pat Anyadubalu, a legal practitioner, said of the summit: “We have had economic summits; we have had political summits, the problem is not with the summits, but with the implementation of the resolutions reached at such events. When it comes to the point of implementation we begin to be parochial; different issues will begin to come up- ethnicity, religion, etc. That is the problem. We have had national conferences; we had the Oputa panel, the report of which was consigned to the dustbin of history because one man went to court to stop its implementation. So, most of these conferences and summits are mere jamboree.”

The maiden summit was put together by Ibrahim Mantu, a former deputy Senate president; Ghali Umar Na’Abba, a former speaker, House of Representatives; Joy Emodi, a former special adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters; Iyom Josephine Anenih; John Dara; Idongesit Nkanga, a former military governor of Akwa Ibom State; Senator Dino Melaye, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kogi West; Sani Zoro, a member, House of Representatives; Lawrence Alobi, a former Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory; Abdulkadir Salami, chairman, Labour Party; Buba Galadima, Tom Adaba, Isa Salami, Senator Adefemi Kila, and Anifowose Kelani, 2015 presidential candidate of Action Alliance (AA), among many others.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in his speech presented by Yemi Osinbajo, vice president, said that if Nigeria must sustain its democracy and be emulated by other countries in Africa, there had to be the evolution of moral leaders who would not steal the common wealth meant to provide services to the people.

President Buhari said he was worried by the revelations over the money meant for the purchase of arms to address the security challenge in the North East, following the activities of members of Boko Haram.

While Buhari was talking and “shedding tears” over the level of ‘man’s inhumanity to fellow man’ in Nigeria, typified by the level of thievery in government circles, many of those whose negative contributions had hindered the country’s forward-march were sitting before him and giggling.
Although the pictures of all the state governors were on the 50-page programme, none of them was in attendance. They knew why they were being called. Some of them may even have been approached by the organisers to sponsor the event, and as a result they wondered the moral pedestal on which the organisers would stand to do the sermonising.

Moreover, the governors must have wondered the need to go for mere talks that would not likely translate into action. They have seen and attended many fruitless summits in the past; so why waste the precious time?

It could be said, therefore, that a political summit that did not have in attendance, state governors, who are largely the major stakeholders in the Nigeria project, who also are seen as the major troublers of Nigeria, by their actions and inactions, was a mere waste of time and an academic exercise at best.

Ifedi Okwenna, director-general, Save Democracy Group Africa, tried to weave some importance around the new initiative, saying: “The decision to institute the summit was consequent on the landmark successes of the 2015 general elections, generally accepted to have against all predictions brought peace and stability to our polity and elevated our prestige and international recognition and acceptance among democratic nations.

“Consolidating on the gains of this success, we reasoned, will help us curb the many ills of our politics which include the lack of internal democracy, absence of ideological framework, lack of party discipline and inability of participants to develop positive political culture.”
According to him, “We equally noticed that the continuous call for political dialogue at any turn of event in Nigeria shows that some issues in our democracy and in our body politic are far from being settled.

“It therefore behooves on us as a nation to continuously dialogue and to build on our past experiences to create a better nation. The political engineering of our nation should be continuous and all democrats should be on board.’’

In his observation, Mande Samaila, an associate professor with the National Open University, said the summit was commendable.

According to Samaila, the charge given to participants by the President was a wake-up call that it is no longer business as usual. He said there was the need for all the arms of government to brace up for the new order, urging the judiciary to purge itself of those elements that had brought disgrace to the institution through corruption. He said it was high time the rule of law began to work for all, irrespective of social status.

The lecturer also urged the National Assembly to have the interest of the poor masses at heart, pointing out that corruption has beclouded the very essence of the legislature in the system.
Whether or not the fresh rounds of talk will take the country to the Eldorado will be seen, not long from now.


Zebulon Agomuo