• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

A decade after the National CONFAB

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“Empires are built, but nations evolve through natural socio-historical processes, causes. Whenever and wherever a country is put together by fiat through wars, negotiated settlement, international agreements and deals, such are not nations. They are amalgam countries”

    Prof. Kolawole Ogundowole.

Considered against the persisting challenges of insecurity, the rising waves of ethno-religious sentiments and the current, biting economic hardship it is time for our political leaders to adopt the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference (CONFAB). To demonstrate sincerity of purpose on the convocation of national dialogue, as a veritable platform to finding lasting solutions to the plethora of self-inflicted ethno-religious tensions, political and economic challenges that have bedeviled this country for eons, President Goodluck Jonathan was urged by yours truly to take the bull by the horn. In doing so he had to muster the political will to make a paradigm shift from the old order and tread the new path his predecessors had shied away from.

Firstly, he was admonished, as a matter of urgency, to send an executive bill to the National Assembly requesting for an amendment to Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) to expand the scope of the element of referendum beyond that of state creation. It should include the necessity for the outcome of the conference to first be subjected to the people’s referendum ever before it is tabled before the law makers for the drafting of a holistic people’ s Constitution. If this crucial step is not taken, we may as well be on a wild goose chase, as the good wishes of Nigerians may be trampled upon again by the political class that has held it hostage for eons. It would be foolhardy to waste precious time and huge sums of public money on a conference, only to throw the recommendations into the dustbin of history. From Aguiyi Ironsi through Sani Abacha to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the conferences have been mission unaccomplished.

Equally important, is that Mr. President and indeed all politicians must not be seen as pre-empting the outcome of the deliberations. Nigerians should be given a free hand and a vast horizon to articulate their positions on all matters relevant to nationhood, without prejudice. There should be “no go areas.” Little wonder that President Jonathan’s recent statement that the outcome would be sent to the National Assembly reduced the initial high level of enthusiasm elicited by his approval for Nigerians to reconstruct the nation into a one of their collective dream.

Unless we want to deceive ourselves, Nigeria as it currently obtains can best be described as a badly arranged weighty load being carried on the head of a 53-year-old market woman, tottering along on a long-winding, tortuous path. She can only be helped by the careful rearrangement of the burden, but this time to be borne by a younger and more agile lady. Or better still; be transported faster with the vehicle of modern technology. To move forward, we have to borrow a fresh leaf from the experiences of the former Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Eritrea and recently Sudan.

In fact, with the fiery fires of insecurity dogging the government’s footsteps, the push has become a shove. We can therefore, no longer pretend that all is well with us. We can no longer paper over ever-widening political, socio-economic and tribal cracks where some ethnic nationalities are seen as superior to others, based primarily on population and the land mass occupied. We can no longer continue to run a democracy adjudged as the most expensive in the world. Especially, one that has the citizens stewing in the paradox of pervasive poverty in the midst of plenty resources incongruously skewed in favour of the rotten rich. The sleazy rich that get richer by the day at the expense of long-suffering masses and buoyed on by the twin evils of gargantuan corruption and crass culture of impunity.

More than ever before, the level of the citizens’ confidence in the institutions of government including the judiciary (to dispense justice without fear or favour), the legislature (to make laws for good governance) and the executive arms (to implement people-friendly policies in line with its promises) is at its lowest ebb. Much unlike in my growing up years in the sixties, government is no longer seen as the protective father figure- to guarantee the people’s security and provide the needed welfare. Government and governance are now viewed as the sesame key to unmerited wanton wealth. Sad to say that the concept of servant-leadership died with the founding fathers. And the long years of the military interregnum, characterised by ‘might is right’ has exacerbated the level of cynicism the people have for the institutions of government.

This raises the fundamental questions which the conference must confront frontally and find pragmatic solutions to. Will the National Assembly willingly make laws for devolution of political power to the federating units away from the bloated centre? Will it agree that unicameral legislature would benefit Nigerians the more to reduce cost and fast track law making? Will it approve to the clamour for their jumbo pay to be drastically reduced, in line with the stark economic realities on ground, so that our young graduates will get job to do and sundry crimes be reduced?

Furthermore, will it make laws for resource control, so that only about 12.5percent derivation is paid to the centre by each geo-political zone? Will it agree that the Federal Government should hands off the running of education, agriculture, transportation and healthcare delivery? Will it tear off the veil on the attractive centre that makes ethnic nationalities kill themselves over which of them produces the next president? Even in the so called nebulous rotational presidency for some political parties, would it not have been better to swing it from one geo-political zone to another, instead of the divisive North or South? Will the National Assembly members make the sacrifice of the self to approve the above stated? I have my doubts.

With increased political re-engineering amongst the citizenry, no one group can keep pulling the wool over the eyes of others. The time to adopt the recommendations of the 2014 National CONFAB on the critical areas of resource control/derivation principle/fiscal federalism, public finance, revenue allocation, power sharing rotation, immunity clause, anti-corruption fight through special courts and independency candidacy is now.

God bless Nigeria!