In our November/December edition, we proffered a few suggestions that will help get Nigeria “out of the woods”. These included the streamlining of the government at the centre; the need to ensure transparency in governance and, of course, a faithful implementation of the federal system of government.
The recent Centenary celebrations served as a period for reflection – recalling where the country was coming from and looking forward to the future. The past will always be there to guide the future, especially in a focused environment. Nigeria, no doubt, is focused and at 100 years should start doing it right.
Various opinions have been expressed, over the years, by the various segments in the polity. There have been agitations over marginalization, resources control/ revenue sharing, indigene – settler relationship, to name just but a few. . The list is endless These agitations, we believe, would have informed the convocation of the on-going National Conference which started on 17 March, 2014.
The task before the 492 “wise people” is enormous and history will judge their success or failure. . In the usual Nigerian parlance, they represent “the last hope for the common man”, that will set the path to getting it right. These “wise people” can distinguish themselves if they sink their religious and ethnic differences and address national issues before them with forthrightness and sense of purpose.
A conference of this nature requires intense discussions, negotiations and alignment of ideas and views in order to get the necessary results that will suit all and sundry. No doubt, every delegate or representative of a group would have come with a mindset, a mandate and, of course, a “red line”. There is need to caution that in all these, sincerity and national interest must be the fundamental basis upon which the negotiations should be entrenched if we have to do and get it right.
President Goodluck Jonathan did emphasize in his inaugural speech the need for inclusiveness and harmonious existence of all Nigerians and he urged delegates to focus on the fundamental national issues. As we align with and endorse President Jonathan’s “pleas”, there would be need to underline some areas of concern:
- Timing: The timing of the Conference has elicited a lot of arguments. There is the school of thought that saysthe timing is political but there is hardly anyway that this could be divorced from human nature but the relevant point here is that the conference got underway after years, even decades, of calls for its establishment. All in all, the best time to perform any task is the time to “get started”
- Duration: Some critics say that the three-month long duration is not enough to digest the myriad of challenges facing the nation and come up with far-reaching and implementable recommendations. The emphasis here should be on the commitment of the delegates and not on the duration.
- Composition: There have been views that the membership of the conference is aged-skewed. There may be merits in allowing the youth to determine the “modus operandi” of their future but there should be caution on exuberance. If age connotes maturity and experience, then it behooves the aged to guide the youth so that“they will not mistake a vulture for a kite.”
- Legal backing of outcome: The suggestionthat the conference does not have any legal backing and that its outcome may either be turned or watered down by the National Assembly when eventually submitted by the President is without merit. The salient issues are that President Jonathan has sufficient unchallenged constitutional powers, including that of instituting the national conference itself that will enable him to override any objections from the National Assembly or any other body for that matter and make the decisions legally bound.Our prayer, therefore, is that the National Assembly will accent to the recommendations of the National Conference by allowing a referendum to be held on them, especially when 70% consensus has been agreed for adoption of issues that are being discussed.
At 100 years, the Nation is ripe enough to start doing things right. All it takes is to jettison the “culture” of impunity, indiscipline, corruption and other social ills and entrench that of “unity in diversity”.