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SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE – SNC – IS NOT THE ANSWER TO NIGERIA’S PROBLEM.


By: Chris Onyishi  
 Published Published March 13th, 2012

The first step in this discussion is to dissociate myself with any camp that says or feels that proponents of SNC are anarchists. The second step is to examine the circumstances and exact meaning of the Senate’s altercation in relation to recent newspapers headlines that suggest that National Assembly members are of the opinion that proponents of SNC are anarchists.

 I would like to premise my understanding of National Assembly’s position on SNC on the report in the Daily Punch newspapers.

The Punch had quoted the spokes person of National Addembly – Mr. Enyinnaya Abaribe –  as saying that “The National Assembly is not against any forum where national issues are discussed and the National Assembly feels that we are all working under the 1999 Constitution and when you work under the 1999 Constitution, then it is necessary you must follow the stipulation of that constitution and the method of amendment to the constitution is also stated there.”.

Further Mr, was quoted as saying that “… whatever you want to change in terms of amending the constitution to meet whatever reality you want, you have nowhere else to go except to bring it through your member in the House or your senator to the constitution review committees that have been set up by both houses”.

The above excerpt may have been the reformatted version of what the senate originally said on the issue of SNC as a result of public reaction.  In all these, I can see a miniature departure from the National Assembly’s way of doing things.  To have come out in the first place to try to refine whatever they said crookedly earlier is a sign that with time, we will begin to see a refined national assembly and by extension a true democracy.  But it would also have been nice for the print media to have painted Mr. Abaribe’s composure and carriage when he was saying it.  If he made all those damage control statements with the usual “I don’t care” attitude of our rulers, then much must not have been gained on the side of our National Assembly men and women.

But if he was sober and tried to behave like a representative of the people, we would be doing ourselves a great good by believing them in their assertion that they can handle the amendment of the constitution, at least with a pinch of salt.

 I also read The Daily Sun newspaper  editorial – in respect to SNC and what the senate said – where it asserted that “…This preposterous idea stands the concept of sovereignty of the people on its head. Sovereignty, without any equivocation, belongs to the people, and not the politicians in the National Assembly. Election of politicians as representatives of the people in the National Assembly does not in any way limit Nigerians’ right to self-expression and self-determination. Legislators should be subject to the wishes of the Nigerian people, and not the other way round. Any view contrary to this is an affront to democracy.”.

But let the truth be told and no heavens will fall. Anybody who is advocating any form of conference – sovereign or supreme – outside of the framework of our constitution may not be an anarchist but is definitely suggesting an option that may engender anarchism.  Any attempt to make amendment to the structure of the Nigerian project, as it stands today, without recourse to the provisions of the 1999 constitution will definitely lead to another civil war and I do not think anybody is interested in any war.  Definitely the South East won’t be in any haste any more to be in the forefront of restructuring Nigeria for greatness. They have tasted the bitter pill. They tried this about 40 years ago only to discover that most people who they felt were in the same thinking corner with them abandoned them.

The same Punch newspapers edition also quoted Mr. Abaribe that the National Assembly is actually saying“…that if you say there are some persons somewhere who will write something else as constitution, then what obtains is that the person has no confidence in the present democratic set up and anybody who says he does not have confidence in the present democracy is nothing but seeking for anarchy.”

But for the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Abaribe should not deceive himself or the rest of his colleagues to think that people have a wonderful appreciation of our democracy the way they are applying it. The truth is that Nigerians do not have any problem with democracy as a form of government.  What I think we have no confidence in are the operators of our democracy of which the National Assembly is part of. There is also this notion that the judiciary has become the highest bidder’s affair while it is already confirmed that the legislators are mere conduit pipe to the national wealth. The executive has long been damned as a jamboree uncoordinated people where about six heads of establishments have six different answers to a common question as to how many liters of petrol Nigerians consume in a day.

Before we get lost in who said what and how he said it, let me come back to the theme of this piece which is that Sovereign or Supreme National Conference is not the problem why Nigeria has not began to show signs of being the giant of Africa.

I was watching with astonishment during the burial of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, how from across the land there was a consensus that he was a visionary leader.  These same people who claim this are the very people who would not summon up courage to rid Nigeria of corruption. These same people find it difficult to stand for the truth when it mattered most. I wrote a piece titled “Zoning PDP morale to the air” in the past where I said that “Part of what has held Nigerian State down today from being a major player in human development can be attributed to confidence and trust crises.  Going down the memory lane will reveal that Nigerians used to be united during the fight for independence. Trust was the wicked bomb that destroyed that unity, immediately after independence, and led to some distasteful events that nearly consumed us in the late sixties”.

One of the greatest problems of Nigeria since independence is lack of visionary leaders. What we have and what we have been having is nothing but parochial rulers who have not come to terms with the true meaning of nationalism and the sense of building a great nation that will compare with other great nations.  The leadership of the Nigerian state has been high jacked by people who do not understand that a great nation is not one where a few insensitive half beasts corner the wealth of the nation while the majority wallows in abject poverty. 

These group of people who endorse themselves as cabals do not see leadership beyond rhetoric and acquisition of state of the art limousines, moving about in siren infested long motorcades, acquiring plush houses abroad, spend over a billion for feeding – annually – in the government houses, rush abroad for medical treatment at the slightest headache, stash away billions in the name of security votes, manipulating oneself into power at any cost, fly to their home villages in helicopters because there are no roads.

They do not realize that all those amenities they rush to enjoy in other lands were not delivered from heaven by God.  These rulers only see greatness when they are faced with dying children, old men and women and when they see roaming youths who seek opportunity for direction and to be engaged in production. They now use them by dashing them a few thousand Naira and get all manner of titles from their impoverished villagers with the astute connivance from local monarchs. There is hardly a governor or legislator who is not addressed by one title or the other.

In my piece titled fifty years of retrogression in the existence of a nation state, I had depicted that “Our rulers cruise about in window tinted limousines through which they watch us drone about under abject man inflicted conditions and they feel comfortable.   They cruise about in sirens while the more productive Nigerians are locked up in traffic jams for hours upon hours.  They fly about in Jets while the more responsible and creative Nigerians spend days upon days on death traps called roads throughout the country.
They
spend billions in tea parties, celebrating 50 years of absolute senselessness, while a greater populace is dying of all manner of man induced sicknesses”.

 This is what they see as being wonderful leaders who bring development and dividends of democracy to the people.

The second problem bedeviling the Nigerian state is in what I call dualism of character in some individuals who only see something wrong when they are schemed out of power and, by extension, stupendous opulence. 

Every year we converge in one senseless national honors award ceremony in a country where the very recipients of awards are the very senseless rulers who keep plunging the nation further down the abyss. And the most amazing thing is that even those who criticize government sit around to accept these honors from dishonorable rulers if I may use the words of Prof. Chinua Achebe. It is on record that Prof. Achebe has rejected these honors for more than three times. He is one person, among a very few, I look up to and agree that there are still men of honor as Nigerians. Can you imagine a situation where about fifty percent of the people penciled down for award reject it like Prof. Achebe?  We will then leave it for them, Presidents; past and present, governors, and legislators.

A situation where a political party will seed presidency to another party – without a clear definition on how they will work together for the good of the citizenry – is senseless and smacks off ambivalence in the political parties that foster such political arrangement.  This was what APGA in the South East and ACN in the South West did during the last presidential election which to me shows an unambiguous conspiracy amongst the political class against the electorate.  I do know that there is merger within political parties but I also do know that mergers have, most of the time, been between progressives to upstage a corrupt powerful political party. A situation where some politicians keep antagonizing another party only to cave in during a presidential election is the greatest threat to Nigerian democracy. This is the major problem with our democracy.  The electorates are misled from using their instrument – vote – to correct a political anomaly.

The irony of it all is that people in Nigeria have not come to terms with the fact that Party ideology or manifesto, rather than individuals, drive modern democracy. This is why PDP will win elections in Bayelsa state when one PDP government was seen as having not performed. 

This is also why President Jonathan was said to have won a presidential election in a country where his political party (PDP) that has formed governments that have ruled Nigeria since 1999 without anything to show for it.  And you get politicians saying that because he answers Goodluck and went to school without shoes was enough credentials to allow PDP to continue at the centre.

The character of a Political Party determines, to a very large extent, the character of the politicians in it. A political party such as PDP – which does not have any ideology – will never produce a government that will develop Nigeria beyond planting trees and collecting waste.

When some people insist that we need SNC before Nigeria will work, I see it as a mere distraction.  In short I see a call to SNC outside of the framework of constitution as an invitation to anarchy. SNC can start from ward level, federal constituency, and senatorial district to national level.  Everybody should put hands on the deck to force our rulers out of power through a democratic means. If we pushed through Babangida, through Abacha to abortion of Obasanjo’s insistence on third term, and with the recent agitation on fuel price, we would realize that nothing is impossible if we are united on a purpose.

The smallest unit you can divide the human race is to a human person.  We dissipate energy thinking of how to breakup Nigeria than how to fortify it; how to break up the country than strengthen it. There is no guarantee that a weak centre and strong confederating units – which I think is the strong point of SNC – will foster development and entrench nationalism and change the orientation of Nigerian political class overnight.

SNC will not remove the fact that Obasanjo, who ruled Nigeria for eight dark years, hails from Ogun State with Gbenga Daniel who was the governor of that state for four years.  It will not also erase the fact that Late Pa Awolowo and Late Akintola were both Yoruba men and never saw eye to eye until death overcame them.

SNC will not obliterate the fact that Governor Sullivan Chime hails from Enugu State with Okwesili Eze Nwodo and Jim Nwobod and the rest who do not have, as far as I know, any common understanding on how to move Enugu state forward.  SNC will not change anything about Atiku Abubakar being from the same Adamawa State with General Nyako and both of them do not have any reasonable understanding amongst themselves on how to move that state ahead. And this is the case in any direction you look at. Is it Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Sokoto, etc.

 

In the old good days we had only one Easter Region which later got broken to produce some states including Anambra and Imo. The Ananmbra state was later to be broken into New Anambra and Enugu States. Later Enugu state gave birth to current Enugu State and seeded Abakiliki to Ebonyi State. Today there is strong agitation for Adada State out of current Enugu state and there is no guarantee that the agitation will stop until every man stands on his own.

 The solutions to our problem, among other things, should be to transfer comfort from leadership to creativity on individual basis.  Leadership should be left for those who are much concerned about the growth and establishment of virile nation state.

I did an article titled “GOVERNANCE BECOMES A MYSTERY WHEN MEDIOCRE ARE IN POWER” where I interjected that what we need are … leaders – according to Plato – who are extraordinarily intelligent, virtuous and brave.  They should be creative social craftsmen and women – such as Abraham Lincoln, Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, etc – who understood that when their nation becomes properly built, they will not look inferior to other peoples of other lands. There will be no need to stash their country’s resources to other land. They will not have to run to other land for medical treatment and they will not have to send their kids for simple education abroad because all those facilities would also be present in their own land. Their kids won’t feel inferior when they stand side by side the kids of other civilized and developed nations”.

There must be a revisit to true societal norm and tenets which does not recognize wealth over and above hard work and creativity. 

We must learn to strengthen the democratic institutions as a vehicle upon which sound democracy is conveyed.  We should avoid this scenario where we see the President as the source of life.  We should impress upon our representatives to be accountable to us at any time. Some prominent citizen should severe any relationship with rulers who refuse to implement the wishes of the people they are supposed to serve. We should all denounce illegal wealth from our rulers. We should not, under any guise, attend any form of social activities and fraternize with the very inordinate rulers whom we despise on the pages of newspapers.

We should stay away from the concept of “political” solution to anything in such a manner that it promotes dishonesty. People who aspire to lead should accept that leadership Is not bread and butter. Leadership should be seen as service to humanity and not lordship to the citizenry.

Recently an American 46-year-old congressman (Rep. Anthony Weiner) lost his job because a lewd photo of himself – which he sent to a college girl – was exposed in his tweeter feed on the internet.  In our clime six heads of government establishments who could not give account of what is happening in their domain are still left to participate in a probe.  That is the greatest rape to the spirit of accountability and it is happening and nobody is concerned. But in a true democracy, a congressman willingly relinquished his office because he was becoming a source of disgrace to his family.  Nigeria has to get to that level. It is not SNC that will get us to that level. It is a change of orientation which can be brought about by spirit of nationalism amongst all Nigerians.

We should begin to make illegal wealth stink. We should begin to use our votes to send a government packing if they fail to enunciate programs that will bring succor to the populace. We should not accept one thief because he is our tribe’s man and condemn similar action when our tribe’s man is not involved. Our judiciary should rise above board to hand down judgments that would not just be right but should be transparent enough in all cases.  By so doing they will regain their natural role as the hope of the poor man while our press should endeavor to avoid fanning the ember of disunity at all times.

Chris Onyishi (ctekchris@yahoo.com)

Lagos, Nigeria.


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