✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Click Here To Listen To Trust Radio Live

It’s time for the national conference

He was responding to Professor Ben Nwabueze who had presented him a memo on behalf of the patriots calling for a national conference of ethnic…

He was responding to Professor Ben Nwabueze who had presented him a memo on behalf of the patriots calling for a national conference of ethnic nationalities. Others who have made the same call recently include the former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, one time Federal Commissioner for Information and Ijaw Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, Anglican Bishop of Ondo Diocese, Emmanuel Gbonigi, former Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa and so on.
These calls are not the same and need to be decoded as different people are calling for different things that are not compatible. There are three different calls that can be discerned. The first is the call for a sovereign national conference. This call is seeking the abdication of the President and the National Assembly from their powers and expecting the Conference to take over and exercise sovereign power on behalf of the Nigerian people. The second is calling for a conference of ethnic nationalities to establish that our “tribes” are the constituent sovereigns of the land and they should decide whether we should stay together as a country or go our separate ways. The third call is for a national conference to debate and propose solutions to contentious issues of national importance.
I agree with David Mark when he made it clear that the issue of sovereign must be removed from the national conference. As he put it, we must not put forward the idea that the sovereignty of Nigeria is up for negotiation. Of course part of the concern of the members of the National Assembly is that as elected representatives of the people, they believe that they embody the sovereignty of Nigeria. This view may be contested given the high level of electoral fraud in our system, which means “elected” does not always mean elected. All the same, we cannot seriously expect the constituted power in the country to step down and still have a meaningful dialogue. Our only chance of deepening our democracy is by maintaining and improving the rule of law and in so doing; the powers conferred by our Constitution on various offices cannot be compromised. Office holders must not be pressured to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities.
I am also against the idea of a conference of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities. Nigeria was not colonized through the subjugation of ethnic groups. The British defeated constituted political authorities. The Sokoto Caliphate for example was a huge multi-ethnic and multi-lingual political system that was subjugated as it was. So were the Kanem Borno Empire and the other political systems in the country. The British did not look for ethnic nationalities; they identified constituted authorities and took over their powers. There is therefore no historical basis to assume that the sovereignty, which was lost to the British, resided in ethnic nationalities. In any case, with over six hundred ethnic groups, and their number is growing every day, it is not even feasible to hold such a conference.
What we need therefore is a national con-ference where states would be represented. It would however be good if in addition to states, civil society organisations, religious groups and professional and trades unions are brought in to give a more participatory process to the conference. The first element of the debate we should be having therefore is to work out the terms of reference for consti-tuting a truly representative conference.
The second issue for debate is the agenda for the conference and the red lines that should be drawn. I have already proclaimed my agreement with the Senate President that one red line is that the dismemberment of the country should be excluded. The conference agenda should devote time and resources to mapping out principles and strategies for building national cohesion. Nigerians must be conscious of the fact that nation building requires time, commitment and the implementation of policies that promote a sense of belonging. A conference in itself can only propose principles and ideas that can be used. It cannot on its own solve any problem.
Benin Republic had organized a sovereign national conference in 1990. It had to be sovereign because the state had collapsed and Mathieu Kerekou was incapable of exercising any authority. Togo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire all organized sovereign national conferences. These conferences did not resolve either the problems of national cohesion or the democracy deficits these countries were suffering from. The political situation in some of these countries actually degenerated after the conferences.
The current calls for the Nigerian conference are emerging at a time when two important milestones are on the horizon. One is the contentious election coming up in 2015 and the other is the centenary of the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria. People forget that amalgamation was about fiscal relations and not national cohesion. Lord Lugard was trying to balance his books in a context of fiscal deficit in the North and surplus in the South. There are few people who believe that this problem has been solved over the last 99 years. Debating and agreeing to a formula to guide fiscal federalism is therefore a legitimate element for the conference agenda. Political federalism is another legitimate agenda item. I believe that for a majority of Nigerians, there is a feeling that the central government as represented by the presidency is too powerful and we need to devolve more powers to states and local governments.
The 2015 elections pose the question of zoning and federal character and how we should address the issue in our Constitution. Nigeria does have a problem with its Constitution, which was brought about by the Military through Decree 24 of 1998. It is important that we address the issue of what it is in the Constitution that we do not like and what we can replace it with. My experience is that we do not have consensus positions to replace most of the contents of the Constitution and the national conference, if well organized, can create bonding around a Constitution that has undergone review in a few critical areas. Constitutional review is the prerogative of the National Assembly but a national consensus, including a consensus not to carry out a profound constitutional review, can make the work of the National Assembly easier. Yes, lets have the national conference but let that conference be the one that will build a better and more united Nigeria.

LEARN AFFILIATE MARKETING: Learn How to Make Money with Expertnaire Affiliate Marketing Using the Simple 3-Step Method Explained to earn $500-$1000 Per Month.
Click here to learn more.

AMAZON KDP PUBLISHING: Make $1000-$5000+ Monthly Selling Books On Amazon Even If You Are Not A Writer! Using Your Mobile Phone or Laptop.
Click here to learn more.

GHOSTWRITING SERVICES: Learn How to Make Money As a Ghostwriter $1000 or more monthly: Insider Tips to Get Started. Click here to learn more.
Click here to learn more.

SECRET OF EARNING IN CRYPTO: Discover the Secrets of Earning $100 - $2000 Every Week With Crypto & DeFi Jobs.
Click here to learn more.