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Nigeria: No talk should turn asunder

My initial reservation about the Conference was the in labelling as it was also conceptual. The hitherto demanded conference of ethnic nationalities was unacceptably exclusive…

My initial reservation about the Conference was the in labelling as it was also conceptual. The hitherto demanded conference of ethnic nationalities was unacceptably exclusive for a Nigeria in 2014. It was indeed a recipe for mutually assured destruction of the project of Nigerian nation building dating back to 1000 years even when Lugardian centenary captures official imagination. The subsequent modalities announced by the Secretary to the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim shows that this conference has commendably undergone some quality control processes. The new modalities show that this conference is not based on exclusive fixed categories of tongue and tribes, reminiscent of a society of hunters and gatherers. On the contrary the inclusive modalities that parade working men and women (organised labour) women, elder statesmen, manufacturers, youths, students, political parties, civil societies, lawyers, traditional rulers etc show that this conference is about a modern nation state willing to deepen the process of nation- building in a globalised world. This    Talk should not Turn Asunder a God’s own country. Certainly many things are not in place in Nigeria. Not few things have truly fallen apart than Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, left us. This conference must put many things in place. The most notable the all-inclusive region- blind, tribe- blind unemployment Zunami. Witness the latest. As many as 6.5 million applicants looking for 4500 job placements in Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) notorious for incompetence and corruption in recruitment exercise. Some media had likened the spectacular pictures at the national stadia in Lagos and Abuja on Saturday to the final of the soccer world cup tournament. The better images are that of the protests in Tunis and Tahrir squares that swept the ancient regimes in Tunisia and Egypt out of power. At the root of the Arab Springs is youth unemployment. On the eve of the Tunisia revolution in 2010, unemployment level was just 14 percent. With Nigeria’s open ended massive unemployment and under-employment as witnessed at the weekend, our luck is running out.  
The assumptions that informed the 11th hour conversion of some of us just like President Jonathan (almost like former President Obasanjo’s conversion to the moribund National Political Reform Conference) are today academic as the President flags off the conference. This conference with all its worth in Naira and time, must strengthen the federation, reposition Nigeria as a leading country in Africa and an active player in the world.  The Conference must be part of the work of nation building in progress. For instance, the crisis of unemployment cuts across all the regions of the country. We must break the jinx of the painful paradox of a country with so much to be done in all sectors, with so much resource endowment and yet inexplicably saddled with such huge idle hands. Today Nigerian school graduates have all the degrees, BSc, BA, MSc, MA, PhD but they lack the singular degree to terminate income poverty, which is JOBS.
To among other things address the problem of unemployment, this Conference must replace negative nationalism with positive nation building attitude. Sources of negative nationalism are insecurity, poverty and ambition of few elite. Positive nationalism means working for prosperity of the critical mass as distinct from the obscene wealth of the few. This conference must be how to turn the geography of regions to value addition development centres not centres for dysfunctional competition for sharing of the fast depleting sources. The ideology of tongue must give way to ideology of production and income distribution. This conference starts with a dispassionate SWOT analysis of Nigeria. The energy in the next three months should be to identify and deepen our strengths, eliminate and minimise the weaknesses , grab the opportunities for development and eliminate the threats of poverty, injustice and disunity.
This conference will not make any impact unless it comes to terms with where we are coming from, where we are and how we can improve on the existing reality.  It must be guided by progressive history that recognises progress that has been made in the past, problems and prospects.
It is a false consciousness to assume that Nigeria is too big. Yes we are big in relations to Ghana  (25.3 million) or Togo (6.6 million) . But we are certainly small in relations to China’s population (1.351 billion) India (1.237 billion), Bangladesh  (154.7 million) and European Union (EU) 503.5 millions  and United States of America, 313.9 millions. Certainly Togo is not being imagined to be part of the possible leading 20 economies in 2020. Our comparison should be with China, India and United States of America. In any case, smaller sizes do not guarantee security. Witness South Sudan and Central African Republic where old reactionary animosities have turned the countries asunder. So there is nothing to gain from disunity but many to loose with disintegration. With the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP, the estimated size of the Nigerian economy between $384 billion and $424 billion will be higher than South Africa’s GDP of about $384 billion. Under these new figures, Nigeria still have lower per capita GDP of just 1000 dollars far less than South Africa at $6,800.  Rebasing does not mean Nigerians are better off. Indeed we are worse than South Africa in prosperity. Two-thirds of Nigerians still live below poverty line. Electricity still a luxury while lives are daily unavoidably wasted to poor health and transport facilities. This conference must address all these inclusive issues.

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