We seek. We find. We ignore | Dailytrust

We seek. We find. We ignore

House of Reps
House of Reps

In 2002, the late Prince Tony Momoh, former minister of information, published a 21-page pocketbook titled: To Save Nigeria, Let’s Talk. In it, he made a plea for a national conversation to deal with those problems that hinder our national unity and progress and have reduced the giant nation, the hope of black people, into a permanent toddler even as its leaders mouth slogans of hope. Momoh minced no words.

He wrote: “We must talk. Call the forum a sovereign national conference, a national conference, a meeting of nationalities of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Call it what you want to call it. But we must meet and talk. All of us stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise.”

Momoh tethered his hope in the national conversation on our eventual agreement to “…restructure Nigeria so that we can have a truly federal government where the federating units are viable and cost effective.” He published his book before our last two major national conferences were held to explore, among other things, the issues he raised herein. In 2005, President Obasanjo convened the National Political Reform Conference and in 20014, President Goodluck Jonathan convoked an even more comprehensive National Political Conference. 

The reports of both conferences are dutifully gathering fine dust on government shelves. Their conveners did nothing about them. But the issues they addressed and are ignored by our political leaders still haunt us as a nation and as a people. After all, it is common sense that a problem not solved does not simply and miraculously vanish. At this point in our national history when we should be taking giants strides in our national unity and development, we choose to crawl towards a blurry end in the vain hope that political abracadabra is the transformative agent we need. It is a lie.

APC bravely tried to step into the void. In its constitution, the party promised “…to promote true federalism in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” It re-echoed the same sentiments in its manifesto. As soon as it came to power, it took steps to show that it meant business in not building new edifices on the rickety foundation looking more and more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and had become a source of frustration for the country. It recognised, I think, the point made by Momoh in his booklet under reference, to wit: “The country is severely distressed because the structures to make it function are faulty.”

The party set up a 27-man committee under the leadership of Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State, and tasked it with five terms of reference to examine its promises and other issues that agitate the nation and its people and tell it what to do and how to do it to transform the country from the current anomalous military federalism into true federalism. 

The committee took on such burning issues as resource control, creation of new states, merger of existing states, derivation, devolution of powers, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation, local government autonomy and federating units of the federation, among others. From what I have read of its report, its treatment of each of those issues, among others, reflected the seriousness with which the committee approached its assignment. In his preface to the report El-Rufai noted that the committee “took on board” some “important submissions and recommendations from previous political conferences of 2005 and 2014.”

The committee submitted its comprehensive report to the party in January 2018. Heard anything about the report ever since? I have not. The party has not made known its position on the report of its own committee. President Buhari, I am sure, has not even bothered to glance at it. We need not consult the amadioha high priest to know the fate of the report. We know that it has joined other similar reports to gather fine dust too on government shelves. Probably, the party set out in its constitution and its manifesto to make promises it had no intention of keeping. It seems clear to me that the party and its distinguished leaders came, won two consecutive elections, and prepares to leave the country the way it found it, warts, and all.

Nigeria is awash in problems. And it is awash in solutions arrived at by Nigerians at major national conferences such as those of 2005 and 2014, and commissions and committees such as the Uwais committee on electoral reforms. Nigerians are always willing to answer the national call to service because they are patriots who want to see our nation rise, like the phoenix, from the ashes of its past failures and soar towards the sky. They devote their time and efforts in a genuine search for solutions to the problems that hobble the country and give the giant the feet of pigmies. Given our human and material resources, we should soar like the eagle. But we fly low like the lazy bird we call otutuu in Agila. 

Perhaps, our political and social scientists should look take on the intellectual task of finding out why our political leaders who seek solutions to our problems are unwilling to implement suggested solutions to them. Perhaps, there is something in the nature of our governance that makes it difficult for them to ignore reports of committees, commissions and panels set up by them to tell them what the problems are and how best to solve them. There must be a good reason for the reluctance of a nation to tackle its own problems and instead chooses to wallow in its cocktail of social, economic, security and political problems. When a nation fades existential threats, it mocks itself if it chooses to live a lie.

In my column of November 6, 2015, titled, “And they gather dust,” I wrote: “…world history has no instances of nations, great or small, that were built while some of the answers to their problems gathered dust on government and legislative shelves. Ours would not prove an exception to this basic fact of national development.”

If we do nothing, nothing is done. The solutions proffered by some of the best brains in the country to our various national problems remain a wasted patriotic labour. The problems remain and, in the nature of problems, multiply and worsen. We remain stuck on one spot and still believe we are on the move with other nations that listen to themselves, diagnose their problems, positively respond to them, and make enviable leaps in human development.

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