National confab, insurgency and the political class
Nigeria is at the crossroads; that point in history when critical decisions will be taken to either strengthen the nation or destroy it. We can no longer continue living in denial of the concrete challenges facing us on a daily basis. It used to be about corruption, malgovernance and underdevelopment. It has now graduated to no one being sure of one’s safety anymore, insecurity, general breakdown of law and order, utter confusion and lack of enlightenment in leadership and following. We are just living for today as if there will be no tomorrow. The sense of history is lacking and all evidence seems to point in the direction of the Nigerian version of the biblical apocalypse.
The political class appears to be only concerned about the 2015 elections. As far as they are concerned, all is well but for a few troublemakers. So, there is no need to review the fundamentals that led us to this gory situation. However, voters must be alive to cast their vote. There will be no elections when election officials are afraid to go out to conduct the poll or when polling booths are bombed out. Today, Nigerians are crying to the leaders “bring back our girls” and end the insurgency in the north but there is no bipartisan movement to achieve this championed by the political class. Rather, political capital is being made out of this tragedy with accusations and counter accusations by the leading parties. The fundamentals of the Nigerian state are extremely weak. There is no national consensus on most of the things that would make us live in peace and face the Herculean task of development. No matter how hard we deny it, Nigerians are still imprisoned in the walls of being Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ijaw, Itsekiri or being Christian or Muslim. This informs the claim that there are sympathisers of Boko Haram in sensitive official positions.
Some Nigerians are too angry with the country and would rather destroy it. What exactly is making them angry? Is it something we can assuage or redress? However, young Nigerians are trying to break out of this mould but when the harsh realities of the Nigerian life confront them, they recoil to their shells.
Essentially, the core issues we need to address include the structure and form of government, wealth creation and revenue sharing, devolution of powers, citizenship, residency rights, land use, policing, the role of religion in politics and the minimum core obligations of the state to protect citizens’ economic and social rights. The ongoing National Conference and the constitution review work of the National Assembly offer us the opportunities to sort out these grave national challenges so that as one united country, we can face the enemy and achieve victory. But feelers from the conference point in the direction of delegates being more eager to reaffirm the status quo. Pray, if there were no challenges facing the nation, why would we convene a National Conference? Why would the nation waste over N7bn to reaffirm the laws and policies as they are instead of moving closer to laws and policies as they ought to be? What will be the value added by the conference to the resolution of our problems if they reaffirm the status quo?
This discourse posits that the challenges facing Nigeria are surmountable and should not necessarily lead to division or converting the country to the killings fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. These challenges should indeed serve as the tonic for national consciousness that propels us into a new culture and value system that emphasises development. But to achieve this, we need honesty of purpose, a leadership and following that understand who they are, where they are coming from and the historical burden of Nigeria in the Black race. We need to review what we consider to be our temporary advantages and have a long term vision of where our state, region and indeed Nigeria will be in the years ahead.
The resolution of certain questions is critical for the nation to proceed on the path of unhindered development. And the resolution will only proceed from scientific and clear-headed analysis devoid of sentiments. What kind, form and structure of security and intelligence system can resolve the type of insecurity challenge currently ravaging the nation? Would greater devolution of powers and autonomy for regional blocks offer us enough space for positive competition? What kind of revenue and wealth creation and revenue sharing formula will encourage Nigerians to be more creative and get more into the public till for sharing? What are the basic guarantees of rights for every Nigerian that will build him into a responsible citizen that understands the world around him, the sanctity of human life and respect for the dignity of others? These posers have been with us since the collapse of the First Republic and we have consistently refused to resolve them and rather decided to play the ostrich. In any case, they will not evaporate into thin air, rather they will gather more dust and increase in intensity and come back to taunt and hunt us.
We need an elite political consensus that creates a system of governance which will liberate and harness the energy and creativity of young Nigerians. The older generation has failed the young. Instead of sowing positive seeds, they denied the majority of the young good education and exposure. We now have a set of people who have been indoctrinated to kill, destroy and engage in suicide bombing. The way we are proceeding towards 2015, it is going to be a winner takes all game. We may end up containing one insurgency, likely to encounter another, either a new one or the resuscitation of an earlier campaign.
The conference should end up with resolutions to encourage local solutions to localised challenges; and transfer more authority, resources and autonomy to the federating units. The structure of governance and revenue sharing should be one that encourages positive competition and not the current race to the bottom. Nigeria indeed needs compulsory basic education for all her citizens, not the type that is being implemented under the current Universal Basic Education framework or the Child Rights Act which no one respects. The energies channelled into destruction can be rechannelled into developmental activities.
There are dormant resources in arable lands, mineral resources and human capital which need to be tapped to develop all parts of Nigeria. Cattle ranches can spring up in many parts of Northern Nigeria as a response to the present herdsmen crisis. Federal power can be shared or rotated among the key federating units if that will bring peace. Cutting down on the awesome federal might through a leaner Exclusive Legislative List will also reduce the competition for federal power. The President and the National Assembly need to put heads together to produce a legal framework that responds to the challenges currently facing the country including the utilisation of the report of the National Conference. In doing this, the larger picture and interest of Nigeria, not short term political gains should motivate the leaders.
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