Nigeria is a country of many and diverse nations. The nations include but not limited to Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Ijaw, Efik etc. these and many more are individually unique: culturally, socially, linguistically etc. Coupling these different groups or tribes as a political entity called Nigeria was never a popular demand on their part. Rather, it was a forced marriage called Amalgamation, authored by the British and deployed first by Lord, Fredrick Lugard, the Governor General to her colony, Nigeria in 1914. Thus, people of different nationalities, who to a large extent were strangers to each other were scientifically weaved into one entity.
The rush in expanding and consolidating its dominion over Nigeria did not allow the British Government to properly get the diverse people of Nigeria to discuss and agree harmoniously to sleep on one bed with both eyes closed. From the very day of amalgamation, suspicion started growing amongst the federating units along the lines of tribe, religion, languages, culture and politics.
Rather than dwell on things that unite, regional and tribal leaders dwelt on thing that divide for personal influence and affluence. This led to crisis of census, of election and of corruption and the consequent abortion of the young civilian controlled republic, giving way to the 38 years of the locust, and the military, punctuated by a 30 month civil war that saw the birth and death of secessionist Biafra.
Since then, the ship and its captain has remained rudderless. “the falcon can no longer hear the falconer and Nigeria is “no longer at ease”. Governance became a trial by error affair. Mediocrity replaced meritocracy, quota system was introduced and we started hearing of “educationally backward areas and no industrially or infrastructural backward areas”. Revenue sharing is either premised on population or land-mass. Some became the losers in “a no-victor, no vanquished experience and others became the “anointed to rule”.
The three regions North, East and West were not the same in all ramification, including quantity and quality of its population. Our founding fathers came up with federalism and regionalism during the pre independence and post independence era; with the virtue of healthy competition but the military came on board and sowed its own seed of discord. The distribution of the military was lopsided, resulting in bitterness. The military nationalized the regional assets and formular for equitable, just and fair distribution of the common wealth. The principles of derivation, need and national interest were turned upside down, inflicting pain, anger and restiveness to the goose that lays the golden eggs hence violent protests in the Niger Delta. The efforts to ammend the constitution have not been fruitful because of insincerity on the part of the leaders.
The Nigerian existence has been one of “sleeping with one eye open” and cat and mouse relationship. Remember Gowon’s maiden speech, “the basis of Nigerian’s unity does not exist…? Or late Awolowo’s description of Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression”?
If the truth must be told, marginalization is personified, lopsidedness is a reality, injustice prevails and the fear of the unknown are high but genuine and on the increase. Dr Robert Keith Rae, the 21st Premier of Ontario, Canada speaking in Lagos on 21st October 2002 warned that world reality demands that collaborating states must design ways of co-habiting, “rather than somebody sitting at the Central Government and claiming he knows all the answers to everything.”
It is still fresh in our memories the America’s prophecy of Nigeria disintegration by 2015. Notable Nigeria leaders including the conference of Bishops who said “No to dialogue is to say yes to violence”. Dr. Lateef Adegbite’s a national conference is imperative, Noble Laurette, Wole Shoyinka, Late Pa Anthony Enahoro, Ohaneze Ndigbo, General Yakubu Gowon, late Pa Abraham Adesanya, Solomon Lar, Edwin Clark etc have all advocated for a round table conference to assess how and if we can continue to live together.
Concurring a legal luminary politician Ayo Adebanjo posited that the solution to the tensions and contradictions that plague the country lies in the Sovereign National Conference, which has been made elusive by the enemies of Nigeria.
In his own take the leader of southeast – southsouth professionals, Emeka Ugwu-Oju lamented that powerful forces which arrogate wisdom to themselves have consistently blocked the opportunity of a conference. He said a national debate or dialogue is a soothing balm to the pains and scars inflicted by the fading federalism, recalling that when there were national conference in Abuja and Lagos, there was no single case of violence in the Nigeria Delta for the whole year. .these professionals emphasized the urgent need for national dialogue, warning that Nigeria may disintegrate before 2015 if the terms for peaceful co-existence are not agreed upon by the ethnic nationalities. A revolutionary lawyer Dr. Tunji Braithwaite said that a constitutional surgery is long overdue insisting on constitutional restructuring of the country. He urged President Jonathan to put in motion machinery for enacting a new constitution that is acceptable to Nigerians.
As people live in fear their belief is that constitution be amended or reviewed to reflect the yearnings of the people. The very foundation on which Nigeria is sitting requires strong steel and concrete reinforcement, demolition and rebuilding or complete abandonment. Proper re-assessment and re-enforcement is better option unless we chorus with Gowon that “the basis for unity does not exist”.
When you have rudderless government at all tiers, when crisis is the order of the day, when ethnicity, religious intolerance, monumental corruption in government and civil service are unabated, when suspicion, insinuations and heinous indoctrinations have become accepted cannons, when unemployment is soaring to high heavens, ethnic militia on the rise, executive rascality fashionable and system failure starring us in the face, the only option which postponers of the evil day dodge is JAW-JAW to avoid WAR-WAR.
Simply put, a real national conference to diagnose our problems, profer solution and have a fresh beginning in conformity with civilized practices is a sine qua non.
We owe it as a duty to our children and children in the womb of time to guarantee their future, for in matters concerning the future of our children, silence or neutrality is treasonable.
For us to achieve Nigeria of our dreams, a Sovereign National Conference is a MUST and the TIME IS NOW!