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NEW NIGERIA: Beyond the National Conference (1) With Rev. Canon Chike Samuelson

The agitation for a National Conference in Nigeria has been a recurring issue for many years. Those acquainted with the articulated vision of those who fought for our independece will agree that Nigeria has all these years progressed on the wrong path leading further and further away from the destination and vision of our nationalist founders, especially Herbert Macualay and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Nigeria had become so festered with all manner of ills that it had become inevitable that the different constituent parts had to sit down and talk, identifying the problems and challenges and then designing a New Nigeria. At last the Federal Government, under the presidential leadership of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan shocked and surprised everyone by announcing the plan to call for a National Dialogue which led finally to the convoking of a National Conference.

The polity and media have been awash with the views of supporters and opposers to the national conference. The conference with almost 500 delegates have been at it for about four months now. At least the conference is over and its report, as we speak must have been submitted to the president.

No one is sure how the President will proceed with the report especially the part of it that is constitutional in nature. Many are wondering how the president will bring the resolutions of the conference to implementation.

This is particularly so because there was no enabling law that guided the conference.

For quite sometime the National Assembly has been working on a review of the 1999 constitution. How would they receive the resolutions of the National conference especially that part that reflects a review of the 1999 constitution as well?

There are fears here and there that some elements of the North have perfected plans to shoot down the resolutions of the conference should it go to the National Assembly. It is the view of many that constitution-making is not the role of the national assembly, but rather constitution amendment. But what happens if the review and amendments are tantamount to such a fundamental overhaul to the point that the reviewed documents are as good as NEW.

Many questions are in the lips of many Nigerians – why didn’t the president put before the National Assembly an executive bill on National Referendum and Plebiscite? Why has he taken this seemingly clumsy and confusing approach? Well, the president seems to play what he intends to do very close to his chest.

However, let the truth be told. If the president fails in carrying through the resolutions of the conference, it will not only be a great political minus for him, also Nigeria would have been taken many miles backwards. He would have troubled the waters the more.

The National Conference in my view has done its very best under very difficult circumstances.

While they were not able to address adequately all the ills of Nigeria, they came up with resolutions that will mark the beginning of a journey of fresh hope for Nigeria. The leadership and management of the conference, as well as the delegates deserve solid kudos.

Reaching decisions at the conference was very tough. It had to be particularly so because many came with suspicion and fear. Many constituencies came visibly threatened.

But as the talking progressed it became clearer that running away will be no solution. Talking and reaching decisions had to be.

Now the hope of a new beginning for an endangered Nigeria is before us. The way is still long but this fresh start is critical.

Beyond this National Conference we really need a New Nigeria. It is accepting the critical resolutions of the just concluded National Conference, constitutionalizing them that will save the day for Nigeria. We need a truly Federal system reflected in the required restructuring and devolution of powers.

For instance, the centre is keeping too much to itself negating true federalism and weakening the federating units.

This is another opportunity from God. It will be in our best interest to seize same with both hands.

President Goodluck Jonathan needs all the wisdom and grace to pull through.

May the Lord keep him and Nigeria!

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