Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sovereign National Conference - Opening a Pandora's Box

Daily Trust
14 February 2012

By Sanusi Abubakar,

The patently mischievous idea of a Sovereign National Conference had never appealed to me, if only because its originators have never disguised the intent and anticipated outcome.

The dominant narrative that has been imposed by the media, and the mostly southern elite, has been that the north is Nigeria's problem and it is time that it is brought to its senses by southerners taking control of their resources (particularly oil) and, if the north resists "major political changes" then it would be preferable for all of us to go our separate ways. From MASSOB, to the Niger Delta "militants", to the NADECO/OPC and their intellectuals, that has been the threat and the promise. I had complained on several occasions in my column about the underlining threats and assumptions that only the north will suffer from the dismembering of this nation.

Several factors have now emerged to make me a convert to the idea of a national conference, ethnic, sovereign, or of whatever type. One factor is that the agitation for such a conference to restructure Nigeria will not go away. Indeed, it is getting more belligerent and even more abusive by the day. Even supposedly learned and civilized people are getting nasty, implying that north will somehow cease to exist as a viable and sustainable entity once "true federalism" is in place. It is time to call this bluff.

Secondly, several sections of the country have made it plain that they are perfecting their secession plans. Not just the usual "actualisation-of-Biafra" threats, or the south-west and OPC plans and "national anthem" (which was said to have been delayed only by Obasanjo's manoeuvres.) No, things are looking scarier; even the current regime of President Goodluck Jonathan seems to be acting out an "open-secret" agenda in favour of the eventual emergence of a Niger Delta Republic of sorts. I hope I am wrong, but I'd rather believe concrete signs than hope people are what they appear to be.

Thirdly, by the President's financial and other acts and policies, the he seems to think that all Nigeria's resources belong to his people anyway, so a vast majority of the federation's budget should be diverted there, in addition to their normal Statutory Allocations, NDDC, and the Amnesty Program and so on. Per capita, the Niger Delta receives more than all of us, even if we ignore what they get from illegal bunkering, juicy contracts and oil companies' allocations to producing communities and warlords.

Even together, these three reasons would not have converted me to a latter-day supporter of a National Conference. Politics has always meant contests and contestations, and no amount of pressure would make a people support an unpopular idea for long. Insults are the resort of the scoundrels. Threats to the north? Well, let us see if really the north cannot survive without oil and gas. A feeling of anger due to unjust distribution of our collective resources, perhaps that? Even then, that too has been with us for a while. All these would not have been sufficient to convince me that a National Conference of a fundamental type, capable, if badly handled, of scattering this political entity called Nigeria, is a risk worth taking. However, after several discussions with associates and friends, and even political mavericks, I believe it is time to talk, and everything should be put on the table.

We have outlived the current arrangements; political and administrative structures are not working. Indeed, they are counter-productive. It is time we consider alternatives.

No comments:

Post a Comment