By Omoh Gabriel
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has yielded to the desire of many for a national dialogue.
Many who in the past fanned the embers of tribalism, nepotism and disunity in Nigeria have already prepared for a showdown at the national meeting. The meeting should essentially be how to remove the nation’s economy from the hands of politicians.
Even before the 13-member committee, headed by a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu started meeting, those who do not see anything good about Nigeria have gone to work with the hope of not giving the dialogue a chance. Jigawa State’s Alhaji Suleiman Lamido has announced that his people would not take part in the national dialogue. But the dialogue which the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger- Delta (MEND) described as an exercise that has nothing to offer the nation,.got the backing of a former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.).
President Goodluck Jonathan while setting up the committee said that contrary to the perception of critics, the national dialogue is a concrete step to further strengthen understanding among the citizenry, expand the frontiers of inclusiveness and deepen their bond as one people under God.
He allayed the fears of those who think the conference will call the integrity of Nigeria into question, saying a national discourse would strengthen the nation’s union and address issues that are often on the front burner, and are too frequently ignored. He also noted that the dialogue was a perfect way to calm tension and channel misgivings, grievances and suggestions into positive use for the country.
Jonathan, in his speech, defended his administration’s change of stance to embrace a national conference as a way for the constituent parts of the country to examine and find solutions to the thorny issues that have impaired national cohesion. He said the terms of reference of the committee were to facilitate a most acceptable process that would bring the aspirations of the people to fruition.
He said: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have wasted too much time and resources bickering over sectional versions of what define reality. This is an open-ended luxury we can no longer afford.
“Let us move forward, with honest conviction and patriotic courage, to strengthen this Republic, and get it to work better and brighter, for all of us, to the glory of God.
“Of course, you will also agree with me that over the period, we have been wasting so much time putting wedges on our front lines. This committee and the assignment is to rather put a strong mortar that will bind our appendages and make our nation stronger for our own interest and especially for the interest of our children yet unborn.”
To every honest and concerned Nigerian, the challenge that Nigeria faces is a growing army of unemployed youths. Most of the older men who are working against the progress of Nigeria have had their fill.
Today, the bane of Nigeria’s economy is that it is being manipulated by politicians and their co-travellers – portfolio businessmen. Elsewhere, the economy is insulated from political oscillation. In Japan for instance, there is a lot of political instability, yet the economy runs. The same thing in most of the Asian tiger countries. In the U S of course, the government can only shape policy but not change fundamentally the direction of the economy.
Nigerian leaders of yesterday are already talking about the interest of the north and that of the south. What is on ground is not about the interest of the north or south. It is about the way forward for Nigerians; the over all welfare of the average Nigerian who has been impoverished by tribal politics all these years.
A Nigerian who has access to food, good medical care, power supply and good roads will not care where the president comes from. It will not matter to him if the man is Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, or Yoruba as long as the right policies are in place to cater for his interest. Nigerians who must be at the proposed national dialogue must be men and women who see Nigeria as one and indivisible entity, completely detribalised.
It is men of such background that will be able to look at each other in the face and say this is what is right for this great nation. They should be the young and vibrant men who see only possibility, who see problems facing the nation as challenges that must be overcome no matter how daunting they seem.
They must be men and women who see Nigeria beyond the sharing of oil revenue. Men of yesterday whose only thinking is how to develop a sharing formula for the federation account should not be given any chance to attend the national dialogue. Such men and women will go there with the mindset of the past. Nigerians must discourage men with faded glory at the conference. The conferees must go to the dialogue with the mindset of Nigeria without oil, what to do. Such mindset will bring the best out of the meeting, it will provide a road map toward the economic emancipation of the Nigeria nation.
For too long, Nigerians have been tossed around by the whims and caprices of politicians who think of nothing else but their pockets and immediate family members. The conferees must develop the rule of engagement that will completely insulate the economy from the political class. Those in politics must be told how to play by the rules in such a manner that will not jeopardize the economy. They must set time lines and milestones to measure the performance of those in political office. The rule of engagement must be such that places emphasis on merit and not who you know, where you come from or ability to manipulate the system.
The discourse must be about putting in place appropriate reward system for those who work hard and appropriate sanction for those who bend the rules.
The discourse must provide a way of ensuring that laws are properly enforced and that no Nigerian, no matter his position, is above the law. The discourse must come up with the true definition of property rights, protection and the sanctity of contract.
The central theme of the conference or dialogue must be Nigeria without oil, what to do. Nigeria should be structured in such a way that Nigeria in no distant time, will become a highly productive economy. Every state in the Nigerian union has something to offer, we must search for it, develop it and get the benefit nation-wide.