Shaping agenda for national dialogue amid doubts

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By Hugo Odiogor

BEYOND “the feel good factor” being expressed in government circles about plans to celebrate 100 years of amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates to form a country called Nigeria, there is a widespread discontent on the perceived mistakes of the amalgamation. But more importantly, there is a determined push to dialogue on the future relations between and among ethnic nationalities that make up the world’s most populous black nation on earth.

In fact, those who will be popping the centenary champagne would not be unmindful of the recent report by the United States Army War College in July, 2013, “that the forces of disintegration in Nigeria” is gaining an upper-hand than the forces that want to maintain the status quo is something to worry about. This is against the earlier doom  prophecy by the US Intelligence Committee report that Nigeria could split before 2013.

Although this may not come true, but the threat remains potent. Even with the proposed National Dialogue conceptualized to discuss the political future of Nigeria, there is still cacophony of voices from the minority ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. There is also the issue of the rejection of the Constitution by the different sections of the country. For instance, 12 states in the Northern region rejected the authority of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when they opposed the secular status of the country.

Consequently, they embraced Sharia with its theocratic content and jurisprudence. Related to the issue of Sharia is the emergence of Boko Haram, which introduced terrorism as the tactics of political engagement. The on-going campaign to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from seeking a second term in office, has prompted the minorities to raise a battle cry that their son is being hounded out of power by the alliance of Islamic Northern part of the country and the South West political apparatchik that want to return to power at the centre, at all cost. All these have strengthened the dichotomy between the Northern and Southern Nigeria.

In the Southern States, there are contentions on exploration and utilization of resources, the inequity in formula for sharing the revenue generated from the South to sustain the entire country. Related to this is the huge social cost of extracting oil resources from the South where communities have been ravaged by pollution arising from the activities of oil companies.

There is no doubt that the destiny of a country cloned by Lord Fredrick Lugard in 1914 is at stake. There could be no further disputation of this if the likes of Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola could declare that “Nigeria has fallen from grace to grass like Humpty Dumpty and needs reconstruction.” This declaration came after 100 years of Nigeria’s existence.

The Politics of divide and rule: At a recent World Press Conference in Lagos, Mr. Timi Kay Ogoriba said, “Today, we are repudiating the vision of the Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, which sees the north as the inheritors of the Nigerian state from the colonialists, while the minorities in the Middle Belt are used as its willing tools to manipulate the political destiny of Nigeria to the advantage of the North”. According to Ogoriba, this is the reason behind the uproar in the North which feels that it has lost political power.  The North is uncomfortable that the minorities in the North and in the South are beginning to assert themselves in the politcal destiny of Nigeria.

National Secretary of the Movement for New Nigeria, MNN, Barrister Tony Nnadi said “it is ironical that some of the prominent leaders from the South West that bore the brunt of the caliphate opposition to June 12, 1993 crisis have been  forgotten so soon, because they want to ride on the back of the North back to get power at the centre.” Said Nnadi, “over the years we have clamoured for a national conference, it was part and parcel of the June 12, struggle. Now  we have a Jonathan administration that has shown interest in correcting the mistakes of the 1914 amalgamation.

The All Progressive Congress, APC, has beome the most vocal opposition to the national dialogue, that shows insincerity on their part.” For the leader of  Itsekiri National Congress, Barrister Fred Agbeyegbe, “what happened in 1966 was that the constitution of the country, which included the constitutions of the regional governments were scrapped while the military ran the country with series of decrees.”

According to him, “the 1999 constitution which retained some of the features of 1979 constitution, told a lie against itself when it declared in its preamble that, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble nation do hereby make and give ourselves the following constitution.”

Barrister Agbeyegbe, President of the Lower Niger Congress said, “This is a fraudulent attempt to put a seal of the peoples authority on a document which Nigeria rests on this foundation of fraud. According to Barrister Agbeyegbe, “We either return to the truth or forget the union. We must talk about our future now.”

Building of faulty foundations: Barrister Tony Nnadi said: “Rushing into another election in 2015 is not the most important thing to save Nigeria. The opposition to this National Conference is coming from those who think that Nigeria’s problems are just to return power to those who think they have a divine mandate to enslave the other parts of the country and plunder their resources.”

Special Adviser to the President on Special matters, Alhaji Ahmed Ali Gulak has called on the opposition parties to desist from  distracting Nigerians on the forth-coming National Conference, which he said was a pragmatic response to the yearnings of the people to resolve  numerous socio-cultural and political issus impeding unity, peace and development in the country.

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