THE need for a national conference to address all the nagging issues and the attendant problems or challenges confronting this nation in order to avert the collapse of the country seems clear to all now.
While many see the conference as an opportunity to correct the ethnic imbalance threatening our existence as a nation, many others see it as an opportunity to redraft our legal basis to continue as a nation.
The variety of clamours for changes in the delegates and representatives at the conference from too many quarters, confirm that it cannot all be just for the good of the people they claim to be fighting for.
Some simply want to line their pockets with Naira from the Confab, and why not? Who would not want to pick up about N4.0million with all the honour and dignity of being a representative of the people at such an epoch-making gathering.
However, the super-importance of this conference underscores the reason why the FG must painstakingly address the complaints and cries for justice and fairness in the representation formula at the conference, bearing in mind that some may want to come to the conference just to stall it!
This conference must therefore succeed, unlike the past two that failed because of the motive of their conveners at that time. While General Sani Abacha’s conference was essentially to achieve his perpetuation in power, that of OBJ was aimed at his third term ambition, hence the two crashed.
With the expiration of the Lord Lugard’s 1914 Amalgamation Treaty last year, GEJ must do everything in his power to ensure the success of this national conference in order to give the North and the South of Nigeria, the basis to continue to exist in a peaceful and prosperous nation. Why did I say a prosperous nation with all our woes? Yes, because to exist for over 43 years without a war in a country like this is prosperous for those of us who saw and lived in Biafra as children.
Many of our leaders who beat the drums of war and try to intimidate us at every corner, and whenever they feel they are not getting what they want, do so because they never really saw or experienced the pains war inflict on the vulnerable like women and children. Any man from Umuahia to Borno, and from Sokoto to Abakaliki, who sees war, bloodshed, insurgency as a means of power negotiation is an enemy of the Nigerian people.
This is why this conference is key, and is also why the South Easterners (Ndigbo) must do everything possible to sink their differences and come to the conference with a unified bold position. They bore and are still bearing the brunt of that wicked and heartless, genocidal, fratricidal war against poor innocent persons.
That Ndigbo were not completely wiped out in that war was because God was on their side, and they owe God that duty to see that this Conference and the unity of this nation is preserved. Ndigbo must seize this opportunity and every subsequent one in the future to chart an acceptable destiny in Nigeria for their people.
The reasons are simple: Without provoking any one, they started killing us in the North in 1966, and when we decided to go our own way, they descended on us like a ton of bricks. For three solid years, we were hunted down like forest rats and rabbits and killed in millions, and were subsequently defeated and dragged back into their Nigeria.
They said it was no victor and no vanquished; we had no choice, and we lived and started our struggles till this date, and having accepted this Nigeria as ours, no one should be allowed to dictate to us how we shall fare in this nation after over 43 years. Ndigbo must rise and give all they can muster to safeguard the unity and peace of this country, for they have more at stake, and this conference offers them and others an opportunity. The discordant voices from Ndigbo on their position must be harmonised now because as we say, a man who makes haste avoids disaster.
This conference will offer Nigerians the opportunity to tackle headlong, the four tormenting horns of this nation, namely elections and power sharing, security, and corruption. The first two will use the last to destroy this nation if we do not tell ourselves the truth and shame the devil. Oil has become like the opium of the Nigerian leadership.
Everyone from the governors, representatives, to the common criminal in the Niger Delta creeks, is angling to share from the oil money with the only difference being in their chosen methods. It is time to consider at this conference the breakup of the NNPC into a minimum of three organisations to address the multiple interests of the zones constituting this country as well as exploiting the resources in the illegal refineries that exist in the Niger Delta region to the advantage of this country.
The Conference should help us to address the issue of national security from the standpoint of the state police, to ensure the use of home grown security arrangement, apparatus and systems. Nigerians must be assured of the safety of their property and investments in all parts of this country, especially in the North of Nigeria, with acceptable and adequate compensations for victims of communal and religious crisis.
The conference must produce an arrangement that will engender free and fair elections by curbing all variants of rigging in order to make them things of the past in no distant future. To curb corruption, all leaders and government agencies must be held accountable to the people.
The annual audit of every government department must be published for all to see. We surely need this conference.
Mr. CLEMENT UDEGBE, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos.