A MAJOR lesson the political class refuses to learn is that politics that excludes interests of the people would never work. The seasonal need for national conferences like the one that commences today confirms that past efforts failed to address issues that hurt Nigerians, yes majority of Nigerians.
The issues are basic – justice, equity, reflected in the rights to life, security, and access to education, employment, health services, housing and infrastructure like electricity, rails, roads and other means of transportation to support them.
Nigerians do not have drinking water; it is no little surprise that there is hardly water for industrial, commercial and agricultural uses. Even where there is a fire outbreak, we evince wonderment that fire trucks arrive without water. Failure to attend to these matters in sustainable manners leaves the country under-developed.
Millions of Nigerians are living through grinding poverty from childhood to adulthood. The political class in its hurry to succeed itself skips gloomy statistics that paint pictures of Nigeria’s poverty in bold, frightening hues.
They speak about leadership, changes in the structure of governance, constitutional amendments, and most importantly, allocation of resources. Rights of the individual to life and the prosperity that our country holds are merely thrown in to complete the works, since modern constitution parade human rights credentials.
None of these suggests the unimportance of the gathering that commences today in Abuja with 496 men and women looking at making Nigeria work. If anything, the urgency of this undertaking is one that should be stated. Nigeria is hardly working; pretences to the contrary worsen the situation.
What is important is ensuring that the current attempt is made with more attention on the welfare of Nigerians. Past efforts concentrated on state and local government creation, system of government, revenue allocation: all of them centre on sharing power, not the welfare of the people.
Issues before the National Dialogue are broadly expected to be on the structure of government—presidential or parliamentary system, fiscal federalism, devolution of power, resource control, derivation and revenue sharing formula. They are not different from the blighted past.
Others are citizenship right, security of lives and property, state/local government creation, the federating units – two or three tiers and whether it should be states or geo-political zones, regional autonomy, immunity for elected officials, state and regional police.
Would creation of more States make Nigerians more productive? Would a new revenue formula result in better management of our resources? Would the National Dialogue improve the circumstances of our children?
Nigeria is in dire need of practical ideas for its future. Expectations are that the National Dialogue should find those ideas in a setting where interests of Nigerians prevail.