ANYONE attempting to guess the outcome of the National Dialogue, or rules out its possibilities for charting a new course for Nigeria, is under-estimating the challenges facing Nigeria and the urgency required in dealing with them.
Contention for space is not a Nigerian phenomenon. Politicians contest for space everywhere. They disagree; they proffer alternatives to governments in power. What appears totally Nigerian in these contentions is the absurdity of ruling out options or making decisions without listening to other sides.
Would the National Dialogue face the same challenges? Sectional interests seem to understand the dialogue as a platform to foist their hegemony. Complaints about number of delegates assigned to them indicate they are coming to Abuja to propagate their interests. Would sectional interests translate to national interests? Who would speak for Nigeria at the dialogue?
Claims that Nigeria is built on constitutional structures that promotes the centre over other levels of government are not the only challenges our politics faces. A return to regionalism seems to be a solution because some regale us with the performances of the post-independence regional governments. None pays attention to the personalities who ran those governments and the competition among the regions.
All parts of Nigeria are dissatisfied with the state of the country. Every part also thinks it has the solution to Nigeria’s problem.
The main disagreements centre on what some parts could lose, if there is a re-structuring of Nigeria. We think that one issue the National Dialogue should address is how to return Nigeria to competitiveness.
We have become an idle country, unproductive and gleefully dependent on an exhaustible product, oil. We consume all our income; we do not have investments, we are leaving debts for the unborn. How will Nigeria run without oil? Who knows how soon we would have to answer that question?
Another approach is required if the National Dialogue would be different from earlier ones. We cannot talk if we set off refusing to listen to each other. We should understand the reality of Nigerians hurting from common issues like insecurity, even if it is located hundreds of kilometres from us.
Opportunities to discuss Nigeria would not be endless. We should make the best of them when they are available. Negotiations, talks, discussions, contemplations, concessions to make Nigeria more workable are more important than what politicians want for themselves. The National Dialogue would assume great importance if delegates understand the responsibility on their fragile shoulders: they are being called upon to remodel Nigeria. It is a unique privilege.
Nigeria lost the chance of setting off without challenges of managing oil and its intractable distractions. We should remake Nigeria instead of believing our illusory greatness.