…The intricacies of a national conference that is sovereign
By Jide Ajani
Away from the maddening political choristers, this is an interview that attempts to remove the fog from the eyes of both pro and anti Sovereign National Conference, SNC, politicians. John Moyibi Amoda is a Professor of political science of international repute. When Sunday vanguard decided to speak with him on the raging controversy over the SNC, it went with a level of expectations.
Amoda did not disappoint. Though verging some times on the esoteric and complex realism, Amoda’s insight into the arguments on both sides of the divide bring a very different perspective to the argument all together. To understand his thesis, please follow his choice of words. Excerpts:
The buzz word today is SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE, SNC. As a professor of political science, what sense do you make of the fervency for this call now?
Why now? Why the call for NC; why call for SC? Why SNC now; why the urgency now? Why now? What is different about now as opposed to previous calls for SNC is the fact that SNC has assumed the status of a national consensus about its desirability. The call for SNC is no longer the view of a dissident minority. The Sheraton Conference of The Summit Group chaired by Professor Pat Utomi cut across regional, ethnic, religious and ideological divides. As you noted it is become a panacea for its proponents.
As its proponents have moved the prescriptions of SNC to the centre stage, by that very achievement they have also compelled their opponents to forge an opposing coalition. The polarization of the Establishment into pro and anti SNC interest groups now characterizes the search for solutions to the problem Nigeria has become. Why the call for National Conference now?
The question itself reveals the assumption of its proponents; a national conference is proposed to address the root causes of the Nation-In-Crises. Poverty, corruption, militancy, communal violence pitching indigenes against settlers, boundary conflicts between communities, all these contextualized by Boko Haram insurgency, frame conflict generating reform policies of government.
All these issues together describe the Nation-In-Crisis and turn attention to what are the determinants of these crises. Those who have reached the conclusion that Nigeria’s system of government and governance is faulty are calling for a Sovereign National Conference. Those who believe that the Nation-In-Crisis operates a system with faults, are pressing for reform of the subsisting order.
In between, is the President’s advocacy of a Transformation Regime that is yet to be fully articulated in terms of analysis and prescription. No one is at rest in the present situation. But all are in agreement that there is need for talk, talk among citizen groups about the nation and how its crises are to be understood and addressed. The anti-subsidy mass protests have defined the attitude of the citizenry – which summarized in one word is distrust of government.
Stemming from these calls, and understanding the complexities of today’s Nigeria, would you say calls for a SNC are justified?
The call for a SNC is not frivolous. No one can say the Nigerian ship of state is not in troubled waters. There is a gale out there and the warnings concerning “Things Falling Apart” because the centre no longer holds are to be taken seriously. Thus the question is not one of justification because people like Professor Ben Nwabueze have reached the conclusion that an SNC is required.
The question is how are conclusions from root_cause analyses to be evaluated? SNC is a prescription from analysis and evaluation is not the conducting of a vote on agreement or disagreement on the proposition that a SNC is required. Evaluation is not an action call. Evaluation involves going over the facts described, understanding the facts in terms of the integrity of the structures of Nigeria as a society instituted by its builders.
When the need for evaluation of the recommendation for a SNC is introduced, it becomes clear that those who propose a SNC have also proposed a solution that is also prescribed. Not only is the SNC proposed, its adoption is also proposed. If discussing the proposal is agreed upon, all that the proposal implies must also be on the table.
But where the call implies agreement on the proposal that the conference is also a conference of Nigerian Sovereignty and its deliberations are thus deliberation of the Nigerian Sovereign, then the call for a SNC is already an announcement that Nigeria as it presently exist is in a transition in a process of change of sovereigns. Viewed from this perspective, the call for a SNC is more than the call for a conference to talk about how crises are to be resolved.
It is already a coming together of the new sovereign one that has replaced the Government that now represents the Non-SNC sovereign, that is the sovereign of the 1999 Constitution. The SNC is thus a declaration of an extra-constitutional sovereign.
To call for a SNC is thus to pronounce the death of the 1999 Constitution and the System that derives its legitimacy from it. These are some of the implications of the call for a SNC. What I have said says nothing concerning the rightness or wrongness of the call for a SNC but only addresses the implications of SNC as a policy and strategic prescription for Nigeria.
Where would you say Nigeria began to get it wrong and what do you think has led to these calls for a re-negotiation of the basis of our existence because that is what calls for the SNC represent?
We began to get it wrong from the mounting of the demand for independence of the colony of Nigeria. We began to get it wrong from the very beginning when Nigeria’s sovereignty politics was transformed from an anti-imperialist anti-capitalist movement into an anti-imperialist movement and when the anti-imperialist movement was again transformed into a nationalist movement and when that was finally transformed into a multi-ethnic independence movement.
The two historical accounts of the multi-ethnic pro-independence movement were written by two American Political Science Professors; the first, Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation, by Richard L Sklar (1963); the second, Nigeria, Background to Nationalism by James S. Coleman (1965).
The two books chronicle the record of how our independence politicians including our revered Trio, of Nnamdi Azikwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo gravely misunderstood the nature of capitalist empire building and thus the nature of Nigeria as a colony of the British Empire. Our leaders did not appreciate the fact that the major achievement of British capitalist empire building was the capitalist restructure of the conquered and subjugated “states” integrated as colony of the Empire.
They did not understand that they who lost their thrones and independence were the rulers and governments of pre-colonial societies occupying the territories awarded the British at the 1884-1888 Berlin Conference. The movement that should be one of independence should have been led by the pre-colonial rulers of the territories now amalgamated as Nigeria.
Alaiyeluwa Oba Adetona Ogbagba II has in his autography titled AWUJALE provided the perspective of the pre-colonial rulership on the history of our anti-colonial independence movement. These pre-colonial rulers transformed into our Traditional Rulers never regained the independence of their kingdoms. What is the present day Nigeria is colonial Nigeria, a part of the British Empire.
This fact shows that the present premises both of the pro_SNC and anti_SNC factions of the Nigerian Establishment Elite are problematic. Both factions are not seeking a restoration of pre_colonial regimes nor the restructure of colonial Nigeria.
For both proprietary control of colonial Nigeria is what is at issue and this is at the root of the present crises, that neither the federal restructure of colonial Nigeria nor the unitarisation of the same can resolve. The fact is that colonial Nigeria was a colony constituted on the basis of conquest and so integrated as a sector into the British Empire.
Our political discourse both academic and electoral is a legitimation of the British Colony of Nigeria as the colonial Nigeria. The Ethnic Groupings of Colonial Nigeria is not the same as the Pre-colonial societies occupying the territories named Nigeria by the British. Membership in the British Empire was on the basis of conquerors and conquered. The British Empire was not founded on political contracts between the British and “The Nations of Nigeria”.
The subjects of the colony of Nigeria were not made subjects by a political contract between themselves or between themselves and the British. Nigeria did not emerge as a result of negotiations but as a matter of conquest, as a matter of domination. The call for a negotiation of terms of membership in post-colonial Nigeria is thus a call for the making of a New Sovereign Nigeria- a new project entirely.
What, in your own view would you say should be a first step in the light of all that you have said?
The first step in my view is to point out to the proponents of the SNC and to supporters of the Federal Government, for these are the two principal divisions, the nature of their positions and call for change. For the proponents of the SNC they should know that they are indeed constituting themselves into The Sovereignty of Nigeria and that as such they are involved in the politics of state-making. For the pro-government groups, they should know who are The People of Nigeria in whose Name they are acting. Section 14 of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution describes what shall be the case in Nigeria:
“14(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:
a. Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.
Section 14(2)(a) declares:
“_That sovereignty belongs to The People of Nigeria.
_ That government derives all its power and authority from The People of Nigeria.
_ That the delegation of powers and authority to the government by The People of Nigeria is through this 1999 Constitution
These three declarations are just no true. Government is dissociated from The People of Nigeria of This Constitution. The people of Nigeria of the Constitution is different from The People of Nigeria who until October 1st 1960 were both the creation and subject of the British Empire.
The above is the first step to be taken by SNC and Government. Both are speaking in the Name of the People of Nigeria, when there is no such People. Both admit sovereignty belongs To The People of Nigeria; Yet both are only concerned with speaking for the People, the SNC position, and speaking in the name of the constitution, the Government Position.
The SNC has the problem of defining itself in relation to The Sovereign Peoples it purportedly represents. For Government it has the task of defining its supporters in relation to The People of Nigeria of the 1999 Constitution. Government’s The People of Nigeria is different from the SNC’s The People of Nigeria and there is need to determine which of these two are the people of Nigeria to whom Sovereignty belong. Resolving the Sovereignty issue is thus the critical first step.
I know your position on the issue of SNC. But in the event that we agree to have an SNC, how do we start by getting the delegates to come to the conference? On what basis would the people be selected too attend?
In answering your question I have not pitched my camp with any side. I have discussed the implications of the two contending parties defined as supporters of SNC and supporters of Government. And I can contribute to increasing our appreciation of Nigeria’s present crises without necessarily being partisan. For both, The people of Nigeria is a notion, not an active sovereignty with juridical authenticity as evidenced in the following definition of the American people.
“The words” people of the United States” and “citizens” are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institution, form the Sovereignty and also hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the “Sovereign people” and any citizen is one of the people and a constituent member of this Sovereignty” (Horowitz and Katz Pp. 86_87. Quoted in John M. Amoda The Diasporic African Interest in the Americas 1995 P. 36).
For both Pro-SNC and Pro-Federal Government of Nigeria partisans, their relationship to The People of Nigeria is problematic. For the SNC supporters The People is a legitimating ideological construct. For the Government, The People exist only in Section 14(2)(a), also a constitutional legitimation of its authority. For the SNC The People of Nigeria is neither the historical pre_colonial peoples occupying the territories now constituting the International Nigeria nor are they the former subjects of the British Colony of Nigeria.
Remember you are interviewing me as a professor of political science and I am operating as an evaluator of political conflict between pro-SNC and pro-government partisans. But if indeed there is an agreement to have SNC, we must assume that such a decision is the result of the conversion of the pro-government partisans into partisans of the SNC or the result of the conflict being resolved in favour of the SNC activists.
From what I have pointed out in the preceding question about first step, winning the ideological battle is not the same thing as implementing the peace. What must be understood is that the agitation for SNC is already the organization of the principal stakeholders of the SNC. There are already SNC Interest Groups who must resolve their differences in order to function in harmony. Just as PDP was started so is an SNC Party has been started. Participation will be determined by the SNC Party and its leadership.
PRONACO is one such SNC interest Group- but who are the ideological-political leadership? Attendance would be on the basis of membership and sympathy for the SNC cause; whether the selection would be based on groups or individuals those are matters to be resolved by the leadership. I would have liked to attend the Sheraton Summit but attendance was determined, as it should be, by the leadership.
There are those who insist that a mere constitution amendment process should take care of the agitation for an SNC?
It should be obvious from the proceeding answer that those who take the view are pro_government partisans. This is indeed is the policy of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration. The Nigerian Establishment Elite is already polarized into SNC partisans and Government partisans. How the conflict of interests would be addressed is the current pressing and urgent task of public policy today.
Historically, how would you situate the present agitation of Boko Haram?
I have explained my views of Boko Haram in my Tuesday Columns. In my March 1st 2012 column I stated that Nigeria was under the siege of Boko Haram. I stated that the BH was not an insurgent but a revolutionary group. They may have started as a militant group that metamorphosed into an insurgent group. They are now by their policy and campaign a revolutionary group seeking to overthrow the present constitutional system of government and to use their state power to reconstitute the Nigerian Polity.
They have embarked on war and unless defeated they will continue until they achieve their aim. No revolutionary party embarks on war in the hope it would be talked into changing its mind. It is obvious all those canvassing for talk between Government and the BH are not speaking for the BH. It is also obvious that Government making the defeat of the BH an internal security, and therefore police matter is a serious misreading of the crisis.
So how should Nigeria proceed?
How should the Federal Government under this President proceed? The first thing is for the President to know that the BH has declared war on his government. When the Prime Minister of Israel was in an audience with Obama recently, in discussing Iran’s nuclear program, the Prime Minister told the US president in the following words: “Israel must be captain of its destiny and that Israel faces an existential security threat”.
The Prime Minister was in effect telling his principal ally and benefactor, that Israel may when it is necessary act without prior consultations with her allies, including the US. Israel knows the difference between war and peace. This Federal Government should know the difference between winning the war and maintaining the peace. Armies win wars and police participate in the maintaining the peace won. Putting the blame on our police is a misunderstanding of the present Boko Haram “agitation”. The BH wants a New Nigeria created by it and is not asking anyone for approval of its aim.