By John Amoda
IN the President’s proclamation of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, he made clear that this declaration of a state of emergency was part of “steps to unravel and address the root causes of these crises.”
It is apparent that the Boko Haram Insurgency is contextualized by other security issues which must be also addressed. In the present condition of the Nigerian society, the government has to address a nexus of crises, each feeding the others so much so that government finds itself confronted with increasing conditions of anarchy.
Prof Akin Oyebode in his piece in The Guardian Tuesday, May 28, 2013 includes the following in his catalogue of what ails the nation. Nigeria, Prof Oyebode notes, is: “A country which has found it almost impossible to guarantee 24 hours electricity supply at any part of the country, enduring insufferable poverty in the face of incredible wealth, high levels of unemployment, unbelievable scourge of disease, and squalor .., wide spread corruption …, armed robbery, religious strife, kidnapping and terrorism”. A society thus bedeviled cannot be said to be a society with faults to be fixed.
An objective characterisation of the Nigerian society is that its ”order” is faulty; a faulty structure must be re- engineered; it cannot be fixed. Such re- engineering entails root-cause analyses. Root-cause analyses in furtherance of societal restructure is a political project of putative sovereigns.
The call for a sovereign national conference is such a political project. In this essay, we briefly appraise The Patriots’ vanguard role in defining the frame work for such a national conference.
For our text, we take the report of The Guardian Tuesday May 28, 2013 of the interview of Professor Ben Nwabueze, Chairman of The Patriots and a member; Chief Solomon Adun Asemota (S A N) titled: “How to save Nigeria from anarchy by Nwabueze, Asemota.” To the question: “What are your fears for Nigeria?” posed by Seye Olumide, The Patriots reply was: “This is a very large question.
We are in a very desperate situation in the country and everyday the situation gets worse and more worrisome. At a point, we were optimistic that things would get better but now, we are beginning to nurse some sense of despair due to the development around us, with the persistent fear whether we would get out of this.
Poverty is everywhere, illiteracy and ignorance are also a general challenge to the country and government ought to address them.
This is the position of The Patriots that a National Conference can best solve some of these issues because everything seems to have failed in this country, and therefore, we need to sit on a round table to discuss. This is the only way we can address all the problems that affect all the sections of the country.
The position of The Patriots on this is simple and straight. “We have met several times, deliberated on the state of the nation and issued many statements that Nigeria was heading into a situation of anarchy, like General Theophilus Danjuma said that Nigeria was already in anarchy; but we are certainly heading towards anarchy… When Jonathan took over, he said publicly he was in support of a national conference. We have discussed with him and also written a letter to him on the subject of National Conference and we are waiting for his reply.
We expect that he will give our letter the necessary treatment. The memorandum we sent to the President contains all the arguments that could be advanced in support of a conference. We are not only after drawing up a constitution, there are other things we include. The memorandum includes the near collapse of Nigeria and how it could be addressed”.
Giving the perspicacity of the chairman and of the general membership of the group, it can be assumed that all the President seeks answer to from The Patriots are questions raised by the modality proposed by The Patriots for convening the Sovereign National Conference.
The Patriots propose that the conference be a conference of ethnic nationalities. Why ethnic nationalities and not on the basis of political parties as suggested by Northern political leaders? “We are in correspondence with the Arewa. We have exchanged in black and white, we have agreed on the need for a National Conference but the modalities are what we are still looking at. We agreed on the ultimate need to hold a conference but the modalities are a bit different but that will be settled given good will.
The Arewa wanted the conference to be on political party basis but we say it should be a conference of ethnic Nationalities”. It is clear that there has to be agreement on modalities if the conference is to be convened. In this essay, let us hear ‘The Patriots’ argument on why the ethnic nationality is the unit of popular sovereignty. “Why we emphasized that the conference must be on the basis of ethnic nationalities is because they are the ones that wear the shoes, they are the people whose interests are at stake. We should bring them together to discuss how this nation could move forward as one entity.
This must be the focal point because it will make no sense if the ethnic nationalities are not the major point of consideration for the conference. They are the people feeling the pinch of the crisis. Nigeria does not contain one set of people; whosoever is saying that we are a set of one people is deceiving himself and the country.
Nigeria contains peoples; peoples make up Nigeria and this is why it is necessary to come to a round table based on ethnic nationalities and not on the basis of political parties to discuss our differences.
The Patriots also have modalities that will ensure that all the ethnic nationalities are well represented. We have the numbers and list of all ethnic nationalities at hand. We have ascertained every ethnic nationality in this country, big or small; they are 389 in the list. We have included these in our memorandum to the President.
We will bring them one by one to the conference. Let the President give the opportunity for the people to speak one-on-one to themselves”.
The great ethnographic work done by The Patriots to accomplish the mapping and cataloguing of Nigeria ethnic nationalities must be acknowledged as an academic and intellectual feat. But can the claim be made by The Patriots that the ethnic nationality is the unit of sovereignty in Nigeria be sustained empirically?
One of the essential characteristics of sovereignty is autonomy of rulers in their domains of control and interests. If this attribute is applied to examine the 389 ethnic nationalities as catalogued by The Patriots it is difficult to see how the Patriots ethnic nationalities can be the basis of representation and participation in the Sovereign National Conference.