By Bisi Lawrence
The futility of a National Conference of any kind was very clearly described by none other than Senator David Mark, President of the Senate, recently. It was consistent with his normal views readily expressed on previous occasions. It made good sense.
The country already has a sophisticated legislative structure that could review the extant Constitution. Why waste time and resources by creating an exercise that could only remove from the value of a coordinated effort by the elected representatives of the people?
But the Senate President was to drop that toga of a statesman for the dazzling apparel of a politician when he, David, startled everyone by recording a volte-face on the issue, as though preparing the way for the equally sudden act of his friend, Jonathan, the President of the Federation, on the same issue.
However, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, in his own right, must be accounted a Nigerian politician, and that is not meant as a compliment. The qualification of “Nigerian” in that context, is meant to convey the qualities of insincerity, disingenuousness and other unsavoury traits associated with most of the actors in our political arena today.
He, more than most of those who are now involved, and even those who have been connected with the agitation for a Sovereign National Conference for a long time before now, must appreciate that what is being offered with all the noise and clamour is very far from the real thing. And yet Mark with how much glee he accepts and hangs on to it as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue/Conference. It is with the alacrity with which a monkey intercepts the passage of a banana tossed at it, and that from the hand of a man for whom he had earlier expressed nothing but the lowest contempt. President Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Okunrounmu had described earlier, as man who didn’t “have a clue”. Has the good senator’s sudden appointment now instantly made the President a hero? That alone introduces a hollow sound to the entire project.
But Okunrounmu is not alone. There are other past stalwarts for the “sovereign” brand of the national conference who have expressed little surprise at the unexpected presidential turnabout and a resentment of the removal of the “sovereign” tag. Some of them, highly-respected citizens and social critics, wearily embrace the change in policy and seem to hope for the best.
Their opinion is quite tenable in a sense: “it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war”; “if we could sit down and discuss the issues that beset us, we are sure to find solutions to them”; “we have to sit down and talk”. These cliches reverberate down the corridors of futile history. They sound as tame as the lame measures they have always been. It is not always better to jaw-jaw with opponents who would rather pop-pop at you with AK 47 than jaw-jaw with you.
We sent delegates to Aburi (remember?) and sat down to find solutions to our problems, and then still came back home to war-war. All of which sums up to imply that we do not necessarily have to sit down and talk anyway, since we already have people whom we have chosen to do exactly that for us in our legislative houses.
But we prefer to sit on clouds of platitudes which can neither sustain our hopes nor fulfill our desires in beneficial precipitation. Look at the so-called dialogue/conference all over again. The Advisory Committee is yet to arrive at a suitable name for it, in the first place
. That would be after they have decided whether it is a conference or a dialogue. What parameters would be employed to select the delegates? Would they be nominated like members of the Advisory Committee?
It is expected that they would be representatives of the so-called geo-political zones. It may not be pessimistic to point out at this time, that each of those zones contains ethnic units that are not looking in the same direction on some crucial issues. They may have to get their acts together through a preliminary “dialogue/conference”. And then, there was the aspect of ratification which the President has now mercifully cleared up and, with it several other issues.
It would appear that no plebiscite is envisaged to consider the recommendations of the dialogue/conference. The results, according to the President, will be passed on to the National Assembly and would be — or should be — incorporated into the efforts of the legislators at amending the Constitution. WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO “SQUARE ONE”!
In the mean time, our thoughts would have been diverted from serious issues of national import—the threatening breakdown of the political establishment that is the foundation of our democratic functions as a country; the progressive disintegration of our higher education institution; the dwindling effectiveness of our security organization — in short, the corruption of the space we need to programme our governance machinery to be productive according to our will.
Now the politicians can breathe more easily. They are still in full control. When the populace is through with the wild goose chase, they will still find the honourable members waiting. The strategy will, of course, be unravelled by time. It may seem too distant at this time to establish the connection with the cloudy road to 2015 but, if we must repeat, that is the only game in town.
not a politician
Princess Stella Oduah, the Minister of Aviation, is definitely not a politician. She is not even a diplomat, either. The way in which she lashed out at some of her critics in connection with the recent air disaster involving Flight 361 of Associated Airlines betrayed a lack of adequate temperament for occupying a public position of ministerial calibre. Her language was not exactly lady-like, and that is what she is first of all.
Unfortunately, however, the critics were basically unfair. She had little or no responsibility directly with the crash of the hapless aircraft. A Minister is not accountable for what happens in the cockpit of every aircraft in his or her country.
A minister’s commitment is to the execution of policy, not with operations. There was a female Minister of Works who visited a bad road under repairs, fashionably turned out in shocking pink overalls which some wag swore was designer made.
(And indeed it hugged the essential contours of her luscious shape in a most fascinating manner.) It left no mark on the dilapidated condition of the road, though the personal concern touched the sentimental core of some readers of the newspaper in which she appeared. The necessary operations were to be performed by the experts who didn’t for months, while the Minister sweetly bore the blame from the ignorant critics.
That is the way to deal with them even when some of them are people who should know better, having occupied such positions before themselves. The preliminary report on the Associated Airline crash squarely put the responsibility on the operations of the plane. It is very grim. The rejection of operational advice from the equipment within the cockpit could only have been the work of the devil — definitely not the fault of the Minister. Now, I believe that a round of deserved apology is called for at this time, eh?
The Minister of Aviation can take solace from the fact that everything in our system goes back to our Oga at the top mentality. Both the good and the bad. A magnificent road is constructed between two villages, and it is the Minister who gets the encomiums.
The Super Eagles win a tournament, and it is the Minister of Sports who wins the accolade. So an aircraft has an accident, well, so the good direction of the Minister about the upgrading of airports has to be rubbished by our grief .
You must have heard it said that “time heals all wounds”. True enough, but “time also wounds all heels”, as Mr. Charles Taylor, erstwhile murdering President of Liberia, is now finding out in an English jail where he is likely to remain for the rest of his wretched life.