BY AFOLABI IGE
ON October 1, 2013 at Nigeria’s 53rd Anniversary, the president was burdened once again to address a nation steeped in spiritual and socio-economic distress. This is far from a time to envy a president with troubles looming all about.
The ruling octopus PDP, which produced the president some 30 months ago, is heading for the worst (precipice) in the words of one of its leaders and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The nation’s Governors’ forum is engulfed in an eternal turmoil; the proclaimed dead Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram sect all of a sudden resurrected back to life and kicking missiles of fear and striking confusion and shame into Nigeria’s military and security camp.
On the economic front, the marriage between the statistical figures and realities have long broken down irretrievably with the result of worsening poverty on the streets and a high sounding growth figures from the coordinating minister of the economy.
On the education front, ASUU is trotting its gun like the Shekau missile to shut down the ivory towers permanently having kept Nigerian universities’ students at home for more than one academic semester because of alleged of infidelity over past agreement with the union.
So it was with high expectation and with our last breath as high-spirited nationalists that we have expected the president’s national day broadcast with ‘perhaps ‘
Alas! The president indeed debut again not with a blazer for battle but with a dampening blanket to cover the problems. It was the gimmick of concurrence with the advocates of sovereign national conference.
What is the value of a national conference in a democracy and what prospect does it hold for solving the many Nigeria’s current travesties? A conference whether as in politics as a multilateral diplomatic negotiations or as in business, talks organized by organizations to discuss pressing issues such as sharing formula, wage fixing and determination or ethical issues etc are the natural ingredients of a working democracy.
Fundamentally, freedoms of speech, association and self expression a.ka the right to conferencing, dialoguing or discussing are naturally part and parcel of what constitutional democracy delivers and these rights are unfortunately what the advocates of the sovereign constitutional are exercising and misapplying in the first instance.
Since 1999 till date, Nigeria’s democracy with all its imperfections provides the free atmosphere for any group of people who have any genuine desires to freely discuss, negotiate and even canvass such within the ambit of the laws of the land.
This seemed symptomatic of intellectually redundant elite (ruling and civil society), morally bankrupt leadership and largely mortally docile followership. The national dearth of genuinely thinking leaders makes us to waste precious time and energy on begging and distracting the president to duplicate sovereignty by convoking a sovereign national conference instead of directing such energies into thinking genuine solutions and canvassing the adoption of such alternatives through the available avenues i.e. political parties, civil society organizations, organized labour, religious bodies and the ever increasing regional and ethnic ‘mouth-piece’ organizations, etc, which are veritable means of sieving ideas and translating them into political representation in government. This has been the withholding argument of government until the recent capitulation which has been dubbed variously as suspicious, diversionary, ill-timed and ill-conceived.
The principle of sovereignty does not accommodate duplicity and hence once a government is duly elected, to convene a sovereign national conference amounts to duplication of sovereignty and state of anarchy.
Perhaps the only things democracy does not have magical cures for are our endemic corruption, indulgence and sheer docility in the face of leadership ineptitude and emptiness. Rather than accept electoral responsibility for the fate that befell us and brace for the opportunity of a change always around the corner, we prefer to shift blame, absolve self and further indulge in “boju-boju” (children’s hide and seek game) national confab which outcome can be predicted with clairvoyant’s precision.
How can such a national talk-show, going to be far more humongous as twice the size of the National Assembly, organized and bank rolled by the sitting government address the problems of treasury looting, oil theft and brigandage that has become part of the official seal? How will the confab stop the implosion of a party that has bungled its own internal rules to stupefaction? How will this on coming confab help solve the problem of beggarly and merchandising opposition that traded off their presidential candidates on the Alter of petrol dollars and juicy contracts? How will it answer the puzzle of Boko Haram without breaking the country?
Rather than solve any of the national puzzles, I see this on coming national conference as a manipulation of public opinion in favour of a hidden agenda like it happened under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I see a deliberate ploy to divert attention away from the many failures of leadership on the eve of the 2015 general election; a diversionary tactics to buy time and bury the ruling party’s hara-kiri. I see it as a sheer waste of Nigeria resources and time. If the people genuinely have anything to say, let it be said through their votes at all levels and during the mandate negotiations leading to the next election.