BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
* We‘ll emerge stronger and more united after the confab…
PRESIDENT of Igbo Youths Movement, Evangelist Elliot Uko, in this interview outlines why Nigerians must dialogue and how to make the conference work.
Having agitated for national conference for close to 20 years, how does IYM see moves to convene the confab?
It is not about IYM, it is about saving Nigeria. We all should remain prayerful until a new Nigeria is created at the conference and affirmed by INEC conducted referendum. Until then, Nigeria is still tottering at the edge of a precipice. Only the proposed National conference will save Nigeria and heal the land. Nigerians want to save Nigeria, nobody wants Nigeria to die. The National Conference is the best thing to happen to Nigeria. It will succeed. It will enthrone justice and equity. Nigeria will come out stronger and better.
Everybody does not seem to share your optimism…
There will always be mischief makers but the truth is Nigeria needs re-construction. This National Conference will redesign Nigeria. Nigeria will come out stronger and more united. It is the first opportunity Nigerians will have to decide how we want to live together. All those against it know that without this National Conference Nigeria will have a very short time to live. This actually is a last ditch effort to save Nigeria. I know it will be very successful. I know that even the pessimist will rejoice at the end of the day. This genuine effort to truly save Nigeria must not fail.
The opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) has said it would boycott the conference, which it described as a Greek gift, won’t that affect the overall outcome?
No, it won’t, 99 per cent of our countrymen are in full support of the conference. It is painful and regrettable that some people choose to place their personal political ambitions above the survival of Nigeria. That says a lot about the quality of leaders in Nigeria. It is quite unfortunate.
What about allegations that Mr. President plans to use the National Conference to divert attention from the myriad of problems plaguing his party and the nation in general?
I agree that the nation is very sick and adrift. That is not debatable but every effort to save and salvage the situation should be supported and not sabotaged. The very few who are afraid of the outcome of the conference are in the minority, majority of Nigerians are excited and prayerful that this great opportunity to rebuild Nigeria must not fail. Those who plot to shoot down the conference know that the injustices they instituted while they ran the country as military despots will be dismantled at the conference.
Will the conference solve the economic, social and political troubles eating up Nigeria?
Our basic problem is corruption and mis-governance and both have everything to do with this unworkable military structure. This awkward structure encourages corruption; the centre is too attractive that some people promise to soak the dog and baboon in blood in about 18 months. Nigeria is artificially held together albeit temporarily by the greed of very corrupt ruling elite, sustained only by the oil wealth which will dry up in about 30 years. All our troubles flow from this very wrong and faulty foundation. Nobody is happy with the frightening youth unemployment, brazen oil theft, massive and mindless corruption, arrogance of those in power, insecurity etc, but Nigeria cannot survive unless we address the basics.
We must go back to the root cause of our dilemma, which is: a very wrong unitary structure, a very expensive system of governance that gulps over 68 per cent of our resources leaving only about 32 per cent to develop the country with. We will never succeed unless we face reality. The 774 Local Governments and 36 states structure with a very strong centre have not and will never work. We need to tell ourselves the truth. Nigeria must be restructured for a more efficient system. Nigerians will have an opportunity to design a workable and fair constitution that will make Nigeria truly great.
How do you see the government’s handling of the economy?
Nigerians expect better performance, but you can’t perform magic when you are stuck with a perverted structure and system. The government is hamstrung. But this government hasn’t done badly. When people say Mr. President is not performing they fail to tell us: like who? In comparison, Jonathan is doing great things for this country but the problems are legion. We want to see Nigeria where things work. We have not got there yet. They say our economy is growing. The average Nigerian can’t see or feel it. Life is still rough and politicians are still living very provocative and offensive life styles. It will be wrong not to acknowledge that Jonathan is trying his best. But we are still very far from the Promised Land. I know we will get there.