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Thoughts on the National Conference – 4

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By Dele Sobowale

“While receiving the 4000-page report of the committee from [Senator] Okuroumu, President Goodluck ….said the national conference would hold early next year…The President then added that he had already directed the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to make adequate financial provisions for the smooth take-off of the conference”. SUNDAY PUNCH, December 22, 2013.

Dr Okurounmu and I share at  least one thing in common. We were both recipients of American government scholarship in the 1960s which enabled us to attend universities in America. It is quite possible we also share in common taking a course in Speed Reading, which enables the individual to read lots of text materials at five to ten times that of an average person and still get the facts right. That speed reading ability paid off for me four years ago when I was engaged by clients to go through the PIB which the Federal Government was trying to force through the National Assembly and stop its passage. I must be one of very few Nigerians who read the 892 page document page by page, word for word. But, even for me a 4,000-page behemoth will constitute a challenge. Is President Jonathan supposed to read that stuff? I hope not.  Meanwhile, the President of Nigeria, acting with good intentions, might discover that early next year might not be realistic and finance might not even be the major constraint facing us in this venture.

In the previous two articles, I had pointed to the problems Yoruba and Igbo might face in the event of a break-up as some are advocating. Let me once again reiterate that I stand for unity – it is easier than anything else we can contemplate. Now, we move to the South South and we are immediately confronted with the same complexities as we find in Nigeria as a whole.

“0803-344-1684 I think the correct list of ethnic nationalities should be based & guided by a reference definition of what constitutes  an ethnic nationality..Sunday

0803-429-7372 Takad or Attakar people Kaduna and Plateau States should not be forgotten.

From my own research my readers should please add the following. Adamawa State:Bachama, Bata,Mbulai Fulani, Nuigudo?, Kilba, Mumuye; Bayelsa State: Okoroma, Nembe, Ogbia; Cross River State: Utempa, Kunov, Bebi, Obudu, Beleteku, Amana, Belinge, Becheve.

At the last count, the following “ethnic” groups have been discovered. I put the word ethnic in inverted comas because of the legitimate question raised by the text message above. I do not pretend to be an authority on the subject. I am only, for now pointing at the complexities involved in selecting candidates to the conference based on ethnicity. The SS list includes, but is not limited to: Afenmai, Ishan, Bini, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko, Efik, Anang, Oron, Ibibio, Ika, Kalabari, Okrika, Ibilo, Aniocha, Ukwuani, Ogba, Egbema, Ndokwa, Yakurr, Okoroma, Nembe, Ogbia, Utempa, Kunov, Bebi, Obudu, Beleteku, Amana, Belinge, Becheve etc etc, I expect more nationalities to be brought to my attention soon. But, already we have over two dozen ethnic nationalities in the zone. Lacking a census figure, but based on my travels through the zone, I would imagine that the three largest ethnic groups in that zone are: Ijaw, Urhobo and Ibibio in that order. To say that Ijaw, Urhobo and Itsekiri, in Delta State, barely tolerate each other is to be economical with the truth; the mutual hostility is legendary. A zonal confederating unit including those three ethnic groups will hardly be peaceful. The first battle will be over the capital. In fact, only the Federal might holds all the ethnic nationalities in the zone together – and that barely. In the end, the questions which must be urgently answered before Okonjo-Iweala opens the money spigot remain: what would be the basis for representation by the various ethnic nationalities? Will the Ijaws, Urhobos and Ibibio be regarded as equal to the Ibilo, Yakurr and Ika? If not what will be the formula for representation?

It goes without saying that no independent nation can emerge from that assemblage of ethnic groups different from the Nigeria we are all kicking against. Large nationalities will still dominate the smaller ones and God forbid the oil should be in the minorities’ territories.

If the South South already frightens you, then follow me to the real “Tower of Babel” – the North Central where almost forty percent of our ethnic nationalities make their homes.


“Men make history, but not as they please”. Karl Marx, 1818-1883.

They are the closest of political allies and friends within the PDP at the moment. In fact, reliable sources, inside the Presidency inform us that President Jonathan considers Governor Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State as his closest confidant. Godswilll Akpabio, it must be admitted had done all anybody can possibly do to demonstrate total loyalty to the President. More than the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, BOT, and the Chairman of the PDP, Akpabio had stood by Jonathan resolutely as no other Nigerian, without exception, had done. He was the most trustworthy of all Jonathan’s supporters.

“It lies not in our power to love or hate; for will in us is over-ruled by Fate.” Christopher Marlowe, 1544-1593. (BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 57).

But, Fate, cruel fate has placed the two closest allies in contemporary Nigerian politics on a collision course which none of the two, or, for that matter anybody else could have foreseen. It is quite possible that even they themselves are not aware of the dangers ahead which could force both of them to resort to the first law of nature – self preservation.

Before you think this is either a false alarm or a paid job, let me assure you that it will come as a thunderbolt to my closest friend in Akwa Ibom, H.E. Obong Victor Attah. He will be reading this article perhaps after many others who read on line and who wake up very early on Sundays would have read it. Certainly, we will discourse it. But, I didn’t want any intervention in an article which has grave consequences for our country.

“What on earth can separate Goodluck Jonathan from Godswill Akpabio?” You must be asking yourself. The simple answer is: “The same ingredients of Nigerian politics – ethnicity, zoning, group and personal interests – which brought them together in the first place. Now where do we start from? It matters very little whether we begin from Jonathan’s point of view or from Akpabio’s . The end result remains the same – there is potential conflict of interests between the two. So, let me start at the top; meaning from Jonathan.


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