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Thoughts on the National Conference – 5

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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 Presiden 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.

Our collective tendency to think of Nigeria in terms of WA-ZO-BIA (Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo) is probably responsible for the enthusiasm with which some of us embrace break-up of Nigeria or even confederation. Some might even think that the British met us neatly divided into East, West and Northern regions. So why not simply return to those enclaves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not even the Yorubas and Igbos formed one nation before 1914. However, one thing is clear: breaking up along regional lines will leave the nation emerging from the “North” totally landlocked. That unfortunately will be the least of its problems.

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 great 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, for the Conference, might not be realistic and finance might not 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. Read below what we have discovered in just three weeks.

“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.

0706-365-4503 Kindly include the Ukelle in CRS in Yala LG..The people speak Kukelle.

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, those “ethnic” groups have been discovered. I put the word ethnic in inverted comas because of the legitimate question raised by the first 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 ethnic nationalities list includes, but is not limited to: Afenmai, Ishan, Bini, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko, Efik, Anang, Oron, Ibibio, Ika, Kalabari, Okrika, Ibilo, Aniocha, Ukwani, 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 deposits should straddle territories occupied by large and tiny ethnic groups. War starts.

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.

“And remember that the best of friends must part.” Anonymous.

Last week, the first part of this series started by pointing out why the strongest political alliance in the country today – Jonathan and Akpabio – is headed for a clash which none of them desires and might not be able to prevent. As long as Jonathan seeks a second term and Akpabio wants to head for the Senate, the clash is inevitable. Ibibios hold the key to success in Akwa Ibom politics in 2015 and Akpabio is not one of them. As a lame duck governor he will be fighting for his own survival and Jonathan might be forced to scramble for his own votes without much help from the governor. Indeed, support for the President from Akpabio is guaranteed to split the votes in the state where Ibibio form the absolute majority. And, they know their leader – even if Jonathan does not….

“Here gifts are made only to the rich.”  Balzac, 1799-1850 in LOST ILLUSIONS.
Last week there were two revelations about how our leaders decide on priorities. President Jonathan, it was disclosed, had budgeted N1.2 billion to purchase another aircraft which is destined to be used for ferry service by his family and close associates. Goodluck was deservingly shellacked by those who felt the outrage. A lot of poor people could be helped with N1.2 billion – it was asserted.

On Sunday, December 30, 2013, in the NATION, it was reported that Fashola had procured 140 vehicles for Lagos State traditional rulers. No amount was given. Many of us are surprised that there are up to 140 traditional rulers in Lagos State to begin with. Some of them are receiving their fourth or sixth car from the State Government since 1999. Meanwhile, I invite anybody to visit Massey Children Hospital in Lagos Island and look at the surroundings and tell us if 140 vehicles for traditional “ruiners” takes precedence over removing that sqalour. Hypocrites!!!

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