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Thoughts on the National Conference – 6

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By Dele Sobowale

0812-874-5902..My ethnic group is Ekwureku in Abi LGA in CRS; we speak Legbo language…0703-808-3669  In Ndokwa East,…we have Abuator. We speak Aboh dialect. 0803-422-7448 You omitted Mbubes in Ogoja CRS..0803-439-7658 I believe that our meeting yesterday was a divine opportunity by God for Ogbaru people and Olu people for their voice to be heard. Pa Michael Ogboma.

I learnt years ago that  few things are as certain as conventional wisdom suggests. My personal crusade to discover all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria is yielding a greater dividend than expected. I had operated on the belief that the people from Anioma in Delta State as well as all those in the five South East states are Igbos until a call came from Pa Michael Ugboma, a retired diplomat, an Ogbaru indigene. He invited me for a chat; which turned out to be a history lesson on the ethnic groups along the Niger Delta starting from Onitsha. Apparently, there are at least three ethnic groups in the area. They include, but might not be limited to the Ogbaru, the Olu, and the Onitsha. Implied in this discussion is the fact that the Ogbaru and Onitsha indigenes will not feel represented in the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities if they are lumped with Igbo.  From Pa Ugboma I was referred to a few people who will provide more information on this discovery. I intend to follow up as soon as possible. But, already I can see that when people casually talk about ethnic nationalities they have not thought deeply enough about the complexities involved.

The President apparently had fixed a date in February 2014 for the National Conference to start. I don’t know if anybody in government had read the 4000-page report submitted by Senator Okurounmu. But, even somebody reading 40 pages a day will need 100 days to complete the job. So, it is quite possible nobody read it. The date was fixed even before the complexity of the problem was fully understood. As those following this series from the beginning would by now have realized, defining and locating ethnic groups in Nigeria would not be easy. More difficult still would be selection of the representatives of the various ethnic nationalities. Let us hope the Federal government is not being too hasty by choosing February 2014 as start off date. On this one, I want, and pray, for Jonathan to succeed.

Last week we saw how several ethnic groups in the South South, SS, might constitute an impediment to the success of the conference. But, just as I thought we were through with ethnic groups from the zone, I received more as shown above. I have a feeling that the last might not have been heard from that zone.

However, if there is a zone that really terrifies me, it is the North Central. And, indeed, it was this zone which first kindled my interest in finding out how many ethnic nationalities there are in Nigeria. Back in 1992, I was a World Bank Consultant, working on the National Water Rehabilitation Project. I was in charge of Human Resources Assessment for Bauchi (then Bauchi and Gombe) and Plateau (then Plateau and Nassarawa) States; later Kogi State was added to my list of states. It was my responsibility to visit all the states’ Water Corporation stations in order to determine the adequacy or otherwise of the manpower in each station. I had access to the files of every staff of each Water Station and sometimes the ethnic groups were included in the forms supplied to the staff when engaged. The problem with ethnic nationalities, in the zone, can be summarized by pointing to the stretch of road from Keffi to Toto – near Abaji in the Federal Capital Territory. Not more than seventy kilometers long, the road nevertheless included three water stations – Keffi, Nassarawa and Toto itself – but an astonishing collection of about eleven to fifteen ethnic nationalities. If that short stretch of road is home to so many, the reader can just begin to imagine what I discovered on the Barkin Ladi-Mangu-Langtang-Pankshin-Wuse road; or the Akwanga-Lafia—Ibi–Shendam route. Before I was redeployed from the area, it was clear to me that any talk of breaking up Nigeria, without sorting out the problems of ethnic nationalities, is just wishful thinking. More than fifty ethnic groups are located in the NC zone alone and very few live in harmony with their neighbours. The Hausa/Fulani, who ignorant Southerners have assumed are the only northerners, in actual fact, are in the minority compared to the total population of the north. Being widely dispersed, they are actually minorities in all the North Central States; but a significant minority. How will the Hausa and Fulani (two distinct ethnic groups) be accommodated in the NC states where they constitute a minority, e.g Benue, for the proposed National Conference and in the event of a break-up? Both the Federalists and the Separatists must start to address this monster problem before we sit down to talk.

The Jukuns probably serve best to illustrate the problems of small ethnic groups strung across several states. To the best of my knowledge, they can be found in Benue, Nassarawa, Taraba and parts of Cross River States – in the Katsina Ala area. And like the Fulani/Hausa, they have been involved in ethnic conflicts in every state. How will their representative(s) be chosen? And, in the event of a break-up of Nigeria, where will they go?


“I love cars”, First Republic Chairman of the Nigerian Railways to a panel of inquiry.

The fellow had one old jalopy before becoming Chairman of the NRC. Within two years he had a fleet of over ten cars while the Nigerian Railways started its decline into the abyss; taking our economic development prospects down with it. Asked what he was doing with so many cars, he gave the reply quoted above; never mind that his lawful entitlements could not account for all the cars.  Mrs. Imelda Marcos, wife of late President of the Philippines, had 6,000 pairs of shoes when her husband was toppled. Her reason: “I love shoes”.

President Jonathan has presented four budgets; in two, he had requested for jets. He too must love planes.  Fashola also loves cars; but for traditional rulers. The latest set of gifts would be the third since he came to office at Alausa. One APC governor recently selected almost his entire cabinet from among the kids of traditional rulers in the state; then gave the Baba Alayes cars on top. Up APC!!

But there is a vital difference. GEJ’s error of judgment can be rectified by the National Assembly deleting the plane from the budget. The NASS might be late, but they have finally put on their thinking caps.

Fashola’s blunder will not be remedied. The Lagos State House of Assembly has been stocked with rubber stamps who will never question the governor. Why have intelligent people in the House when all the crucial decisions are made at Ikoyi in any case? It’s a waste of brains!!!


“If you wish the sympathy of the broad masse; then you must tell them the crudest and most stupid things.” Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945.

Every politician has a bit of Hitler in him. They would rather lie to win the election than tell the truth and lose. It is not everybody who can be like William Sherman, 1820-1891, the American civil war heroic General who told Americans: “I will not accept, if nominated and will not serve if elected”. Later Sherman reportedly told a friend that he was appalled by the lies people in office tell.  Politicians will tell you a lot of lies in 2014. But, I will be here to debunk as many as I can. I am not running for office. If elected, I will not serve either. I am already Presido! Unelected.

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