an all-Nigeria effort
By Bisi Lawrence
It would appear that President Muhammadu finds it convenient to make important announcements about his nation when he is away from the country. It could become an inconvenient matter for us to expect important statements from our President usually when he is abroad, especially if he makes a habit of jetting out now and again, as a pattern of what his stewardship is turning out to be.
His predecessor in office, Goodluck Jonathan, had made it a point of strategy, or so we thought, to visit Paris when the abduction of the Chibok girls was still oven-fresh. Nothing came out of it but those creamy promises. We can expect very little from Buhari’s visit too. And no matter how gracious one is disposed to be, the Paris trip only fits into a frame of junketing which may be permitted if there were no daunting duties on the home base. But there is, like the appointment of ministers which may be accompanied by a re-organization of the number and responsibilities of the ministries. It has taken quite awhile but the month of September, which has been marked for the announcement is in its waning days.
That this was the intention of the President was revealed in Paris, while some people, many people in fact, were grinding their teeth in confusion here at home. After such a long wait—which was exactly what also happened when he was a military leader, at his first coming—it would not have been out of place to relieve our anxiety here first-hand rather than our having to hear it on the international air-waves. All we could say now is that when the announcement of the ministers’ identity comes, it had better be good.
But that was how we also got to know that the Federal Government has been conducting a dialogue, or discussion with Boko Haram —from a distance. Some people might even welcome it. But it would seem that the government is sniffing this one before tasting it. The President made the point that the identity of the conferees on the other side has to be established before full discussions can be engaged in. This is indeed a key aspect to the issue especially as it was recently given out that there has been a change at the helm of the Boko Haram leadership, true or false. If true, what does it portend when we do not know whether it would be for good or worse. If false, it could only be part of a ruse for designed to deceive and put the Nigerian army into confusion. And they seem to be no mean hand at that. Former President Good luck, wisely, would not engage, as he put it, in a conference “with ghosts”.
It is interesting to learn that the proposed meeting with the Boko Haram was at their own instance. Curiouser and curiouser, wouldn‘t you say? These were the people who outrightly rejected a dialogue less than a year ago. They even rejected the offer of possible pardon then. They claimed that they had committed no offence, dismissing their mass murder of innocent Nigerians as casualties of war. And they went on attacking us. And now they are reported to want an exchange of one of their captured chieftains for the Chibok girls. That, of course, is unacceptable. For one thing, we have no clear picture of what has happened to the girls. We can only hope for the best and expect the worst since it must be appreciated that we are dealing with a most ruthless gang of murderers.
The attempt to come to a compromise on the part of these criminals also strengthens the encouraging news that these brutal insurgents are now being steadily degraded by our army. I have always had a supreme faith in the Nigerian army, no matter what they were made to undergo in the past regime. The veil is being gradually lifted across the Sambisa forest; we shall soon know the score about this war. We have to be prepared for the gruesome aftermath which, unhappily, may make us mourn for some unfortunate ones among us.
Now, we wait for the ministers.
Professor Ibrahim Gambari, articulate, erudite, diplomat par excellence hardly ever puts a foot wrong when it comes to matters of academic or diplomatic nature. That was why I was not entirely surprised when I saw him at the so-called National Conference which was really no more than a part of the swan song at his quitting the stage, among other futile strategies that could not keep him in office. But even if he had been able to return to Aso Rock, the recommendations of the conference would have been given no more than the treatment they deserve —a good space in a safe office shelf.
The confab was a waste of time and good money, and we said so at the time. But the jamboree was seen through and well attended, even by some notable people who did not think much of it either but found a certain aspect very much welcome. I have often wondered why Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the virtual convener, did not invite me despite our mutual agreement on several views. My car was in need of urgent repairs—in fact, replacement. I suspect he appreciated the fact that we were not on the same page with regard to the matter.
But Professor Gambari was in full force and contributed with great vigour to the deliberations, not fully appreciating that it was just a gambit, at best a distraction and, if you like, the last gasp of a fading soul. He could not believe that it was a pure political gimmick, full of wind but deficient in substance. He still does, apparently, from the recent appeals he has been making to President Buhari to implement some of the decisions. The truth is that the acceptable areas of decisions traversed by the conference are few and far between; but even those are already covered by the Constitution, or would need a constitutional review with all its extensive processes which may be easily accommodated by legislative conduct.
The Conference has also been rejected by the Northern Re-Awakening Forum. It is a new one, though with a very old agenda. But then, you might say I am prejudiced. Any time I come across any of these “action groups” that are purely sectional in concept, purpose and name, I develop goose pimples. The NRF is a northern outfit that seeks to improve the lot of the unfortunate people of the North-East. It wants another national conference to be convened for this purpose by the Federal Government. This, of course, is what you might call a noble project. And they need every encouragement and support. But they have got it wrong. This is a national issue, not a Northern or North-East issue; It is a Nigerian issue so it should be organized on a national basis.
It is high time that the leaders in the North began to think in terms of their inclusiveness within the nation. This organization, no matter how worthy its intentions, is a throw-back to the days before the Civil War. There are people who believe that we are not yet a nation, and so we shall continue until people all over the country begin to identify us as people of one country. It might be difficult at the start, but it will be possible with goodwill in good time.
A national conference is not necessary —it is even a misnomer. What is demanded is a national committee which may be headed by a capable man from that part of Nigeria to whom the terrain is quite familiar. The membership should comprise fellow Nigerians eager to serve their fatherland.
By the way, Alhaji Mohammed Umara Kumilia, who is the chairman of the NRF and a legislator of the National Assembly, was a member of the National Conference which he now consigns to the PDP. The North-East needs massive help. And we should all be involved big time.