Sovereign National Conference, an imperative that must come up – or Nigeria goes down

February 19, 2012

[As cries for a Sovereign National Conference grows, those who profit financially from the lopsided "federation" Nigeria operates are at it.  Below are two essays: the firstan open letter to the president published in The Nation several months ago and the second is a recent post in online Sahara Reporters.  TOLA.]


LETTER TO [President] GOODLUCK [Jonathan]
By Ayo Opadokun
The Nation, 14/06/2011 00:00:00

CODER: On Sovereign National Conference we stand


I plead for your indulgence to allow me utilize this medium to present my memorandum to you. My choice of an open declaration on the above subject matter is essentially to give you sufficient room to manouvre your way through the deviously organized political club of fun lovers and pleasure seekers that must have cornered you for their personal reasons.

Let me presage this memorandum by congratulating you for the victory you recorded in the April 16 elections. No matter how unpleasant our observations about the voting exercise can be, the fact is that you have not only been issued your certificate of returns, you have also be sworn in as the new President of Nigeria. End of story? The painful fact was that even though at the polling units across the urban centres, with the foreign and local observers fair representation, the elections were averagely better conducted than the former ones, the revelations of our observations was that the election perverts corrupted the figures from the ward and local government collation centres. That is why you find out that some governors who claimed to have delivered 90% of votes to the president i.e. about 1,400,000 votes could not deliver more than 300,000 votes for themselves.

I am one of these who believe that the consequential violence, that trailed your victory in many part of the northern state validated my intention to share my thought with you on the urgent necessity to convoke either a Sovereign National Conference, SNC or National Conference whose resolutions will not be subjected to manipulation, vetting or doctoring by an unelected elements or a National Assembly whose electoral mandate does not extend to writing (note amending) a new constitution.

We have had enough of this national carnage and violence on staggering proportions that make critical minds to imagine that governments in Nigeria exist to compound people’s regular suffering.

Its needless to state that the consequential violence, killing of hundreds of young and old Nigerians and the most despicable act of killing youth corpers who were sent to help administer the April elections; the arson and cowardly setting on fire of hundreds of churches and about 45 mosques are practical manifestations of the fact that Nigeria is yet to be a nation but one sustained by brutal force. City states that have been held together by force in the past have been erased from the world map. Countries like USSR, Yugoslavia are illustrative. Even, the Irish Republic now have substantial autonomy to run their own affairs. No one should be under any illusion that the violence was instantaneous but a deliberately instigated action against a southern minority and Christian who was declared as having won a presidential election inspite of the sectional machination of some oligarchs who have never imagined that it will come to pass that at a time somebody could be declared as having won a national election who was not sponsored by them.

Mr. President, your setting up of a another panel to investigate the occurrence of the said violence after your victory was announced is another instance of diversionary tactics usually undertaken to calm frayed nerves, while the business of misgovernance continues. It’s a regularly beaten path that encourages more grievous violence because there is no punishment for offenders.

Permit me to remind you that in your dustbin or shelves, you can dig out several former probe reports with exhaustive recommendations that have been kept in the cooler and not implemented because of the succeeding government’s insincerity, lack of political will to apportion blame and punish offenders to prevent further impunity.
Welcome to governance

•Mr. President, you are better off having just three point agenda. One, and most important, is the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference, (SNC) to respond to the palpable and manifest national mistrust, suspicion and lack of national cohesion; Second, delivery of at least twenty five thousand megahatz power supply within 12 month and thirdly, genuine and effective action against corruption. If you succeeded in achieving these ones, you could have reasonably transformed Nigeria. Don’t attempt to impress anyone by getting involved in every area of our national life.

•It remains part of your history that the April 2011 election was the first you contested as the principal candidate unlike your experiences in Bayelsa as Deputy to Alamiesiegha and the late President Umar Yar Adua. The current song is that its better to forget the past. But can Nigerians ever forget an inglorious past. But can Nigerians ever forget that some arrogant leaders from the North claimed that except a Northerner secure the PDP ticket, they would lead their people out of the PDP and found their fortune elsewhere? What about the Northern Consensus Candidature?

•Mr. President, you have been long as an active player in the corridors of power, so you cannot feign ignorance of the pervasive nature of graft and other variants of corruption in succeeding government. Its no doubt that Nigerians generally have had to leave with the consequences of corruption which include collapse of most social services – education, health, employment, food supply etc as well as the loss of all national ethos, moral, and value system. Furthermore, Nigeria remains the only country with massive earning from petroleum yet it has the worst decayed infrastructure and extreme poverty and misery. Is that clearly reconcilable?

•My clear Commander in-Chief, Presidents Obasanjo, and Umaru Yar Adua and Yourself in the last eight years have spent nothing less than $20billion USD on power supply yet electricity supply remain epileptic and grossly in adequate. Do you have any magic wand to productively turn the situation around and stop constant lamentation and lame excuses for unusual and painful failure of governance?

Mr. President, you were a teacher before you joined politics. When will you start to utilize the huge fund being unreasonably stolen in educational agencies to really start the process of turning around our educational services? You should be aware of the fact that less than 20 per cent young Nigerians who wrote WAEC & NECO examinations in the recent years passed Mathematics and English, and so they are not qualified to be admitted into the universities. Again, it is a regular occurrence that institutions like UBEC, NBTE etc are part of the compromised institutions where mindless graft, misapplication and outright misallocation of funds are rampant. Can we try new hands to run those institutions appropriately?

The summary of the above negative situations demand a radical approach to change the course of our national life. Mr. President, permit to tell you the home truth, that arising from the political platform from where you emerged like a gallacy, I am not so confident that you can reasonably confront the human factors responsible for our national failure and woes with a view to redressing the situations. I would be pleasantly surprised if you were to behave otherwise.

Mr. President, the current national crisis and crises of underdevelopment are traceable to the lopsided national restructure. It needs not surprise anyone that Nigeria has been founded and constructed on falsehood and dishonesty and it has remained so in all its epochal decisions.

You should therefore be fair to yourself and your generations by asking the following questions:
•Why has Nigeria remained undeveloped even after 50 years of independence inspite of its enormous human and material endowment?

•Why is our periodic exercises in population census still reflects the crude earlier compromised figures schemed by the British overlord?

•Why is it that at 51 years post independence, Nigeria cannot provide adequate power for its grown population inspite of the fact that Nigeria has all the ingredients with which it can provide more than enough power supply through thermal, coal, wind and gas?

•Why is Nigerian education standard become so low as to constitute an embarrassment and deception as it is today so much that most graduates can not reasonably write acceptable applications for job’s and therefore remained unemployable. They have to run preliminary courses now to be admitted for higher degrees in Western Europe and United States of America.

•Why is it that juicy appointments in custom, agencies under the ministry of education, leaders of many government parastatals departments of finance and administration etc are ordinarily the preserve of a particular set of people and region of Nigeria?

•Why is it that a section of our nation keeps on reminding the rest of us that they are born to rule why the rest of us are bound to be their servants?

Mr. President, I assume that you have not heard a thorough appreciation of how warped is the current national structure because of the very unique opportunity you were lucky to have. I am saying that, against all odds, yet you got to become No.1 citizen, your case is one in several millions that cannot be generalized. I believe that you were wrong to imagine that the Nigerian multi-dimensional cases of inequality before the law and of many other varieties; the fact that many nationalities have limitations for their national aspirations, while some are even permanently disempowered have long been settled. There is no opportunity yet for democratic discussion and resolutions of the many cases of mutal mistrust and suspicion that can convince many nationalities that they are co-owners and joint inheritors of the national wealth.
Mr. President, I like to remind you that all our past and current constitutions are alien to most Nigerians because they were either imposed by our imperial colonialist masters or military oligarchs. You have to appreciate that perhaps the most important legacy you can live for Nigeria is your firm determination to organise a Sovereign National Conference composed of genuine representatives of Nigerian nationalities sitting at a Representative Assembly to discuss and resolve the national question. That assembly will answer two questions. One, do we want to live together? Perhaps because of the long period of interactions, the answer could be in the affirmative. In like manner, the assembly must respond to the second question: On what terms?

Furthermore, the fact that several states in the Northern State defied the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by making states laws that imposed Sharia law on their various States which is contrary to section 10 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides that Nigeria shall be a secular state is one other instance to prove that Nigeria is not a nation.
Again, the emergence of militant organizations like Egbesu, Mossop, OPC, and others are direct results of perceptions that there is injustice, unfairness and inequalities that must be protested against in order to even out matters for their nationalities in Nigeria.

Mr. President, all these agitations, national mistrust, national suspicion are already boiling up to unmanageable level. A convocation of a national conference to discuss and resolve these difference will be a positive tactical move to save Nigeria from going under.

It is the discussion, resolution and conclusions of such a genuine assembly that will lead Nigerians to have its own either Magna Carta or the bill of rights as it is with Great Britain and the United States of America. Also, it will be the first time Nigeria can factually produce its own autochthonous (home grown) and an all inclusive constitution.

I need not remind you that your political mentor grudgingly and ill advisedly conveyed a meeting of his personal and governors nominees for a “national assembly” as a government response to legitimate national demand. But as it were, the conference became a failure because Gen. Obasanjo wanted to use the conference to legitimize his third term tenure elongation agenda. Like your mentor did severally, he had the most golden opportunity to transform Nigeria but he used his long period of eight years to further his own personal interests. That is why it happened that even though Nigerian earned enormous petrol dollar because of the crises in the Middle East, Yet Nigerians living conditions fastly deteriorated during his period. It’s a fact that Obasanjo grudgingly gave a minimum wage then, but that was just a small fraction of the huge petroleum dollars the country earned as that time. You also will remember that he regularly increased prices of petroleum products because he wickedly failed to build any refinery during his time and so based his policy on importation.
Mr. President, it should worry you, but must believe the fact that it is the lopsided national structure that made it possible for Nigeria to have earned over 236 billion USD between 1999 and 2011 yet there is no positive impact of such national earning and usage in the life of average Nigerians. The USA remains the largest market globally. If the government of the USA decided to inject 20 billion USD into any of its national social services, bet it, education, health, road, power supply etc, the impact will be visible to Americans and visitors. Why must you sustain this weeked structure that only benefits a tiny cabal and their collaborators? Seize the initiative now to dismantle the perverted structure that has held Nigerian down, and painfully making it remain an embarrassment to the black race which destiny has been placed in Nigeria’s care for progress and development.

You need not feel detached, four years is very near. You ought to remember how quick you have spent one year without any significant result. You need to respond to this letter. I pray that you don’t behave like the German Philosopher, Paul Niomeller in a continuously relevant poem, when he said in summary that.

“When they came for the farmer,
I did nothing because I was not a farmer;
When they came for the trader;
I did nothing because I was not a trader;
When they came for the physician;
I did not do anything because I was not a physician;
When they came for the trade unionist;
I did nothing because I was not a trade unionist;
When they came for me;
There was no one left.”

On A Nigerian Sovereign National Conference And The Permission Of The National Legislature By Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD

Posted: February 17, 2012 – 13:35
By Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD
Sahara Reporters

There are facts that only a few Nigerians, against the unrelenting witness of their conscience, can either ignore or dispute:

Fact number 1: Not all ethnic nationalities are represented either at the state level or national level. And there are some ethnic nationalities that have no elected or selected representatives at even the local level. Take, for instance, the Etulo people of Benue state, where I proudly come from. That great ethnic group faces the threat of extinction, not least because they are subsumed within a Tiv-dominated local government area, Katsina-Ala. They have no voice at the local, state, or national level. Almost all Etulo people speak Tiv language without an accent. There are many such ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. I am a Tiv man, but it is saddening to see a situation such as I have described. If members of Nigeria’s national assembly claim that they are the only ones that can approve or write a new constitution for Nigeria, what about representatives of ethnic groups such as the Etulo (who may emerge through any process of their choosing)?

Fact number 2: Nigerians did not approve the decree 24 of 1999 that created the 1999 constitution, which set up the bicameral legislature that is so expensive, unwieldy, and very ineffective (one evidence is that for more than twelve years the national legislature has not been able to effect amendments that will bring about social justice and prudence in government expenditure). The national assembly does not possess either the courage or capacity to carry out the “amendments” that it may claim it is their responsibility to do. For instance, can the national assembly make an amendment to scrap the Senate, leaving only the House of Representatives, composed of all ethnic nationalities, and whose members will serve part-time and be paid accordingly? Can the national assembly amend the constitution to scrap the huge number of government departments wrongly called States that cannot even pay their workers’ salaries without allocations from the federation account? Can the national assembly either scrap local government areas in some parts of the country and create some in other parts of the country or remove local governments from the list of levels of government that can partake in revenue sharing in order to bring about social justice? Can the national assembly bring revenue derivation to at least 50 per cent in order to provoke productivity at the state level and competition among states?

Fact number 3: The second chapter of the 1999 constitution, entitled Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy provides great benefits for citizens of Nigeria even as it encourages waste through provisions such as the requirement that at least one minister from each state of the federation should be appointed into the central government. Unfortunately, section 6 of the same constitution absolves government of responsibility in the failure to provide those benefits to Nigerians. Can the national assembly correct this? For instance, can the national assembly either reduce the number of states to about six (according to geo-political zones) while increasing derivation to at least 50 per cent for local communities and the six states [See my article—Re-Engineering Nigeria, part 1, 2010; available online]?

Fact number 4: There are 68 items on the “Exclusive Legislative List” of the 1999 constitution which inhibit rapid development at the state level. For instance, the Odua rail line was to be built between Lagos and Ibadan and completed in 2006 (Odua consists of the Yoruba states of the south west of Nigeria). The Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) stopped this because the matter was and still is on the exclusive legislative list (item 55). The chairman of the NRC (he died shortly in a plane crash in 2004) stood against this, relying on the 1999 constitution, which in more ways than one is a document that has impeded development in Nigeria rather than facilitate it. Yet, we have a national legislature that has refused, failed, and neglected to amend such chimerical provisions that are deleterious to Nigeria’s development.

Fact number 5: Many of Nigeria’s legislators have deliberately made themselves inaccessible to their constituent members. At the risk of sounding immodest, if someone in my position cannot reach my supposed representatives on phone then what is the argument that a legislator such as Senator Abaribe (Chair of the senate committee on information) making when he urged Nigerians on Channels TV to rather send their views about constitution amendment to their legislators than insist on a sovereign national conference? I looked up the phone number of my senator, Chief Barnabas Gemade on his website during the fuel subsidy protests; I could not find a single contact phone number to use. And Mr Gemade is not the only senator that has placed himself in an island of isolation. In 2010 I wanted to reach a senator, Suleiman Nazif (a former student of mine) to discuss with him some ideas I had about national renewal. I tried to use a phone number he listed on his website as a constituency office contact phone number. It was a dead number! I even sent him an email using an address I found on the website of the national assembly; I have not received any responses since then, not even an acknowledgment from a secretariat staff or an automated message. How can the national assembly accord itself the sole responsibility of writing a new constitution as the “representatives of the people” when it is not accessible to the same people it should represent? I am not a registered member of any political party in Nigeria. But does any Nigerian need to be a party member to have access to their “representatives”?
I must state unambiguously that we the people do not derive our powers from the national assembly; rather, the national assembly exists by our grace. When we talk of the people, technology has afforded us a simple way of gauging the mood and mind of the people. Our social network sites and the numerous responsive comments made by Nigerians on websites of our newspapers provide clear evidence that the Nigerian people do not have confidence in the ability of the national assembly to lead in the efforts towards national renewal or rebirth. With more than 112 million Nigerians reportedly living below the poverty line and the ineluctable continued state of insecurity in Nigeria, the national assembly should be careful about their continued resistance to Nigerian people sitting and talking about methods and principles of forging a more perfect union. Legislators should not mortgage the future of Nigeria on the altar of their limited mandate and selfishness.

We the Nigerian people are not begging the national assembly to allow a sovereign national conference; we are demanding and we shall have it. Has power ever conceded anything without unrestrained demand? If the national assembly continues in its state of unbridled obduracy and self-confessed knowledge of what is best for the country, very soon they shall have neither the luxury nor safety to sit in plenary at Abuja. And failure to sit for at least 181 days as required in section 63 of the 1999 constitution shall lead to a state of emergency that must call for a sovereign national conference willy-nilly. So, a sovereign national conference, whose decisions shall be subjected to a national referendum item-by-item, is a truth no one can stop. President Jonathan cannot stop it. By the way, is the Niger Delta not clamouring for a sovereign national conference? A man must have questions to answer when he returns home soon having ignored and even frustrated the central issue agitating the minds of his people.
We of the Middle Belt Alliance are in support of a sovereign national conference. We are not afraid to sit and talk with our Nigerian brothers and sisters across the aisle. We do not believe that a sovereign national conference shall precipitate the dissolution of Nigeria; rather, we are of the view that the fear to talk is ominous.



Nigerian newspapers and online news sources
  • 234 Next News site
  • Bella Naija Magazine
  • Business Day Newspaper
  • Daily Champion Newspaper
  • Daily Independent Newspaper
  • Daily Trust Newspaper
  • Elendu Reports News site
  • Emotan Blog
  • Huhu online News site
  • jhova blog Blog
  • Leadership News site
  • Linda Ikeji Blog
  • National Daily Newspaper
  • Nigeria Plus News site
  • Nigeria Village Square News site
  • Nigerian Observer News site
  • Osun Defender News site
  • PM News Newspaper
  • Punch Newspaper
  • Sahara Reporters News site
  • Sun Newspaper
  • The Guardian Newspaper
  • This Day Newspaper
  • Tribune Newspaper
  • Vanguard Newspaper

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