A con­fer­ence steeped in anachro­nism

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Let me be very frank with you all. I don’t be­lieve in the on­go­ing Na­tional Con­fer­ence hold­ing at the Na­tional Ju­di­cial In­sti­tute in Abuja. My stance has noth­ing to do with geo-pol­i­tics, in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex, or even the much touted sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity I am sup­posed to have been born with, in my ca­pac­ity as a ‘par­a­sitic blood-suck­ing north­erner’ if we ac­cept the pop­u­lar im­age of the aver­age north­erner in some quar­ters.

I se­ri­ously think it is an ab­so­lute waste of time, and I have noth­ing but max­i­mum sym­pa­thy for the many fine gen­tle­men not so del­i­cately as­sem­bled for the con­fer­ence, es­pe­cially the scores of sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­ans and oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans con­sciously or un­con­sciously lured from their com­fort­able re­tire­ment to par­take in the cir­cus that is cer­tain to lead nowhere, or at best, end up in fisticuffs among those still fit enough to throw a punch.

And when that hap­pens it would be for rea­sons that are all too pre­dictable. Among the so-called del­e­gates, is a cer­tain Anthony Nyam, one of the soldiers that bru­tally at­tempted to ex­cise five north­ern states from the fed­er­a­tion on the night of April 22, 1990. Many fine of­fi­cers from both sides were lost in that bloody mis­ad­ven­ture, which, like most other need­less bloody mil­i­tary coups in the past, left a big scar on our col­lec­tive psy­che.

Now, only in a failed state like Nigeria, or one so steeped in end­less con­tro­ver­sies, can the same Nyam, who was sum­mar­ily con­victed of high trea­son by a com­pe­tent Mil­i­tary Tri­bunal in 1990, and who also ex­hib­ited wan­ton in­dis­ci­pline at one of the sit­tings of the Con­fer­ence Plan­ning Com­mit­tee in Benin, be listed among del­e­gates at a Con­fer­ence the con­ven­ers con­tinue to in­sist is in­tended to so­lid­ify the na­tion’s unity!

The same Nyiam, we must not for­get, had to for­feit his mem­ber­ship of the Com­mit­tee fol­low­ing the strin­gent protest of the rest of its mem­bers. To­day, he is fully en­sconced in the Con­fer­ence Hall de­ter­mined to shape the na­tion in his im­age.

Thus far, the con­fer­ence has also given suf­fi­cient proof that Nigeria re­mains a coun­try where even the most in­no­cent act – such as the pri­vate prayer ut­tered by its Chair­man Jus­tice Idris Legbo Kutigi be­fore the com­mence­ment of pro­ceed­ings the other day – could be met by nau­se­at­ing in­dig­na­tion, abuse, and need­less grand­stand­ing.

And yet, in­cred­i­bly, the same del­e­gate – Pas­tor Tunde Bakare - who ob­jected to the prayer be­cause it was ut­tered in Ara­bic, as in­deed it should for a Mus­lim to ex­press its bare essence - later con­fessed that he knew its ex­act mean­ing hav­ing been raised a Mus­lim him­self. So what was the pur­pose of his protest? The prayer in ques­tion was not ex­pressed on be­half of the en­tire del­e­gates. It was but a sim­ple pri­vate prayer, ut­tered in a sin­gle sen­tence, as is ex­pected of ev­ery Mus­lim be­fore the com­mence­ment of any ma­jor func­tion. Was it be­cause it was ut­tered in Ara­bic? What would hap­pen to the en­tire pro­ceed­ings if all the Mus­lim del­e­gates in the Con­fer­ence Hall pre­tended they didn’t un­der­stand a word of English? Why must we en­mesh ev­ery ra­tio­nal act in pol­i­tics or need­less re­li­gios­ity?

Where is the states­man­ship ex­pected from del­e­gates of that na­ture? What sort of pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions can we ex­pect from the likes of Anthony Nyam, Ganiyu Adams, Ed­win Clark and the other eth­nic jin­go­ists shame­lessly con­gre­gated for this con­fer­ence de­ter­mined by noth­ing but in­sa­tiable greed and self­ish­ness? The Lamido of Adamawa over­stepped his bound­aries with his com­ments in the opin­ion of many the other day, but roy­als like him are not known to lose their cool with­out suf­fi­cient jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

This con­fer­ence, go­ing by the lope-sided choice of del­e­gates in favour of the south, is noth­ing but a care­fully dis­guised ruse to fur­ther im­pov­er­ish the north with all its moun­tains of self-in­flicted prob­lems. I am one hun­dred per­cent con­vinced that with heated de­bate over the voting mode, this may turn out to be yet an­other con­fab in which the north will be com­pelled to make far-reach­ing con­ces­sions with­out get­ting any­thing tan­gi­ble in re­turn.

At sim­i­lar con­fer­ences in the past the north failed to see the dan­gers the six re­gional struc­tures foisted on it posed to its in­ter­nal co­he­sive­ness and also glee­fully ac­cepted ro­ta­tional pres­i­dency which made non­sense of its su­pe­rior num­bers. It was as if the re­gion was rep­re­sented by clowns. Worst could come out of this con­fer­ence the way even the Chair­man’s open­ing prayer was turned into a con­tentious is­sue. The north may even for­feit the right to breath, who knows?

Nigeria has its prob­lems, no doubt, but we have never re­quired con­fer­ences of this na­ture to re­solve them, ex­cept of course, there is more to it than we know. Ev­ery right think­ing Nige­rian alive to­day knows what our ma­jor prob­lems. They in­clude abysmal lead­er­ship, in­dis­ci­pline and mon­u­men­tal cor­rup­tion added to a docile fol­low­er­ship that rou­tinely fails to ex­hibit re­spon­si­ble ci­ti­zen­ship when it counts.

If Nige­ri­ans can some­how sum­mon the courage to con­front all four of these prob­lems, the hun­dreds of oth­ers that orig­i­nate from them will be elim­i­nated with­out the slight­est doubt. What we have in progress can­not solve those prob­lems. It is un­der­mined by the pres­ence of too many eth­nic jin­go­ists and re­gional chau­vin­ists who have ev­ery­thing but Nigeria on minds. Ex­cept we de­lude our­selves, how can the same del­e­gates work to strengthen our union?

But Nige­ri­ans in gen­eral must take the blame for the way our coun­try has un­rav­elled be­fore our very eyes. The four prob­lems I stated ear­lier are ma­jor, with­out a doubt, but the aver­age Nige­rian is also docile, too eas­ily hood­winked or swayed by de­ceit­ful politi­cians. We rou­tinely in­voke God to re­solve our prob­lems with­out lift­ing a fin­ger to help our­selves. That is why we ended up with this con­fer­ence of eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties com­prised of Lil­liput’s in the age of fast emerg­ing ma­jor eco­nomic power blocks that are set to de­ter­mine the global agenda for the next mil­len­nia.

This con­fer­ence is an anachro­nism, and all ra­tio­nal Nige­ri­ans must bow their heads in shame that at a time we should be as­pir­ing to rank among the ma­jor global play­ers in eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal clout, we are en­gaged in prim­i­tive squab­ble at home that could fur­ther weaken our frag­ile union.

The South-south will de­mand for the con­trol of all its oil re­sources. The South­west will in­sist on true fed­er­al­ism. The South­east ap­pears con­fused some­what in my opin­ion be­cause con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, given its limited land­mass, and the mer­can­tile na­ture of their people, they need the Nige­rian mar­ket more than the rest of the na­tion needs them if only they knew it.

As for the North, well, whether we ac­cept it as a fact or not, the Lamido of Adamawa has al­ready de­fined our agenda. Decades of in­sults, abuses, black­mail and slan­der ap­pear to have fi­nally taken their toll on the psy­che of the aver­age north­erner, in­clud­ing my­self. Many will not care if the na­tion dis­in­te­grates to­mor­row. But be­fore that hap­pens, there is the lit­tle mat­ter of cor­rect­ing the se­ri­ous blun­der com­mit­ted by the Na’Ab­baled Na­tional As­sem­bly in the ab­ro­ga­tion of the on­shore-off­shore oil di­chotomy.

To align with in­ter­na­tional laws on the mat­ter, the di­chotomy must be fully re­stored by the del­e­gates at this con­fer­ence be­fore we com­mence carv­ing up the re­main­der of the Nige­rian real es­tate in the im­age of Nyiam, Ganiyu Adams, Ed­win Clark, and the Lamido.

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