Thursday, 16 October 2014

Merits and demerits of the 2014 national confab

Merits and demerits of the 2014 national confab
By Rev Fr Tony Labbi Zakka
Since the early days of the Jonathan administration, calls have been made by eminent Nigerians for a national conference which would be a platform for Nigerians to iron-out their existing differences, plan for a more acceptable union of ethnic nationalities and where possible, envision a brighter, more sustainable collective future for Nigeria in a civil manner. The calls for the conference were also made as an attempt to take a holistic precautionary measure to avert the much speculated CIA predicted break-up of Nigeria by the year 2015. In this article, the author intends to x-ray the Nigerian state before the National Conference (a.k.a. National Confab), briefly analyze the National Confab, and provide a fair analysis of the possible scenarios that may play out in Nigeria after the Confab, due to the Confab.
Nigeria before the Confab
In 2005, the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo led administration commissioned a National Political Reform Conference which was intended to address the burning issues of the nation at the time especially, as regards political reform. However, this conference although highly important and
imperative at the time did not yield much dividend primarily because, of the alarming effect of President Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda on the polity and the attendant dust it raised.
By 2007, a new government had come to power in Nigeria and Nigerians battled with the menace of militancy in the nation’s oil-rich Niger-delta. This armed struggle effectively crippled oil production in the country even leading to the near pauperization of the nation.
Apart from the above, the militancy created acute instability as a lot of people were displaced, and property worth millions of naira was destroyed. Potential investors were scared away and national average cost of doing business skyrocketed. This period was so gory that no one alive in Nigeria today would want to witness it again especially, because, of the attendant economic
hardship it brought in its’ wake, the negative publicity it garnered for the country and the loss of government focus on development projects.
By the period of President Goodluck Jonathan’s ascent to the nation’s top job through what they called “doctrine of necessity”, militancy seemed to have been quelled in the Niger Delta partly due to the Amnesty provision, creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Ministry of the Niger Delta.
Nigeria therefore, experienced relative peace until the volcanic post-election violence of 2011 in protest of the victory of the People’s Democratic Party at the highest level of government in the country, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Nigerians including National Youth Service Corps members and saw millions of naira-worth of property destroyed especially, in the Northern parts of Nigeria. This violence gave rise to increased attacks by the already well known Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram with most attacks specially crafted to humiliate Nigeria and send wrong signals to the world. These include, the United Nation’s building bomb blast, Nigeria Police Force Headquarters bomb blast and other devastating terror attacks within and around the nation’s seat of government, Abuja, hence, calls intensified for a Sovereign National Conference, by the Nigerian elite.
Nigeria After the Confab
All the issues raised at the confab if adopted as recommended and passed into law by the Nigerian Senate at the end of the exercise have the potential to radically alter Nigeria. We must ensure that the amended constitution has the broad-based legitimacy that foundational documents need for a competitive democracy to thrive. Fortunately, in declaring the National Conference open on March 17, Jonathan said the National Assembly had already introduced the provision for a referendum in the proposed amendment of the Constitution. According to him, this should be relevant for this conference if at the end of the deliberations, the need for a referendum arises.
This country has vacillated long enough. Much now depends on Jonathan. His administration needs to act fast before the full cost of our system paralysis comes due, and the National Conference window may be our last chance and surest escape route from horror.
In sum, pre-Confab Nigeria was slowly but steadily drifting into the abyss of increased ethnic distrust and possible civil war, the Confab-Nigeria raised pertinent issues about Nigeria that have the capacity to pacify, sustain or incite certain groups and interests in the country. The post-Confab Nigeria will be a creation of representatives of the Nigerian people. Their actions and inactions all count to the Nigeria that would be available at the time and while there is great possibility of a catastrophic outcome for Nigeria due to Nigeria’s past performance of handling issues such as this, there is still a chance (no matter how small) of a victorious Nigeria through better management, selflessness and integrity of her leaders. Miracles do happen, miraclesvhappen in Nigeria and this could be yet another miracle!
Fr Tony Zakka is the Director of the Media Service Centre, Independence Way, Kaduna.

BLUEPRINT Newspaper; Sept. 11, 2014

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