As the National Conference inches to a close, the major surprise from its outcome may be the victory of the nation, as opposed to that of the Jonathan administration, the architect of the conference, which undoubtedly designed it in a way that it must fail. In its short but memorable history, this country has had the fortune of so far surviving all acts of brinkmanship by its rulers. We have gone through a civil war and survived it, and we have overcome countless other schemes to change the Constitution for selfish reasons, mostly for the purpose of self-perpetuation by leaders.
It is inconceivable that the membership of a major conference of this nature would, in the first place, be based on appointive representation, rather than elective. But beyond this, the composition was so stacked against the North and Muslims in the country that many thought, upon reading the breakdown, that it was intended to annoy these groups so that they would not agree to attend. There are about 300 Southerners to 200 Northerners. All past censuses put North-South population figures roughly at 54-46 percent. Sixty-two percent (62%) of the delegates are Christian, with Muslims and followers of traditional religions making up the balance of thirty-eight percent (38%). Christians make up 294 of the Conference membership.
The President had himself dilly-dallied for many years on whether to convene a conference or not to. In the beginning, he stoutly stood against it. Much later, he saw it as an opportunity to deflect attention from the woeful performance of his administration which had in turn generated tons of trenchant criticism on everyday basis.
Up to seventy percent of membership of the conference was directly and indirectly appointed by the same administration. And they didn’t disappoint anyone by the way and manner they chose them. I must make clear that there are very several of them with an undying passion for Nigeria, who are unimpeachably honest and hardworking; who are men and women championing the unity of the country. These are those who paved the way to Nigeria’s victory that I am celebrating this morning. They realized early enough that a President who had turned his party into rubble must not be allowed to do the same for the country.
Government made sure that there was not any one anti-national element left out that was not nominated to come to the conference. All those AGIPs – Any Government in Power; the nation’s known “yes men” and “yes women”; the famous hacks tamed by government for barking in English; the political prostitutes selling their English speaking and articulation skills to criminally-inclined political masters over the past many years were the government’s first set of choices for the conference. Many of those appointed delegates have no other jobs but are known for unsustainable life-styles that they desperately seek to hang onto.
In addition to the lopsided representation, the North’s leaders were sceptical about the Conference because government’s list was full of people seen as renegades and turn-coats, who had been associated with the unpopular policies of past regimes. In the South-west, many of their delegates were the self-styled sentinels of the republic, nearing expiry; people who have been dumped in the electoral garbage bin. The list was drawn up to spite the reigning leaders of politics in the region. In realpolitik, you can’t do political business in the South-west today without talking to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. A Conference that set aside 15 slots for the President’s Ijaw and none at the beginning for their Itsekiri traditional rivals did not set out to be fair in any respect. After they cried out loud, the Itsekiri were awarded a nominal representation of one member. Little wonder many of the government delegates ended up presenting trivial, meaningless, contrived, divisive, illogical and fallacious arguments. Many of the so-called issues that the President copied and pasted from newspapers over the years as being Nigeria’s problems were settled issues. That is why they ended up being rejected as non-issues.
Delegates from the North surprised themselves in the same way they surprised many of their critics. In an era of 5G corruption and 10G insecurity, many believed that they would cave in to the greed and avarice of a given section of the country who wanted to gobble up the entire wealth of the nation. In the end, those of them seen as the usual suspects, the likes of Jerry Gana and John Dara, may end up among the North’s real heroes. That the President’s religion-centred politics had failed to sunder the North is yet another key success of this get-together.
A loss by a government that chooses to throw the chance at history by playing the same set of drums of religion and ethnicity instead of rising above everything is a huge gain for the Nigerian nation. But celebrations this victory will, however, pass for a short respite in view of the government’s growing provocation using the army through newspaper seizures, profiling of citizens on the bases of ethnicity and religion and the heat and cacophony on Northerners in the Eastern parts of the country.