By Uche Igwe
As I perused the delegates’ list released by the Federal government, it evoked several feelings within me about the entity called Nigeria. First, I was torn between surprise, laughter and surprisingly, commendation. We are an unserious nation, otherwise how can we endure the torture of the pretension of these so- called 492 ‘wise’ men and women, claiming to talk on our behalf. What are they going to talk about? What have they ever talked about? Who do they represent? When shall we get angry enough? Let me start by that commendation.
I commend President Goodluck Jonathan. Yes. At least, for once. He has proven to the Nigerians that he is a man who whenever he makes up his mind, he will go ahead to act, regardless of how we feel or respond. When he announced the intention of his government to hold a national conference, there was wild condemnation and even suspicion from many parts of the country and beyond. He went ahead and ignored us and announced an interim committee with a robust budget for the conference. Other people kicked again. Yet the Presidency persisted. With the characters that he nominated to the meeting it is now clear that our President wants to try to test the quantum of powers that he has. He seems to have passed a message saying “ I am in charge and there is nothing anyone can do about it”One of the most nauseating consequences of our democratic pollution is the distorted manifestation and flagrant abuse of the word representation. I can see that many of the delegates in the list claim to represent one set of stakeholders or another.
Really? That is how arbitrary the country has become. Many people parade themselves as representing X or Y even without the consultation or consent of those who they claim to represent. Professional representatives! Is it not better to say that they represent their stomachs? That is the carryover from our politics. Our governors, senators, assemblymen, indeed all politicians claim to represent us or at least somebody and often attempt to defend their actions and inactions in terms of public interest, yet the public have neither contact or access to any of them. I am sure many Nigerians feel the same way about the Confab delegates. One highly placed source confirmed to the writer that most of the representatives of these organisations are government nominees.
That raises the important spectre that is hanging on the Abuja gathering. Is it not probable that somebody somewhere might have finalised the communiqué of the confab even before it begins? I will try to explain this further drawing from the little I know about the issues surrounding the nomination of the representatives of the civil society organisations to that event. Let me make one point here. I respect many (of course not all) the delegates that have been nominated to represent the civil society organisations. There are noble people among them who have cut their teeth in the struggle locally and internationally and who have managed to keep their pedigree intact. However, I am concerned not about their persons but about the process of their emergence. As soon as a call for nominations began, there were many intrigues that followed. Some NGO networks volunteered to coordinate the process.
I am aware that there were many consultative meetings in the six geopolitical zones and many hot exchanges to arrive at a consensus about who will be on the list. Of course, consensus is something very difficult with NGOs. At the last count, there were at list six different civil society lists circulating. At the end, some names that were published in the media got missing between the media and the government office in charge of the process. Now even though some of us who have been critical insist that the gathering is going to be a sham, it is also right that our do-good civil society folks manage to make their process transparent. By transparency, I mean that they should be able to tell their stakeholders if anyone influenced the list so as to know who clearly they represent, including representing themselves. True.
That said, I really wonder what substantive contributions people like former Governor D.S. P Alamieyeseigha, PDP Chieftain, Olabode George, Chief Edwin Clark, Senator Prof Jubril Aminu, Mrs Remi Kuku,Ms Ann Kio Briggs, Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof Kimse Koko, MallamTankoYakassai, Col. Tony Nyiam, Chief Asara A. Asaraetc could bring to the table in such a gathering except fine-tuning the strategy of how to force Jonathan on Nigerians in 2015.
Now that is why I am bothered that people like Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, Pastor TundeBakare, Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Femi Falana SAN , Eze Nwagwu etc decided to hand them an honour of answering co-delegates and earning an undeserved but priceless stamp of legitimacy. What difference will a vocal minority make before these known transactional political hawks? Some say it is an opportunity to engage and I say, with what? Finally, it is important to re-echo that the necessary condition for citizens to support a government is that such a government does not continue to trample on what citizens believe in as their rights.
To remain in power therefore, government must be seen to be sensitive to these in order to aspire to retain the support of citizens. Alternatively, government may decide otherwise. However, extending such sensitive boundaries of citizens aspirations from their government should attract consequences. The possibility that citizens could withdraw their support should unsettle any government. But not in Nigeria, because the support of the parasitic elite not the citizens is what government requires to remain in power. Simply because votes do not yet count and so threatening a government that has a firm grip on the machinery of patronage and manipulation sounds to them like a fairy tale.
In our helplessness as citizens, we may not have the choice of making government responsive enough to appreciate that the voices of the citizens matter, but no one should contest our inalienable right to who and what to support. I do not support this conference. It is national distraction. But will our support or lack of it make any significant difference? Nigerian democracy is a different ball game. While the majority will continue to shout and cry to have a say, the minority will always try to have their way.
Uche Igwe is on LinkedIn