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Published On: Mon, Mar 24th, 2014

National dialogue and the national question

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By Oyewale Oyelola

President Goodluck Jonathan earlier this week declared open the National Conference in Abuja with the aim of discussing challenges facing Nigeria and recommend solutions to the problems; 490 handpicked delegates will be discussing Nigeria challenges except issue relating to the country’s unity for tentative period of three months.

Some Nigerians describe the National Conference as bold step in the right direction and timely as the nation prepares for 2015 elections while others see it as diversionary tactic by PDP led government. Critics of the conference argued that past National Conference does not yield any good result as government always dump confab recommendations. Late President Umar Yar’adua’s media spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi, said: “That our nation is not working is all too clear to everyone but do we need a conference to stop the massive oil theft in the Niger Delta? Will another dialogue put an end to the security challenge that is fast turning the north-eastern part of the country into a war zone? Will talks resolve the crisis of our education in which our universities are perpetually on strike? Will it address the problems of poor governance and impunity at virtually all levels and in all sectors?”

Femi Fani-Kayode said, “Is it not clear that each region or each nationality ought to be able to develop at its own pace? Is it not time for us to have a confederation of nationalities in Nigeria and to restructure the country drastically to give maximum autonomy to the various regions and nationalities…Whatever happens in 2015 and whoever wins, whether it be a northerner or Goodluck Jonathan of the south-south, I see blood on the horizon and I see disaster approaching.”

All Progressives Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu described the proposed National Dialogue as Greek gift, thereby doubt the sincerity of President Jonathan to implement recommendations of the conference. “The core questions to ask here is how credible, reliable and capable is the current President to be able to midwife a critical conference such as this? Will this President be sincere enough to let all the issues that are on the agenda be exhaustively discussed at the conference? Will this President have the guts to implement fully all final resolutions of the conference without fear or favor or any pandering?

The Uwais Panel report gathers dust and suffers from constant cherry picking. What about the much-publicized SURE-P initiative of this administration? Another ill-conceived and fraudulently implemented programme of this administration. Billions of naira have disappeared into private pockets and the treasury still bleeds. I can go on and on. Is this the leader we want to trust with organizing a National dialogue or is it conference they call it? Where is the capability? Where is the sincerity? Where is the presence of mind?” Tinubu questioned.

Political analysts are skeptical on how the outcome of the conference will beneficial or improve our political landscape in multi-ethnic society like Nigeria.

In past conference the President, governors and top government functionaries were given slots to nominate a sizeable number of participants, as it was the case during the last three conferences organised by General Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1988, 1994/95, and 2005, respectively. This conference is not also different as majority of the delegates are familiar personality in corridor of power which majority of Nigerians believe they were responsible for country’s woe

Political observers doubt if the National Assembly will support a ‘Sovereign National Conference’ that will override decision of National Assembly through referendum. They opines that it is only SNC will ensures the outcome counts in National affairs.

More so, delegates to the conference must be willing to put national interest ahead of ethnic sentiment. For instance, Oke-Ogun representative might not support Ibadan delegates’ position despite coming from the state, while Idoma will wants their opinion to be taken as Benue state opinion. It would be recalled that 400 delegates attended the 2005 National Conference during President Olusegun Obasanjo regime. The conference lasted for four months and Federal Government paid the accommodation, feeding, logistics and special allowances for delegates which amounted to billions of naira.

To avoid wasteful spending, the delegates under the chairmanship of Justice Kutigi must work out modalities that would ensure that the recommendations of the conference will be implemented because there would be no need to waste tax payers’ money and delegates’ time on recommendations that will end up in president waste bin.

Oyewale Oyelola is on linkedIn

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