Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
The NPRC and the PNC- Thoughts on the Opposing National Conferences
Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Burtonsville, MD, USA
Saturday, January 29, 2005
After five long years of resisting the idea, President Olusegun Obasanjo has in his wisdom now finally assented to a talk of sorts – a “National Dialogue” - which he has now formally titled a National Political Reform Conference (NPRC). Of course, preceding his administration – since 1990 or thereabout to be exact – have been agitations for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) from various members of civil society, which OBJ had condemned as almost un-patriotic and treasonable until now.
In short, from what has been going on in the past few weeks, what we now have are two conferences being planned: the government-arranged National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) and the civil-society-to-be-arranged Peoples’ National Conference (PNC). That civil society conglomerate is now nicknamed PRONACO (Pro-Sovereign National Conference Coalition.)
Let me start with what I hope is a disclaimer: I do not believe the government’s “conference” can rightly be called a “dialogue”, since “dia” means “two”, and one wonders whether the two combatants here would be the government and the people. If they are, then the NPRC is DOA, dead-on-arrival: the people are supposed to be re-fashioning their own government, and it should not be the People vs. the Government.
That is point Number One. Point Number Two is this: Neither of these two conferences can be called a SNC (Sovereign National Conference) yet, because without an assured referendum, and without an understanding that no one – not the president, not the National Assembly – can change an iota of what is decided following the referendum, what we will have will simply be a set of recommendations that can all be easily trashed, not a sovereign decision.
A third point: both conferences MUST go on, even if in parallel: Government has a right to fashion its own conference, and The People have a right to fashion their own conference – and the twain can meet in the future to hammer out issues. They need not at this point demonize each other.
With that introduction, let us look at each proposition seriatim.
The president of course likes the word “reform” – he sees himself as a reformist president, reforming the economy, reforming the military, reforming everybody and everything else but himself – and now five years later, particularly after the disastrous 2003 elections, the mounting corruption scandals and an economy that defies stimulation, he believes that it is time to reform the “polity.”
The problem is that there is
more than the polity to be reformed –
The announced constitution of the membership of the NPRC is another MAJOR debilitating problem: Out of 354 members, 50 are to be nominated by the president, 218 to be nominated by the state governors and the FCT minister, and the rest (86 members only) to be chosen in indeterminate ways from various groups (see Table 1). The members of the National Assemblies and State Assemblies are even EXPLICITLY excluded from the list of members of the NPRC !
When you figure that the President is a PDP member; 28 of the 36 governors are PDP, and the PDP as a party is also allotted by itself 12 members (ANPP 4, AD 2, and other parties 2), then one will be forgiven to believe that at least 228 members out of the 354 will be sympathetic to PDP causes – a PDP rally with some bit players included.
Third problem is timing: it appears that the National Conference – conceived as a grand conglomeration of an elite few holed up in Abuja - will be held continuously for 3 months, from mid-February to May, hopefully so that something big about a “New Nigeria” can be announced on or around the celebrated anniversary date May 29 of this Republic.
only the jobless will be available CONTINUOUSLY for such a long time.
One wonders for example what four job-ful members of the Diaspora will
SUDDENLY leave to head for
Which brings us to another concern: almost N1 billion devoted to the conference, with about 65% of that amount to be spent on delegates welfare. N1 billon ? That is EXCESSIVE, for a limited-agenda conference, with limited membership over such a limited period of time, and amounts almost to a bribery to get people to participate. Already, the dangling of money has begun to have some Pavlovian effect on those who at first kicked against the NPRC.
The fifth and sixth problems are fatal if not corrected: without (5) an ENABLING legislation supporting the process; witness the Oputa Panel process; and (6) an enabling legislation stipulating an end-point of the NPRC as a binding referendum, then the greatest possibility is that the whole NPRC exercise will be a COMPLETE waste of government time, at least in connection with this Obasanjo administration.
Advocates of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) in civil society have since 1990 conceived it as a Peoples’ National Conference (PNC) which transforms into an SNC WHEN the government of the day – whether civilian or military – agrees to and organizes a binding referendum on terms agreed at the conference. This is what would correct the sixth concern outlined above.
What about the other five concerns ?
With regard to agenda, the PNC
has always considered it by necessity to be BROAD, to include revisiting of the
very foundations of the country called
The above broad agenda also
informs how the participants of the PNC wishes to be chosen:
the colonialists met ethnic nationalities when they arrived in the “area of the
What about timing ? With a view of ensuring credible grassroots participation at the beginning and bubbling up further representations at higher levels - rather than the traditional one-grand-conglomeration-of-biggies in Abuja – the PNC is conceived not to be a short and quick meeting but a six- to nine-month process of mini-conferences in various parts of Nigeria, culminating in a large meeting anywhere to be agreed, most probably in Abuja.
What about funding ? To ensure seriousness and legitimacy, those ethnic nationalities and other entities who choose should be free to SEEK support for their delegates in whichever way they can, including from government, but preferably independent of government. Those who do not choose to get money from government but from internally or elsewhere should not be regarded as subversive; for example, those who choose to seek money from abroad should not be regarded as un-patriotic.
Finally, what about enabling legislation ? The PNC will not and should not be waiting for such legislation in order to convene: the Peoples’ conference is for the sovereign people.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE PNC ---- > SNC
For many years now, and certainly since the June 12 era, I have been a strong advocate for the SNC, but decided to take it easy with its advocacy, fully aware that willy-nilly, Obasanjo or not, it will be convened when the marginal cost of not convening it exceeds the marginal cost of convening it. We may not be exactly there yet – but we are awfully close.
Personally, I will participate in any PNC as it best approximates an SNC, but will watch the NPRC closely from afar unless its glaring defects are corrected.
With respect to that PNC, in addition to the terms that it has set out for itself above, to give it more legitimacy in connection with its aspiration as a pre-SNC effort, one would hope that its own decision-making process will include the following:
(i) That each nationality group must have equal number of representatives at the PNC
This provision begins to assault
the very idea of “minority” and “majority” in our political discourse. To
realize this objective, we have to start from this exercise of a new foundation
stone for a new
(ii) A corollary to the foregoing is that each nationality will have one vote.
Quite frankly, this means therefore that the actual number of representatives will not matter once this notion of one-nationality-one-vote is accepted. However, number will be crucial for the purpose of deliberations on the issues presented, and if need be, for the purpose of sending and receiving messages from their people at home should such consultations become necessary.
(iii) Voting on matters on the agenda will be by line item.
This means that each of the agenda items for resolution at the PNC should be debated and resolved on its own, without lumping it with other issues.
(iv) Decisions will be reached by consensus and only matters so decided will be binding on all nationalities.
It is extremely important that this clause be accepted so that every nationality is able to exercise its right to determine matters that are vital to its nationality interests. Every decision that is not reached by consensus will be open to further negotiation.
There is a STRONG rumor mill, and it is not an idle one – either a fear or a deliberate plan, some even say official plan - that the NPRC will eventually lead to a National Fracas, which will hasten the chaotic dissolution of the Nigerian state as presently constituted.
That fear or plan must be resisted by all well-meaning Nigerians.
So let the talks begin !
Information on the NPRC
Information on the PNC
SNC Now! Website (no longer updated)
SNC Project website of Nigerianmuse.com
Table 1: Approved Nomination List for National Political Reform Conference
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