Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
On The Outcome Of The ‘Confab Of Chaos’
July 17, 2005
From the onset the recently ‘concluded’ National conference tagged National Political Reforms Conference (N.P.R.C.), so-called, was meant to fail and achieve undue political achievements of it’s conscriptor and the master of the chess-game. In my earlier article “predicting the outcome of the National Political Reform Conference” Leadership, February 20, 2005, this column had predicted what has remained of the cobbled and uncanny euphemism of apprehensions. It dismissed the genuineness for a one-man/surrogacy show “for Obasanjo, of Obasanjo and by Obasanjo”. It was indeed an apt judgment. Sim ilar conferences were held in the past during military regimes prompting semblance of legitimacy through the use of Electoral College as against the latest during democratic rule in which the entire arm of legislative business was forced out-of-business. Before the idea was made of public through the inauguration of the Governor Ahmed Makarfi Committee on December 7th, 2004 to chart a course for the conference, there was clear expressions of sordid intents that replayed itself later. At one of the series of NTA – FRCN programme entitled ‘The President Explains’, President Obasanjo had evacuated the Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s earlier statement at a forum that the nation will convocate a National Conference before the end of the tenure of their government in 2007 with subtle denial and went ahead to persuade discussions at the Council of States’ meeting in its favour. The Presi dent, it seems was playing to the gallery and hording jives in order to take the people, particularly the North, unawares. The early preparations of other geopolitical zones even before the inauguration of the Makarfi’s Committee is a pointer that information about the convocation of the conference was in their hands for long and when the time came-up, the North was blackmailed to succumb with its ill-preparations.
The Source magazine screaming headlines National Dialogue: Break – up Signal!: The North threatens Boycott of February 14, 2005 is a clear interpretation of such blackmail. It succeeded. The wrangling even on membership from states was sublime and only the North that did not prepare an agenda before the conference. Some state Governors from the North did not help matters either. The Governor of Borno State Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, for instance while reacting to criticisms on one –sided selection of delegates responded with a s aving criterion – ‘merit’ as if merit has no objectivity and the President on his part had leisure times to nominate only loyalists of his government to discuss issues affecting all citizens. It was very clear even from the beginning that President Obasanjo had some hidden agenda to nab his ‘prey’ appropriately at the appropriate time, opting understandably to the idea with sinister intentions. The conference commenced with rumors of already prepared document smuggled-in to be adopted. Since then it has been a psychosomatic smuggling session during deliberations and conduct, driving sudden motives and wedged suspicions but we are not surprised, because even the idea of the conference, its intentions and its membership is all a ‘smuggled affair’. But why should a nation like Nigeria nefarious for actions akin to the conference of undefined character expect success with high impressions of seriousness when there’s no grain of seriousness at the organizing stage? Personally, my deliberate avoidance of the contending issues at the deliberations during the sessions of the conference was based on a simple logic that “two wrongs cannot make a right” and “a right cause must have a fabric of rationality”. The conference was both wrong and irrational to attract attention.
Nations that assess situations as they unfolded without mercantilist intentions do not fall into self-inflicted fatal accident of fate like Nigeria. Nigeria is the only country in the planet earth that no impossibilities of contempt exist even in the latent cusps of absurdities – that is why its citizens were rated as the most happiness in the entire world and yet the most corrupt in the universe and the same reason is responsible for why the cries of marginalisation and oppression are mere imitations of a smokescreen. No country without established rudiments of a rule of law like Nigeria would not be vulnerable to perfidies and incriminate hostage by power-mongers. Only negligible portion of the Nigerian society feels about the survival of others and the inherent ingredients of national integration and progress in genuine terms. Unfortunately, there are the God-fearing lot that would not like to indulge in ungodly competition for worldly glorifications through lure and lust. But even amongst thieves they are ethics. It is the defining factors of moderation that lacks in the Nigerian Political experiences especially in the Fourth Republic and particularly at the sessions of the ‘National Political Reforms Conference’ turning out a charade with all the exclamation of chaos. This piece is aimed at capturing the salient points as antecedents and its implications in future as it relate to issues of nationalism and corporate existence of Nigeria. Highlights would also be made on intriguing personifications, malignant intentions of selected elite and rational issues of radical departure from the apocalyptic misinterpretations of national problems as portrayed erroneously by all the contending forces at the conference. But without high stress of comprehensions it was very obvious that the entire conference layout was tailored against the North to destroy what remains of its political base and sociological sustenance. That informs government’s insistence of Governor Ahmed Makarfi (a northerner) to head the initial committee to disabuse minds and cajole the North into succumb of illegality. The issue of ban on all former military rulers (who incidentally are all northerners) from future politics, the political rancor and subtle enmity between the North and South-South over resource control deb acle and other anti – North agenda set for adoption explains the intentions with actions.
The unfortunate concatenation of the crisis in the modalities and mode of approach towards serious issue of national importance had made much disqualification in a logical content of the conference proceedings, for instance, of all the Elders’ committee report as presented by Professor Joe Irukwu (chairman), only the resolution on the immunity for the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors and probably with seriousness of intent for nationalism the tenure of the office of the President/Governor. Even without peculiarities of circumstance and time, public officers/Political officeholders must be answerable to criminal cases that riddle the very basis of humanity and humanistic rights as enshrined in the World human rights charter. The committee report was ambiguous in most issues of national importance like the now controversial Resource control, funding of local governments, method of voting, State creation, the issue of state police and the role of INEC and conduct of local Government elections. Every part of Nigeria had its resources scorching for exploitation and exploration, the North for instance had Agriculture and solid mineral viability as a very promising venture, the South – East can reinvent the coal mining and South – west the cocoa production. Each zone has a history that can be linked to sustenance and development of its natural resources if the government at the centre is willing to apply the principle of equal participation and encouragement in economic competition. The Elders’ committee effort in this regard paid much attention on oil as if oil is the only issue of economic viability and environmental degradation which ignited much reactions from the already contemptuous South – South delegates waiting to hear about rapt rashness of economic control. On the funding of local governments, the Irukwu’s report recommended that “bulk allocation should be made to the state in respect of their local governments, irrespective of the number of local government in any particular state”. This resolution is contentious. The Presidency under a far – reaching principle as enshrined in the 1995 draft constitution and adopted in 1999 constitution though not explicit should be responsible for creation of local government councils based on viability of its existence and sustenance of the council as stated that “ The creation of Local Government is under this constitution (1999) is guaranteed and accordingly the government of every state shall subject to section 8, of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils and the person authorized by law to prescribe the area over which a local government council may exercise authority shall:-
(i) The common interest of the community in the area
(ii) Traditional association of the community and
(iii) Administrative convenience
Local government with less that 150, 000 total population are in some cases inevitable especially where population densities are very low. Although the total population should be 150, 000- 180, 000 for local government creation. The area demanding local government must make sure they have a sources of generating funds internally”. It seems the Irukwu’s committee was more particular in diffusing the tension of conflict between the Federal Government and Lagos state government over the creation of local government council creation and its funding in this regard, which the Supreme court ruled in favour of Lagos. <
On the method of voting, the committee recommended an electronic voting which puts the South being more literate on an advantage considering the malfeasance witness during the 2003 elections even though, manual voting was adopted, the electronic voting will open wide gates of rigging in some digital proportions because the computer does not operate itself rather if is “ garbage – in, garbage – out”. As much as improvements in methods can offer credibility, the realities on ground must follow possibilities of result. Similarly, on the issue of State Police and creation of states’ the committee more or less shared the feeling of the South – East on state creation and South –West otherwise known as the Yoruba Agenda on State Police. On the issue of state creation, the committee recommended that “ Followi ng the decision that states should be the federating units, it was agreed that the South – East, being the only Zone with five States, be given an additional State.
It was decided that in principle, the issue of state creation should be left open and when a good case is made, procedures for state creation as enshrined in the constitution should be followed in a way that all deserving cases should be heard”.
On State Police the committee said it “ accepts a Nigeria Police force which would operate on the basis of community policing under which people with local knowledge could become part and parcel as much as possible”. The Yoruba Agenda which was a Memorandum to the National Political Reforms Conference, 2005 signed by Chief ‘ Tunji Olutola (Secretary) and endorsed by prominent Yoruba Elders like Chief Afe Babalola, Professor Wole Soyinka, Senator Sikiru Shittu – Bey, Prince Bola Ajibola, Professor Peter Okebukola, Chief Sunday Adewusi, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, HRM Oba Sijuwade Olubuse II, The Oni of Ife amongst others, in which the agenda emphasized that “ The issue of the reform of the police must necessarily address the desirability or, otherwise of allowing states/ Regions to establish their police force”.
The Irukwu’s report was just a diluted adopted form of the Yoruba Agenda. The most tragic resolution by the Elders’ committee is one on INEC and conduct of local Government Elections. According to the committee’s report. “ Having decided that local governance be rested in the states, and that power should as much as possible, be devolved to the states, the committee recommends that states should take care of their local governments and their elections’’. The implication of this resolution is that the state governments will have full control over manipulative tendencies.
With the present experience it will be doubtful if ethics of liberal democracy will emerge considering the smittening constructive contretemps of the current political officers as governors of states. As a whole the Elders’ committee recommendations just represented the internal contradictions in the political system of the country that they suppose to tame with decent dexterity. The conference as its intention intent became a shallow representation of a rare approach towards political emancipation of charitable nationalistic ideals and idealistic nationalism in politics.
As Professor J.K Galbraith in The Anatomy of Power put it succinctly “ Bureaucratic power is bad, but public servants with power to render effective public service are very good”. The conference was very silent on the essences and issues relating to checks and balances that may enhance participatory governance and attendant efficiency. As highlighted earlier in this piece, the target was against the North, which the region was not privy due to its ill- preparation.
A study of the implication for statutory Allocation if derivation based from 13% to the states revealed that while Bayelsa and Rivers States will receive N 31, 770, 763, 595. 55 and N29,802,369,825.07 respectively, state like Borno and Benue will only receive N6, 183,016,706.33 and N5,824, 602, 210. 88 respectively. With the 50% desired by the South – South Bayelsa and Rivers States will collect N108,485,300, 049. 09 and N95, 626.182, 446. 28 respectively while Borno and Benue collects only N3,569,136,283.10 and N3,362,242,101.69 respectively. What aggravated false beliefs of independence amongst the differing contending force at the conference is that the North due to lack of adequate time for preparation went to the floor of the conference as revealed by the Umaru Dikko – led agenda with emphasize on capital political matters, de-emphasizing capable economic viability. Like, the Solid Mineral development Ministry introduced by General Sani Abacha was to produced viability options for oil, the North would have argued a secure for its’ control in addition to additional government’s effort to agriculture as a policy. Erroneously, the North went home with a false victory just because the South – South did not have its’ way over enhanced resource control (17% - 25%). The President in his cunning ways appointed a Minister of state from the South – South immediately after the conference to diffuse ill – feelings in the region with him still the de – facto Minister, a first step in six years of his administration but instead appointed a lady Minister from South – East for Solid Minerals where a Northerner is suppose to take affairs. On the whole the conference was nurtured with intentions to serve a purpose, only that the purpose was not actualized with an anticipated zealous intents. The South – South ended – up showing its tempest of tempers with exuberance without gauging the borders and limits of lure and lust, the North erred in the exposure of its eyesore when the issue of resource control at the time of controversy had outlived regional contentions, they would have kept mute without pejorative, for the 17% decision which is major decision taken at an official banquet that ended with signs of closure of pelagic consumption, the South – West in its normal and Symbolic outlandish outrageousness went to the background of schism to select an orchestra of schizophrenia thereby playing the obstreperous octopus, inciting war between North and South – South while the South –East in its obsolescent concupiscence for South – South’s jugular imported the past dreams with abrasive sense of re- invention of lost powers of absolutism.
The President on the hand was busy with exegesis of all the actions a t the screen board of his inner chambers searching the appearance and disappearance of Professor Jerry Gana etal with some aiding devices, that was not forthcoming. However, the President as usual was the undeclared winner of the conference, after all the tremulous triangulation’s of sado-masochism at the conference is only advisory and so it is. So why fighting and fussing over an antics of order where the basis of law is missing and absent?
-Mamza, A Political Columnist with Leadership Newspapers, writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
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