National Conference


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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National Conference …

by Who, For Who? …power oligarchies or citizens?


Chimaraoke Nnamani
Governor of Enugu State

Public Lecture of the Sokoto Forum for Democracy and Justice, SFDJ, Sokoto, in the Main Auditorium of the Usmanu Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Nigeria, September 25, 2003


"… autonomy is not a condition achieved here and now,
once for all; it is rather to be struggled for ceaselessly,
perhaps never to be attained or permanently
secured…in a world perpetually struggling
for perfection."

…Elie Kedpourie in Nationalism, 1960


In a way, some friends tried to pass it to me that it would be ill advised to go to Sokoto of all places, to talk about the national conference. The vehemence of their position was even illustrated in their urge that it never mattered whether I am for or against the issue, which has remained in the front burner for quite a long time now.

For two main reasons, I refused to heed this advice. First, I have always been convinced of the national importance and acceptance of the values of debate and dialogue, which indeed remain consistent with democracy. And since I am fully aware that democracy is in full force in Sokoto, not minding any variation, as there are variations elsewhere - be they administrative or leadership - we would be visiting a state, which is a national soulmate and whose leadership, traditional and modern, is indeed exemplary.

Second, my personal political ascendance which has culminated in a two-term governorship of Enugu State of Nigeria, is indeed a compulsion to have a first hand knowledge of the people. Our people, varied in their tongue and traditions, are united in their interest in good governance and motivated in their belief in the oneness of this country. Nigerians, as they are represented today in Sokoto, are yearning for the full dimensions of every national matter as may be tabled in national discourses, deliberations and articulations. And of course, Nigerians, some of whom I have had the privilege of participating in the dispensing of their resources as a part of the political leadership and ultimate factor of decision making for nearly five years now, have a robust attachment to dialogue and debate.

Nay brothers, I shall go to Sokoto. I shall come to this deep Holy City, which has remained a source of pride and inspiration to many uppermost players in the national leadership circle. If not for anything, I shall behold the gates where the great missionary warriors drew the line and declared, "here we rest and here we take off for the building of a faith and a vast entity."

Frankly, I have always been enamoured by the declared flamboyance of Sokoto as an international player in the pre-Nigeria environment. I have never ceased to marvel at the cultivated statecraft which rode the crest of the imperial magnificence of well schooled and well heeled princes who, in turn, had the mandate, almost as an injunction, to extend unflaggingly the values of the highest piety and statecraft upon which their forebears drew their highest inspiration.

In reviewing the national history, we will never ever escape the reality of Sokoto as an inspiring centre of power and social relevance from the days of the old order to the current trend in marrying the ancient and the modern. Indeed, I have always been fascinated by cities doubling as both political and spiritual forces, which in the elaboration of their organization reveal the true depth of such for phenomenal reach and impact.

I am in Sokoto because I am a Nigerian demanding of my own role in presenting the big Nigerian picture. I am not given to the easy and unrealistic solutions proffered to tackle the

the national question. I do not sail with the tide. I am inclined to Alessio Avandis proclamation that "if a million people hold a dumb idea, it is still a dumb idea." The sheer number of the followers of the wrong or untenable path does not bring about the right path.

If then these are the cases, it is my inalienable right to urge my own view, not without the conviction that it may not be the ultimate seasonal viewpoint but on the belief that I am duly contributing to the large clan of ideas being flaunted for a better future for Nigeria.

Having stayed long and operated without inhibition in a vast and plural society other than Nigeria, I cannot but accept the validity of the argument for the nurturing of more ideas for us to achieve the ultimately sought scientific analysis. Scientific analyses, which shall form the bedrock of high-level national decisions; sufficiently flexible, with rooms for extension or moderation; as may be navigated by generations yet on their way.

In this frame of mind then, my approach to the topic of today's lecture may, arguably, be with both some measure of eagerness and a hint of circumspection. Eagerness, because I cannot wait to be in Sokoto, to talk in Sokoto and to behold this imperial stead which has maintained a surprising efficiency in preservation of the values of a medieval aristocracy alongside the surging newness of an ever-expanding modern, plural and democratic polity.

Indeed, I cannot but be caught unawares by the choice of topic for this lecture; National Conference in Nigeria … for power oligarchies or citizens? Tricky, isn't it?

When Nigerians talk about the national conference, what comes to mind is the erstwhile clamour for resolution of the national question. It also follows on the heel of suggestions being touted seriously for such conference, whenever it would be convened, to be sovereign. In pre-supposing that it would be sovereign, some Nigerians would hope for the disappearance of the sitting government and an abdication of institutions of national order for us to have unfettered deliberations. That way, as they have all worked it out, the Sovereign National Conference (SNC), as the media tend to style it, would be the government with officials and camp followers.

Would they be the hard and stern Igbo, the Hausa, the Yoruba, the Ijaw, the Itsekiri, the Tiv, the Munchi, the Igala, the Benin, the Fulani, the Effik/Ibibio and the highly valued others; or would they be party men given to cross-ethnic interactions, bantering and back-slapping?

Fully considered, we would be talking of a vast collection of power players who would jostle for and garner political power with a view to directing the state the way they deem fit, even as they deliberate on hard, boiling issues. Side by side with this would be a robust national media, which shall be caught in-between reporting the deliberations of the SNC and the running of the government, as it were. The media will also have to report the new power equation, taking in the new alliances, coalescences and blending of aspirations as always practised in any given political situation. But they may not report a return of the status quo.

In presenting this scenario, as it could be, I am only pre-viewing the topic, which I have been assigned by the organizers of this occasion. I am also attempting a peculiar definition of a tough issue, usually more emotionally taken than soberly reflected.

For me, it is not just because this is an intellectual forum but also for a personal tradition of non-aggression, I have elected to take on this topic with every amount of sober reflection as much as I can.

Now, considering this topic from an empirical point of view, particularly the heady words, national conference, we tend to view our situation from the prism of myriad national disequilibria, either by a deliberate policy of emasculation or institutional hamstringing, with no further hope of tackling other than questioning and indeed assuming the un-workability of the system.

This usually has a further pronouncement on the total disaffection and outright rejection of central or even provisional authorities, which if ignored, leaves no option than chaos and the attendant implosion of a polity as Nigeria.

As was the case elsewhere, the provocative precursors to national conferences were not only the vociferous rejection of authority but also a desperation of leadership, usually working the agenda of intervention forces, but always failing to attain a semblance of cohesion in making meaning of a hasty collection of participants.

Repeatedly, leadership, which had to be taken unawares, had always failed to approximate the proper values, interests and direction and had always fallen short of proper leadership and cohesion. In polities where initial cohesion had come of coercion, even with a semblance of fusing of the societies due to high development, what looked like a success of this had resulted in long appreciation of the gulf and a pre-conception of the failure or un-workability of the old order. With a ready example, which is a semblance of the national conference, which brought about the quiet splitting of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovakia republics, a concept already diminished by the disastrous outing in Somalia and a few other countries, national conference has come to connote the surgeon's table where one definite separation must take place.

But in fairness to our teeming agitators, the various propositions had undulated more towards the direction of working out a balance of the power of the State or control of the resources. This now supposes that the erstwhile leverages of the State had been lopsidedly allocated or appropriated. Such assumption, which is central to why the clamour is being viewed as sectional struggle, equally left one or two sections feeling, if not tending to be, targeted.

This has been further pushed forward by a seeming Nigerian elaboration on either an imaginary pervasion of a certain oligarchy or mistaking of some evident national power groups for a cabal capable of the smooth sailing of statecraft and usurpation, with outright exclusion of others, from the entire promises and privileges of political and economic power in the country.

In a way, the various suppositions, if not undue assumptions, had provided for high level suspicions and outright hostility from elements of the identified sections or groupings for or against this business of a looming national conference. The group for (in favour) appears to see it as the most potent process or means of wresting political power from the group against (opposed) as such would address some envisaged or identified imbalances now occasioning instability as to build on the term national question. The group against, tending to be more imbued with the fine points of statecraft, but viewing the whole enterprise as red herring, could be supposed to be intent on keeping the status quo, probably leaving the impression, either by the manner of presentation or vehemence of their arguments, that such powers were indeed exclusively held and would never shift.

Somehow, these were harder positions than they are now at the dawn of democracy in 1999. It can be said that there was some slack in the harder grip before now; but the resurgence of the war cry immediately after the elections in April leaves one with the impression that this issue has not been rested. This then makes this occasion more unique and the topic of your choice apt for the moment. Indeed, it is more relevant with the riding question, …power oligarchies or citizens?

I have my personal reason in identifying with this question, …power oligarchies or citizens? This is because, since I came in contact with the force of the clamour for or against national conference, I have laboured to appreciate the deeper intensions outside political power and control of national fortune by the political class. My search, almost in circumference, has produced more understanding of the entire exercise as depicting interest or accommodation as major factors of political leadership and partakers in sharing of national fortune.

But before I go into my findings on the characteristics of the national political class, vis a vis what informs the attitude of the pros and cons in the enterprise under review, I will attempt a look at what Nigerians call sectional power cabal, which we also use interchangeably as oligarchies. In reality, the mere dictionary meaning of the word cabal sends jitters down the spine of those who know the meaning. According to the New Webster Dictionary of English Language it is viewed invidiously as "an association of persons secretly united to further their interests by plotting a secret cabinet of ministers…" as such which governed England in the reign of Charles II (1667 - 1673) whose initials: C for Clifford, A for Ashley, B for Buckingham, A for Arlington and L for Lauderdale, formed the acronym now called cabal for C.A.B.A.L. They were believed to pursue policies of perversion of administration in ways tending to be inimical to public interest.

The same dictionary sees oligarchy as "a form of government in the hands of a few" who would not, particularly without a fight, concede any privilege of State to others outside the core ring of membership. In other words, we are looking at a selfish grouping ensconced in the very bowels of national power and privileges but who would deal a deadly blow to any attempt at, even as little as, peeping into the sanctuary of the prevailing old order.

In the very context in which we have long viewed this, it is usually sectional, believed to be northern based and sometimes classified as a mafia group based in Kaduna. The very introduction of the word and ascription of Mafiosi to political players only confirmed the tredipidation with which agitated Nigerians viewed those whom they believed were the greater beneficiaries of the national resources. The dictionary itself reveals the danger of such ascription in its definition of the word as a worldwide criminal organization, …by extension, any clique or exclusive ethnic or non-ethnic group, with power in a special field …whose reach and striking power resemble the network of secret societies imposing its own justice instead of the official administration of Sicily (19th to 20th centuries)."

Prior to this opportunity offered by this lecture to consider formally these types in our political development, I had wondered if indeed we were not exaggerating for purposes of making the points stronger for urgent attention. Somehow also, I had viewed the entire hoopla as typifying our view of the military in governance and in usurpation of leadership.

Mind you, we take it for granted that we are comfortable with the word "citizen", attendant upon the fact that as members of this broad society, it is a given situation that what we aspire to and what we get are direct results or functions of the working of our society. To that effect, the clamour or sometimes the luxury of calling for national conference leaves the room for us to further anticipate our inalienable right to take part in the entire processes of discussion where the fate and direction of the society is determined.

Viewed the other way, the dominant question of this lecture or the answer sought by the organizers is the very indicator and in fact the unalterable evidence of the outcome of so serious a discussion as a Sovereign National Conference being for one of the identified elements of the divide - oligarchies or citizens.

Elsewhere, I had argued that much as we are conversant with the shenanigans of power players and the inclination to pretend to have come of sterner political pedigree, the reality on the ground is that most derive their powers with the quickly made collaborative actions of seekers of plum positions rather than coming of age-old power traditions, where power is sought for the good of the society and advancement of mankind.

But still, not putting the cart before the horse, I wish to pursue this lecture on the basis of appreciating or acceding to the claim of prevalence of oligarchies. But while I do that, I seek to hastily declare that the type of oligarchy in view, if I may call it so, has been the same hasty collection of political swift-movers who have pecuniary matters to sort out and who would change positions in ways that are alien in an oligarchic setting.

Of course, I do not suppose that we will solve the poser raised by insisting on the presence or otherwise of a properly defined oligarchic culture. More gainful will be the question of participation or gains thereof if for any reason, the Conference in question comes to hold. There is no contesting the fact that the organizers of this lecture have their doubts about the direct beneficiaries, if not the perversion of the real intensions, at the outset. To that effect, it is evident that our host, the Sokoto Forum for Democracy and Justice (SFDJ), believe that convening a conference and indeed the carriage and eventual results have direct relations with who convenes, who participates, what results and to what extent such would be applied.

I think I agree with them, not because I am too inclined to see the call for national conference as an exclusive enterprise extraneous of the political environment and analogous to the prevailing exercise in democratic governance.

Somehow, my position may not entirely be commonplace but I guess that with this sustenance of the argument of oligarchies, I have tried, maybe poorly, to relate our primordial socio-cultural and political environment, even as some elements of the old practices spill over to this age, with my earlier position on unresolved pre-colonial tendencies. In fact, in a way, I have come to view this claim of oligarchies or cabals or mafias as running in succession, in our imagination, to the old collectives upon what our entry point to the Nigeria project took their swing. Precisely that way, we view these types as revolving around ethnic groups or taking their inspiration and ultimate direction from ethnic foundations.

The consequence of this has been our inclination to view the preponderance, or in many cases, the headship of governments, as that of a particular ethnic group. That is to say, if Shehu Shagari is the head of government, it is a Hausa/Fulani government. If, as the case now, Olusegun Obasanjo heads it, it is Yoruba through and through. In the light of these cases, the only five months of the ill-fated Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi regime was ascribed "Igbo government," leaving the Effik/Ibibio, the Tiv, the Bini, the Angas, the Munchi and others no luxury of such appellation.

In the same vein, I am sure that it must have been at the back of the mind of these organizers that a Conference of the magnitude of a Sovereign, which also bears heavily on a Government as the envisaged conference, radiates power and relevance to a gathering of note as that planned. Upon this, the same range of ambivalence, if not outright derision, would ensue, leaving a gale of distraction and eventual distraction.

In a way again, the scenario, as already argued elaborately for by Dale Simpson in Rediscovering African Pre-colonial Nations, rides the simple position of a given political environment for such power seekers who are desirous of crossing their ethnic barriers to play in the now multi-cultural states thrown upon them by the creations of the colonial masters. In fact, viewing it as a part of the political gap-crisis which I had the privilege of addressing in Lokoja early this month, Simpson posits that the failure to appreciate the enormity of transcending the immediate local political environment to the more elaborate and sometimes unwieldy modern states, left many an African leader bewildered and driven back to the comfort of their familiar environment. This, in effect, resulted in destructive gaps of which some elements or groups of the new states viewed their would-be national leaders as tribalistic and parochial.

I must admit that this has not been entirely alien in our political history. As hinted above, they formed the bases for identifying our various regimes with the ethnic origin of the head of such regimes.

It is not unexpected that the complexity of modern government, particularly the issues of wielding erstwhile different political cultures into one could be too tasking for the average political power seeker. It is not even unexpected that at times, as the moment of passionate calls for this Sovereign National Conference, some players in the field would wish to throw the baby away with the bath-basin.

Such confusion as failing to appreciate the complex nature of managing a plural political culture as in receding to the promise of the primordial environment only provides for such clamours as in the current demand for a sort of National Conference.

Again, in a way, this answers a part of the question of for whom and by whom as posed in the topic. This is because the prevailing political development, which loops expectations with the promises of primordial heritage, leaving no room for the emergent supra State, robs the political entity of the needed clear-sighted approach to diagnosing national ailments. Of course, it cannot be too surprising that having failed to grasp the larger and multi-political culture, and having no more inspiration to delve studiously into the elements of the co-joined sub-cultures, the tendency is, if I may borrow the word of Brian Dresden, reclusion which indeed is a more harmful parochialism.

At this juncture, it has become necessary to amplify this argument with the reality of the emergence of some remarkable statesmen who rose above the lures of narrow prism to grace the national arena with gut and vision. Upon the examples set by these leaders, the big picture permanently looms large of the greater promises of the future.

Yet, the reality of our time is that contrary to the drive of these leaders, the easier reward of ethnic cleavage actually fuels this notion of a sectional power situation. In many cases, where this does not exist, they are invented, either as a derision or a buffer to appear more threatening than real. The result of this is this position or a claim of a Northern oligarchy or cabal, Yoruba hegemony, Igbo resurgent hegemony and mercantile dominance, and of course, Middle Belt (Lang Tang) Military Mafia.

As we describe our fellow countrymen thus, we take it as given that a Northern Oligarchy in power is entirely on the powers and privileges of the State, in exclusivity and to the total injury of every other ethnic group. But granted that many governments in the past brought about such causes for the above-named ascriptions, it appears to me that Amamdi Aniezia, in Internal Colonisers, was right in positing that "what you have is a national power cabal, a supra-national mafia, a political hegemony of the recurrent political class," whose positions in successive regimes are assured because of their tendency to recede to parochial ethnic sentiments and pursuits if sidetracked in the allocation of positions in government.

Aniezia even amplified his argument, and I agree, that "if it is a cabal, it is always 'national', if it is a hegemony, it is always 'national' …we cannot even be so laidback as to mistake the national spread in office-sharing as exemplified in military regimes whose headship is Northern but whose intellectual and ideological confirmation are entirely Southern." To close his argument, he calls this trend "a well crafted elite federal character or a representative hegemony."

Of course, I do not want to run the risk of anchoring my own argument entirely on the position of Aniezia, so I am inclined to hold that no matter the extent of prevailing ethnic content in the groupings called oligarchy, cabal, hegemony and what have you, it looks to me that Nigeria has so strongly moved and altered the entire picture that what you have is indeed a rainbow coalition of political power players who amass ethnic factors as their recurrent instrument of blackmail.

I feel more fortified in viewing this matter as such by the fact of the so many identifiable factors of social relations. To me, there is hardly again any such thing as 22 carat Hausa/Fulani, or unadulterated Igbo and unbridled Yoruba. We cannot ignore the fact that many of our children have been to universities and returned and the truth is that no person goes to the university and returns un-altered; always for good. Also, coming on the landmark results of our National Youth Service Corp Scheme, more interactions have been induced and more intimate relationships, including hundreds of marriages, effected.

I cannot ignore another challenge posed by this topic. This is the issue of nation or the questions so related. It is a fact that much has been argued about the functionality of the State as a nation on one hand and the call for the emergence of a nation in the multiplicity of ethnic nations to begin to build State.

Somehow, this issue has followed the trend of the question of which comes first. The State or the Nation? To me, this provides the link between the recalcitrant, but recurring conduct of political leadership as in the practice of reclusion. Whereas a bold confrontation of the task of nation building may be hastening the emergence of the nation and the state, one on the heel of the other, the practice of reclusion postpones the pains of nation building and provokes further anguish.

Of course, it may be academic to begin to pile up arguments on which - State or Nation - comes first. It is equally provocative to lament the delay of either without actually appreciating the extent of progression made, even in the heat of trials. But it is imperative to understand the trend, which the evolution is taking and for which proper leadership - I mean leadership, not pretension to it - is needed.

If then we accept the need to appreciate the complex trend of the journey, which is not so apparent to all, then it may be argued that there is a need for a Conference!

Conference? What kind of Conference? I guess you can now see the insight of the organizers of this lecture, particularly in their raising the vexatious questions, for the Oligarchies or for the Citizen and by whom?

Before I tackle the relevance or otherwise of a Conference or Conferences, I want to touch on two attempts at foreclosure as made by our more vocal political players. In high-pitched emotions, they declare, "National conference or no national conference, the Nigerian Unity is non-negotiable" (a foreclosure too complex as it is rammed in). To counter, one or more political players, either of the same ethnic stock or another, showing 'glowing' garrulity, thunders, "there is nothing sacrosanct about Nigeria and so, its unity cannot go unchallenged if the need be", (a foreclosure too daring as it is undiplomatic).

Personally, I disagree with both outbursts, if I may describe these as such. It is given that there is this Nigerian unity which, if it comes to questioning, will only be examined in terms of strengthening same and opening more windows of opportunities as should be offered by a modern democratic State. If this unity is given, it is certain. If it is certain, discussions of it, as must be, will only provide for, inadvertently or so, the acceptance of the imperfection of a system which must always undergo modernization and changes to reflect current trends.

To that effect, I re-establish my argument for the need for a Conference or conferences. Frankly speaking, I am more attracted by the promises of Conferences as on going. I mean as we already in the discussion and impending modification of the local government system; as we re-evaluate and make new regimes of salaries and wages; as we discuss powers of the tiers of government; as we seek further interpretations of our constitution in landmark rulings of our Supreme Court; as we question the desirability or otherwise of elaborate furniture allowances and other perks of office for political office holders; as we seek to ameliorate the ecological tragedy that is the Niger Delta; as we seek to achieve some palliation of the plights of Ndigbo since the Nigeria-Biafra war, etc. For me, it should not be "a" or "the" Conference. The list should be endless and so we would be talking of conferences.

Prior to the latest political development, which has evidenced more promises than expected, there have been calls for, first, conference of nationalities in Nigeria before the Conference. Initially, I was supportive of this until recently when I came to appreciate what Hans Armerie calls the sovereign individual. This is in form of personalities and organizations developed from activities and motivations of dominant economic players without recourse to particular political culture or values of State. These, usually employees of rich and powerful multinationals, owe their allegiance, not to any State or Nation but their employers, which secure for them rights and privileges of citizens as available to any other in any country.

Much as we can say that these exist in a sprinkle in Nigeria and do not count as political factors, there appears to be a growing trend of stateless Nigerians who, by birth or habitation and other social factors cannot be ascribed with any specific ethnic origin. Some of these are products of inter-ethnic marriages or relations while the privileges of profound economic expansion in such mega polis as Lagos and cosmopolitan, polyglot cities as Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Abuja, Benin, Warri, Onitsha and Port Harcourt; with vital junction towns as Lokoja, Ninth Mile (in Enugu), Umunede, Ijebu-ode, Jebba, Zuba and others, fashion out citizens not at once Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa/Fulani, Tiv or any other, but citizens bothered solely by the need to actualize the self and provide for the security of the immediate environment.

This latest discovery decidedly altered my earlier position on conferences of various nationalities. But even as it is the case, I cannot dismiss the likelihood of unfinished businesses as in the re-gathering of the tribes in Arewa People's Congress (APC), Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Izzon National Congress (INC), etc, which though are primordially-driven in nature, hold promises of moderating or even aggregating trends of thought, attenuating in many cases, undue social pressures.

My current position is as well informed by what I have come to lately realize as the extent of cohesion as in the evident overlapping cultural trends, democratically propelled economic contiguity, possibilities of full or near economic equilibrium (that is as much as practicable) and repeated court behaviour in Sokoto, Oyo, Benin and Nri.

I can confidently argue that we can tear to pieces this claim of homogeneity of individual nations as the basis for our arguments in favour of the claim of nations of Nigeria, not the nation and nation state. If not just on the promises of having approached the formation of the nation from the standpoint of State, it can be on the reality of the emergence of the Nigerian individuals who, by socialization and actualization, portray the State as a nation and an entity with more promises of levelling the entire terrain in due course.

In fact, closely related to the fact of the compulsion of inter-relations and inter-dependence, we cannot negate the fact of the last four or so years of democracy as having effectively promoted cohesion, up to the point where political interactions and office- sharing revealed the depth of national integration more than we earlier appreciated. Otherwise, how do you take in the situation where a governor from Enugu State would come, unfettered by culture of restrictions as in the military, to talk so freely on some aspects of our national political development in deep North Sokoto.

Many may have propped their argument for national diffusion on the bickering of the political class, particularly in vocalizing the seeming condescending attitude of the military to some elements of various ethnic groups. That way also, the arguments for the impending conference tend to run across ethnic lines. This, however, is easily contradicted by some clearly ignoble roles, displayed, particularly in the loss of political power by elements of the political class. In a way, such leaves questions to be answered on the claim of pursuing inclusion in Nigeria on the basis of ethnic groups.

If then we may not readily accept inclusion on the basis of ethnic group, preferring, as it were, to be noted individual partakers of the nation in the making, can we now support the claim that a conference for or against would be carried out for the ethnic groups as blocs in attendance or individual citizens as atomistic players in a polity in pursuit of democratic excellence?

On the foregoing argument that power hegemonies or cabals or mafias in Nigeria had their roots in the ethnic groups, would it then be possible to convene a conference with the individual citizen as the target and as ends?

These questions are vital. They are difficult as well. But if providing the answers to them will provoke the right frame of mind to address the question of the targets of the craved conference, it is then worth attempting.

My personal attempt to answer this question will certainly ride my known position on the Third World political economy questions of class formations floating on the trends of access to political power as access to economic power. By now, many may have known that I belong to the school which holds the view that the prevalence of political jobbers, without professions, without antecedents, without visions but always on any available train, makes it difficult to fashion any proper political attitude based on conviction. Attendant upon that, I have always supported the argument that what many may have identified as responses or factors of relations of ethnic groups actually come on the fillip of discernible pecuniary interests.

Having viewed it all this way, it is then too difficult for me to see any gathering on the basis of ethnic groups; that is, if they represent the hegemonies, cabals and mafias, holding sustainable promises for a visionary discussion. Indeed, much as we can all depart together as one for our ethnic groups, it is hardly understandable to me that we shall continue to play along when the matter for personal bread or family butter must be first and foremost, urgently tackled.

Granted that such politicians whose search for bread and butter alters group interests are in the minority in our current case, the fact of diffuse economic operations of elements of the entrepreneurial power closes the case for total bifurcation of the society for the whims and fancies of politicians headed for a conference somewhere. We need not overstretch the the reality of the interdependence of the ethnic groups and that it is only natural that in an economy where the basics of life are still highly elusive, a conference or attitude of visible players, even from one's own kindred, would hardly alter economic aspiration as long as man pickin must wack.

I hope that I would not be accused of reducing the entire matters, so serious as they are, to mere survival. But the fact of it all is that as long as we have politicians of shifty allegiances, in hasty alliances and the sudden collaborators on the basis of wetin-shelle, we will continue to have citizens driven by the unimpeachable need to put food on the table, rather than pursue the interests of the visible, vocal politicians.

Mind you, it is not completely correct to take the high rostrum to deride politicians. This is so because, the economic environment is such that profound impact in the political sphere or relevance in the social configuration has so much to do with the economic muscle possible, and effectively deployed, at each turn.

Besides these, the argument for group privileges can hardly stand against that of inter-group alliances, which in a way makes nonsense of the ethnic hegemony claim. That is to say, much as we can take off as factor-players of one ethnic antecedent, and driven by one motive, subsequent alliances will and indeed used to, alter our positions that in the event of full representation of the matters at take off, we are at a loss on the crux of the issues previously advanced. This has not so much to do with inability of the factor players to comprehend the complex matters pursued but rests on the inviolability of democratic forces riding known social waves of which ethnicity or nationhood could only be appendages.

If then we assume that it is no use trying to pursue a discussion on the basis of the ethnic nations, that is also including the States, would it be worthwhile to set out with the aim of throwing open the entire enterprise, so open as to admit only on the basis of acceptability by the aggregated group as representatives? In extension, matters so deserving as to be pushed to the front burner of the nation must be such that, put together, the aspiring representatives will only ride the crest of perceived transparent presence and more global acceptance, having been properly dissected. In short, people have to work to be recognized to be representatives of other people. That recognition will have to be translated into a kind of mandate to take the mantle for the others and to pursue such arguments to which the people hold dear and of which results must be achieved.

Democracy, then! Or isn't it?

Honestly, I left Enugu to Sokoto on the prime motivation that I would be exercising my right of expression in a democracy. I was indeed overjoyed, at the level of preparation, that it actually involved ascertaining the resolution of time upon our nagging questions of cohesion and the opportunity of joining in the search for a part of the answers.

Consequent upon that, I want to state that I am convinced that there has always been the need to confer, to argue, to elaborate, to counter, to alter, to extend, to expand, to expatiate and even to return to square one. And by the benefit of hindsight, we have always done this but rarely in a democracy.

My question now is, can the urge to discuss or confer, at the moment, translate into a call for swift plunging into matters so nutty and so heady that it must be resolved, now? If that is the case, can we say that we have adequately challenged our democratic representatives, including the President of the Federal Republic, Members of the National and State Assemblies, Governors, etc, all on course now, to hit home and let us see the results at once?

It is certainly not for me to make the wake up call for us to appreciate that the conference is in fact on going and as such, it can be pursued that with the entire institutions desired for adequate representation in place, the burden is then that of those of us who have matters to table. So if, in that vein, we realize that it does not really take setting aside the entire life of a nation or nation-state to hold crucial conferences on the way forward, we would have appreciated the fact of forces of social relations which is never like setting a table here and having your dinner there.

As in acceding to the reality of every political environment, portraying our struggles as in Kouffi Amouare's The State and The Nation "…perfection is never for mankind to achieve but a realization of the elements heralding the imperfection is the basic step for onward advancement," for which we had all set sail on the democratic course since 1999, and consequences of which are the bounties of democracy dividends, including the plush residential quarters, the gleaming streets in Sokoto, of course the world record law School in Agbani, beautiful lawns and road kerbs in Asaba and the freedom of the press, among others; for which all, we push our hands in our pockets, contentedly humming, as usual,

To God Be The Glory.


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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.