National Conference …
by Who, For Who? …power
oligarchies or citizens?
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
…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.
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.
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
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
To God Be The Glory.