“I prefer the most unjust peace to the justest war that was ever waged” -Cicero (1981)
It was late premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello who is quoted to have said that “By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.” Many past leaders including Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, during their lifetimes had encourage dialogue and exchange of views towards a better country.
It is therefore a welcome development the recent constitution of a committee by President Goodluck Jonathan to fashion out modalities for the proposed National Conference. It is expected that the forum may come out with strategies towards peaceful coexistence among the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria. Although clash of civilization is a permanent feature of every human society, Nigeria as a nation with diverse ethnic groups is a typical example. As a matter of fact, the causes of clash of civilization or conflict may be hidden and perpetrated in the guise of nationalism or political liberation and even religious and ethnic differences. The underlying motive is mainly a contest for control over values; assets, systems or resources, such as oil which is the major source of revenue earner for a country like Nigeria.
There are strong speculations and insinuations that President Goodluck Jonathan may have a hidden political agenda for proposing the conference at this period, because similar summits were held in the past whose outcomes and resolutions were not implemented. The reality is that the conference is timely if it may address some of the challenges we currently face as a nation. President Jonathan has assured the nation that the outcomes of the national conference will be sent to the legislative arm of the government for approval which is a further indication that the national conference may be a success story after all.
There is disenchantment in the land considering the level of insecurity: Niger Delta militants and insurgents continue to destroy government property, kidnappers are having their days abducting innocent citizens and foreigners for ransom, and armed robbery is also rampant in the South-West while Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern part of the country has seen to the massacre of ordinary Nigerians. All these are indicators that things are not well with this nation and if not contained through dialogue, serious conflict of any high magnitude may erupt especially in 2015 when the nation will be witnessing another political transition.
The major problems threatening the peace and unity of Nigeria are not as a result of misrule, corruption and abject poverty, but the unbecoming behaviors of some of the leaders. There is a Hausa proverb that says “Baa mugun Sarki Sai mugun bafada”‘ meaning; there is no bad leader but bad ministers or advisers.” We are all living witnesses to unfortunate behaviors of some cabinet members in government who engage in pettiness, corrupt practices, nepotism and sectional sentiments which further overheat the system. The intra-party rivalry in the ruling political party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is another anomaly that is caused by selfishness among the leadership.
In a nutshell, the only way to avert the activities of unscrupulous elements in the polity is to amend the constitution which will help in checkmating the activities of corrupt individuals. The National Conference being advocated is to rebuild this single sovereign nation from the steep trench we have found ourselves and of course, not to tear the country into several independent nations, as some people perceive.
Furthermore, the conference will give ethnic nationalities an opportunity to examine the questions that have made Nigeria such a disaster and come up with some answers such as the right of every nationality to have greater control over their resources. Permit me to end this piece with a quote from late Gani Fawehinmi : “ The primary duty of a National Conference is to address and find solutions to the key problems afflicting Nigeria since 1914 to date. The concern is to remove all obstacles which have prevented the country from establishing political justice, economic justice, social justice, cultural justice, religious justice and to construct a new constitutional frame-work in terms of the system of government-structurally, politically economically, socially, culturally and religiously”.
Yusuf Issa An-Nuphawi
E-mail: [email protected]