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2nd Prize Winning Essay, 2014 NWC Essay Competition

Here’s the second prize winning entry in the 2014 Naija Writers’ Coach Essay Competition written by Ajayi Abdulganiyy Abiodun (see other winners here). It is reproduced below, unedited, for the reading pleasure and learning of other entrants and the rest of us.

Enjoy!

 

NATIONAL CONFERENCE: A WASTE, A PROGRESSION OR WHAT?

Introduction

In a bid to address the exigencies in our national life and to respond to people’s increasing agitations, the 2014 National Conference was convoked amidst criticisms and optimism. With this conference, it may be the turn of Nigeria to make history like Benin Republic did in 1989[1] and Congo in 1991[2] or exercise another wasteful effort like other conferences before it. This essay studies the precedents, expounds the essence and critically examines the conference proceedings in order to establish what the on-going National Conference could mean to Nigeria.

 

The Precedents

Series of constitutional conferences were held in 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960[3]. Then, the only point on which Nigerian political leaders spoke with one voice was the granting of political independence. This prime goal was doggedly pursued while they neglected other existential issues of peaceful cohabitation. However, as General Olusegun Obasanjo remarked, “with the granting of independence in 1960, all the dirt, swept under the carpet, surfaced”[4]. This gave rise to a nation that was sick at birth.

The post-independence conferences that should have granted us huge successes have been reactive rather than proactive. This common weakness greatly accounts for their conspicuous failures. The sovereign dialogue held in 1967 in Aburi, Ghana, was the aftermath of the coups of 1966 and General Abacha’s National Constitutional Conference was a reaction to the crisis of the June 1993 elections annulment. These conferences promised to address Nigeria’s critical problems but delivered so little.

The National Conference: Its Essence

For a country that is existing without a true ‘National Agenda’, a national conference could be a giant step towards a brighter future. The need to reason together as a people and forge a common ideology could be easily pursued. Gani Fawehinmi clearly captured this essence in his words;

 “… 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.”[5]

The Reality

Even though the expectations are high, no goodhearted Nigerian would consider the National Conference a silver bullet that will heal all wounds overnight. However, the bone of contention is whether the conference is capable of solving the nation’s perennial problems. The fact, nonetheless, is that the conference proceedings do not seem significantly different from the previous ones. Apart from being reactionary, the conference composition was a bit faulty. The youths were not adequately represented as majority of those discussing the future of Nigeria will not live to partake in it.

Furthermore, most arguments were influenced by politics, ethnicity, and religion. It was not a mere coincidence that the report of the Committee on Land Tenure Matters and National Boundaries was trailed by overtly rowdy responses. This, as reported, was because many conferees believed that they were not implementable as they were drafted to favour certain classes of people or ethnic groups against the others.[6] Similarly, the Yorubas were reported to be campaigning for the return of regionalism through the ‘Yoruba Agenda’[7] and many even see the whole conference as a diversionary political tactic. Moreover, the fact that this national conference is holding at the eve of the 2015 elections is enough to explain its seeming death on arrival.

The on-going conference reports clearly depict high level of clannishness and ethnicity and the outcome of such conference will surely be riddled with much controversies that would make it unfit for implementation. This, indeed, is another way to channel our resources into the drainpipes.

 

Conclusion

It is obvious, from all indications, that the seven billion naira tax payers’ money, the efforts of the 492 delegates and most importantly, the golden chance of organizing a much-expected National Conference would not bring the desired result. What we need is real action; not another talk shop. Truly, a national conference could help in charting a good course for national development. However, this one seems more of failure reincarnated. As Comrade Issa Aremu, NLC Vice President, rightly said; “…We need a performing society; not a debating society”[8]

REFERENCES

Kouvouama, A. (2002). ‘Truth in Politics and the Political Sphere in Congo Brazzaville’. African Journal of Philosophy XVI, 1-2.

Nwajiaku, K. (1994). ‘The Sovereign National Conferences in Benin and Togo Revisited’. JMAS, pp. 429-447.

Obasanjo, O. (1981). ‘My Command’. Ibadan: African Writers Series

“A call for genuine Sovereign National Conference, an alternative to chaos, catastrophe and disintegration”. A speech delivered by late Chief Gani Fawehinmi in March 2000 at a Press Conference in Lagos.

“National Conference: Report of proceedings on May 22” by Akpandem James, Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications.

“Following the National Conference: Regionalism” by Jibrin Ibrahim. Available online at “http://www.premiumtimesng.com/national-conference/following-national-conference-regionalism-jibrin-ibrahim” Accessed on May 25, 2014.

“National conference wasteful diversionary” Vanguard Newspaper. Available online at http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/10/national-conference-wasteful-diversionary-comrade-issa-aremu. Accessed on May 25, 2014

[1] Kouvouama, A. (2002). ‘Truth in Politics and the Political Sphere in Congo Brazzaville’. African Journal of Philosophy XVI, 1-2.

[2] Nwajiaku, K. (1994). ‘The Sovereign National Conferences in Benin and Togo Revisited’. JMAS, pp. 429-447.

[3]Obasanjo, O. (1981). ‘My Command’. Ibadan: African Writers Series

[4]Ibid.

[5] “A call for genuine Sovereign National Conference, an alternative to chaos, catastrophe and disintegration”. A speech delivered by late Chief Gani Fawehinmi in March 2000 at a Press Conference in Lagos.

[6]“National Conference: Report of proceedings on May 22” by Akpandem James, Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications.

[7]“Following the National Conference: Regionalism” by Jibrin Ibrahim. Available online via “http://www.premiumtimesng.com/national-conference/following-national-conference-regionalism-jibrin-ibrahim” Accessed on May 25, 2014.

[8]“National conference wasteful diversionary” Vanguard Newspaper. Available online at http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/10/national-conference-wasteful-diversionary-comrade-issa-aremu. Accessed on May 25, 2014

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