How To Organize The Sovereign National Conference

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To start with, let us agree to some conditions that must precede and guide the convocation of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) in Nigeria. Most Nigerians have agreed that given the sectional agitations and demands from the West, North, East and South, the peoples of Nigeria need to discuss and arrive at the bases for living together in one country. That discussion should be called the SNC. The word “sovereign” means that the conference has only one no-go-area of discussion: Nigeria should continue to be one country. Therefore, it includes the fact that the SNC is free to discuss all areas of concern about how to live together as Nigerians in one country. The word also refers to the propriety of freedom to the peoples of Nigeria who had existed before the creation of Nigeria in 1914 to discuss the challenges that make the union unworkable. It is not about the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria or any legal technicality arising from that word.

 



The issues to be discussed are basic in nature. They include how ethnic Nigerians can respect and trust other ethnic groups no matter how small they are. How do we live together in one country given our differences? They must discuss how best to restructure Nigeria into ethnic states and allow self determination and development rights to the ethnic peoples of Nigeria who actually own the items of development: environment, resources, traditional occupations and human talents. They should discuss fiscal federalism such that each ethnic state should depend on its resources for survival and contribute 5% of its annual budget to the federation account that will enable a small and effective federal government perform supervisory and regulatory functions as well as be responsible for foreign relations, security of the country and monetary/currency services. If an ethnic group is too large for just a state, it can form itself into a region of many states.

 

Before the SNC holds, Nigerians should be asked in a plebiscite, to vote for or against the conference. To make it easy, the word “sovereign” could be removed so that ambiguity will be reduced. So it could be called Nigerian Peoples Conference (NPC) to still operate in the same manner like a SNC. Before the voting, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Federal Ministry of Information should have sufficiently enlightened Nigerians on the reasons for the plebiscite. If majority of Nigerians agree that the discussion should hold, then the Federal Government should simply constitute a joint committee made up of the National Population Commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the federal ministries of Information, Environment and Culture to list the number of ethnic groups in the country. This list should be made public for corrections and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

 

The same committee as indicated above should organize the conference with supports from the military and other civil defense/security organizations excluding the Nigerian police.  The conference should last for nine months, while a constitution drafting committee should draft the constitution and submit to the FEC within the next three months. Thereafter and in the next three months, government should make the constitution available to the general public for further inputs, corrections and amendments. Once this is well concluded, the FEC should gazette the constitution as the 2014 Constitution of the Peoples of Nigeria.  That constitution is the peoples’ constitution and should not be subjected to any debate or discussion in the federal, state or local legislature. Thus Nigeria would have been able to produce her own authentic constitution in her 100th year of existence.

 

The federal government should provide the venue for the conference, which should be the national assembly (NASS) complex in Abuja. During the period of the conference, the members of the NASS as presently constituted shall proceed on a fifteen-month leave to be reconvened after the conference when the President would have signed the constitution into law. Before they go on the said leave, they would have passed the bill for the convocation of the conference. That bill should be able to accommodate the activities of the Federal Executive during their leave and that the NASS must do nothing to frustrate the process to the conference or impeach Mr President. Also, during their leave, they should earn half of their gross salaries.

 

The ethnic groups should nominate, send and fully fund three delegates to the conference. The federal government should have no hand in funding the delegates. Every ethnic group should be recognized no matter how many they are.

 

During the conference, foreign observers from the UN, AU, ECOWAS and other international organizations and groups should be allowed to attend.

 

At the end, Nigeria would have succeeded in organizing this all-important conference where the peoples of Nigeria met and gave themselves a constitution to be implemented by the politicians they had earlier elected into the executive and legislative arms of government. The federal government (that is the executive and the legislature) shall remain in office till May 29th 2015. Thereafter, a new set of government will be elected based on the new constitution. This should also be applicable at the state and local government levels. All other rearrangements in accordance with the new constitution shall commence from May 29th 2015.

 

For this process to succeed, it shall be as simple as it appears. Nigerians have been agitating and killing themselves due to lack of understanding of how we can live together as one country. We do not need too much of big technical legal grammar that will end up frustrating this opportunity. We need to be prayerful, confident and very sincere that the outcome of the conference shall have resolved these age-long inter-ethnic and/or religious hatred and killings. In this process, we must agree to love and respect one another as peoples of equal status and rights to be part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The government must be sincere in organizing this conference; otherwise Nigeria may experience an implosion of unthinkable dimension. The key to succeeding is total sincerity and tolerance of the views of others.

 

If Nigeria succeeds in this effort, the ghosts of 1914, January 15, 1966, Biafra, minority agitations, operation “weti”, Kaima Declaration, Tiv uprising, Zangon-Kataf, MOSOP, June 12, 1993 election, Umuechem, Choba, Odi, Ikwerre Rescue Charter, MEND, Bakassi, OPC, Jos, Ife-Modakeke, Aguleri-Amuleri, Gani Fawehimi, Anthony Enahoro,  and Boko Haram would have been appeased to rest in peace. This is the path to a true unity in diversity in Nigeria.

 

 

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja.


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