National Conference and the Way Forward – By Elder (Dr.) Chukwuma O. Nwaonicha



Every great accomplishment is at first impossible……we must keep hope alive! 

I commend the efforts of the Federal Government to give new and meaningful direction to addressing the root causes of our national challenges.  I thank Mr. President for his bold initiative because he has displayed candor, goodwill, honesty and great love for the Nation.

The National Conference, as we all know, is a way to find the best approach to ensure the unity, stability, good governance, economic and social developments of Nigeria.  Presently, the way Nigeria is structured and governed is so poor that the country cannot survive if things continue this way.  Personally, I welcome the program for the Conference; I hope and pray that all Nigerians participate in the event.  The Federal Government has made it a broad all-inclusive conference.  Although there may be some defects in the modalities released by the Federal Government, I encourage all delegates to participate in the proposed National Conference.  The Conference should therefore be about discussing conditions whereby it is attractive for each stakeholder to happily and freely exercise this right within the framework of one sovereign Nation called Nigeria.  The survival of the country is at stake.  The country cannot make meaningful progress in a federation where the structure is grossly defective.  Nigerians should go to the Conference and debate the future of the country, especially the structure, derivation, citizenship and nation-building, among others.

The conference, if conducted with the spirit of patriotism and sincerity (without political maneuvering) will make Nigeria a strong united Nation.  That is, frank discussions will promote trust and foster mutual agreements between the ethnic groups on what constitutes justice: socially, politically, culturally and religiously.  However, if the Conference is not properly and honestly conducted with the spirit of patriotism to benefit majority of Nigerians, the Conference may act as a free radical catalyst that could initiate and propagate chain reactions of ugly political and social events in the Nation including insecurity.  These events may ultimately lead to termination reactions – disunity of the Nation and civil unrest, among others.  What I’m saying is that if the National Conference is not conducted with sincerity of purpose, the Conference may be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.  That is, the last in a series of unpleasant events which finally make Nigerians feel that they cannot continue to accept bad situations.  The reasons are not far-fetched as the Conference may be our last hope for peace in the Nation: religiously, politically, economically and socially.

Therefore, the Delegates may hold the key to a stable and united Nigeria that can withstand the tests of time.   I do believe that nobody wants to see a continuous agitation for National Conference after these exercises.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the right thing is done in order to move this potentially great Nation to the next level in unity and prosperity.  As stated above, if a genuine National Conference is not convened, the agitation of Nigerians will only grow louder and even violent.  Nigerians may troop to the streets to demonstrate and demand that this great Nation be restructured peacefully.

I support the modalities released by the Federal Government, and I’m convinced that Nigerians cannot miss this opportunity of helping to save the Nation.  The Nation’s situation is becoming very serious and the National Conference has become imperative.  Let Nigerians come together, dialogue and look at the things that are making the Nation unstable and find solutions to them.

In my opinion, the conference discussions should include but not limited to the form of government Nigeria should have, local government issues, state creation, anti-corruption agencies, armed forces, zonal or state police, population and census, religion and secularism, and tenure of government among others.  As noted, over the years; the Nation has been struggling with multifarious challenges of resources control, citizenship, unceasing ethno-religious violent conflicts and socio-economic, political, religious and cultural injustice.  These challenges have retarded effects on the National socio-political and economic developments.

Elder (Dr.) Chukwuma O. Nwaonicha

As noted, Mr. President has merely set in motion a process for Nigerians to talk through National Conference.  I therefore, commend Mr. President for his genuine decision to hold a National Conference that will provide Nigerians the opportunity to discuss the future of our country: a long look ahead for the National unity, peace and prosperity 2014 and beyond.  Nigerians should give the Conference high priority for peace, stability and unity to reign in the Nation.  On the part of the President, he has demonstrated his commitment to building a strong and united Nigeria predicated on justice, equity and fair play.  The dialogue would afford Nigerians the opportunity to express their views on the myriads of issues that have continued to threaten the unity of the nation and stunted its development (economic and social developments).

In a nutshell, as released by the Federal Government, the specifications of the National Conference are: Official name (the National Conference), Venue (Abuja), Duration (three months), Discussion Topics (almost all or any subject matter except No-Go Area, that is; indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a nation, therefore the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable), Conference Management (Secretariat to manage, administer and run its affairs), Decision Making (By consensus; but where it is not achievable, it shall be by 75% majority), Purpose of National Conference (to advise the government on the legal framework, legal procedures and options for integrating the decisions and outcomes of the National Conference into the Constitution and laws of the country), Conference Leadership (a Chairperson and a Deputy Chairperson of unimpeachable integrity), Delegate Nomination Period (Begin Thursday January 30 and end Thursday, February 20, 2014).  The Federal Government should be commended on the template released.

In addition, the Federal Government also released the modalities for the nomination of the delegates wherein the Stakeholders (Elder Statesmen, Retired Military and Security Personnel, Traditional Rulers, Retired Civil Servants, Labor, The Organized Private sector, Nigeria Youth Organizations, Outstanding Youths and Role Models, Women Groups, Market Women Association, Women Organizations, Political Parties in National Assembly, Religious Leaders, Civil Society Organizations, Nigerians in Diaspora, People Living with Disabilities, Media, Socio Political/Cultural and Ethnic Nationality Groups, Professional Bodies, National Academies, Former Judiciary Personnel, Former Political Office Holders, General Delegates, State governments, Former LG Chairmen and Conference Leaders) were given different slots.  The number of Delegates is 492, perhaps Nigerian’s wise men and women that will be saddled with the task of reshaping the Nation.  I therefore praised the Federal Government for the modalities released and its noble efforts.

The time frame of three months period is enough time for Nigerians to dialogue as long as there is sincerity of purpose.  The modalities may fell short of the expectations of some Nigerians (as less ethnic nationalities may be represented especially the minority ethnic nationalities, Nigeria has about 102 ethnic nationalities) but all over the World, it is difficult to satisfy every group or individual in any society.  Although, my earlier believe is that Nigerians want a Conference wherein all ethnic nationalities would play dominant role.  At this point in time, let sleeping dogs lie.

Sincere deliberations in the conference should calm people’s nerves.  I do hope that the nominees of the National Conference should be Nigeria’s first eleven who are endowed with not only public intelligence, but also with patriotic courage.  As stated above, among the provisions is that the Conference will recommend to the government on how the outcome will be integrated in the Nigerian constitution.  The Conference should serve the national interest by selecting high caliber of delegates and those saddled with the task of selecting them.  I believe that Mr. President and the Stakeholders should endeavor to nominate people who can represent the Nation well.

The Federal Government advised the various interest groups that have the interest of Nigeria as its agenda to go and do their home-work and take it to the national conference.  For example, the agenda of the Federal Government is simple: to secure the peace, stability and unity of the Nation.

As noted, Nigerians are tasked to sit down and put the things that bother them in terms of marginalization, economic and social developments on the table, in order to start the process of give and take.  As of date, there is much suspicion and distrust between Nigerians and the Leadership (Local, State and Federal Governments).

However, what will solve our problem is the understanding of the problem itself.  The first thing we need to do is to ask ourselves some questions.  What is wrong with us as a Nation?  What has transpired in our Nation over the years, specifically, since 1960?  Why are things not working religiously, politically, socially, economically, etc.?  Why do we have too much hunger, poverty and unemployment in the land of plenty?  Why are we going backward instead of going forward?  These and many other questions should cross the minds of Nigerians, specifically; the delegates of the National Conference.

In my view, the decision to hold the Conference is a historic and concrete step that will strengthen our understanding of the above questions, expand the frontiers of our inclusiveness and deepen our bond as one people under one Nation called Nigeria.

As noted over the years, Nigeria has many issues or challenges at hand to be addressed and agreed upon for the Nation to move forward; there are leadership challenges, there are security challenges, there are regional challenges, there are religious challenges, there are economic and other social challenges.  Sincere resolutions of the Conference will proffer solutions to the above challenges and make the Nation stronger and more united Nation.

In my candid opinion, the re-affirmation of the National Conference should be through a referendum, before going to National Assembly for assent.  That is, the only process that would alter any of the decisions reached at the Conference is through a referendum of the Nigerian people.

As observed, the outcome of the National Conference through National referendum and the National Assembly assent may not resolve Nigeria’s numerous problems/grievance.  The major problem I hope the Conference should address and put aside for good is poor and corrupt leadership from banking sector, to the judiciary, to the law enforcement agencies, to the Local Governments, to the States Government and to the Federal Government.  The bane of the development, peace and progress of this country is corruption; if this is tackled in the Conference every other thing will fall into place.  These problems could be resolved by addressing the issue of inefficient Rule of Law, which breeds excessive corruption (uncontrolled corruption).  On the other hand, corruption creates poor leadership and poor performance, lack of accountability, fiscal irresponsibility, poverty, unemployment, low economic productivity, marginalization, insecurity, social vices and neglects, among others.  The increase in social vices like armed robbery, kidnappings, ritual killings, cultism, etc., can be attributed to corruption and to some extent the deterioration of value system in the country.  If the issue of corruption is not well addressed, the National Conference will end up as a talk-show as the previous Conferences.  It is important that we know what we are doing and do it assiduously for the interest of peace, unity and prosperity of the Nation.

Corruption had permeated in our national life making the majority to suffer physical and material deprivation.  Also, I hope that the National legal reform programs should be initiated and addressed during the National Conference.

In my view, the problem of Boko Haram and some of other social vices in the society are a result of corruption, religious fanatism, illiteracy, ignorance, high rate of unemployment and poverty, among other.

I do believe that the promotion of the rule of law is the most effective long-term antidote to the most pressing problems facing Nigeria today as stated earlier, which include poverty, Boko Haram, Niger Delta militancy, oil theft, ethnic and religious violence, marginalization, unemployment, endemic corruption and disregard for human rights, among others.

Nigerian leadership system should promote open and transparent governance at all levels from Federal Government to States Government and to Local Governments, and work to develop our Nation based on policies and programs that would promote security, reduce poverty, create jobs and guarantee the rights of every Nigerian as contained in the constitution.  Nigerians had already borne a lot of pains and agony arising from poor governance.  That is, the government failure to meet the basic needs of Nigerians despite the fact that Nigerians are been asked to be patient and make sacrifices over the years.  Nigerians have been compelled to deal with lack of social services, which has made life unbearable for all Nigerians and the resultant worsening insecurity, poverty and unemployment situations in the nation.  This signifies a failed state.  Some common characteristics of a failed state include non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; and sharp economic decline, which promote unemployment in the society, among others.  However, an analysis of our current situation should be based on what we can do to make a change for the betterment of the Nation.  We must challenge the future and not the past.    

In conclusion, one of the solutions to Nigeria’s numerous problems is good governance devoid of corruption.  The leaders should abide by due process, rule of law and ethics of leadership.  I believe that at the end of this Conference, if and only if it is sincerely conducted without political maneuvering, Nigeria’s unity and progress will be stronger than ever.

As stated, the Conference should address all tensions or challenges, the causes of these tensions, the causes of instabilities and the causes of grievance in the Nation, among others.  In my view, these National problems/grievance are not solely about religious fanatism (Islamic intolerance in the nation), tribalistic jingoism and parochial leadership but economic under-development, poverty, high rate of unemployment, social dysfunction, poor governance that promotes corruption and the neglect of our infrastructural development for so many years.  Therefore, ethnicity, religious bigotry and corruption no doubt militate against good governance and undermine the socio-economic developments of the nation at Local, State and Federal Government levels.

Finally, if the Conference successfully gives birth to a new Constitution for the Nation, Mr. President would have built for himself a formidable and appreciative constituency across the length and breadth of Nigeria.  His support will overwhelm the combined opposition of all parties and sweep him into land slide second term victory, should he decide to run for a second term.  The President should note that majority of Nigerians objective is to ensure that he succeeds in this undertaking.  If Mr. President achieves this objective, he becomes the undisputed “heavyweight champion”: a father of modern Nigeria.

I salute you, long live one and united Nigeria!

Elder (Dr.) Chukwuma O. Nwaonicha.



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