Opinion: Is the National Conference truly the way forward for Nigeria?

by Onyebuchi Ogbaegbe

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Furthermore, considering the fact that NASS members are representing the people of Nigeria with an annual budget of over N150b as their share of national cake, it is disheartening as well as shameful that such assemblage of our representation cannot discuss the same issues to be tabled at the National Conference.

The entity called Nigeria has never known peace since independence, from frustrating leadership style to general insecurity, economic backwardness and political instability.  Many Nigerians have been agitating for good governance that will pave way for judicious utilization of our natural resources to better the lots of her citizens. However, the reverse has been the case as we have been saddled with the burden of a nation bound by corrupt political class, so bewildered to provide basic amenities for her commoners. An average Nigerian on the street is not greedy, a provision of electricity, good roads, water and basic medical facilities would have solved his major problems; they are not demanding so much from their leaders.

Sometimes whenever I look at the situation in Nigeria, I weep for a nation that is so highly blessed in all ramifications, a nation like no other, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable gifts and talents, empowered with endless possibilities and boundless opportunities. Our leaders should always ask themselves, what will history tell of them when they are out of time; what will men learn from them when they become history. The unborn children’s children our leaders are acquiring wealth for will definitely make mince meat out of it because value was never considered during the wealth transfer.

The proposed National Conference has been a subject of heated debate for quite some time; while some argue in its favor, others stand against the timing stating that conducting a project like National Conference and National Election within 12 months is to say the least, an organized jamboree.

Those in favor of the Conference have lined up the benefits of its essence; they opined that Nigeria’s problems could be solved by mere talking, a time for all the ethnic nationalities of the country to air their views on areas they feel marginalized. It is also believed by this school of thought that the uncanny tension in the land could be doused by such discussion. Nigeria as a nation was forced against their wish by the colonial master to become one entity just for the selfish reason of administrative convenience. A nation with diverse culture, tribes and different tongues could hardly live together in peace unless they make out time to discuss their differences which the conference has provided the platform.

However, the opposing group is not totally against the convergence of all Nigerians under the auspices of National Conference to chat a way forward for the good of the nation. Their grouse hinge on the facts that the timing suits the ruling party since the election is not far from now; that the National Assembly should not debate on the outcome of the conference ; that lack of basic amenities , employment opportunities which have created much tension in the land would have been provided as a tool for achieving peace; that President Jonathan should have conducted the exercise earlier before now or after 2015 general elections as he is believed to have some ulterior motive behind this sudden and adhoc arrangement.

Furthermore, considering the fact that NASS members are representing the people of Nigeria with an annual budget of over N150b as their share of national cake, it is disheartening as well as shameful that such assemblage of our representation cannot discuss the same issues to be tabled at the National Conference.

Another issue that has been generating serious concern is the N7 billion for the 492 delegates to be utilized within 3 months. A further break down of the amount assuming Federal Government is to apply its monetization policy, it means that each delegate will pocket about N14Million at the end of the conference which is grossed to N158,000 daily each for a period of 90days. I even heard with one ear as I was sipping my chilled Zobo that serious lobbying is ongoing regarding who will make the list of the ‘492 wise men’ trust Nigerians, a new business opportunity has evolved. The essence of its objective is already watered down from onset.

Recently, we have witnessed so many committees set up by the government without any commitment to implement their outcomes.  This government has never for ones convinced us that they have the impetus to execute decisions from committees to the later. Remember the Electoral Reform Committee, Oduah Car Scandal Committee, Pension Funds Committee, Boko Haram Committee, Ribadu Committee and others too numerous to mention . This is pointer to the fact that the report and outcome of this Conference may equally end up in the dust bin of history like previous ones.

Finally, what is the essence of the Conference if the unity of Nigeria will not be discussed?   Sometimes one wonders how our leaders think; are they going to discuss how to construct roads, build hospitals, schools and provide electricity and employment? What sort of discussion will exclude the indivisibility of Nigeria as a nation when we are already aware that the nation is already divided along political, religious and ethnic lines. Let me use this medium to remind the conveners of this Conference that building of roads, electricity, health care, employment etc are not subject matter for Conference discussion; they are implemented through awards and proper monitoring of  contracts.

For me if our leaders had provided some of these basic amenities ab initio, discussion of our National unity and wellness would have gotten a soft landing. People are hungry and angry, mere discussion without concrete efforts to build Nigeria will never solve our problems, anything short of that will make the National Conference a mirage!

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 Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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