As President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan receives the final reports of the National Conference today, a new Nigeria is about to be born.
Like a team of anxious medical personnel in a labour ward who are eager to assist in delivering a pregnant woman of her baby, the National Conference delegates are waiting with bated breath as they watch Mr. President receive the final reports of the Conference, the fruit of their brain.
Yet there is a question on the lips of every Nigerian: How should the reports of the National Conference be implemented? Some Nigerians have suggested a referendum. Others have suggested a constitutional amendment. But there appears to be some mutual suspicion between the National Conference delegates and the National Assembly.
The National Conference delegates are worried that the National Assembly might tinker with their reports, thereby watering them down. On the other hand, the National Assembly is suspicious of the motive of the delegates who want to by-pass the existing legal order of constitutional amendment procedures.
Herein is the landmine and danger which the Confab reports now face. Before I proceed, permit me to give honour to whom honour is due. Never in recent memory in the annals of Nigerian history has there been a gathering of such a galaxy of bright and noble minds as Nigerians saw in the just concluded National Conference. From the youngest to the oldest, the National Conference paraded the brightest, noblest, most patriotic and courageous men and women. I salute their patriotism, courage, wisdom and intellectual acumen. In the same vein, I salute the courage, patriotism and sensitivity of Mr. President to convoke the National Conference even to the extent he gave the delegates free reins to discuss extensively the national question.
The vibrant Nigerian media, the esteemed Fourth Estate of the Realm displayed uncommon courage and patriotism in covering the proceedings of the Conference even in the face of humiliation and intimidation during the plenary sessions of the Conference. Having given honour to whom honour is due, let me know return to the heart of the matter.
What is at stake now? To adopt the reports of the confab in their entirety through a referendum? To send the reports to the National Assembly for the legislators to study them and promulgate the enabling laws in order to clothe the reports with legitimacy? To persuade Mr. President to implement the reports immediately as the reports represent the will, yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people?
Frankly, none of the above questions is the issue at stake. I could almost hear you scream, “No, you’re mistaken. The above questions are in issue.” Please be patient with me. Let me take you down memory lane and tell you what no one has told you before now. In 2007 I attended a workshop on the future of Nigeria in Locum, Germany. There I met one Professor Attahiru Jega, the then Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano. Some officials of the Nigerian Electoral Umpire were there as well. Some members of the German Parliament were there at the workshop. There in the auditorium of the Evangelische Academy, Locum, it was resolved that henceforth Nigeria should evolve a transparent, fair and free electoral process. That Professor I alluded to later became the chairman of INEC. But no one remembered me. In any case, I am glad that the INEC chairman with his staff is doing well in ensuring transparent, fair and free electoral process in Nigeria.
In the same year 2007, I campaigned vigorously against Nigeria signing the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) on the ground that signing such far reaching EPAs would make Nigeria a slave to Europe the second time. My campaign took me across Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Americas. At that time I went to Aso Villa to inform Mr President – late Alhaji Musa Yar’dua of my campaign. I was asked to meet with the then Vice President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Through his support, Nigeria did not sign the EPAs. Thus Nigeria was saved from economic sinkhole. It is on record that only Nigeria and South Africa did not sign the EPAs in Africa. But no one remembered me, although I documented that campaign in my book, The Foreign Affairs Minister, available on amazon.com.
Now Nigeria is at crossroads. It is true that the National Conference has ended. But the struggle for a new and better Nigeria has just begun as events would soon indicate. Whether you’re talking about adopting the reports of the confab through a referendum or you’re discussing the modality of clothing them with legitimacy through the act of the National Assembly, you’ll be confronted with the incontrovertible and inescapable fact: you need the National Assembly to give the reports legitimacy. But the National Conference delegates apparently do not want the National Assembly to tinker with their final reports.
On the other hand, the National Assembly would not allow its constitutional role to be usurped by any individual or group of individuals while the present legal order subsists. Similarly, Mr President cannot implement the reports without being accused of harbouring a “third Term” ambition by the opposition. Again, Nigerians face the possibility of having a stillbirth of a new Nigeria as captured by the National Conference.
Now this is where I come in as a writer and lawyer. As a writer, I’ll make the necessary connections; a leap across the gulf. As a lawyer, I’ll try to balance the power equation and the contending forces of retrogression. This I intend to do as a patriotic Nigerian, having at my disposal the reports of the National Conference. Power is never given freely to a people. It is taken by the people by overthrowing the existing legal order and replacing it with a new one as the National Conference delegates seek to do. Politics and economics are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other.
Beyond the submission of the confab final reports, the National Conference delegates should perhaps understand that they have become activists; for they have collectively planted the seed of revolution for a new Nigeria. It is too late for them to sit on the fence. All those who benefit from the present system will henceforth oppose and viciously attack the final reports of the confab.
To demand that Mr President implement the reports immediately is to underestimate the enormous obstacles and forces confronting the Commander-in Chief. To demand for a referendum to adopt the reports of the confab in their entirety is like asking the political class to commit suicide. In any warfare, you don’t disclose your tactics and strategy to your opponents. Let Mr President receive the reports first. This will then mark the commencement of the struggle.
What may have not entered into the calculations of the National Conference delegates is that they are now activists; change advocates who will drive the revolution process for a new and better Nigeria.