A Bout of National Mood Swings By Nasiru Suwaid
As it is with the life of an individual, which comes in a different sets of mood swings, from happiness to ecstasy, leading to pure joy, while in other instances, it could be sadness, punctuated by pure grief, to the extent of having spasms of suicidal thoughts, when a soul wrenching disappointment occurs in the journey of life. So it is with the durational existence of a nation state, and sometimes, it is all about the celebration of a truly unified country. In other instances, it is about the merriment of attaining the position of economically performing republic, which is able to satisfy the needs, wants and necessary requirements of the greatest majority of the citizenry, while in rare instance, it is all about the destructive petulance of separatism, dismemberment, insurgency and the very strong feeling of disunity, when a considerable number of citizens have a distinct feeling of lack of belonging and loudly trumpet the need for examining the basis for our unity.
Unfortunately in Nigeria, this a season for such emotional outburst, as on the just unveiled national conference committee or more appropriately, an Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, whom the president in his infinite wisdom, have tasked with the duty of tackling the Nigerian National Question; being the type of governance best suited for a developing economy like ours, the concept of an operative fiscal federalism unique to the nation, the paradigm position of an acceptable Nigerian state, the concept of citizenship versus the indigenous people and the model of constituted constituent units best applicable to Nigeria.
While not discountenancing the almost universal chorus of disapproval, which greeted the setting up of the committee, as a counter-productive exercise that leads to a dead end and the fact that similar constitutional review processes, were undertaken to conclusion without ever enjoying the grace of implementation. The stark reality is that as a fundamental trait of democracy, even the tiniest minority must have a say on state matters, when they feel that the operated system of governance is not meeting their honest desires of a responsible leadership, satisfied followership, effective institutions and a representative ethos of perfect working state or at the very least, a seeming contentment with the nation called Nigeria and whatever challenges that may arise, falls with acceptable limit of a young country, searching for a characteristic attribute of an evolving nationhood.
More so as, the conveners of the national dialogue, seemingly, have made their minds, on the need and desirability of having such a national conversation and whatever doubts that may exist, regarding the motivational intent of the Nigerian presidency, cannot stop the process highly in tune with the behavioral trait of average Nigerians, which is their penchant for talking, even if it is the usual shouting matches of political bluster, open ranting, destructive brickbats and the disingenuous acclaim of victimhood, even when those assertions sounds more like a profanity, to the ears of any dispassionate, honest, fair and responsible interlocutor.
Having reached a consensus, on the inevitability of the whole exercise, the only honest resolve is to listen to the committee membership, in projecting the relevance, importance and non expendability of the whole arrangement. In an interview recently, the Chairman of the National Dialogue Committee Dr. Femi Okorounmu, postulated that whatever was agreed at the forum, would be subjected to a referendum, which sounds noble on intendment, but realistically foolhardy. Because, by the term of reference convening the committee into operation, it is premised only on Chapter IV, section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, dealing with the Right to Freedom of Expression and The Press, which is not a clear and definitive constitutive power, to convene a monumentally important summit of epochal status, which examines the conceptual consensus called the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Thus any committee, group, summit or congregation, without a clear constituent powers, cannot achieve anything, when we have an operative constitution, distinct structures, elected officials and a unique character trait of non implementation of past committee reports, specifically, because if for nothing else except the usual pandering to personal self preservation or simply put, not going against collective interest. As such, there could never be a referendum, before the National Assembly passes a law or a proper constitutional amendment to give such effect, despite whatever the weight of the recommendations of such a conference, indeed, the Independent National Electoral Commission being an instrument of the law, cannot conduct such an exercise without altering its enacting instrument of authority or the enabling law, to include conduct of a referendum apart from organizing elections and it would seem a gross afterthought, for a national parliament to invoke the law on a congregational proclamations, whom they have not previously empowered.
More so as, a referendum which is a direct affirmation or rejection by the sovereign will of the voter, surpasses any representative verdict by a people’s assembly, especially as the natural law of self preservation, would hardly allow the National Assembly to act against its functional privilege. Obviously, the Committee for National Dialogue would operate in a limbo, without a defined instrument of authority. Surely, any decent, honest and serious minded citizen ought to ignore it, just like General Ibrahim Babangida did to the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa’s Human Rights Investigation Panel and legally sought to know its status within the law, apart from its latching on the non specific Tribunal of Inquiry Act 1990, which by enactment is a product of undemocratic military regimes of the past, invoked to guide a purely democratic exercise. Thus, the assumption is that it is within the realm of such national mood swing, which at duration of intervals, demand for such national conversations, participate in the periodical inquiries and as usual, expect the outcomes of the exercise to be left to gather dust at the inner recesses of the state house.
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