Let’s Find A Better Way To Waste Our Time… By Sam Nda-Isaiah
Jonathan’s national conference has dominated discussions lately and I really wonder why. I do not know what can be achieved by an unconstitutional national conference and I wonder why some people want to participate in what is clearly a waste of time. I think they should find a better way to waste their time. For starters, a conference whose participants are chosen by Jonathan and his friends cannot be called a national conference and cannot represent Nigerians.
For a long time, I have been listening to agitators for a national conference. Some of these agitators are really angry. In fact, it is hard to find an agitator for a national conference who is not very angry. When you ask what they want, they angrily say Nigeria should be restructured because there is too much corruption and Nigeria is not working.. At the end of the day, if you are patient enough with them, you will discover that all they want can roughly be summarised under one heading: Federalism. When you discuss with the few others who talk of a sovereign national conference, you will discover they don’t even know what it means. Many of them say it because, in their understanding, it sounds cool to talk that way.
So if what the overwhelming majority of Nigerians want is federalism, and we call ourselves the Federal Republic of Nigeria, why don’t we just operate as a federal republic? What’s so difficult about that? I have always advocated the kind of autonomy for states in which every state controls and fully benefits from the resources on its land and just pays taxes to the federal government, which has bigger and more serious responsibility to the nation. The way we operate today, if Abuja becomes unable to pay the monthly allocation to states, only Lagos State would be able to pay salaries. That’s not how nations are run. And Abuja is now only able to pay the monthly allocation mainly from the revenues accruing from the sales of crude oil from only one corner of the country. As we now know, with the perfection of hydraulic fracking by the United States and the discovery of oil in more than 20 African nations, oil will soon lose its princely place. What then will happen to us? In 10 to 15 years when the United States – which has already reduced its oil imports in the last four years by one million barrels daily – China and most of Europe would substantially depend on their own oil, the commodity will certainly not be selling at $100 per barrel. $20 per barrel may be more like it. What will happen to us at that time, since it appears as if all we are doing now is just waiting for that day to come?
Meanwhile, there is no single state in Nigeria that does not have resources with which to live as a wealthy state. The gold that is being openly stolen from Zamfara State by thieves that converge on the state every day of the year from all over the world is enough to make Zamfara one of the richest administrative units in the world, far richer than any oil-producing state. By the way, the oil-producing countries are not the richest nations of the world. The very resourceful Dangote Group makes a profit of more than N5billion every month from Obajana in Kogi State, yet the state government lazily waits every month to collect N2billion from the federation account. The gas that is irresponsibly flared daily in the Niger Delta is enough to produce electricity for the whole of Africa. Niger State, which is approximately the size of the entire south-west, with rivers, streams and lakes traversing the state can feed the entire West Africa, not to talk of the other resources which include gold, gas and other oil resources.
The truth is that Nigeria needs a courageous leader who will bring about the big change that will change the country forever. Why would Jonathan want to organise a conference when it is clear that a conference cannot make or even amend any law? Only the National Assembly can make or amend laws. So why won’t the president simply be bold enough to send bills to the National Assembly that will amend the portions of our constitution that are in conflict with federalism?
Nigeria is currently a poor country but everyone knows we are meant to be a wealthy nation. And we will continue to remain a poor nation if the component states remain poor. There is therefore the urgent need to amend the constitution. As for the issue of corruption killing the country, you do not need to restructure the country to solve the problem. Whether we run a parliamentary system, a presidential system, a monarchy, a diarchy or a military government will not matter as long as those who steal the nation’s money and other resources are not punished. As long as we continue to run our country the way we do now, the situation will not change.
If the majority of Nigerians want a federal system and our country is called the Federal Republic of Nigeria, why do we need to organise a conference to operate a federal republic? We should simply remove all the impediments to our becoming a true federal republic and live our name. If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t form a committee on snakes.
Why Is The President Doing This To Us?
Did you see the photograph of African heads of governments taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week? All those who saw it and saw how and where our president stood among other African heads of state in that picture would mourn the way President Jonathan has continued to devalue our country. No past leader of this country, starting from Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, whom Nelson Mandela said was the first foreign leader to start funding the ANC, through to Ironsi, Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abdulsalami, Obasanjo and Yar’Adua would have stood where Jonathan stood in that photograph. And this is not the first time Jonathan has reduced us in the gathering of other African heads of state. He, in fact, does it every time without even knowing it.
Nigeria has always been aware of its place in Africa. If President Jonathan doesn’t know this, someone needs to tell him urgently.
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