Still On The National Confab By Aku Igono
Growing up in Makurdi, the Benue State capital in the early nineties was fun and blissful. My father, a top notch public servant at the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (LBRBDA) in Makurdi trained us in every sense of it. We were living at the LBRBDA’s staff quarters with absolutely all facilities for recreation and education. The staff schools were amongst the best in Benue State. My father made us believe that Nigeria is a great country; in fact he will jokingly say to us that God resides here in Nigeria. Ours is a large but closely-knitted family that value education and my father ensured that we get the best of it around.
1st October then was always the loudest and remarkable national event in the country for me, as march pass rehearsals by students were so much colourful that you will instantly want to grow up fast so you can enroll in school and perhaps take part in rehearsals. With nostalgia, I remember how my elder brothers and sisters will all kit up in the morning for the show at Aper Aku stadium. I wasn’t ripe for school then as my mother will remind me and hand me a small Nigerian Flag to wave at my marching siblings – Life was fun and the future was so promising and even brighter!
As a national ritual, the 2013 ‘1st October’ came with all the feelings I usually get as a child back then in Makurdi gone. I got a call from my elder brother that morning, who had the privilege to participate in all the ‘1st October’ march passes in Makurdi, that I shouldn’t go to public places. He cited the prevailing security challenges as he further warned that he was calling on the authority of our parents. At the mention of “parents” I succumbed. The social media was awash with the information that the president, in what has become a tradition, was going to address the nation. I was not particularly excited going by the previous senseless murder of over 50 students in Yobe State the previous weekend. But I had to obey the authority from ‘home’ as a way of honouring my parents to stay indoors. I switched on the television even before the 7am time of national broadcast out of an impeding boredom. At exactly 7am, I tuned into the moribund state owned television station, the NTA.
“Fellow Nigerians…” President Goodluck Jonathan began his address to the nation on the occasion of the Independence Anniversary. I personally was not ready to listen to additional rhetoric or semantics from a Politico on how our journey so far has been, and what the uncertain future holds for our nation. I was not going to pay attention to yet another politician who wants to preach to me about hope; another politician who wants to tell me that we have achieved tremendous feat in the past 53 years even when put shoulder-to-shoulder with other nations we started the journey of nationhood together, we stand dwarf. But then, the president came on brilliantly with a speech that got everyone talking. So rich in substance that political pundits are curious to know if the president hired another speech writer. Of a particular interest for me is the disclosure by the president of a committee to fashion out the feasibility for a national conference. A disclosure that is generating heated debate amongst Nigerians and the subject for this piece.
At what time is it safe for us to unleash our anger on the president in form of criticism? I have heard discerning Nigerians faulting the formation of advisory committee for the consideration of the convocation of a national confab. I’m sincerely at a total lost as regard what Nigerians want of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The clamour for the convocation of a national confab started by imminent Nigerians of notes and the idea was sold to all and sundry. So if the president decided to give it a nod by setting up advisory committee then I personally don’t see anything wrong with that. And that we tried it in the past under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and failed doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it a trial. It behooves us all to actively participate in all the processes leading to the confab.
It is understandable that the previous national confab convened by former President Olusegun Obasanjo was both a national disaster and colossal waste. It is also understandable that the previous one failed to fuse us as a nation of diverse ethnic nationalities together. I understand it all. I also understand that in his draconic manner, the former president picked his ‘boys’ and brought them to Abuja with a presidential stamp of a national gathering and we allowed it. Here now is a chance for yet another platform for us to talk.
The formula for participation shouldn’t be a complex one for all the various ethnic nationalities and interest groups. The youth should nominate their representative to the gathering and mobilise support though the social media. The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) has, since the crises that greeted it Congresses exposed it as a sell-out group willing to be used by politicians and at such can’t lead discussion on behalf of about 70 million youths. The women representation should be advanced by independent professional interest group not the partisan market women association and/or the already hijacked National Council for Women Development (NCWD).
It is very important to caution the 13-man committee headed by Dr. Femi Okurounmu not to encourage politicians to plant their antics of 2015 general elections into the consciousness and heart of the confab. Any attempt by them should be resisted.
I hear some state governments are already threatening to boycott the gathering because of ‘perceived’ political undertone that Jonathan wants to use it as Brownie point to return to power in 2015. If any of them feel otherwise, they should go the confab and counter such moves and save us their pettiness.
There is absolutely nothing wrong to converge in a given national platform to talk about issues of national importance like peaceful co-existence and how to pull Nigeria from economic doldrums to an enviable height in a comity of great nations. Please let’s not talk about rotational presidency and distribution of national wealth – let’s talk about creating more wealth instead. It is time for Mujaheed Ansari Dokubo to come forth to tell us why we must re-elect president Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, even though he is no longer a Nigerian; it is time for Professor Ango Abdullahi to tell all of us why presidency must return to their own side, the north; it is going to be a platform where a minority tribes will voice out their frustrations of living in a country where key leadership positions are shared according to ethnic might. Let’s meet so we can talk about project Nigeria. Who is afraid of dialogue in democratic trials like ours? It is time for the youth to meet the older generation whom we first read their names in elementary educational textbooks at are still holding sway today. The time has come for us to talk about our commonwealth and what we should do with our earnings. Let’s talk, biko!
I am @IGONO on twitter
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