The National Conference: Understanding This Moment In History By Jaye Gaskia
Now that the National conference has been inaugurated and has begun its sessions, I find it necessary to return to the question of the historical significance of this particular conference. To be able to grasp this significance it is important for us to be able to understand the dialectics of the context and the moment; the dialectical relationship between the historical context and the historical moment.
What is the historical context? The historical context defines the history in time and space of the agitation for a sovereign national conference, and the reasons and factors that compelled and have been driving that agitation. It also includes the nature and character of the Nigeria nation and state; the contradictions present at the moment of amalgamation, and which have deepened and shaped our existence since amalgation. It is the interaction between and within these contradictions and the social forces and formations embodying them that has produced the demand to refound our nation, the urge for national rebirth, and the drive towards revolutionary social transformation.
The historical moment, on the other hand is shaped by the context of a global crises, that is at once economic, political, social, environmental/ecological and cultural; a comprehensive crises of existential proportions.
This moment in Nigeria is further characterised by the deepening and intensifying socio-economic ferment which has given rise to increased levels of intra and inter class struggles. The most concrete manifestation of these is the turmoil within the ruling class, the increasingling antagonistic nature of the contestation among the political elites; the decline of the once behemoth ruling party; the emergence of an opposition party on the verge of displacing the ruling party; the continous fractitious nature of contestations within both ruling and opposition parties; the life changing impact of the January Uprising, that has increased the level of confidence of the popular masses to mount persistent fight backs against the attack os the treasury looting ruling elites; and the weakening and increasingly isolated character of the presidency.
It is the combination of all of these factors within both the historical context and the historical moment; that makes this national conference a concession wrested from the ruling class; and that makes it an opportunity. But this opportunity is only a potential; a potential that needs to be activated and realised; hence our conscious decision to robustly and critically engage with the National Conference and its processes.
However, because we not only recognise that this represents an opportunity, but also that this opportunity is a mere potential that requires to be activated and realised; we also understand that our robust engagement must be not only within the halls of the conference, but also outside the conference, and very critically on the streets and in the neighbourhoods, as well as in our work places and on our campuses.
This robust inside and outside engagement is the condition for altering the balance of class forces and social interests within the halls of the conference and also decisively influence the outcome of the conference. It is why we have called on Nigerians to actively engage with the conference; and it is why we are committed to proactively organising and mobilising Nigerians to make this robust inside-outside and during-after engagement possible.
We, the pro-democracy civil society delegates, and our allies realise and understand that this critical and active engagement of citizens is our only strenght, the only force that can propel us to influence the conference.
And what is our minimum program? The negotiation and agreement of a binding social charter, one that is a comprehensive listing and recognition of all human rights – civil, political, social, cultural, and economic rights. And a binding social charter that is actionable, justiceable and enforceable. One that will also be embodied in anew constitution. We are speaking here of the right to work, right to housing, right to health, right to education, etc among others. Any government must give an annual account in a state of the Nation rteport of the progress being made towards realing these rights and the social charter.
Now some have said this conference is not a sovereign national conference, yes it is not, but we have also always historically insisted that the agitation for an SNC, is an insurrectionary agitation and demand, and that only an insurrection that is already victorious or that is at the point of winning victory can convene the SNC! We also know that any process of intensified class struggle that this conference may engender, can alter the balance of forces so much as to lead to its supplanting by an SNC, or its transformation in a modified manner into an SNC. Whatever the case, we shall be there at the heart of those battles.
The minimum that this conference can achieve given the historical moment is to set programatic agenda for the 2015 general election, with the social charter, a new constitution, and political restructuring being key issues. And even in this sense it would have been a success and our engagement would have been worth the while.
UPDATE 2 OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS
The National Conference resumed sitting on Monday 24th and began debating the rules that will guide its proceedings. The decisive issues for us, were those around the power to elect presiding officers of committees, a battle that we won. We defeated the proposal to have these selected by the Conference presiding officers; as well as a second fall back position of the ruling elites, which was to have a select committee make the selections. We insisted and won the position, against great resistance for each committee once constituted through free choice, gto elect their presiding officers.
This is very important for us, it means that committees can elect and also remove their presiding officers. This is one of the battles to win back control over the conference and its proceedings. And this is decisive because the bulk of conference work will be undertaken in the committees.
With respect to allowances; delegates will paid allowances in bulk every two weeks, this includes accommodation, transportation and feeding. The first transfer for the first twoo weeks have been made. It is N1.4m.
Personally I have always been an organisational person, and have always belonged to political movements. I have a committement to those movements, that I will fulfill. I also have a commitment to the secretariat of the pro-democracy civil society platform, as well as the secretariat of the CSO delegation, which are are committed to fund from our allowances. If we must have this robust inside-outside and during-after engagement, it must be funded, and we shall fund it.
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