Was There A Country? Part 2 By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

It is evident that Nigeria has been so abused to a breaking point, that the only thing that seems plausible now is a national dialogue in form of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). The alternatives to this national dialogue are better imagined than experienced. If there is consensus on the unity of Nigeria because it is “difficult” to split it along “ethnic” lines without resorting to wars, which I am sure no “ethnic” group is ready for, the question then becomes, how do we live peacefully in harmony so that we can build a prosperous nation, pull 99 percent of our population out of poverty, and become a global contender.

 

We can distinguish four strands of opinions on the SNC debate. There are those who argue that the outcome of a SNC should be, as a minimum, the splitting of the country into at least four parts. What this group is pushing for in reality is a conference of Ethnic  Nationalities (CEN) because a Sovereign National Conference in Nigeria cannot be reduced to a conference of ethnic nationalities. To use Edwin Madunagu’s “wall” analogy, a wall is not the sum total of the blocks used in erecting it. If you take the wall as Nigeria, and the blocks as the different ethnic nationalities in the country, you realise that you need more than blocks to erect the wall, and once the wall has been erected, it becomes almost impossible to retrieve the individual blocks in their original state.

The next group is made up of those who like to bury their head in the sand. They argue that the unity of Nigeria should be taken for granted. They talk glibly about the indivisibility of Nigeria. They fail to realize, or refuse to accept, because it suits their immediate interest, that Nigeria is a country in name only; that what holds the country together is the State and its instruments of coercion. The third group, made up of genuine patriots and democrats, argue that the way out of the current political, social, and economic quagmire is the quick convocation of an SNC, taking into account all the contending interests in the country. The major issue before this group is the procedure for convoking the SNC.  

The fourth group on the SNC debate consists of those who argue that the problem of Nigeria is basically that of corruption and bad leadership. That if we tackle these problems, we will be able to eradicate poverty and would not have the kind of centrifugal pull that threatens to rip the country apart. While I agree in principle that the twin evils of corruption and bad leadership are about the greatest problems we have in Nigeria, my point of departure is that to take this position is to presume that we have a nation and it is functional. My response to those pushing this mantra of corruption and bad leadership is that they are putting the cart before the horse. Whether we like it or not we can’t deny the fact that ethnic, religious, political, and social tensions exist in Nigeria. They have always been with us even though they have been heightened by poverty and underdevelopment.

It is too simplistic to argue that once we are able to conduct free and fair elections and have credible leaders, we are on our way to building a prosperous nation. While it is correct to posit that that we can’t have good politics and build sustainable democratic institutions in an underdeveloped nation, it  is equally important to note that the “new” leaders we envisage won’t fall from the sky. So how do we create the environment for these leaders to emerge? The answer is that as a nation, we have to develop workable and acceptable rules of political, economic, and social engagement. Today, even though the constitution talks about states and geo-political zones, the country is still divided along the same fault lines that have made unity impossible and development unattainable.

Now that it is apparent that a Sovereign National Conference is one of the very few realistic and safe options to the “clear and present danger” facing the country, the next step is, how do we achieve it?

Genuine democrats and progressives have the key to unraveling this mystery. Of course, it is going to be a long and arduous road.  For them, political openings have been few and far between. There was an opening between 1993 and 1999, unfortunately they failed to take advantage of it.

Afraid to go for power, they allowed all manner of political miscreants to take over the political space. That miscalculation set the radical movement many years backwards. Today, those mass organizations that were used as platforms for mobilization -- Democratic Alternative, CDHR, United Action for Democracy, JACOM, Campaign for Democracy, etc -- have all but disappeared. If progressives had their structures in place, the oil subsidy/Occupy Nigeria protests provided a veritable opportunity for the mass to attain political power and change the course of our nation’s history This shortcoming notwithstanding, the protests showed the willingness and readiness of the mass of our people to be mobilized for change.

The question is no longer whether, because the alternatives are too dire, but when and how? For those who genuinely believe in resolving the problems of the country through an SNC rather than wars, this is the time to begin to organize and mobilize. The quest for the control of the political space to save Nigeria and bring about change will be a difficult task because power, especially of the conservative and reactionary hue, will not concede anything. Those who have suddenly found themselves in power are not thinking of using same to better the lives of Nigerians. Their only interest is how to consolidate and perhaps perpetuate themselves. And they will do anything to achieve their aim and ultimately imperil the nation.

We can’t continue to patch up our problems. Maybe there was a country. If the problem was that it never belonged to the people, then now is the time to reclaim it as a civic space, and humanize it. These times call for a progressive movement that will face up to problems frontally. The focus of this movement should be threefold: (1) hasten the convocation of the SNC by any means necessary (2) define the role radical patriots, genuine democrats, progressives, and popular masses would play at the conference (3) define the shape of the New Nigeria we envisage.
Concluded.

Onumah is author of Time to Reclaim Nigeria. The book will be presented to the public in Lagos on Saturday, April 14, 2012.

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Help us oh God

The devil and his agents are scavenging on the imaginary nation called Nigeria.We need serious divine intervention to be free from their hold.For all of us have become aliens in this space.

SNC is needed to address the

SNC is needed to address the following issues-

Do we believe in the sancity of berlin conference of 1885. Allreasonable people should abhor it.

Do we believe in colonialial invasion of 1900 and amalgamation of 1914. All reasonable people should abhor it.

If we abhor all these events which happened without our involvement, then we should sit down and find out whether separation is the best way forward

Ijaw leader, Clark, says the

Ijaw leader, Clark, says the North can't force Jonathan to leave in 2015. The Ijaws have just started to enjoy the presidency. The remainder of the South-south says they are being marginalized by the Ijaws. The Igbos say it is their turn and they want the presidency in 2015. The North Central says if it must come to the North, then it should go to them. The core North, whatever that means, insist that they have not finished their tenure which was truncated with the death of Yar'Adua. The South-West already has it own flag! Where do we go from here? Confusion, confusion, confusion. Who will save Nigeria?

Amalgamation 1914 Nigeria is a creation of man, not of God

Thankz comrade Onumah Chido, your exposition is well articulated and straight to the point. But will these kleptomaniac and rapacious politicians (people destroyed people) in the corridor of power allowed National dialoque in a form of SNC?
Coz as it stand now, Abacha one man constitution favours them. Therefore let the youths including boko haramist unite in one accord and dear these purported evil leaders through violent change just like arab spring or what do you think? ....

Ijaw leader, Clark, says the

Ijaw leader, Clark, says the North can't force Jonathan to leave in 2015. The Ijaws have just started to enjoy the presidency. The remainder of the South-south says they are being marginalized by the Ijaws. The Igbos say it is their turn and they want the presidency in 2015. The North Central says if it must come to the North, then it should go to them. The core North, whatever that means, insist that they have not finished their tenure which was truncated with the death of Yar'Adua. The South-West already has it own flag! Where do we go from here? Confusion, confusion, confusion. Who will save Nigeria?

Wither Nigeria?

Ijaw leader, Clark, says the North can't force Jonathan to leave in 2015. The Ijaws have just started to enjoy the presidency. The remainder of the South-south says they are being marginalized by the Ijaws. The Igbos say it is their turn and they want the presidency in 2015. The North Central says if it must come to the North, then it should go to them. The core North, whatever that means, insist that they have not finished their tenure which was truncated with the death of Yar'Adua. The South-West already has it own flag! Where do we go from here? Confusion, confusion, confusion. Who will save Nigeria?

Time to Reclaim Nigeria

I'll be at that book presentation. It is now or never to reclaim Nigeria!

Time to Reclaim Nigeria

I'll be at that book presentation. It is now or never to reclaim Nigeria!

TO YOUR TENTS

TO YOUR TENTS OH NIGERIA

The cause of corruption in Nigeria!!!

The root cause of the deep seated corruption in Nigeria is the structural defect of the country. If the regions or states stop depending on han outs from the centre, they will be forced to put their houses in order. When the regions generate funds by taxing their people and a few idiots in public office steal that money, the people will arise and hold them accountable. Tell me of any community which taxes its citizens in Nigeria to do a project and the people appointed to run the affairs steal the money and get away with it? I challeng anybody to show me one!!! For as long as the country retains the defective structure, and the centre shares money to all, it is GOVERNMENT MONEY and it is meant to be stolen and not accounted for. To stop corruption in Nigeria, return to true fiscal federalism...lets depend less on oil money hand out. Lets do taxation and see if corruption will be this monumental.

Essay From matured mind. But how do we bring the north to SNC?

Obviously, people who canvass for SNC are mostly from the south. But does this essayist think of how to get the north participate in SNC? Apparently, the north believes it must hold on strongly to Nigeria as is currently structured to benefit it, so how does the south get the north to SNC table? And if the conferees refuse to agree and Nigeria gets heated up to breaking point as envisaged by some, what shall be next on the agenda? Let Nigeria break? Call in the military to hold the forth? Or return to where we were from the beginning? None of these scenarios may be pleasing to most people.
Solution should have been for the north to agree to yield, through constitution amendment, some of the structural and political advantages it has enjoyed all these decades since end of civil war. If it refuses, disintegration may follow.

OUR INSENSITIVE AND LOOTING SENATE AS A BLOCKING FACTOR.

With a take-home pay of $1.7million,the average Nigerian plundering senator earns more than three times the salary of Barrack Obama,the president of the USA and the leader of the civilized world,thier feeding is catered for and all sorts of outrageous allowances approved by them for themselves all at the expense of the hapless tax-payer.David Mark and his senate present a big threat to Nigerian unity,a rubber stamp senate they work on criminal compromise,the intrest of the senators come before that of the country as they abuse the trust placed on the senate by the constitution.
Election rigging brought most senators to power so those who argue that the senate and lower house as the route to sorting out Nigeria are foolish and unrealistic,they represent themselves,not Nigerians.

The time to realistically debate Nigeria's future is now!

Very illuminating!There is no doubt that the situation in the country calls for urgent reapraisal of the terms of the union.The challenge however remains the need for concensus on representation at the dialogue. However, the challenge of organising a national dialogue without some form of representations on basis of ethnic or geopolitical consideration becomes more daunting in the light of the deepseated role which ethnic factor play in our politics. Regardless however, I agree totally that the time to dialogue realistically on the future of Nigeria is now or never!

The time to realistically debate Nigeria's future is now!

Very illuminating!There is no doubt that the situation in the country calls for urgent reapraisal of the terms of the union.The challenge however remains the need for concensus on representation at the dialogue. However, the challenge of organising a national dialogue without some form of representations on basis of ethnic or geopolitical consideration becomes more daunting in the light of the deepseated role which ethnic factor play in our politics. Regardless however, I agree totally that the time to dialogue realistically on the future of Nigeria is now or never!

IF THE INJUSTICES OF THE PAST ARE NOT ADDRESSED,FORGET NIGERIA

The injustices of the past gave rise to bad governance,corruption,nepotism,tribalism and all sorts of ills wrecking havock on our society.The only group of Nigerians who stand against a SNC,are those plundering and looting,backed by those who looted in the past,they put the false excuse of "preserving unity" as a smokescreen to maintain the dysfunctional status-quo,they would prefer to wish away the past when the effects are pretty much the cause of our prevailing problems.
The plunderers and looters especially the senate present a stumbling block to our unity,thier selfish obstinacy has an inevitable end-game which is better imagined.The continuous suppression of the people's wish will breed more rebellion and ultimately an implosion,I hope they see beyond thier noses soon.