(AN OPEN LETTER TO FELLOW COMMON NIGERIANS)
Are Sovereign Conferences Inevitable in Nigeria?
“Once again, let us leave the political fools alone to their electioneering, to their religious and political games of mammon worship, and to their blood-shedding activities in the name of power. Their electioneering has nothing to do with the project of Sovereign National Conference. If anything at all, it is a diversionary tactic to dull the pain they have caused Nigerians and to lure Nigerians away from the critical issue of restructuring Nigeria. We must no longer fall for this kind of low-level deception anymore. Let us be prepared to face this trouble of tyranny in our time so that we can gladly and proudly bequeath peace, freedom, justice and equality to our children.”
SAM ABBD ISRAEL, January 2003
Dear Fellow Common Nigerians
We thank The Creator of life for sparing our lives during the course of the mayhem unleashed on us by fellow eminent Nigerians in the name of democracy and party electioneering. We are the survivors that live to tell the tales of chicanery, hooliganism, murder, assassination, intimidation, threat to life and property, burglary, mugging, lawlessness, etc. that accompanied the so-called political elections. Now that the election is over and done away with (we hope) it seems we are hearing the whisper of rumours that the Federal Government is considering the need to organise national conference and to restructure local governments as means to resolving some nagging national problems. This rumour, if it is true, does not amuse us one bit for it is sad news.
Yet, we notice that eminent Nigerian writers are already drawing out and sharpening their daggers to silence such initiative wherever it is coming from. This attitude of throwing stones of derision at every move to resolve national issues through dialogue is most unfortunate because those privileged Nigerians that are threatening fire and brimstone have unique access to pertinent data on Nigeria situations. Hence, it is natural to expect that these eminent Nigerians should be seeing more clearly than anybody else in the polity the fundamental problems facing us as peoples. As it were, it seems the intention of some eminent Nigerian writers is not of a desire to throw light on this particular national issue but to obfuscate it as cleverly and sophistically as possible.
At this juncture in the misery-laden history of Nigeria, is it not necessary to ask ourselves,
- Why is it that some Nigerians have ceaselessly been calling for a restructuring of the Nigeria State?
- Are the proponents of sovereign national conference spoilers and troublemakers? Are these Nigerians less patriotic than other Nigerians who support and prefer the status quo?
- Why should the proponents of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) be suggesting fundamental restructuring of the political arrangements and of the devolution of power to the local level for resource development, control, management and distribution?
- Why are pro-national-sovereign-conference Nigerians not contented with just the reformation of any of the offending structures of governance or with plastering and painting over the cracks in the political walls or with muddling-through the problems or just simply relying on time and fate to take care of the political problems?
This writer would like to believe that if each of us seek answers sincerely to the above questions, what we shall find might help in disabusing the minds of anti-sovereign-national-conference Nigerians that the proponents of SNC are not villains after all. The answers might help them to see that Nigerians who are pro-sovereign-national-conference are also faithful patriots and that their intentions and desires are noble since they mean well for all Nigerians rather than just the few well-placed eminent Nigerians.
Every thinking common Nigerian should know by now that the status quo soothes the eminent Nigerians fine as well as their underlings who derive much benefit without sweat from the present set up. However, for the common Nigerians who happen to be in the majority and who bear the full burden of the national tragedy, we need to remind our eminent compatriots that we have the human rights to complain and to scream as loudly as we can about this present arrangement. We also have the moral right to draw attention of all fair-minded Nigerian to the fact that the present structure of governance is killing us rather than deliver for our welfare. If eminent Nigerian writers cannot understand this moral and ethical fact of blatant injustices, then we have no option but to look elsewhere for solutions.
As noted by several commentators, there seems to be a revival for Sovereign National Conference after the last so-called democratic elections. This development has not gone down well with some Nigerians who have not missed the opportunity to sound serious notes of warning to remind us of the futility of such retrogressive and divisive ideas. It is quite natural for Homo sapiens to see same issue at different angles. It is definitely against our nature for every member of a family, community, or state to see and think alike at the same time. At few times when such unanimity of thought, purpose and action do occur, it has been recognised as a supernatural phenomenon. The Germans call such supernormal events Zeitgeist, which the dictionary defines as ‘the spirit of the times or the trend of thought and feeling in a period’.
Recognising this human perceptual limitation or uniqueness makes it easy for enlightened people never to take offence when other seemingly more knowledgeable people ridiculed and rubbished their well thought-out position on issues. Enlightened people understand that the fault is not with their listeners but with the messenger who has failed to deliver his message convincingly. This writer has no qualm to associate with the so-called LOUD Nigerians that have been screaming their lungs out on the need to organise forums to discuss our common problems as Nigerians.
Taking our cues from the lessons of history on the origin and nature of ideas, we realised that the desire to solve common social problems, more than anything else, motivated thinkers in the past to propose alternate views that run contrary to the conventional wisdom of their days. It is obvious from the logic of the assertions they propounded that these thinkers did not just pick their theses from the hats but from results of meticulous analysis, cogent reasoning and precise logic judiciously aimed at tackling the abnormal reality of life facing their societies. It is also clear that the passion that motivated such thinkers was love, altruism and the desire to lift up their society from a primitive and inhuman state to a civilised and humane state of existence.
However, when such theses threatened the status quo of power relations, history also tells us that the few who were gaining or hoping to gain from the present arrangement and compelled by self-interest did usually put up fights onto death to retain the punitive and injurious social order regardless of its debilitating effect on the larger population. One is naturally amazed when some Nigerian writers wilfully throw out glaring evidences while analysing the pros and cons of SNC. They will often ask derogatorily, why SNC? Why can you not allow NASS to solve the constitutional problems of political restructuring? Why can you not suggest necessary amendments to the constitution? Why are you refusing to press for a reform of the political institutions? Why do you not allow democratic reforms and natural evolution to take care of the political problems? Why do you have to waste scarce resources on a project that may not yield the desired result?
Reading through recent commentaries on national sovereign conference, we could not help but wonder why any objective observer of Nigeria’s convoluted history could feel confident that the group of Nigerians presently in assembly at Abuja, as senators and members of the National House of Representatives, are capable and trustworthy to fine tune the military imposed Nigeria Constitution.
Have we forgotten so soon that some of these honourable or dishonourable members got their mandate to speak on our behalf and in our name with suspect votes or in some cases without the votes of members of their constituency? Are the Nigerian political class of 2003 friends to the principles of equality, justice, and liberty? Are we no longer aware or are we now pretending not to know anymore some of the despicable things these people did to ‘win’ their seats at the national assembly? Are we saying we did not know that these people broke all the letters and the spirit of liberty, justice and equality in their desire to misgovern Nigeria?
Knowing some or all of these heinous acts, how can we trust them to fashion anything of virtue and of excellence for Nigerians? Are we going to allow the sordid experiences of the last four years to go to waste without picking the pertinent lessons? Do the eminent Nigerian writers still believe that Nigerians are so gullible to the point of throwing their lives forever into the hands of these people again? Is that what eminent Nigerian writers are asking from common Nigerians? Are they expecting common Nigerians to close their eyes to the reality of a biting and inhuman critical situation and to lock up their minds from facing the truth of Nigeria’s decadence, which is fast speeding into an abyss of moral, ethical and physical decay?
This writer, like many awakened common Nigerians, did not just stumble on the idea of SNC by chance or as one buying into a popular conventional wisdom among disillusioned Nigerians. It took serious research and analysis of the social, economic and political situations of Nigeria to arrive at the conclusion that, in the interest of the suffering common Nigerians and of all Nigerians for that matter, a fundamental restructuring of the political landscapes of Nigeria is necessary, desirable and inevitable. We have documented the report of these studies in pamphlets and Internet publications.
In a pamphlet titled, To Your Tents O! Nigerians, we looked at the institutions of governance – civil service, civil society, traditional rulers, ‘militicians’, politicians, and the professionals – to ascertain whether any of them was fit to support democratic institutions if the military finally decided to relinquish power in 1999. Unfortunately and from the findings, we did not find any of these institutions capable of giving birth to a healthy democratic baby or even capable of nurturing a nascent democratic baby to full grown if it is secured by legal adoption.
Again, we looked at the economic profile of the nation in The Winners and the Losers; we could only see an abyss of insurmountable financial debts, camouflaged chattel slavery, social quagmire and economic hopelessness. It was obvious through the findings of these researches that Nigeria is a failed state. We found that despite the fruitless effort of governments at laundering the image of Nigeria, the truth of the matter boils down to this shocking fact: Nigeria state is bankrupt economically, morally and spiritually. Faced with such devastating revelations, it becomes exceedingly difficult to advise fellow Nigerians to patch up the moribund structures of the failed state. It will be share hypocrisy and very irresponsible of any Nigerian having such insight and knowledge on Nigeria to advise on anything short of a social revolution.
Now after four years of nurturing the adopted nascent democracy, all the nations are worse off for wear, tear and abuse. The politicians, rather than salvage what remained of the nations after the pauperisation projects by the military boys, decided to take us through another spree of recklessness, licentiousness and larceny. The disillusionment among Nigerians has grown deeper, the powerlessness has become overwhelming and the hopelessness has become encompassing.
We do not have to rehash the sad experiences of the last four years. We are all living witnesses but it seems some of us are truthful witnesses while some are untruthful witnesses. This peculiarity of championing ‘true falsehood’ among Homo sapiens is also normal. It is quite common for humankind to be very sincere in the claims we make without realising that we might be sincerely wrong. We must allow each of the witnesses to face the jury so that the jury of our peers can separate falsehood from the truth.
In our summary statement to the jury, we shall advice them to consider the case of why sovereign conferences among Nigerians at various levels of social organisation is inevitable. We shall ask them to consider this important issue with reference to three core principles of freedom, equality and justice as contained in the purported Nigeria Constitution. We shall draw their attention to the noble principles found in the prelude to the Constitution, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolve, … to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, …”. Our questions to the jury are:
- Has the Nigeria State ever fulfilled the noble promises of the constitution, either in the past or in the present?
- Is there any sign that the power-addicts both the principal and minor political agents who are compulsively desirous to holding the rein of political office have any intention or plan to accomplish these noble objectives?
- How long must common Nigerians continue to hang about on hope and in vain as their political leaders take them to the altar of mammon for slaughter and sacrifice, year in year out?
We must leave the judgment to the jury to decide.
Why do we feel nothing but sadness at the rumour that the Federal Government is proposing something in the direction of sovereign or national conferences?
It is our considered opinion that the present political arrangement of governance that started its beginning without a known constitution is fundamentally illegal. In 1999, the politicians contested for election without seeing a copy of any written contract or memorandum as to the principles that will direct the business of government. Those who participated in the 1999 elections were all collaborators in a conspiracy that planned to install renegades and common criminals on Nigeria as democratic leaders. They succeeded and the result cards, after four years of something resembling a locust invasion of the political space, showed a dismal failure.
The 2003 elections also followed in the same spirit of conspiracy that again planned and succeeded to retain political powers in the hands of trusted hoodlums. The illegal usurpation of a legitimate democratic government that started in 1966 has continued until now. In effect, we need to remind those Nigerians hiding under the cover of a Nigeria Constitution to denigrate the efforts of other Nigerians promoting the idea of sovereign conferences that:
- There is no record that Nigeria has a constitution formally ratified and accepted by all Nigerians.
- That the document, which commentators glibly called Nigeria Constitution, is a covert document of subversion designed to enslave the nations of Nigeria.
- That this document, written by faceless persons (we are not even sure if the final writers and editors were Nigerians), is an imposition on Nigerians by the fiat of a departing discredited military despot.
- And that we, the common Nigerians, will continue to treat the claims of eminent Nigerians who try to hoodwink us with this illegal imposition as fraudulent intrigues.
Hence with this backdrop, how can we accept to amend a fundamentally and morally flawed document whose origin we do not know and whose cardinal covert intention, the continued enslavement of the peoples and nations of Nigeria, we do not agree with?
Bearing this historical fact in mind, we believe the present governments in Nigeria should have no business organising any sovereign or national conference. Common Nigerians should advise the members of this government to continue with their ignoble business, which every Nigerian knows has nothing to do with our welfare. The awakened common Nigerians should continue to shout as loudly as they can and from every rooftop until we wake up all the sleeping common Nigerians.
From the vivid records of the treatment meted to us by eminent Nigerians in political garbs, common Nigerians should have no business with the so-called eminent Nigerians. We are more than doubly sure that our spiritual, economic and political redemption is not and has never been in the hands of eminent Nigerians. We believe our redemption is in the hands of each Nigerian both common and eminent when fully awakened to their responsibilities of self-governance.
In addition, the sacred goal of personal emancipation and national sovereignty is achievable as soon as each of us can wake up from our stupid slumbers. However, as long as common Nigerians decide to bury their heads in sand or decide to put their fate, trust and hope in the hands of eminent criminals occupying the seats of political power in all the cities of Nigeria, then shall our suffering continues.
Let each of us continue to give our best to the tasks of nation building, as each understands it. There is no compulsion in matters that impact on freedom because the journey of national sovereignty must start from individual sovereignty. The knowledge of personal sovereignty is a spiritual revelation, which comes to those seriously seeking understanding about the truth of existence. Without a spiritual enlightenment, none of us can understand the truth of freedom. Without knowing the meaning of freedom or experiencing the joy of spiritual freedom, the human issues that pertain to justice, equality and sovereignty will remain as mere dogma for futile intellectual debates and endless pontificating.
In essence, there must first be a spiritual awakening among Nigerians to the true meaning of freedom closely followed by the thirst for spiritual emancipation and the hunger for political freedom before sovereign conferences can begin proper. Therefore, for now we would like to appeal to the heavyweight intellectual fighters in Nigeria that there should be no need for contentious or abusive arguments among eminent or common Nigerian writers on this solemn matter. We must continue to reason together as per the evidences on the ground concerning our economic, social and political wretchedness.
For Nigerians to continue holding on to the nostalgia of bygone days and the sentiments of Nigeria as a giant of Africa or to keep on day-dreaming about conquering and dominating others within and outside Nigeria is surely the real ‘road map to nowhere’. We sincerely believe that with patience and brotherly love and with open, honest mind to thread the path of common sense we shall sooner than later find a common ground on which we can build new noble foundations for the construction and beautification of our various nations.
However, for any Nigerian, either eminent or common, to expect that the ill-fated political structures and the various decadent institutions of governance in Nigeria can continue as presently constituted is a mirage or a grandiose delusion. Nigerians have two options.
It is either we allow love, humility and the use of our intelligence to undertake the necessary fundamental restructuring of the political space for the benefit of all or we allow our ego, selfishness and stupidity to take care of the ugly situation to the detriment of all.
The choice is ours.
For those Nigerians who have taken the pain to analyse our situation objectively without hidden motives, one thing is crystal clear, it is no longer a question of no sovereign conferences but a question of how, when and where.
In The Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Common Nigerian
27th June 2003