A SPEECH PRESENTED BY THE EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF AMUWO ODOFIN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, LAGOS, COMRADE AYODELE ADEWALE ON NATIONAL CONFERENCE DIALOGUE & 2015 ELECTIONS : THE CHALLENGES OF MAKING A NEW NIGERIA, AT THE PUBLIC LECTURE/ AWARD PRESENTATION & LAUNCHING OF YOUTH MAGAZINE- “AYM-TO-APC YOUTH:…THE JOURNEY SO FAR” AT AJIMSON EVENTS CENTER, IGANDO-IKOTUN LCDA, LAGOS
Permit me to start this speech with a quote bythe Governor Emeritus of Lagos and National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu “Yes, we need to talk. I remain an ardent supporter of the call for a national conference that is sovereign and truly open to all. That is the only route out of the woods. We must bring Nigeria back on the path of true federalism. A staged-managed affair scripted and monitored to achieve the narrow political aims of narrow political minds in Abuja will do nothing but whet Confusion’s appetite. Anything short of a Sovereign National Conference will be like trying to apply a bandage to a tornado.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is indeed a great honour to stand in your midst and discuss an issue as germane in our contemporary society as this forums subject matter-------- “ON NATIONAL CONFERENCE DIALOGUE & 2015 ELECTIONS, THE CHALLENGES OF MAKING A NEW NIGERIA.”
Distinguished audience that Nigerians are itching to talk has never been in doubt. What is, however, doubtful is the purpose of the talk and what it is expected to achieve. For instance, would the talk lead to the resolution of the nagging issues that are believed to be creating friction in the polity?
Federalism, resource control, state police, rotational presidency, federal character or even the outright disintegration of the country which some have suggested as the way to go for the country. Or would it, in the words of William Shakespeare, be full of sound and fury but signifying nothing? These are the questions that require urgent answers before us as Nigerians today.
There is no gain saying the fact that the federation of Nigeria, as it is known today, has never really been one homogeneous country. This obvious fact notwithstanding, the former colonial master decided to keep the country one in order to effectively control her vital resources for their economic interests.
Thus, for administrative convenience the Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914 and the name Nigeria was christened by the wife of Lord Lugard, Mrs Flora Shaw. Thereafter the only thing we had in common was the name of the country since each side had different administrative set – up. This alone was an insufficient basis for true unity.
Under normal circumstances the amalgamation ought to have brought the various peoples together and provided a firm basis for the arduous task of establishing closer cultural, social, religious, and linguistic ties vital for true unity among the people. But alas, there was division, hatred, unhealthy rivalry, and pronounced disparity in development.
The root cause of our national tragedies is the fundamental defects that have always afflicted the process of determining every constitutional frame-work of the polity.
Our constitutional arrangements since 1914 to date have never truly reflected the political, economic, social, cultural and religious realities of the country.
Above all, the people of the country have never had the opportunity to make inputs into, accept or reject any constitutional frame-work through a referendum.
Consequently, the masses of our people have always been treated as aliens in all constitutional processes from 1914 to 1999 as all constitutional frame-works have always been imposed on them whether or not they like them.
Distinguished, it is difficult to understand why a national dialogue is coming months after Nigeria expended billions of human and financial resources on a constitutional amendment exercise.
The begging question now is: What happens to the recently-concluded constitutional amendment processes? Will the amendments be suspended or annulled? Aren’t the outcomes of SNC supposed to be encoded in some instrument to guide inter and intra-regional relations in the future? Will that document be different from or superior to the constitution?
The composition of the National Dialogue advisory committee is another issue profusely injecting pessimism in the proposed venture.
Nigerians know that putting one or two persons of repute in a committee to give some scent of legitimacy to an unpopular activity is an old trick. Those famed for Jonathan-for-2015-singsong have unsurprisingly, been named as members of the advisory committee.
Apart from the above concerns, there are also problems of practical nature which are quite worrisome. One of these, of course, is the timing of the Conference / Dialogue. With the 2015 General Election coming at the beginning of that year, the country has barely one year to prepare for and conduct the election.
As it is, the Presidential Advisory Committee is still at the level of consultations across the country and there is no certainty on how long it will take them to collate and analyse the multifarious views expressed by Nigerians and submit their Report to the President preparatory to the convening of the National Conference. So, all said and done, this exercise will definitely overlap with the 2015 elections.
Another area of concern is the lack of specificity as to the fundamental objectives of the National Conference from the point of view of the Government which set the process in motion. Thus it is up to Nigerians to decide the agenda of the conference.
Compatriots, it is on this core that one begins to doubt the sincerity of the Government on this matter as regards its avowed desire to provide Nigerians with a forum where they could iron out their differences.
In point of fact, presently, these so called differences among Nigerians are not considered particularly serious by any section of this country compared to other problems like insurgency, youth unemployment, kidnappings, armed robberies, banditry, infrastructure deficit, oil theft, unbridled corruption and other abuses of office, by public officers which are undermining the very well being of every Nigerian regardless of creed, tribe or section.
I sincerely do not know the magic wand that President Goodluck has that will make the national dialogue a success. Was he not part of the government of Olusegun Obasanjo when nothing came out of the conference they constituted?
It was part of the intrigue of Obasanjo to continue in power and he wanted to use the conference to ratify his ambition. Both Ibrahim Babangida and the late Sanni Abacha all used the conference forum to execute one hidden agenda or the other, the reason nothing came out of them.
It is on this basics that we are calling for a Sovereign National Conference to resolve with the sole objective of designing a new Constitution (the Peoples’ Constitution) for the country which will cast into extinction all the evil tendencies which have conspired to make Nigeria a country, , or we adopt the PRONACO draft constitution through a referendum.
We must pull Nigeria back from the brink with a Constitution made democratically by Nigerians through the SNC and affirmed in a referendum by Nigerians.
The alternative to this path of sanity is to continue disastrously to pretend that all is well. It is time to call a spade a spade and face the reality of our fate squarely, sincerely and courageously, so as to prevent a disintegration of the country.
The Sovereign National Conference being advocated is to rebuild this single sovereign nation from its collapsing foundation, not to tear the country into several sovereign nations.
If we don’t, I shudder to think of the catastrophic consequences to the very existence of the country and its horrible effects on the black race, Black Africa and the world at large.
The only opportunity we have to do this is the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference.
We need to talk, talk and talk ourselves to true peace, genuine justice and appropriate peoples’ Constitution in which all Nigerians will find a fulfillment of their hopes and aspirations as well as unshaken guarantee of peace, stability and prosperity.
Sovereign National Conference will afford us the opportunity to redefine our lost vision. The vision that drove emergence of Nigeria was magnificent; the dream to form a great nation of the largest concentration of black people in the world.
The peoples comprising the country, like the Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Urhobo, Efik, etc., are after all distinguished, accomplished, great and culturally advanced people in their own right. Our lands boast of all sorts of people including the extremely talented humanity.
The Sovereign National Conference will give ethnic nationalities an opportunity to examine the questions that have made Nigeria such a disaster and come up with some answers such as the right of every nationality to have greater control over their resources.
Permit me to use this medium to place on record the efforts of progressives minds such as Late Chief Anthony Enahoro (CFR), Bekolari Ransome Kuti, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof Jadesola Akande, Pa Ayo Opadokun, Admiral Ndubusi Kanu, Comrade Alfred Ilenre, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and others that midwifed the PRO National Conference Organization (PRONACO) draft constitution, which is the panacea to the myriad of problems confronting the nation.
Distinguished audience, it is also instructive to recognize the efforts of some political structures and personalities that have, over time, considered and practically acknowledged the youths as foundation of political developments in Nigeria, by throwing open the political space for youths to explore.
Worthy of mention is the most visible progressive political party in West Africa, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its indefatigable leader, who happens to be my mentor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The recent political revolution in Southwest Nigeria, which saw the emergence of youths assuming key elected offices, is a pointer to the fact that there could be a new dawn, only if the youths are ready to work it through the dusk.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we geared up for another elections, which we hope it will be free and fair, I am more than convinced that the All Progressives Congress(APC) being the flagship of purporseful and alternative government will serve as the oak tree offering shades to Nigerians.
APC will trade in robust ideas and articulate the alternative solutions to the National question, being the product of a determined effort at forging unity and cohesion amongst politicians canvassing an alternative route to the government at the center.
APC as a party will fight corruption, create job opportunities, and ensure security of lives and property of the people by creating conducive atmosphere for sustainable development, as well as put the country back on track for effective utilization of resources.
Finally, I am convinced that Nigeria could yet leap into the comity of decent and developed countries if the leadership question is sincerely and comprehensively addressed.
Thank you for listening
Comrade Ayodele Adewale,
Amuwo Odofin Local Government