ON the eve of 100 years of amalgamation of Southern and Northern Protectorates to form Nigeria and ahead of the 2015 general elections, eminent Nigerians, who converged on Enugu for the 14th National Convention of the Igbo Youth Movement, IYM, recently, had one demand. They want the Federal Government to organize a national conference for Nigerians to discuss the multifarious challenges facing the country and hammer out solutions. Without this, they feared that the country might implode.
Held at Nike Lake Resort; Enugu, under the theme: "National Conference before 2015 Elections, Only Roadmap to a Truly Greater Nigeria," among those who shared this view were legal icon and Chairman of The Patriots, Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN); Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN); Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife; General Alani Akinrinade (rtd); Senator Ben Obi and Col Joe Achuzia.
Hold conference before elections - Ukoh, IYM President
IYM National President, Evangelist Elliot Ukoh, set the tone for the call for confab at the gathering. He said the choice of the theme was apt as the survival of Nigeria as one indivisible nation was under threat. Noting the Igbo youths believe in one Nigeria, he averred that such would not be effective without a restructuring of the country.
The IYM leader said, as a matter of urgency, the conference should be held before the 2015 general elections. "I want to make it very clear that we so much believe in Nigeria, but what we are saying is that the country must be restructured. For such restructuring to be done, we believe that a national conference is inevitable. I don't know why they are delaying it."
After 100 years, we should be able to talk about ourselves - Ezeife
Ezeife, a former government of Anambra State, backed the IYM's call for national conference. "I agree with IYM that Nigeria must have a national dialogue. If not for anything else, after 100 years of our existence, we should be able to talk about ourselves, we will remain together but we have to understand ourselves," he said.
We've a defective constitution - Asemota
Asemota said there was need to convene a national conference before the polls, saying: "The constitution we are operating now is very defective. Even the National Assembly has agreed to that and that is why 60 areas have been short-listed for amendment. The constitution gave us right to vote but no corresponding right to be voted for, rather political parties have right to be voted for. So, to have a credible election demands that we have a people's constitution."
Conference'll halt descent into abyss - Nwabueze
On his part, Nwabueze said the convocation of national conference was overdue. Identifying factors indicating that Nigeria had become a failed state, he said national conference could bring the country back.
According to him, if proactive steps are not taken to checkmate the impending danger, like national conference before 2015 the country might implode.
His words: "This country is on the verge of becoming a failed state. There are so many failed states in Africa and Nigeria is on the verge of getting that status of a failed state. Before now, we didn't know about kidnapping, but it has become a way of life. Did we know about bombings before? But today, churches, schools, offices are being bombed on a daily basis; the worst is that the bombers are not coming from outside the country, we are bombing ourselves".
The former secretary general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, said a nation that could not provide a credible election for her people is a failed state. "In 2003, 2011 we had no credible elections, yet we are talking about democracy. A country that cannot secure social and economic rights for her people is a failed state. Read chapter 2 of Nigeria's constitution and you will understand what I am talking about, they are not leaders but looters."
He said corruption was another disturbing issue in the country, "any state that allows this kind of unbridled corruption is failing."
Lamenting that the citizenry were suffering and living in abject poverty while government officials and National Assembly members have all kinds of allowances running into millions of naira, he said rhetorically: "Tell me if in all these, this country is not on the verge of a failed state?"
He justified the urgent need for a national confab, saying the conference should not be seen as a way of destabilising Nigeria. It is for "us to come together and deliberate; it will lead to peace; it will lead to a constitution whose source of authority is the people, we can't have any substitute for the people."
FG not against conference - Ben Obi
Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, said President Goodluck Jonathan and indeed the Federal Government were not against the convocation of a national conference, but that the agitators of such conference should organize themselves and meet with both the president and leaders of the National Assembly.
His words: "We've all agreed to a national conference but at this time, we should be able to go beyond calling for national conference and initiate action towards realising same. Even the president himself has never said he is opposed to the conference but we need the right calibre of men and women to go to Abuja and demand from both the president who is heading the executive and Senator David Mark who is heading the legislature on the need to convoke a national conference.
"We must move towards solving the problem. Let it be said that there is an eminent delegation demanding for the conference; by then, the ball would have been firmly played into the court of the executive and the legislature, who off course are the proper authorities to convoke such conference."
He challenged Nigerian youths to rise up to the challenge of helping the nation sail out of her current challenges by refusing being used as thugs by politicians during election but to ensure that only people with credible and verifiable integrity are elected into positions of authority in the next election.
"President Jonathan has put in place machineries that would help in conducting credible elections in the country henceforth; today, votes are counting. We tried it in Edo, it worked; we tried it in Ondo, it worked. It will be tried in Ekiti and Osun where elections will come up in a matter of months. It is now left for you, the youths, to equally team up with the president and ensure that your tomorrow is guaranteed," he added.
Akinrinade, Achuzia concur
Akinrinade, a former Chief of the Defence Staff and Achuzia said the situation in the country had gone so bad that our leaders must go beyond rhetoric and seek solution to "what has obviously become a complex problem for the country."
Akinrinade said a nation state could not be ruled by military fiat and attributed the problem of the country to the constitution which was handed over to the country by the military.
Achuzia, on his part, said the existence of many nations within the country was becoming a major threat to its continued existence as one nation, explaining that the national conference would help in addressing the challenge.
Nigeria must be anchored on equity, fairness, justice - Mark Odu
Prof Mark Odu, in a paper presented at the occasion entitled: "Ndigbo: Identity crisis has ended," said the era of cash and carry politics was coming to an end and it was time genuine leaders to start leading the people.
He said, "Ndigbo should have no other identity crisis to move on in Nigeria. They should just make up their minds about what is right, proper and in the general good of Nigeria and use their population to move Nigeria there. It is definite that our population is ample enough to guide Nigeria's positive evolution. Our experience forbids another crash. It also forbids forcible struggle for national leadership. What matters is to identify with the positive volitions of true Nigerians and stick with it for all time."
While urging Ndigbo to hug an enduring Nigeria irrevocably, he said, "no patchwork should be tolerated in the Nigerian project. It is either a country with fairness and equity based on right principles or we sue for confederation of parts."
Other eminent Nigerians at the event include Secretary General of The Patriots, Chief Mike Orabator, Col. Ben Gbulie, Amb. J. U Ayalogu, Prince Emeka Onyeso, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Prof. Felix Oragwu and Rev. Ukandu Ucheya.