Let Nigeria’s (National) Dialogue Hold

Written by James Okere

Let Nigeria’s (National) Dialogue Hold; The sacrifice we shall make and the understanding we shall show when this National Dialogue begins would guarantee Nigerians a better future.

For quite a long time, Nigerians from all shades of opinion have severally called for the convocation of a national dialogue or conference. Some have even advocated for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC).

Opinions varies depending the side of the divide one is approaching the issue. The most important thing is that Nigerians are of the opinion that we should talk or discuss to better shape our country.

This discuss have become imperative with various events that have taken place in Nigeria or based on the various views expressed by Nigerians. These events and views were not centripetal in nature.

The author of this piece has also in the past advocated for national conference in Nigeria. The author in year 2011 expressed his view in his book titled: Nigeria By The Year 2040: Path To National Unity and Stability (A Nigerian Thought). In the book, I canvassed for Constitutional Transitory Rotating Zoning of key political offices in Nigeria for a period of 36 years beginning from year 2003 to end in year 2039.

Also in December 2001, still in connection with the conference – I wrote and published in Nigerian Newspapers an article titled “Discuss Nigeria Before Year 2003” all in a bid to have a settled political leadership setting in Nigeria.

So far, the thoughts and actions of Nigerians have given much credence to the issue of dialogue or discuss in Nigeria. No issue has given this basis much more than the non settlement of political leadership question. The growth of ethnic militias became popular with the geo-political zone of their dominance. These groups include: Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Arewa Peoples Congress (APC), Movement of the Sovereignty of Ogoni Peoples Congress (MOSOP), Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC) etc.

The actions of these militia groups do portend greater danger in view of its centrifugal tendencies to the corporate existence of Nigeria. This ethnic inclination had equally manifested in the manner each geo-political zones have clamoured to produce the President of Nigeria, a major issue we would not shy away from until we settle it in a discuss or conference.

In view of the above, the President – Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan during the 53rd independence (1st October, 2013) broadcast to the nation saw the need and set up a national dialogue advisory committee. In his words he said “Our administration has taken cognizance of suggestions over the years by well-meaning Nigerians on the need for a national dialogue on the future of our beloved country. I’m an advocate of dialogue. When there are issues that stoke tension and bring about friction, it makes perfect sense for the interested parties to come together to discuss”.

On 2nd October 2013, the President went further to release the names of the Advisory Committee members on National Dialogue with Dr. Femi Okurunmu as Chairman, and Dr. Akilu Indabawa as Secretary. By 7th October, 2013 the President inaugurated the Committee stating as follows: “Today, we further strengthen our understanding, expand the frontiers of our inclusiveness and deepen our bond as one people under God”.

The importance of this assignment was proved by the Committee who worked tirelessly and on 18th December, 2013 submitted her 4,000 page report contained in 16 volumes after their interaction with Nigerians in 13 cities across the country.

Nigerians from all walks of lives should reflect and note that the national conference or dialogue is long over due. Nigerians should therefore strive to be part of this proposed conference in view of the fact that based on our population, resources, geographical spread, we need one and another for a positive development. Nigerians must make sacrifice as we discuss with one and another early this year 2014 as promised by the President.

I must with all humility state that one issue that the proposed national dialogue would consider and settle is the issue of political zoning of key offices like – Presidency, Vice-President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker etc.

After deep reflection about the Nigerian polity, I have identified constitutional zoning of offices for a transitory period as a key factor that must be agreed and settled to enable Nigerians have a settled polity. I captured this in my book quoted above. I also captured this view in my published articles including: Discuss Nigeria Before Year 2003, (2001), Constitutional Zoning is Inevitable (2002), 2003 Presidency: Let us Dialogue (2002), if the National Conference holds (2002). In addition during the November 2012 review exercise on the 1999 constitution, part of the memo I submitted at the Owerri Senatorial exercise was the issue of zoning of political offices and constitutional zoning of the Presidency.

I, in all honesty wish Nigerians well as we discuss. We must make sacrifice as to shape the future of millions of our people. Let us be positive with this national dialogue project.

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