POINT OF ORDER: Collusive guilt
Sunday, July 17, 2005
THE National Political Reform Conference has come and gone. It was a success, say some. It failed, others assert. There are some others who are even ready to argue that the conference was not programmed to succeed; that it was an outing designed to abort the genuine people's conference being put together by the Pro-National Conference Organization, PRONACO. As far as they are concerned, only a people's conference can discuss the people's problems and proffer solutions that we have, in our greed over the years, refused to accommodate. Which means that to many, we are the problem.
We here means those of us who run the Nigerian Enterprise, who have run it or have been associated directly or indirectly with running it. We are the President and the Governors, past and present; the members of the national and state assemblies, past and present; council chairmen and councilors, past and present; ministers and commissioners who have served in the various governments, past and present; the military in and outside the barracks, serving and retired; the police, from the IG to the road traffic warden; the highly compromised judiciary that watches the political barometer to ensure that the national boat is not rocked; corporate Nigeria and the managers of the economy; political parties and those who manipulate them visibly during the day and invisibly at night; the money mints which are the conduits for robbing our treasuries; traditional rulers who have seen every actor in government as God's gift to people. In short, we constitute the gatekeepers for vested interests in a Nigeria that must be held on a political and economic leach.
We the guilty ones are not identifiable by how old we are or whether we are men or women or bishop or imam. The guilt is collective, and collusive. In the case of collusive guilt, something you cannot break binds us. We swear our loyalty to powers outside the Road Map which is the Constitution in which the people of this country document what powers they have allocated to those who are called upon to serve them. The National Political Reform Conference has come and gone. It is not true that it was hurriedly put together to take the steam and enthusiasm out of what Enahoro and Wole Soyinka and the civil society were trying to say and articulate so that we can have a country that can work, that works.
The return of Chief Obasanjo was the return of an experienced man who had handed over Nigeria to an elected president 20 years earlier. He had left after launching an operation feed the nation that made my little son of five start growing his vegetables in six empty cans of milk which he tended under the staircase of the house we lived in. I have taken the trip to the past to show that the National Political Reform Conference which has come and gone was not a flash in the pan. At the Eagle Square on May 29, 1999, Chief Obasanjo promised to tackle many areas, 18 or them, which he regarded as urgent and necessary. He would initiate action on them within six months of his tenure.
That is that by December 31, 1999, the areas listed would register work in progress. They included the crisis in oil-producing areas; law and order with particular reference to armed robbery and cultism in our educational institutions; the debt issue; corruption, drugs, organized fraud called 419 activities and crimes leading to loss of lives, properties and investments; infrastructure - water supply, energy, telecommunication, ports, airways, national shipping, Nigerian Railways; job creation and creation of conducive environment for investments; poverty alleviation; health services; Ecomog; political and constitutional dialogue; and women and youth empowerment.
Did you see the one on political and constitutional dialogue?
But what did the President set out to do with his political and constitutional dialogue that was renamed National Political Reform Conference? If the get-together was not meant to reconfigure a Nigeria that would work, then it was going to be a waste of time. If it was being set up to endorse what had already been planned in the dark places where we programme what should happen and enforce it in broad daylight, then we were not being honest with those who were genuinely concerned that Nigeria as is cannot work. If the forum was to elongate tenures of businessmen in government, then those who believed that for once we would get somewhere were being made fools of.
I believe I belong in the category of those who were being made fools of. So trusting have I been of those who are charged with serving us that I seem always to have lost out because what I think they are doing does not seem to be anything close to the definition of service. The 400 wise men and women that were there at Abuja from February to July undoubtedly fall into one or the other of the groups that have collective and collusive guilt in common. But each one must have a defence in the life he had led to date. I do not want to be personal but many were there who saw what Nigeria needed to work, and they spoke their minds right there on the floor of the conference.
The success of the Conference lies in the fact that it was put together and that it sat to discuss Nigeria. It brought out the fact that Nigerians are not Nigerians but group souls locatable in their ethnic closets. If they could see the big picture and accept that they are ethnic links in a national chain, they would have discussed the surgery Nigeria needs to anchor the next world power on this planet earth, a power anchored on spiritual recognitions. They would have seen the futility in gunning for offices where taking is the motto and giving is a crime. They would have agreed to regroup the federating units to cut down the cost of running the structures. They would have discovered that having decongested the political space, economic deregulation would be automatic and the federating units would contribute to running the centre which today is the donor of the crumbs that the states and local governments beg to have and go home to share.
They would have worked to establish a new order in which the dividends of democracy would be seen as the downloading of freedom in the market place, and the provision of infrastructures as no dividends of democracy but the expectations of governance.
But the National Political Reform Conference was bogged down by avoidable distractions, and so came away with nothing to write home about.
The present which the conference was expected to give to the people through a restructured polity is denied, and hope has flown away into time which if we work hard enough we may locate on our way into the future. PRONACO is there and people look up to it to find the bird that has flown away. But what can PRONACO hope to do when we who have been there to man the boat that must not be rocked are watching at our posts! Let us pray.