Against the backdrop of the recent call for a national dialogue to address the various challenges, particularly the insecurity bedeviling the country, prominent Nigerians added their voices to the conversation.
Governors of 17 Southern states had in a meeting in Asaba, the Delta state capital, demanded a national dialogue even as they tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps to restructure the country. They also berated the first citizen for making “lopsided appointments” in flagrant negation of the federal character principle since he assumed office in 2015.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard, constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome said opposition to the Asaba declaration by some Northern elements is difficult to comprehend.
He said: “The sudden unexpected kick by some Northern elites against the patriotic resolutions passed last week at a meeting held in Asaba by the 17 Southern Governors of Nigeria is quite worrisome and definitely uncalled for. They (Northern elites) may probably be afraid that the South has finally woken up and shaken off its Stockholm syndrome.
I guess they are scared that the assumed long-suffering ‘slaves’ of Nigeria may finally achieve their overdue liberation, liberty, and freedom, and attain their independence from the asphyxiating grip of perpetual overlords, ‘slave’ masters, Neo-colonialists and territorial expansionists.
“They may fear that under a true fiscal federation anchored on the principles of federalism, everyone will now be required to contribute to the baking of the national cake and not just merely sharing it.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, also expressed shock at the sudden turn of events, following the rejection of open grazing of cattle by some Northern leaders. According to Ozekhome, Nigerians can “clearly recall that it was the Northern governors that actually first set the ball rolling at their virtual meeting of 9th February 2021 on the urgent need to ban open grazing. Their communiqué was to the effect that open cattle grazing should be immediately abolished.
“Why the sudden and inexplicable somersault by some of the same Northern elites? What are they worried about? What do they know that the rest of us Nigerians do not?” he asked.
Although dialogue may go a long way at addressing many of the challenges facing Nigeria today, Anthony Sani, immediate past Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, told Vanguard that sincerity in the proposed national conference would be taken with a pinch of salt.
“While I’m not opposed to any national dialogue for the purpose of dispelling misconceptions in the hope of commanding loyalty to the Nigerian project, such dialogue should add value to the polity and not for a mere publicity stunt,” he said.
Rather than convene another conference, Sani said leafing through recommendations of past confabs may help the nation out of her current woes.
He continued: “Nigeria has experienced three conferences in recent history- General Sani Abacha, President Olusegun Obasanjo, and President Goodluck Jonathan confabs. Since the conferences comprised unelected delegates, their reports could not possibly be binding. But these reports can still serve as resources for the political parties and the legislatures to enrich the quality and volume of their manifesto and also legislative deliberations.”
The ex-scribe further called for caution in the implementation of an outright ban on open grazing, saying, “though I agree that open grazing is not the best practices for improved livestock, I do not share the view that banning it this time when the landless herders do not have the wherewithal is practicable.”
For rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, all that is needed to change the fortune of the country for good is for President Buhari to sit up and face the challenges of governance squarely.
“Nigerians are so interested in motion without movement. What is the national conference going to address that Nigerians have not been talking about over the years? Is the national conference our Commander-in-Chief? We either get the Commander-in-Chief to get to work or he should be impeached, sacked, or whatever so that someone else who is ready to do the work can come in.
“Do we need a national conference to tell us that we are being killed? Are the terrorists holding a national conference on how to go about killing Nigerians? What we don’t have is a competent Commander-in-Chief and that is why we are losing the war against insurgency,” she stressed.(Vanguard)