Who is Afraid of the National Conference – PART IIFeatured Contributors/Columnists, Tunde Ali Monday, December 9th, 2013
By Dr. Tunde Ali
National conference is supposed to be a forum where the general public can participate in the polity of their nation by discussing issues that matters to them . It avails the citizens the opportunity to deliberate on different issues of importance, especially those issues that the elected officials have clandestinely neglected or avoided because of its implications on their elective or political office.
Politicians are schemers. Their effective involvement or participation in any deliberation or legislation depends on the “benefit” they expect as an individual or the anticipated benefits to their constituency. In Nigeria’s situation, the reason is more of the former than the later.
As a result of the selfish interest of most of the Nigerian elected officials, focus is placed on self- enrichment. Most of their times are spent on issues that boost their image, remunerations and benefits. It is not a surprise therefore that this current National Assembly (Senate) has merely passed only 8 bills since its inception in 2011, and none of the bills was intended to improve the welfare of the people or create a fertile base for economic development.
According to the Business and Rules committee, 342 Bills have been presented to the Senate within the period; many of them, however, are non-member. They are bills sent either by the executive, e.g. budget bills; or those that were forwarded by the House of Representatives for concurrence.
Of that number, only 28 bills have been fully passed by the Senate. Again, out of that number, 20 are executive-sponsored. So, effectively, senators have only delivered fully on eight bills after drawing over N41 billion in earnings since 2011.
According to details of lawmakers’ allowances, as well as listed earnings for federal lawmakers stipulated by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC); between 2011 and June 2013, each senator drew about N400 million in salaries, allowances and benefits. This clearly positions them as the world’s best paid lawmakers. Regrettably, there are no corresponding results in term of their productivity.
The state of our nation is pitiful. Nigerian people suffer lack in the midst of plenty. Citizens literally beg to live. The government that supposed to serve the people have lord itself over the people. The inherited problems from the colonial master remain unsolved. Post independent problems continue to increase and transferred from one government to another, with no one or political party having the insight or the courage to address and resolve them.
Problems are the only legacy that Nigerian political leaders and regimes bestowed to one another. (I have addressed this subject in 2009 in my articles titled: “ Legacy of Pain” published by several online media and some Nigeria newspapers … http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/articles/3809/1/Legacy-of-Pains/Page1.html ). Principal political actors have no business in the business of governance. They are mostly circumstantial leaders who “providentially” find themselves in the corridor of power. They have neither vision nor mission; and they have by this token promote corruption and political recklessness. Their understanding of the relationships between politics and good governance is naive and inured by corruption and lack of accountability.
With this as the emblem of Nigeria politics, two major problems are created: first, the people became the sufferers because their welfare were compromised. Secondly, social and economic infrastructures that are necessary to anchor a formidable 21st century tech-based economy were ignored. This created multiple other ignored or unsolved problems that threatens the viability of Nigeria as a credible and competitive nation .
Nigerian governments, past and present have succeeded in creating different socio-economic and political impasse which makes lives unbearable for Nigerian people. And this is typical of all the regimes. The government officials are basically actors. They come to the political stage, steal as much as possible to last their life time. Their actions and inaction are pivot reversal of diligent role of government. This situation has been in existence for so long that the people had accepted and adjusted to it, thus normalizing the abnormalities.
Different anti-people regimes as we have them in succession, understood the implications of their actions which was consciously designed to sustain poverty by promoting culture of fear, timidity and ignorance. Consequently, the state of the nation is topsy-turvy. Schools are under -funded, teachers are not commensurately remunerated. Nigerian people continue to suffer good things. Unemployement has skyrocketed to 40 percent according to the Word Bank. Healthcare has collapsed, the nation’s energy and infrastructural facilities is epileptic, crimes wave has increasingly become sophisticated, religion, the erstwhile solace of the poor is now been maneuvered by different religious leaders to further plunder the already broken worshipers (masses) – the erstwhile sanctuary of hope has collapsed and given way to a new class of oppression of man by man in the name of religion. Therefore the people neither have peace, happiness nor hope.
At the center of this seemingly hopeless situation is the regime of President JGL who like its predecessors appears to have drifted from sanity. It is not even clear if any of the previous regimes outshine him on the matter of insensitivity and deficit in integrity. His regime consistently design policies that promotes inequality and treasury looting. These and many other existing socio-economic and political problems which placed some ethnic group at the advantage point over the other created the need for national talk.
Before president Jonathan change his mind as he did on his transformation agenda, it is important to encourage him to remain focus since he was convinced about the relevance of the National conference, he need to follow through on his conviction, and ignore all confusionist who are anti-national conference as well as those who are advising him to limit the National Conference delegates on what they should or should deliberate upon. President JGL should summon all courage and allow the committee members a free hand in its deliberations . Why would the delegates, many of whom are citizens of great accomplishments, be constrained from expressing their views on matters, which many of them understand better than many of those in government?
The delegates should not only discuss the dilapidated national infrastructure, the re-establishment of the quality of, and confidence in Nigerian education, how to boost economic production and development, to reduce unemployment, improve health care, how to conduct transparent elections, how to eliminate the unprecedented rate and intensity of violent crime, they should also review the
“no-go areas” which include: Presidentialism, Federalism, multi-religiosity, federal character, and the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, separation of powers, geopolitical restructuring, political and social decentralization .
Another issue to be mindful of is how to address the intractable ethnic and religious division that suffocates political vision and constrains politicians from initiating imaginative, courageous, and implementing, pro-development policies.
The delegates should also look into the existing structure which encourages satellite passivity because of the mindset that money will always come from the center. Reflections should also be made of the country’s economic burden which is shouldered by a handful of states because the current 36-state structures which were created in the name of an illusory political stability and national unity. Whereas,it has resulted in many economically unviable states with money guzzling, wasteful, non-innovative, unimaginative and anti-development bureaucracies.
Other relevant subjects that the delegates should address include but not limited to revenue allocation formula to promote fairness and equity in such a way that those who produce the wealth will enjoy it as opposed to the present situation where ‘monkey dey work and baboon dey chop”.
“Demonetization” of politics. The political office holder ‘s benefits including allowance and emolument must be realistic and determine along with other public service. Option of part time legislative politicking should be considered. Tough, drastic but pragmatic solution should be put in place to combat the problem of corruption in all tiers of government.
Ethnic based economic development, decentralized police system. Ethics, probity and accountability in public office and the evaluation of the viability and non-viability of the state structure as an instrument of national development are part of the concerns that Nigerians are looking forward to discuss at the National Conference.
Albeit, it is the citizens democratic right to discuss their concerns on all matter that concerns their nation and its destiny. They deserved to be heard not silenced, after-all, democratic tenets entails discussions, deliberations, negotiations, compromise etc. and until these process takes it cause, democratic gains cannot manifest. It is a known fact that those who are opposed to the National conference are the same people who are benefiting from the present status-quo. These people are afraid of the outcome of the national conference because they knew that its outcome will challenge and terminate their hegemony and the subjugation of the rest of us by the few of them. But make no mistake, at the appropriate time they will all be dully held responsible and accountable.
In conclusion, let nobody be deceived to believing that all is well with the state of our federation, or that our predicament is a necessary pain for democratic gain. The system that supposed to promote our dignity and enforce our fundamental human rights should not put our lives in jeopardy, and to think otherwise is to be insensitive at the minimum and an indication of paranoid delusion at the extreme.
Dr. Tunde Ali is the President of Citizens for Good Government & Accountability – (CIGGAC)
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