There were months of painstaking deliberation and debate, despite numerous interruptions such as Washington’s inaugural US-Africa Leaders Summit. There were also pauses for moments of solemn reflection on the home front, following strike after strike caused by the militant cabal Boko Haram and the terror of a possible Ebola outbreak. Nonetheless, Nigeria’s National Conference mercifully, albeit quietly (despite the perhaps-extravagant cost of purportedly N7 billion budgeted for it), has concluded.
With over 500 attendees diligently participating, the need for such grandiose assemblies could only have been validated in Nigeria, a country with unlimited potential yet perpetually divided by such diversity. Despite its vast resources, our nation ranks among the most unequal of countries in the world, this according to latest reports published by the United Nations. Indeed it is unarguable that we as a nation have been held back by that which should be celebrated, such as ethnicity, religion, region, tribe and dialect. In light of all of these distinctions, such en masse representation was no doubt warranted.
The key subjects of discourse during this extensive exercise, those including Nigeria’s bureaucratic framework and protocol of revenue allocation, are undoubtedly of significance in this, the newfound economic steward of Africa. These two matters alone have long been at the forefront of a polity climate that has had to bear unprecedented challenges, those borne domestic such as terrorism and corruption, coupled with those imported from abroad, such as the grapple for oil wealth and from it, the disparate provocation of local communities aggrieved from what they believe to be an exploitative extractive process.
At close of the summit, questions remain; queries such as ‘what, if anything, was resolved and from such resolutions, who has benefitted’? The latter is a norm inherent in our culture; Nigeria has tragically rarely come to agreeable terms and in doing so, ensure they appease all sides involved. There are often perceived ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ to a dispute, each representative of a multitude of constituencies yet however would remain unwaveringly involved in this Nigeria ‘concept’ of ours.
At the Federal level, there has long been rancour over the topic of the ‘political pendulum’, perhaps a guillotine to our nation’s true liberty, hovering over the executive branch.
After one or indeed two terms, should the Presidential baton be mandatorily passed from region to region? Will this action, if effected in the near future in the name of ‘fair play’ following the Conference, equate literally to the valid conciliation of those in the North or South, assuaging all concerns that their distinct voices will now or in due course be given platform?
Is there conversely, validity in the argument that perhaps the people themselves, across all (today) thirty six states in harmony, should decide who is best suited to represent them, if given the rightful assurances that the government surrounding said individual would form as diverse as the country with which it oversees?
Ultimately, questions such as these, among those including the allocation priority of funds from government coffers, the pragmatic design of a defensive infrastructure to counter insurgency in northeastern states, the application to not only contain viruses like Ebola but thoroughly re-evaluate Nigerian healthcare, should take centre stage.
As the Leaders Summit in Washington has placed greater emphasis on Africa’s viability in a globalized marketplace, introspective assemblies such as these, comprised holistically with those from across party and would-be-inherent lines, have a rightful place in our national agenda and mindsets. Despite the sensationalism of cost, perhaps such National Conferences should even be considered to be held at a more regular rate.
Elections in 2015 loom large. The Senatorial, Gubernatorial and Presidential designations to come host the potential to each shake the country to its foundation and bitterly divide us. And that is just what those who torment Nigeria’s trajectory would wish to see happen.
As seen in the capture of Gwoza and subsequent proclaiming of caliphate, forces such as Boko Haram grow and gain capability through methods such as indoctrination and not just executed through forced conscription. There are those that feed on disillusion and wish to capitalize on perceptions of imbalance and destabilization to encourage participation in their undoubtedly ‘nation-building’ movement.
In conclusion, let us have faith in the modern political process and a government undertaking overwhelming external obstacles. We can continue to promote together Nigeria as an international conduit in to commercially vibrant West Africa and entrust our brothers and sisters from the National Conference and in our daily lives to work with us to check those who seek fragmentation and ensure a continued trajectory to the forefront of the global marketplace.
It is in our hands to foster lasting change. After fifty three years, we have together come too far too see such progress slip away.