On the 17th of March, 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan flagged off the much anticipated Nigeria national conference that is expected to address serious structural, economic, national and related issues bothering Nigeria. It is not the first national conference convened in Nigeria, as earlier administrations have organized similar conferences, but with little or no visible impact.
Against this backdrop, some people have been apprehensive of the outcome, considering the failure of previous such gatherings, while citing that most of the delegates to the conference have been part of previous governments and administrations responsible for the sordid state of Nigeria. They question, therefore, their competence to offer a viable solution to problems they helped foment and possibly still benefit from.
While that may be a genuine concern, Nigeria is faced with increasing challenges that range from economic, religious, ethnic, leadership, and infrastructural decay. All of these yield negative consequences, that culminate to continued loss of human lives, not to mention the widespread corruption, impunity, high unemployment and dehumanized life of an average Nigerian. This makes it not just inevitable, but compulsory for Nigerians to urgently come together and fashion out solutions to these domestic problems, a role the national conference is expected to play effectively.
This herculean task is placed on the shoulders of four hundred and ninety two (492) delegates, drawn from a diverse spectra of Nigerian’s ethnic nationalities, professional groups, political representatives, government body, civil organization, youth, women etc. For a period of three (3) months, they are expected to hold several plenary sessions, all dedicated to crafting the most viable solution to impediments mitigating Nigeria’s development.
In approving the conference, President Goodluck Jonathan was very clear that it isn’t meant to be a sovereign national conference. That means that the conference could deliberate on any topic, except disintegration of the country. This position is shared by many past military leaders of the country, although, quite a lot of Nigerians think otherwise. This latter group of Nigerians are of the opinion that any genuine attempt to craft a lasting solution to Nigeria’s problems must be liberal enough to discuss any topic, and non-restrictive.
In his inaugural speech, President Goodluck emphasized that he had no personal agenda, leaving the stage entirely open for the delegates to do their work, unhindered, even if it means coming up with new constitution. Meanwhile, the legislative arm of the government is also making amendments to the constitution that will usher in the possibility of referendum in the Nigerian constitution, which will give the average citizen a voice on critical national issues. This will enable the outcome of the conference go through a referendum, if so desired, before integration into the constitution.
However, in spite of the apprehensions, almost everyone agree that Nigeria has serious problems, that urgent solutions. The question is, if we don’t come together to discuss these problems with an aim to resolving them, what then is the solution? “Nigerians for Nigeria” believe that the National Conference is a necessary step in the right direction. It may not be the exclusive panacea, but it will initiate a civilized and constitutional means of tackling our problems without resolving to violence.
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