All over the world countries make constitutions, rules, regulations and social and economic policies which reflect and accommodate their history, well known peculiarities and social, economic, religious and ethnic diversities. That is how the much desired unity in diversity can be achieved or realized – by having sensible rules and realistic fundamental laws for our meaningful existence on our God given, full of resources territory called or named Nigeria.
There is the saying that nothing human is so good that it cannot be improved upon. Therefore, there is always room for some improvement in any human affair. The fact previous efforts at National Constitutional Conferences and Political Reforms have not met our great expectations does not mean that we cannot make Nigeria to work much better for the greater good of all Nigerians. Definitely, and God willing, we can make our country better and greater. It is possible.
Now, President Goodluck Jonathan has given all Nigerians another golden opportunity to make Nigeria much better and more efficient by setting up the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue/Conference. I believe Borno people, like majority of other Nigerians welcome this action of Mr. President.
This can be the roadmap to the realization or achievement of all our lofty and highly desirable National Objectives.
As the inspiring example of President Abraham Lincoln of USA, shows, failures in the past cannot prevent success in the future. It was said that Abraham Lincoln failed in 31 endeavours, in business, politics and marriage, but finally won election to become one of the best and greatest American Presidents. He abolished slavery, fought and defeated the Southern States over their slavery policy and prevented them from leaving the union and laid the foundation of the United States of America, which has now become the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. So, current political leaders of Nigeria should do to Nigeria what Abraham Lincoln did to the United States of America. It is a matter of choice and political will.
In the circumstances we have now found ourselves, it is necessary for the President to avoid all legal obstacles. As a result he has to prepare in good time and send a Bill to the National Assembly to give legal backing to the proposed National Dialogue/Conference and how and which agency should implement the outcome of the Dialogue/Conference should be contained in the Bill. It may even be necessary to amend certain sections of the current constitution, before the take off the dialogue slated to begin in February, 2014.
It is pertinent to point out at this juncture that with Executives and Legislatures functioning properly and constitutionally at both the Federal and States levels, any call or wish for Sovereign National Conference is a deliberate call for chaos and may be a clever way to disarm an dis-possess the ruling party. On the structure of the conference, it is a matter of common sense that National dialogue/Conference of this nature is better managed, guided and supervised by seasoned administrators of justice. Therefore I would like to recommend the 1994/1995 Constitutional Conference model to this Advisory Committee.
For the 1994/1995 Conference we had distinguished Justice Karibe Whyte, as the Chairman while Justice Mamman Nasir was the Vice Chairman. They were highly knowledgeable so all the delegates to the National Conference respected them and the conference achieved its objectives. There are many highly respected retired judges. The Chairman can come from the North or South. The Vice Chairman can come from the South or North. But their personalities should blend well and they must be team players.
It is necessary that some delegates be elected and some nominated. There are many distinguished and knowledgeable Nigerians whose ideas and experience can benefit the country but will not or may not like to subject themselves to any electoral process. Therefore, I recommend to the committee that let the conference/dialogue consists of 75% elected delegates and 25% nominated delegates.
To save time, the committee should consider using the existing Federal Constituency where each of the 360 House of Representative members is elected. So if every Federal Constituency elects one delegate we have 360 elected delegates. The election can be done through Electoral College arrangement. For the nominated delegates, 3 or 4 delegates from every state and one for the F.C.T is good enough. If 3 delegates are nominated from each of the 36 states and one for the F.C.T. The total number of delegates for the conference is 469. If 4 delegates per state are nominated and one from F.C.T, the total number becomes 505. The nominated delegates should come from various professional, institutions, civil society, religious groups and ethnic groups.
It is suggested that, the nominated delegates, some can be nominated by their states while the Federal Government also nominates some. The National Council of State may peruse the list of nominated delegates to ascertain their integrity.
A country of Nigeria’s size, population and diversity is a natural federation. So the present structure of Federal, 36 states and the F.C.T plus 774 LGAs be retained and consolidated. If Nigerians can change their attitude toward politics, government, religion and business, we can make success of both the presidential and parliamentary Systems.
Any honest researcher of our present political system and its dynamics can discover that only three of the six Geo-political zones – south East, South West and North West (minus Southern Kaduna) can be converted into happy and comfortable regions. The rest, North East, North Central and South-South Geo-political zones are so diverse that their peoples cannot willingly sacrifice the self-government and independence their peoples now enjoy in their respective states
.nAbba-Gana is former FCT Minister