The Sovereign National Conference (SNC) is the answer to most if not all the problems facing Nigeria as a federation. As far as am concerned, Nigeria’s federation is a lie.
We do call it a federation but where are the powers of the federating units? Nil! Everything is concentrated at the centre (Abuja), and this I think started during the military dispensation. Ever since then, there have always been so much financial crimes (corruption) at the centre.
Why should I believe that Nigeria is a federation when I’m still addressed as ‘omo Ibo’ (Igbo boy) in certain region of the country? When am either qualified or disqualified by dialect and ethnicity instead of seeing me as a fully fledged Nigerian? When I still lose some job opportunities in this country because I do not belong to a certain religious body? Let the truth be told that our federation is a LIE.
According to those who lived in the country during the pre-colonial period, the system of government was different and more transparent than what we have today. Then, each of the three regions, the Eastern, Northern or Western regions was self sufficient in terms of income generation, in terms of development as well as expenditure.
By this, there was a healthy competition. While the Northern region was competing through groundnut pyramids, the Eastern region competed through palm oil and other palm produce, and the Western region competed through cocoa. Nobody was called a parasite as some regions are being labelled today.
And by so doing, the bulk of the money accruing to them was internally generated and they had enough to feed their people, give them scholarships, fund health care structures, fund education, fund their local governments and even take care of the elderly.
But according to history, the military took over power and collapsed every system and region and concentrated everything at the centre and this gave birth to what we call federation today.
We may be called a federation but there is no fiscal federalism because the centre collects almost everything in this country and gives pea nuts to the states which on their own are supposed to be federating units. The Sovereign National Conference should address this anomaly in the constitution.
On the other hand, the Sovereign National Conference should address other lingering issues that have been raising serious question marks about the federation of the country such as the residency clause, immunity clause, states creation, the number of local governments and the derivation formula etc
If someone decides to leave an area to go to another where he eventually brings fiscal development in such area even though by origin he is not a native of the land, what will be his take? If he has lived there for say four years, can the people accept him as a citizen of such area? No, they cannot accept the person in the present day Nigeria and we deceive ourselves that Nigeria is a federation.
The Nigerian constitution is a contraption of issues pieced together by the military and I hope the ongoing constitution review will correct all that even though we all know that it won’t.
The present National Assembly on their part cannot do anything because they will be protecting their own political interests. Also, the composition of the national assembly membership is weighed to the detriment of certain regions in the country. When some regions are producing up to 750 members, others are coming up with about 100 members. How can you balance that?
The national assembly can’t correct all the injustices in the constitution because the people who are supposed to make the law on how they should be governed are sidelined. With respect to humanity and one another, when these issues are tabled in a round table conference justice will be seen to have been done to all.
Each group (the pressure group, the religious group, the student body, the less privileged, the academics, the labour union, the Politician, the market woman, the professional etc) that make up the entity called Nigeria would be effectively represented and table their requests on a national round table. At the end of the day, every group would be represented in the constitution. It would not be the kind of ‘kangaroo’ SNC we had in the past for the sake of having it where the political class manipulated the whole process in their selfish interest.
Honestly, I have always been a supporter of the Sovereign National Conference, though the National Assembly feels that with them as the representative of the people, they could find a way forward for this country. But I don’t think so. I think that there should be a National Sovereign Conference, where all parts of this country should come together on a round table and re-examine the federalism we claim to be practising and reexamine Nigeria from 1914 till date and tell ourselves the truth and nothing but the truth. May God save us from 'Ghana must go' National Assembly!
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