Buhari And National Confab Report

President Mohammadu Buhari
President Mohammadu Buhari

It is possible that we can
make our country, Nigeria better and greater. It is equally convincing that we can make Nigeria to work much better for the greater good of all Nigerians. Former President Goodluck Jonathan had set the pace by giving all Nigerians the golden opportunity to make the country much better and more efficient by convoking the 2014 National Conference.
The confab provided a roadmap to the realisation or achievement of all our lofty and highly desirable national objectives. It was aimed at bringing improvement in the affairs of the country and people. Failures in the past cannot prevent us from having success in the future. It is a matter of choice, determination and political will to bring the outcome of the National conference to fruition as a working document.
The National Conference had come and gone but its lofty memories cannot easily be wished away. It will continue to linger in the minds of Nigerians as long as its expectations remain a mirage. Government, they say, is a continuous process, so Nigerians are anxiously waiting to hear and see President Muhammadu Buhari do justice to the report of the conference. It is necessary for President Buhari to ignore every ill-advice or sentiment to the implementation of the National confab report which is presently in his custody.  He has to begin in good time to do something about it because, time they say waits for no body.
With the president’s snail speed at effecting the much desired change of the ruling party, APC, Nigerians may not realise enough democratic dividends before the expiration of his first term. All the world over, countries make constitutions, rules, regulations, social and economic policies which reflect and accommodate their history. These are well known peculiarities, social, economic, religious and ethnic diversities which are expected to be achieved via the needed unity in diversity. We can only realise our meaningful co-existence and enjoy our full resources by having sensible rules and realistic fundamental laws.
It is pertinent to point out that now that the Executives and Legislatures are functioning properly and constitutionally at both the federal and states levels; the time is ripe enough for the report of the National Conference to be tabled for implementation. The report as we are aware has passed through the basic processes and vetoed by former President Jonathan. Any attempt to abandon the report amounts to disarming or dispossessing the country  of a better structure.
A country of Nigeria’s size, population and diversity is a natural federation, so needs to be restructured to change Nigerian’s attitude toward politics, government, religion and business. We can make success of the country through the National Conference report if implemented religiously.
On March 17,2014, more than 400 Nigerians were inaugurated as delegates to the National conference, selected from about 170 million people from diverse backgrounds. They were saddled with the common responsibility of reinventing their country. The delegates represented both the Federal Government and the six geo-political zones, including the civil society and the academia. They gathered under one roof to discuss their common fate. Every group went to the conference with an agenda or some form of shopping list containing what each waited to get from the conference.
It was basically a battle by the old religion blocks, starting with the North and the South . Each had its own vision and position on the conference. There were also the sub-regional groupings of North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-East and South-South who delegates articulated certain specific positions relevant to their zones. While the South went to the conference with high hopes and great expectations or enthusiasm to promote some radical restructuring of Nigeria, the North went rather reluctantly and with plot to disorganise and frustrate the entire effort at changing the Nigeria state’s fate.
It was observed that Southern delegates made strong case for the restructuring of Nigeria while those from the North were always on the opposing angle. Some of the proposals raised by the Southern delegates included the restructuring of Nigeria into a six zonal structure, devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units, resource control, creation of more states, the adoption of fiscal federalism as a cardinal economic development principle in the country. The Southern  advocates of change also opined that the present political structure was unitary, over centralised, unwieldy and gave too much powers and responsibilities to the federal government, which according to them, was a misnomer in a federal system.
On their side, Northern delegates presented a counter argument that the current structure was good enough because, as they put it, “any attempt to restructure the polity to reduce the grip of the federal right on the component units could be an invitation of anarchy and disintegration”. The trend of the arguments was so high and exposed the realities of a liberalist South angling for a change of the current system but the conservative North bent on maintaining the status quo at all costs. But the agenda of the North to resist the wind of change blowing from the South was aptly captured in a publication titled: “Key issues before Northern Delegates to the 2014 National Conference” There were suspicions and skepticism when it was discovered that the document put together by a think-Tank constituted by the Northern Governors’ Forum, Arewa Consultative Forum and the Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation to guide the northern delegates who alleged that former President Jonathan had a hidden agenda for convoking the National conference.
The conference was a device designed to reposition Nigeria to move forward. In as much as the conference report is aimed at taking the country to a greater height, there is no gainsaying or over-emphasising the fact that President Buhari owes Nigerians a sacred duty to pay unquestionable attention to its implementation with a view to providing lasting solutions to the myriad of problems facing the nation.
Buhari took over reign at a time of national crisis and the situation in every sector is grim today. To determine if he is a good leader, Buhari must bear in mind that the citizens will demand of him to be focused, vigorous, generous, resolute, compassionate and above all, a leader that deal with the problems affecting the people without bias. Buhari promised change and the change he has got, so while he will seek the citizens’ cooperation and understanding, he must thrive on vision and shared purpose. This is the essence of democracy and politics.
The implementation of the report of the National conference will put his name on the world map and leave indelible mark in Nigeria’s history, just as the convoking of the conference has earned Jonathan a recorded landmark. Only pragmatic restructuring of Nigeria can bring about sound economy and improved quality of life of Nigerians. To get the confidence of the people and the assurance of the implementation of the report which is dear to the minds of Nigerians.
The truth is that if the outcomes from the conference are not utilised, then the critics who were of the opinion that the conference had been an effort in futility and waste of precious time and huge resources would have been vindicated. Jonathan had a good intention for the country by convoking the conference but it has to be followed with positive actions so that the man-hours nor the financial resources expended on it do not go down the drain. The conference did not only end well but recorded some landmark achievements such as derivation revenue sharing, devolution of powers, political restructuring, electoral reforms, among others.
The delegates ended up by agreeing to make one single recommendation to the president. They did not break up in confusion, they achieved a lot and it was not meant to break Nigeria. That the report of the conference had been not mean the battle is over. It is not yet over until the dreams and visions behind the report are translated into building blocks for the reconstruction of a new Nigeria.
For those Nigerians who tend traditionally to defend the status quo in Nigeria, it is now clear that things are not well at all for the country. We should as a matter of fact unite to re-organise and re-order Nigeria and build into a prosperous and powerful country while giving it a chance to stay together. If any Nigerians think that we should leave Nigeria in its current disorder and merely keep it together as it is, they should throw away or discard such ill—thought.
President Buhari needs to see that he studies the conference report and organise a way that it will be implemented successfully. We all demanded a conference of the different nationalities and there was no doubt that former President Jonathan listened and understood very well. Most Nigerians welcomed the conference and all the regions  of the country participated in the National Conference where they tried to sort out the  awful situations in which we find ourselves. Buhari should understand this and use his personal wisdom to place the country on a better footing or platform via the National Conference report he is holding. We are all aware that the report was part, a significant part for that matter, of the handover brief from Jonathan to him.
Most Nigerians know why our country is in shamble and almost in ruins, and why we Nigerians are suffering in the midst of plenty natural resources endowed to us by God. Enough is enough. In this whole situation and as it is now, President Buhari is the man on trial, so for the sake of our dear country and its about 170 million people, and for his own sake, he needs to see to the all important report and handle it very well, that it produces meaningful and purposeful results that will set our country on a new path of sanity, progress and prosperity as well as the well-being of the citizens irrespective of ethnic or religious inclination.
It is pertinent to urge the president not to hang the outcomes of the National Conference in some sort of limbo, or pass the bulk to some agency that will kill the decisions contained in the report. It should be handled and diligently implemented.


Shedie Okpara