- by Oguchi Nkwocha, MD -
It was recently reported that David Mark, the President of Nigeria’s Senate, claimed and threatened that the pursuit and fruition of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) which has been brought back again by popular demand as the next civil, people-oriented and non-violent step towards the resolution of “Problem Nigeria”, is “an invitation to anarchy.” For that matter, Senator Abaribe, the Chairman of Nigeria’s Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, puts it more bluntly: “anyone who [‘…decides on a sovereign national conference’…] seeks anarchy.” Watch out: by extension of that logic, soon, anyone caught talking about SNC will be accused of, arrested and tried for, Treason against Nigeria! Mark these words: it could come to that!
Which path is going to lead to anarchy—harassed, wounded, deprived, vulnerable, exploited peoples finally deciding to get together to discuss a workable way forward in a civil environment; or a self-interested few who have made themselves obnoxiously wealthy, extremely powerful and untouchable by the law, doing everything possible to maintain the status quo, so to sustain their predatory talons piercing the heart and soul of the peoples living in Nigeria?
To premise their argument on the stipulations of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, and on the “confidence in the democratic system” of Nigeria, is to provoke prolonged vomiting in disgust. The fact is that neither David Mark nor the institution he represents, nor the government and political juggernaut, respects the constitution of Nigeria. When it pleases them, and as it pleases them, they circumvent the constitution; when it is to their benefit, they cite and insist on the same constitution. This was vividly obvious in the way Mark’s Senate mishandled the straight-forward matter of constitutional succession of the President of Nigeria allowing the absurdity that for almost a year, a literally dead Yar’Adua was still ruling Nigeria while the Vice President was completed marginalized. In a more recent example, General Obasanjo insinuated himself into the crisis in Senegal as a so-called mediator, and his “expert counsel” was that the people of Senegal forget and live with the tampering of their constitution by the sitting 85 year-old President, which while reflecting his clique’s attitude towards any constitution, proves that he, Obasanjo, shows no remorse and has learned nothing from his own similar stunt in their Nigeria.
For sure, the 1999 constitution was foisted on Nigerians on the fraudulent claim and pretence of “…we the people…” For that matter, Nigeria as it stands today was foisted on the peoples—down to her name—which is why there is a huge problem demanding the solution that only an SNC-type program can resolve. As for “confidence in the democratic system,” it is certainly delusional to attribute democracy to Nigeria in the first instance; adding “confidence” to that takes a warping stretch of drunken imagination.
Colonial Britain put Nigeria together over a century ago, during which time Nigeria has never really taken off nor functioned, let alone, properly. Same Britain today is engaged in talking about its own union, the United Kingdom (UK). Not only have the peoples in civility been carving out various generous degrees of autonomy for the different tribes making up the union, they are also engaged in civil talks regarding the plan by one tribe of the union wanting its outright independence—wanting to leave the union. We don’t hear labels and or cries of “anarchist”, “treason” or “traitor”. By the way, their constitution is older than that of Nigeria; it is the supreme law of their land and fully respected as such, and not a mere paper-document to be toyed with. Their democracy and the confidence therein is not in question and should not really be compared to non-existent democracy in Nigeria. Yet, the UK tribes can decide to take charge of their own respective destinies, in spite of UK—at will; and talk about it and decide to change things. Why? Because they understand that the essence of a nation or a union is the people(s); the existence of national institutions or instruments or union is at the pleasure and by the decision of the people(s). Not the other way around. In short, sovereignty belongs to the people, not to governments or governors or principalities. Not to States, not to the “Constitution”. Mark and Abaribe: are you listening? It’s always about the people and what the people want.
So, let’s revisit Sovereign National Conference, SNC, which, properly defined and properly focused, is actually the only practical way to avoid anarchy in, while solving the problem that is, Nigeria. This is so for the reason that SNC is the act of the peoples by the peoples; and the voice of the peoples, for the peoples. SNC should read and stand for: “A conference of various naturally sovereign ethnic peoples (constituting sovereign ethnic nations) which are involved in the Nigeria project.” The purpose of the conference is for these different peoples to meet and to decide on how to relate, one sovereign ethnic nation to another, and the nature and extent of such a relationship. The formula for SNC is “Self Determination”, the win-win recipe whereby each ethic nation has and exercises the right of complete control of its own entire destiny—its own, not any other’s; no more, no less.
A proper SNC is therefore a vehicle which at once ratifies the sovereignties of ethnic nations, thereby recognizing their independence and equality in all transactions and decisions; and provides a civil atmosphere for cool-headed conferencing and managing of common obligations, differences, mutualities and realignments.
It is therefore appropriate for SNC to begin to prepare the ground for what must be done. SNC leadership and movement need to work with / on the people(s) to prepare them for the phases and periods which will attend a civil and successful change.
1. Honesty and clarity phase:
This is the time when peoples come to terms with reality and stop pretenses and posturing. The arrangement called Nigeria is not working because the fundamental structure on which it is solely based is wrong, seriously and lethally flawed. A relationship which not only brings out the worst of unwilling parties involved but actually kills and maims them is nothing to preserve, cling to or even be “patriotic” about. It is completely immoral, inhuman and anti-people.
2. Mental Adjustment phase:
The peoples are to be reminded of, and need to learn, their right to Self Determination; while learning what Self Determination rights are. Self Determination is not a “zero-sum game” where you can only win provided the other party loses. With Self Determination, everyone actually wins: it says what is yours is really only yours, not another person’s; and what is other’s is really other’s, not yours. When you exercise your Self Determination rights, you are also respecting others’ rights to their own Self Determination at the same time.
3. Ratification of Rights Period:
It is important and necessary that peoples accept and assume, assert, express, respect and formally recognize each their own ethnic sovereignty, a natural order of Divine making; and the derivative own national independence, no less of Divine design. This may be the toughest hurdle since some peoples in Nigeria pride themselves in the denial of their true identity for fear of being labeled “tribalistic”. After all, a huge part of colonial brainwashing of the natives and success of colonialism was to force the indigenes to abandon their original natural tribal identity in favor of forced loyalty and identity with the colonial state structure which the colonialist presented as superior. This indoctrination is a psychological virus which is difficult to eradicate. But, it can and should be done.
4. Inter-relationship Period:
In this period, new, consenting, mutually beneficial relationships (political, commerce and economic, socio-cultural, travel, diplomatic), can be successfully negotiated, formed and sealed between and or among freely consenting participating sovereign nations. Mutual obligations and mutual assets pertaining to the erstwhile state of Nigeria are divvied up equitably.
5. Population and labor force adjustment period:
This is a practical issue which is a true impediment to change. During this period, the length of which is to be mutually agreed upon, and which has to follow the above three, migration of peoples and work force will certainly occur; the genius of SNC is to ensure that this is a negotiated, controlled and orderly process which accommodates the needs of dislocated workers. This forestalls unplanned mass movements, chaos and the disruption they bring to society, labor and markets.
Today’s SNC must do better than previous versions which were mostly knee-jerk responses and which were destined to go nowhere because somehow they had already accepted the goal of one-Nigeria as the outcome. How can a goal which is already the problem lead to or become the solution? How unimaginative, how ill-informed! This confusion made it easy for Obasanjo to hijack an SNC version and of course thoroughly bastardize and demoralize it. By the same token, a new SNC must not replicate the weaknesses and failures and treachery of Nigeria’s Trade Unions which betrayed the trust placed on them by the suffering masses in Nigeria. Today, there is an unbeatable weapon: it is called “Self Determination”; it is freely available. Contemporary SNC has to adopt it wholly and be thoroughly molded and fully guided by it.
If not, where Obasanjo rubbished SNC with arrogance at the height of his power, the Mark’s and Abaribe’s will use the power of their Senate to criminalize SNC, with impunity, and SNC will become the latest addition to things associated with Treason in Nigeria.
But, such cannot happen if SNC becomes “Self Determination at work in Nigeria”.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen