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Following the conversion to the exalted principle of Dialogue, Dr Goodluck Jonathan (like a born-again Christian) has sworn in the members of the Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, which by itself has become popular with majority of Nigerians.
The President has quickly followed his words on October 1, with action within a week, thus re-awakening the forlorn hope of many patriots. The heavy burden is now on the broad shoulders of the Chairman, Senator Okurounmu and his eminent members.
Although the work of the PAC (Presidents‘ Advisory Committee) is to prepare the ground for the real Conference, the proper execution of its mandate which is all embracing (to consult widely) would determine the type of dialogue or ‘Conversation‘ that would subsequently follow.
According to the President‘s instruction, no opinion, how little or how great should be avoided and according to Senator Okurounmu, no ‘no-go-area‘ has been given by President Jonathan. It is clear that skeptics who doubted the political intention of Mr. President would have been sadly disappointed by the rapidly changing events.
My candid opinion is that the real test of President Jonathan‘s political moves is the process and progress of the real ‘Conversation‘, the final conclusion and his reaction and that of his government.
Some observers believe, and justifiably so, that if there are more than 300 tribal groups in the country and there are 774 local councils in Nigeria, election of participants could be easy through local government areas, and as people say, each tribe has its own identification. It is even considered easy for the major tribes which the present State structure recognized – Hausa/Fulani; Ibo; Yoruba; Edo etc. Some states are not so structurally lucky.
It stands to reason that any meaningful conversation would touch on the structure of the country and would examine the structure of 36 states in ‘harmonizing‘ the people culturally and economically. Some states call for structural examination – Benue State, with predominantly Tiv majority and restless Idoma minority; Delta State with amalgamation of Ibo, Urhobo, Isoko, Ijaw, Itsekiri, etc with no similar religious or cultural similarities apart from known language differences. It is no surprise that these ethnic differences had affected negatively political and economic considerations in recent past in the country.
Apart from State formation structure which appears clearly deficient, the question of electoral process has also become one of the greatest problems of the country. In local politics, this is manifested in the art of selection rather than election. Under national politics, the ‘winner-takes-all‘ mentality prevails. The current system recognizes only the political parties and the party which gets to the post first is declared the winner (that successful party will be adorned with power and prestige). A party with 51 per cent of votes lords it over the country, stepping on the rights of the minority (49 per cent).
It becomes a political tragedy if the losing minority is also another ethnic group. Could arrangement be made for a form of proportional representation where power (and all that goes with it) is shared proportionally? This and other reasons make Dialogue or Conversation necessary in an atmosphere where some particular interests (tribe) cry or allege marginalization of their people and areas.
Many apologists of the present system argue, but not coherently, that the ‘Federal Character‘ provision in the present constitution should take care of any act of marginalization, if it exists. The answer is clear in that the ‘federal character‘ clause is noted for its breach rather than in its obeisance by the same people who have got to their positions at the expense of others. Some critics of the present Federal Government may have their reasons in Dr. Jonathan‘s appointments to some strategic positions. It might be due to either ethnic considerations or suave political moves to ensure survival.
Some analysts see the value of ‘Conversation‘ an opportunity to examine the structure of government since Independence in 1960. The post 1960 era saw the glory of robust debates in a parliamentary system of government – ruling party and active opposition. That lively period also witnessed the glaring evidence of some ambitious politicians in army uniforms. The nation has also witnessed the rise and the sunset of ‘Heads of State and a military President‘; it has also seen the attempts of former rulers to regain power and the failed attempts.
The beauty of a ‘Dialogue‘ is the attempt to examine the present federal system of government in the past 14 years on the country‘s political and economic plane. We should discuss on the obvious failures of the system that makes President Jonathan a political enemy of some ‘Northern politicians‘ who want power back to the North or why that sturdy and resilient race wants an Ibo President. The most intriguing political position at the moment is the plot to see that President Jonathan does not seek re-election in spite of his laudable Transformation Agenda.
Some believe, and rightly so, that if President Jonathan‘s progressive programmes (embedded in Transformation Agenda) are working, perfectly, he should not be denied his constitutional right. Nigeria should be able to judge by the reality of the situation in 2015 those good and reliable roads constructed (some are under construction); modernized airports (we pray to God for no more crash) and the stability of the economy with full employment and less poverty.
Perhaps the ‘Dialogue‘ or ‘Conversation‘ would provide the golden opportunity for us to know and hear about the glory that once pervaded the Biafra deep blue sky but got missing in the present South-Eastern States with intelligent Ibo leaders and their own regular share of oil money. We either talk now or forever keep our mouths in Lagos shut forever.