National Dialogue: A Call For ‘Benefit Of Doubt’

(By Ogundimu Babatunde Solomon)

For those who oppose the planned “national conference” because it does not have the term “Sovereign”, I would say it is our point of duty to determine the nature and structure of the proposed dialogue. We should make this National Conference go beyond the President’s expectation and make him understand that if he had announced the National Conference to costume his personal interest, he has committed the greatest mistake of his life as we (Nigerians) will not allow him to tamper with the outcome of the national conference to suit certain interest or for partisan political reasons.

IT is no more news that the prolonged issue of the convocation of National Conference which was adamantly opposed by the President some months ago has now been rubber-stamped by him during his Independence Day broadcast on October 1 where President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan presented to all Nigerians a ‘surprise package’ on his intention to facilitate a ‘national dialogue’ on the future of this entity called Nigeria.

   To crown it up, he set up a 13-member Advisory Committee which was inaugurated on Monday, October 7, 2013. It is quite clear and understood that, if Nigerians have mixed spontaneous reactions about the national conference announced by President Jonathan considering his opposition to such in the past despite the advocating for such conference by different groups and personalities. I shall return to this, but whatever may have induced this change of mind in the president is welcome and should set a pace for guileless, scrupulous and constructive discourse among Nigerians.

   Following the trend of issues, some groups and personalities have hailed and will continue hailing President Jonathan for that complete U-Turn made for the convocation of the long-salivated national conference while some have condemned and still are condemning the proposed national conference by him thereby giving it different terms. Some said it was a diversionary move from his incompetence and the 2015 elections (which is around the corner); some even termed it as a ‘Greek Gift’, some termed it as an act of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ while some even opposed it vehemently because it doesn’t have the term ‘Sovereign’.

   Considering these two sides of the coin, I believe that the two sides that are of different viewpoints are neither right nor wrong gazing their point of views crucially. Recalling the word of the late Chief Bola Ige that we need to ask whether we will remain as a country and under what conditions. Though it can never and will never be a panacea for all our problems (political, economical and social), still we need to talk. And talk we must. Going by this, I think those who are in support of the national conference are right. Of course, unless we sit down to have sincere and meaningful national dialogue, this country will disintegrate (U.S. Think Tank) before our very eyes, though not in the way some people envisage. That is why the national conference is imperative. The National Conference basic aim is to rescue the nation especially when the nation is faced with an intractable crisis as we are currently. So, the topmost agenda for the National Conference is how to restructure Nigeria to make it work.

   Back to those who accuse the President of insincerity over the issue of national conference, I think they may have a point while recalling the previous conferences called by the Late Gen. Sani Abacha and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and sardonically ask what Nigerians got out of them. Let me say that the answer is right here with us because we (Nigerians) all reaped what we’ve sown in the conferences because of our lackadaisical attitude and so the two leaders had their way. Also, the opposition party to the planned National Conference must have been imagining what will be the outcome of this conference while regurgitating their experience(s) of the Political Reform Conference organised by former Obasanjo in 2005 to douse the tension in the country about the organisation of the Sovereign National Conference. After the wastage of our resources and the distractions on our national psyche, the resultant force of the conference was only infamous third term agenda of the former president.   What about the 105 points of agreement that were reached during the conference? Can somebody vouch and say that the national conference that will be organised will not go the way of the National Political Reforms Conference?

    For those who oppose the planned “national conference” because it does not have the term “Sovereign”, I would say it is our point of duty to determine the nature and structure of the proposed dialogue. We should make this National Conference go beyond the President’s expectation and make him understand that if he had announced the National Conference to costume his personal interest, he has committed the greatest mistake of his life as we (Nigerians) will not allow him to tamper with the outcome of the national conference to suit certain interest or for partisan political reasons.

   To the President, I have an apparent message. Make no mistake; if the ulterior motive for convening a national conference is for the purpose of using it as an organ of distraction and a tool for manipulative political perambulation, then it is better to swallow the idea of a conference. And know this, either we are going to have a national conference that is free and sovereign or we have nothing. This government should perform on critical sectors of the country. There is no need to lean on convocation of a conference as an alibi.

   This is a clarion call to all and sundry to leave the realm of conjecture and give Mr. President the ‘Benefit of Doubt’ and wait to see what he and his conference actually offer, as this is a bold step aimed at building a “Perfect Reunion”. Let’s all embrace it and not ruin our future with the pain of the past. It is never too late now. Today is our day of salvation, tomorrow may be too late!

Solomon is an undergraduate student of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and the founder of GOWON (Go On With One Nigeria) Group

+2348161303255, +2347030337526. olamidebabs@gmail.com

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