BY FEMI FANI-KAYODE
Permit me to end this contribution with the words of another man who was painfully honest about his intentions right from the start and who also had the courage of his convictions.
In 2001, when pressed on the issue of the virtues of convening a sovereign national conference, President Olusegun Obasanjo said: “I cannot surrender the sovereignty that was given to me by the Nigerian people’’. Many of us found Obasanjo’s position on this issue unacceptable and downright repugnant. Yet, one thing that we could not take from him was that he did not offer what he was not prepared to give.
He went on to convene a national conference in 2005 but, like Jonathan’s own today, it was not sovereign and consequently it had little relevance or meaning. Many of us lampooned Obasanjo for outrightly rejecting the idea of a sovereign national conference at the time and on March 18, 2001, I wrote the following words in a scathing essay for The Comet Newspaper (which later transmuted into The Nation) entitled “President Olusegun Obasanjo, The National Question And The Imperatives Of A Sovereign National Conference’’. I wrote:
“As a direct consequence of the gradual degeneration of the Nigerian state, the passionate campaign and vigorous agitation for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) is once again steadily gathering momentum. For even though we have a “democratically” elected government in power today, the fact remains that the “National Question” is yet to be answered. And until we have searched our souls and settled some outstanding fundamental issues that still exist among our various nationalities, until the brutal role of internal colonialism has been completely and irrevocably shattered, Nigeria cannot possibly prosper and neither can she achieve her full potentials. This is because there can be little doubt that the many problems that this country faces cannot be solved simply by the establishment of democracy, the provision of good government and the equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios. There is far more to it than that and anyone that seriously believes otherwise must have been living on another planet for the last 41 (forty-one) years. And, with all due respect to President Obasanjo’s efforts, it is painfully obvious that a sovereign national conference remains the only permanent solution to the myriad of complex problems in this country. For example, when did we as a people ever agree to stay together as one? And, even if we ever did, what were the terms of our union? Did the people of the South ever agree to become perpetual slaves to the Fulani ruling class and their military collaborators? And, even though we have a Southerner in power today, what happens in 2007 after Obasanjo goes? Or can he remain there forever? Will the hegemonic forces, at that point, not insist on taking the Presidency back to the core conservative North? And, in the event of this happening, will we not have come back to square one? And, in any case, when did the South ever agree to assume the role of a wealthy yet submissive and timid wife that has been systematically and consistently cheated, raped and sodomised by a domineering and arrogant Northern husband?’’
Harsh words, indeed, but those days called for harsh words and extreme measures. Needless to say I wrote the essay one year before I met Obasanjo and after eight years of being radicalised by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election of Chief MKO Abiola; five years of self-imposed exile in Ghana and six years of watching my people, the Yoruba people of South-western Nigeria being persecuted, tormented, butchered, jailed, tortured, driven into exile and humiliated by General Sani Abacha and his military junta.
All that had a profound effect on me. These were the words of a man at war and, to all intents and purposes, we are still at war in this country because nothing has really changed. The only difference is that today, our enemies are not the North but the small cabal of ethnic supremacists that presently rule this country and their bantu allies who seek to supress us all and establish an Ironsi-style unitary state in which they will rule forever. They seek to impose their values and their ways on the rest of us, forgetting that the constitutional structure on which Nigerian unity was negotiated and agreed upon was a strict adherance to true federalism and a reasonable degree of separate development. If we cannot have that, then the very foundation of our unity as a nation is being threatened and we must seriously consider re-charting our course. The cry for a sovereign national conference is as legitimate today as it has ever been and until we have one, Nigeria can never know peace. Those that have been seduced by Jonathan’s promise and charm offensive in this matter will soon learn that he is simply deceiving them. It is a poisoned chalice. At the end of the day, their greatest expectations, hopes and aspirations will be dashed and frustrated and they will be made to look like utter fools. A man that does not have the passion, strength and conviction to crush Boko Haram cannot possibly muster the necessary wherewithal or cultivate the strength of character to liberate the numerous ethnic nationalities that make up our country from the bondage, tyranny and oppression of an all-powerful centre. Some have said that the national conference is ‘’Jonathan’s gift to Nigeria’’. I strongly urge those that honestly believe that to remember the words of the Trojans- ‘’beware of the Greeks, especially when they bring gifts’’.
nFani-Kayode writes from Lagos