IMPERATIVES FOR A SOVEREIGN NATIONAL DIALOGUE
His Excellency Dr. Kayode FAYEMI
Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria
at the 4th Convocation Ceremony of the
Joseph Ayo Babalola University (JABU)
Monday, November 25, 2013
I am delighted to be here today at this epochal event. I salute the founders and administrators of this great citadel of learning on the occasion of her 4th Convocation Ceremony. Joseph Ayo Babalola University is fast becoming a shining light in the education sector. It is a place of learning, of character building and fertile ground for the cultivation of ideas and ideals that will position the next generation to advance our collective quest to construct a harmonious and functional society. Where prior generations have fallen short in this undertaking, this next generation shall surely overcome and usher our nation into its golden age.
As a student of history, I would be committing a grave disservice if I fail to honour one of the greatest men of faith our nation has given to the world, in the person of Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola of blessed memory, founder of the Christ Apostolic Church. In his memory and to establish his life as an example for others, this fine institution was established. Through this university, his life shall live on, influencing subsequent generations for the better. This was the type of man he was. There can be no more fitting tribute to him than this legacy of enlightenment and learning.
I also congratulate the graduating students on the successful completion of your studies. I urge you all to honourably fly the banner of JABU as you go into the world to make your futures in it. I pray that our benevolent God will guide you and grant you success in your endeavours. It is also my prayer that you abide and live by the important, humane lessons this education you have gotten here has equipped you with. Your education was not intended for you to simply turn your back on others and merely pursue selfish aims. You have been educated to be your better selves by helping to improve the lives of those around you as you pursue your personal goals and dreams. You are the architects of a better day for our great country Nigeria. You must work together and do so for the welfare of all.
It is against this backdrop of seeking a better Nigeria for all that I want to share my thoughts with this distinguished audience on the imperatives of a sovereign national dialogue in view of the primacy that the subject has attained in recent times and the Presidency’s expressed predilection to actualise this.
Imperatives for Sovereign National Dialogue
Calls for a sovereign national conference are an accurate barometer of the political climate in our country. These calls resurface periodically whenever things seem to be going awry in the polity. The calls seem to heighten whenever the political competition, which is often violent on our shores, transcends the bounds of what we consider “normal” even by wide and broad standards of our political culture.
In Nigerian parlance, these are the times when politicians accuse each other of “overheating the polity.” This worn cliché reflects some of the fears and malpractices that hound our political system. Everyone wants a cohesive Nigeria as long as that Nigeria is built in the image they prefer. When someone presents an alternative idea or notion, they are said to be overheating the nation as if they have shoved it into some mythical furnace. We have not progressed to the point of being able to listen with open minds and hearts to those who differ with us. Instead of realising that other people have legitimate interests different than ours, we accuse the other person of ulterior motives and insult them in language nearly unfit to print.
It is not so much that we overheat the polity. The real problem is that too many of us try to use this phrase and other gimmicks to stifle debate and restrict the field of ideas only to those we prefer.
For this reason, debate about the utility and merits of a national conference at this time and under the auspices of a suspect federal government is welcome. We all should take part in this important discussion for it reveals a lot about the political condition of our nation.
Given the multiple serious challenges Nigeria faces, we are right to be concerned whether our nation will prosper and advance or will it be stalled and buffeted from side to side by strong head winds resistant to change and reform.
Fifty-three years after obtaining independence from the British Empire, Nigeria remains a work in progress. We are a nation still under construction. A heterogeneous complexity composed of roughly 170 million people from over 250 ethnic groups that speak over 400 distinct languages and dialects, Nigeria is an exercise is diversity. Marshalling the resources and institutions of such a varied nation toward pursuit of a common purpose was never going
to be easy. Even the definition of common purpose can be elusive in this situation.
Diversity is a fact of life. However, whether it is a recipe for perennial conflict or an engine of dynamic prosperity depends on how the political system handles this objective fact. Diversity becomes a menu for confrontation because social differences often brew tension given the human preference for sameness. When different backgrounds, cultures and orientations meet some friction is inevitable. This is a constant truth whether we are looking at interpersonal relationships or at the larger context of inter-ethnic, inter-faith relations or global politics. What prevents these frictions from escalating into conflict is the political dexterity of those charged with leadership and the presence of men and women dedicated to peaceful co-existence.
Over the years, many analysts have cited Nigeria’s diversity as a source of negative exceptionalism for the nation. They see Nigeria as perennially troubled because it has too many people of too many different types. The peddled notion is that Nigeria’s diversity makes her an outlier among nations, guaranteeing perpetual instability and conflict. These conclusions are false. While she belongs to that exclusive club of nations with over a hundred million people and multitudes of people and faith groups, it is simply false to portray the country’s diversity as an inevitable plague.
Across the world, numerous countries grapple with issues of racial, religious and ethnic diversity as well as the challenges of tolerance, integration, and multi-culturalism. The United States has a long, violent history of racial injustice. It’s numerous minorities including Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics continue to wrestle against institutionalized racism. America idealises itself as a multi-racial melting pot with its motto, “E Pluribus Unum” meaning “Out of many, one.” It sees itself as a land of opportunities for all even if the reality is vastly different. African-Americans and other minorities live in a reality markedly different from the harmonious rhetoric of the melting pot. For some minorities, America is less of a melting pot and more of a pressure cooker.
Many thought the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American to occupy the White House, signaled the dawn of a post-racial era where colour would become politically meaningless. Americans would finally be judged “not by the colour of their skins but by the contents of their character.” as proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther King. But events since the inception of the Obama presidency suggest that racial colorblindness is not yet in political sight. Incidents like the controversial case of Trayvon Martin, the African-American youth slain by a white vigilante in 2012 as well as the disproportionate numbers of African-American males languishing for long periods in jail for minor crimes indicate that race remains a powerful factor in American society.
In Europe, heretofore homogenous, liberal nations now confront crises over the long-term viability of multi-culturalism as a model of social organization of their demographically fluid countries. With immigration increasing, socio-cultural dynamics in Western countries become more complex. People of different races, religions and ethnicities begin to contest for the social and economic benefits of life in those countries. Greater diversity becomes a source of greater potential for tension and friction.
Intense debate about the influx of immigrants, the concomitant xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric, show the challenge of diversity is not a uniquely Nigerian problem. Countries as varied as India and France grapple with internal conflicts arising from the composition of their societies. I highlight these instances to show there is nothing uniquely African or Nigerian about ethnic, racial or sectarian tension.
It is not as some prejudiced scholars postulate an indication of African backwardness. Diversity management is a challenge faced by nations everywhere.
Diversity as an Engine of Prosperity
Despite these complications, diversity can ignite economic prosperity and social tolerance. The most prosperous nations tend to be places that have learned to accommodate a culturally varied pool of wisdom and knowledge. This is the positive face of diversity – a rich kaleidoscope of intellectual, social and cultural resources for solving societal and economic problems as well as shaping a more congenial future. The US stands as a prime example of a nation founded by immigrants and periodically re-invigorated by waves of immigrants searching for the freedom and a fair chance to live abundant lives. America’s ability to absorb foreign talent is a main factor in its ascendancy. Leading US firms like Google, Intel, Yahoo, Mattel and others were founded or co-founded by immigrants or their descendants.
Western nations craft immigration policies to attract the best and brightest talents from around the world in order to enrich their nations. They benefit from the misguided xenophobic policies of countries that expelled foreign talent. For example, the influx of East African Indians fleeing persecution by the Ugandan tyrant, Idi Amin, positively transformed British commerce by introducing a new trend of night shopping that boosted nightly economic life. In contrast, the exodus of the Indians adversely impacted Uganda’s already ailing economy. Yale scholar Amy Chua highlighted the role of “market-dominant minorities” – groups that thrive entrepreneurially under market conditions – in driving growth. Creating economic space for such groups to flourish has been an essential element of the success of first world nations. Even in Nigeria, our most commercially vibrant cities like Lagos and Kano have also historically been our most cosmopolitan ones.
So distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we have established two premises upon which to base our discourse. First, conflict rooted in diversity is not particular to Nigeria or Africa. They are global phenomena showcasing the universal challenge of transforming diversity of
people into a commonality of national political purpose. Second, when properly channeled, diversity can drive economic growth and development by keeping a society flexible, tolerant and dynamic. Consequently, whether diversity leads to conflict or engenders prosperity boils down to the socio-economic context of said diversity and the quality of political leadership. It is about how societies choose to manage their diversity.
The Quest for a Workable Developmental Formula
Part of Nigeria’s national odyssey since 1960 has been the quest to assure an equitable future of all of her people; to balance her demographic diversity with a cohesive national purpose and political economic goals. coming into independence, Nigeria was the product of several constitutional conferences organized by colonial authorities and attended by leading Nigerian figures. Within the First Republic, a political consensus enabled the drafting of the 1963 Republican constitution with federal regionalism as the organizing principle for the nation.
In mapping the history of Nigeria, we must break our odyssey into two segments. The first covers the 1950s and the immediate post-independence period when regional federalism was the order of the day. At the time, Nigeria was divided into three then four regions, each with a great degree of autonomy to organize their affairs as they saw fit. The regions enjoyed fiscal autonomy, with governments funding their work and projects with the revenue from the taxation of the economic activities within their territories.
The second period commenced in 1966 with the coup that terminated the First Republic. The military centralized government. Regions were abolished and their tax-based government institutions along with them. What emerged was a militaristic-unitary state built atop the ruins of the regional federalism. A new economy based on the proceeds of selling crude oil was placed atop the prior economy that was largely based on agricultural activity and, to a lesser degree, manufacturing. Regional authorities had previously harnessed their internal resources and the energies of their people to propel development. After 1966, the federal military government shared the revenues from crude oil sales to states but the states were no longer administered as autonomous federating units but as subsidiary and subordinate departments remotely but directly controlled by the center. The primacy of the federal government would be decisively affirmed and reaffirmed over the decades to the extent that local and regional autonomy were banished from our political lexicon.
Provoked by the internecine anarchy and violent political conflict that characterized the First Republic’s last days, the military resolved that no federating unit should ever be strong enough to threaten national unity. Accordingly, the military dismantled the First Republic’s federal structures and adopted a new revenue allocation formula. The power to manage all natural resource (oil, gas, solid minerals) was vested exclusively in the Federal Government. Rights over revenues changed. The regions were divided into smaller states which became the new allocative units for sharing the nation’s wealth. Consequently, the more ‘states’ any ethnic group could get, the higher their collective ‘share’ of the national cake. The fiscal viability of the states themselves was not an issue.
The oil revenues flowing to the states from the central government destroyed the incentive for states to work and expand their tax bases and also destroyed the local institutions for tax administration that had existed under the regions. To complete the foundation upon which it sought to build a unitary nation, the military imposed uniform local government administration throughout the country.These artificially created local governments are now directly funded from the Federation Account. Since then this unitary innovations distorted political values have taken root in the national psyche, chief among them our elites preoccupation with consuming the national cake instead of devising ways to make a bigger one for the benefit of all.
The verdict of history is conclusive on which of these two chapters was more beneficial to Nigeria. In other words, the cure the military sought to impose was more dangerous than the malady it sought to treat. The choice is between competitive federalism and a revenue allocation formula that encouraged hard work and competition on the one hand, and the post-civil war order with its highly centralizedgovernance that stifled local creativity and autonomy on the other hand. In effect, the choice was no choice.
Without any doubt, the average Nigerian was better off in the first than under the second: per capita income in 1966 was about $1,000 and about $1,400 in 1973 and is currently about $1,200. In real terms, the average Nigerian today (despite Nigeria earning over $600 billion from oil since 1973) earns less than half of the income in 1966; is poorer; has a shorter life span; with less access to a poorer education system. Achievements wrought by the regions – the industries, palm and cocoa plantations and groundnut pyramids – have almost vanished. Our current constitutional order designed under the military aegis is based on a command and control structure for consuming oil rents. It entrenches a centralized, top-down, unitary-federalism aptly described as “feeding bottle federalism.” (Soludo, 2012). What is does not do is encourage the dynamism and creativity needed to pull the nation from the economic mire.
Those of us who support a sovereign national conference, in principle, see it as a means to an end. It is the instrument by which we hope to restore true federalism and developmental regionalism to the centre of Nigerian life. We may not be able to revive the regional architecture of the First Republic. State governments and local governments as presently constituted have existed long enough to have institutional and political lives of their own. Abolishing or reconfiguring them to recreate the regional dynamic of the First Republic may be too onerous a step. However, this does not mean that we cannot create forums of regional cooperation among political leaders, civil society actors and stakeholders to chart a path forward and work for the organic and gradual re-alignment of these administrative units into stronger economic and socio-political configurations.
An assumption at the heart of the military dictatorship was that the military could use its hierarchical structures to impose uniform development on the nation. The idea was that existing developmental disparities between various states could be eliminated through the calculated and varied allocation of resources among the several states. These efforts to stimulate uniform development failed. For one thing, the military regimes were too arbitrary, corrupt and rapacious. Thus, they proved to be unfit vectors of development. It was like expecting a thieving brother to guard the family treasure.
Their most telling flaw was that they were woefully ignorant of the task at hand. They were blind to the fact that development cannot be imposed from the top. Real development emanates from the people’s perceptions of their own challenges and their ability to take responsibility for resolving them. For development policies to work, goals have to be generated at the grassroots by the citizenry and tally with their own needs and aspirations. It is a process that flows from the bottom to the top. Military governments and the hybrid unitary-federalism of our present order have perverted this dynamic so that the grass has no roots. The people are condemned to live with hand extended in permanent expectancy of some rare munificence of a distant, unfeeling federal authority.
The continued belief in top-down development is a main reason the majority of our people are yet to feel the impact of democracy fourteen years after the inception of the Fourth Republic. In 1999, there was talk of “the dividends of democracy.” The phrase conveyed the notion that democracy is about more than just the right to vote. It refers to practical social and economic benefits the people should rightly expect of their government. Progress toward these goals is also the litmus test by which electorates can evaluate the legitimacy and competence of their elected representatives. The scale of access to these public goods is also the barometer by which we ascertain the health of the community. Today, generally speaking, we can say that Nigeria is not in the best of health. By this measure – the availability and access to public goods – we, the political elites, are not performing well.
This problem goes beyond good intentions or lack thereof. The failures of the political class to deliver the public goods that will qualitatively transform the lives of our people is both personal and systemic. We tend to focus on the personal failures of politicians while ignoring the institutional dysfunctions that severely constrain performing political leaders with good intentions. It can be reasonably argued that the dysfunctional architecture of the present system is as dangerous as the personal debilities of the system’s operators. “Feeding- bottle federalism” provides no incentives for the political class to govern responsibly and kills momentum for real grassroots development.
A shadowy, remote central authority cannot provide these benefits for all the population. It simply lacks the capacity and the reach in a country as vast as Nigeria. This is what recommends the decentralised approach of the First Republic. People had tangible, close relationships with their governments and saw the fruits of their labour in the form of taxes being deployed to establish public infrastructure and provide social services meant for all. Where the people felt the visible works of government were not commensurate with their investments, people could more easily petition and pressure the regional governments to improve. Government was close enough to the grassroots for them to make their feelings known. Thus, government and governed were bound in a relationship of mutual accountability. Governments could demand taxes from the citizens who. in turn, demanded performance from the state. The unitary-federal hybrid legacy of military regimes wrecked this dynamic.
Successive administrations have spoken about diversifying the economy, liberating it from the curse of oil. But, it is not the oil that is cursed. It is the way and means of our leadership and the institutions we deploy. We cannot truly diversify and bring economic reform without re-engineering the federal union. We have mishandled our oil wealth because our leaders were not as committed to national development as they were to personal enrichment. Having sufficient funds for their enjoyment dumped in their laps, the elite felt no incentive to do anything. The grassroots was too weak, disorganised and distant to take them to task. They could feast and grow fat while the rest of the nation fasted and grew thin.
No country can prosper by being a net exporter of natural resources. However wealthy oil has made us, it is a finite resource. Its exploitation is subject to the law of diminishing returns because its supply is exhaustible or can be rendered irrelevant by technological innovation.
Manufacturing is key to our national prosperity. We must resuscitate old industries and build new ones. The path of growth lies with value-added economic activities particularly manufacturing. This is even more so as manufacturing will be a key employer of our growing urban population. The federal government has rightly identified electricity supply as a cornerstone of industrial renaissance. Moreover, we need a national infrastructural initiative to provide the roads, bridges, ports, and other projects needed to spur economic activity and generate employment on a grand scale. .
These areas – the power sector and the infrastructure deficit have long undermined our industrial capacity. Without these two areas functioning, the FDI coming into the country will be limited to extractive endeavors or speculative financial ones. Neither supplies the real help we need. . Tackling these sectors is a vital step. However, speed is of the essence.To drive progress, the development mechanism has to be decentralised. The burden of creating infrastructure for a fast growing population is simply too immense for a centralised, often inefficient and demoralised bureaucracy. It has to be shared and distributed among the different levels of our economic development. The states, the main federating units, are well positioned to act as these development hubs, provided they are unshackled from their paralyzing dependency on the centre.
Our goal, therefore, is to design a template that unleashes the potential heretofore trapped by the structures of feeding bottle federalism. Our aim is to retrieve the dignity of our people from the maw inefficient centralized governance. We must truly restore power to the people. This in my view, makes a national conference imperative.
The National Question
The clamour for a sovereign national conference has a long history. The 1980s and the 1990s were characterized by numerous crises and serial eruptions of violence across the country. These include the Maitatsine, a violent extremist cult that emerged in Kano in 1980 and the religious disturbances that became fixtures of Northern Nigerian urban centres claiming lives and properties in Kaduna, Kano, Gombe and Bauchi. The backdrop for these incidents was a climate in which religion (like ethnicity) became increasingly politicised. It thus served to polarise communities. In 1986, the Babangida regime surreptitiously took Nigeria into full membership of the Organization of Islamic Countries. This decision increased religious tension. By that time, every government decision was seen through sectarian blinkers. Pundits on both sides of the religious divide traded accusations of “Islamisation” and “Christianisation.”
The South was scarcely more peaceful than the North. Micro-civil wars raged in the Ife-Modakeke crisis, the Umuleri-Aguleri conflict and the deadly strife between Itsekiris and Urhobos in Warri. In the Middle Belt, the Tiv-Jukun conflict put Benue and Taraba aflame.
Two macro-political factors were at the root of the chronic ethnic and religious strife. First, the military dictators had outlawed all political and civil associations leaving only ethnic, religious and sectional groups intact. This politicised religion and ethnicity due to the closure of the traditional political space where organizations based on political affinity could transcend religious and ethnic confines. It led to distinctly political passions being articulated in the language of religious and ethnic exclusion. The military also politicised religion and ethnicity for its own end, using it as a divide-and- rule tactic to subvert the possibility of a pan-Nigerian civil society resolutely opposed to dictatorship.
The second factor was a corollary to the first. The Babangida regime’s imposition of a structural adjustment programme, the neo-liberal menu prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, decimated local industries, reduced social spending on education and healthcare and unraveled the public sector. The ensuing recession caused massive socio-economic dislocation. In this climate, ethnicity and religion tensions would rise and economic hardship spread. As a corollary, ethnic and confessional identities began to serve as social security constructs in the absence of any national welfare schemes. Ethnicity and religion also became more effective passports to government patronage thereby heightening the potential for conflict.
By the 1990s, a number of trends and policies had coalesced in the public mind into what was called ‘the national question.’ The national question encapsulated a number of grievances and controversial issues that militated against a fair and equal citizenship. The first was the widely perceived dominance of the military by northerners, specifically Muslim northerners. This theme was described as the problem of northern hegemony.
The national question also involved issues of identity vis-à-vis ethnic minorities in a political context dominated by three major ethnic groups and the security of minority religious enclaves in a milieu defined by the politicisation of religion. There were debates over the fairness of affirmative action programmes as ordained by the principle of federal character and of the use of quotas to determine access to opportunity at the expense of merit. Additionally, we saw the stirrings of a protest movement in the Niger Delta where oil-rich minority communities began to articulate their sense of neglect and exploitation by both State and Multinational oil corporations. Other controversies such as the abortive Orkar coup of 1990 in which conspirators announced the excision of five northern states, the annulment of the June 12 election and the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa accentuated the pungency of the national question.
On President Jonathan’s National Dialogue
The return to civil rule in 1999 defused some of the tensions accumulated under military rule. It also intensified others. The Fourth Republic has been characterized by slow and tortured advance in democratic practice while still being dogged by recurrent political, ethnic and religious violence.
Contemporary events should give us pause. We suffer a terrorist insurgency in the northeast that continues with lethal resilience despite the efforts of our bedraggled, underequipped and ill-trained military and security agents. At the same time, the federal government fails to meet its fiscal obligations to states when it does not disburse allocations from the federation account when due, this causes severe financial and operational paralysis in the states. The inability of the federal government to meet this constitutional duty raises questions about the true health of our public finances. The latest bout of now chronic labour disputes which wrack public education and health care sectors imperil the health and education of millions of people. Thousands of youth are stuck in an existential limbo while the federal government plays dice with their future.
The ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party is embroiled in its most severe internal crisis. A visible faction questions the propriety of a second term run by President Jonathan in 2015.
The subtext of this dispute is that under the terms of the rotation of power within that party, it is the turn of the “North” to occupy the presidency in 2015.
As these political contests continue and various episodes of violence and corruption dominate the news headlines, anxieties about national disintegration return to the fore. It is against this backdrop that calls for a sovereign national conference re-emerge. President Jonathan’s recently announced plan for a national dialogue has become a central issue. The rationale for the government’s decision is the need for Nigerians to discuss their problems and, in so doing, reverse the current sense of drift and indirection.
For us who have championed the need for a national conversation, this administration’s volte face after resisting calls for dialogue should appear to be a welcome gesture. But we are inclined to be skeptical about the real motives behind this sudden turnaround. Such a dialogue must be conducted with highest levels of political integrity. If not, what is a good idea can become a political disaster of major consequence. Our position is that the needed integrity and trustworthiness currently does not exist. The problem is not only one of suspect motives but of poor timing. An exhaustive national dialogue cannot be expected to end before the next polls in 2015. The proximity of this dialogue to the polls itself will inevitably politicise proceedings when success is dependent on an environment devoid of partisan dramatics.
This administration suffers from a severe credibility and performance deficits that readily casts doubt on its capacity to undertake an exercise with such import for our national destiny. We see this as a diversionary maneuver to distract attention from the pressing questions of the day. It is no accident that the protracted industrial action by university lecturers revolves around the issue of broken trust. The failure of the federal government to abide by agreements it freely entered into with the lecturers highlights the trust deficit that immediately disqualifies this administration from supervising a national dialogue. It is worth asking whether an administration that cannot abide by the terms of a simple accord with the lecturers’ union can forge a consensus between Nigeria’s divergent interests at a national conference. Our view is that it cannot reasonably claim such a capacity.
Moreover, the federal government now cannot pretend that it must hold this dialogue in order to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities. In recent months the federal government has failed to disburse allocations to states when due. Now, the state of our public finances has become an issue. Sadly, different federal agencies present vastly different portraits of our finances, reflecting a certain duplicity regarding the true state of our national treasury.
It is impossible to gauge what extent oil theft has degraded our earnings. The escalating oil theft comes at a time when a business concern owned by an ex-militant has been given effective charge of policing the territorial waters. This is the zenith of cronyism in a matter with major impact on national security and our economic welfare. Again, the sudden advocacy of a national dialogue seems to be a ploy to divert attention from the administration’s mishandling of these issues.
Even without staging a national dialogue, there is much space for incremental progress to be made in the area of fiscal federalism by devolving more powers and resources to the states; Mr. President does not need a national dialogue to achieve that. For example, the vexing issue of power supply could be significantly resolved if distribution was moved from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list enabling states to supply electricity to their residents. Some states have invested significantly in the power sector and have power generating assets but are constrained by extant laws to channel their output into the central national grid thus denying their residents of the fruits of their investments. One can only imagine how much the latent industrial potential of these states is hamstrung by unhelpful laws. It does not take a national dialogue to remedy these ills; only the political will at the federal level to match the enthusiasm in the states concerned.
Here I must say something about recent happenings in Anambra and the obvious need for electoral reform. Many things took place in Anambra. Sadly the much anticipated governorship election was not among them. Although it had only one election to conduct, INEC proved incapable and too puny for the task. All forms of malpractice occurred, from ballot stealing to ballot stuffing. INEC officials were in some instances openly partisan. In other instances, they were visibly absent from their posts. The instance of multiple voting and the names of genuine voters disappearing from the voters list reveal that voter registration was substandard. The computer system is vulnerable to massive fraud because it is not a fully integrated system and it is not fully a biometric one. Anambra became a feast of electoral malpractice. If this is a harbinger of elections next year and in 2015, we shall need more than a national dialogue. We shall be in desperate need of the miracle of national salvation.
If the President wants to prove that he is an honest actor who can be trusted let him quit sitting on the Uwais electoral reform report. Let him dedicate himself to passing its many fine recommendations into law. Moreover, let us institute a fully integrated biometric voter registration and balloting system as done successfully in other African nations. If he can do this, then we will know he is sincere. If he cannot do something that is so obviously needed, then the president would have shown that his objective is something other than the fair and free elections true democracy requires.
At some point, I would love to see a national conference for it is a good thing. It is a fine way to gain national self-understanding and forge the requisite national consensus needed to move our political economy forward. But we caution that the present administration lacks the capacity, integrity and competence to conduct the important exercise in the honest way it must be done. We believe that under the present circumstances such a dialogue will be perverted by the political intents of its originators while rubbishing the concept of a national dialogue in the public consciousness. We must not allow this positive idea to be mishandled and slaughtered on the altar of cynical politics.
What poses the gravest danger to Nigeria at this time is not our diversity but the diverse and multiple ineptitude of the current administration. Rather than wasting time on this contrived national dialogue, we suggest they attempt to govern the nation by addressing our major problems with an urgency and wisdom heretofore lacking in their conduct of affairs. Let them begin with a full forensic audit of the national treasury. We need to ascertain the true health of our finances before more of it is squandered on wasteful and cynical projects. Then let them end with power supply to unleash the latent creative energies of our people. If they merely do these two things, the administration can keep itself busy enough that it will not have time to concoct odd schemes intended to convert much needed national conference into an unwarranted endorsement of this lackluster government. The day of a true national dialogue will come but it shall be for the people of Nigeria to determine.
Thank you for listening.
Dr. Kayode Fayemi
Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria
Monday, November 25, 2013
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