National Conference: Need For Moderation,By Issa Aremu



Aremu2013“I never saw an instance of one or two disputants convincing the other by argument’-Thomas Jefferson;

As one of the delegates of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC led by Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, yours truly truly bears witness to President’s speech at the inauguration of the National Conference on the 17th of March in Abuja. The President’s speech rightly calls for inclusiveness, oneness and unity of the nation. This is a worthy challenge for all delegates including yours sincerely. We must be objective, measured and seek for common grounds for common good for nation-building as the historic conference resumes tomorrow. This conference offers a platform for a moderation not dogmatism and cheap point scoring. The conference should promote the art of dialogue which means the ‘art of thinking together’ and NOT another diatribe that engenders unnecessary strains and tensions. Precisely because this conference takes place against the background of some preventable violence across the country that is claiming lives of some Nigerians delegates must know that the best value addition is to minimize and eliminate televised tensions and not add to the existing crises. I agree with President Jonathan that we…”need a new mind and a new spirit of oneness and national unity”. We must in President’s words ..”jettison the poisonous mind-sets of the past, which were built on unhealthy competition”.

We need not magnify tongues and tribes, to further justify the existing divisions. On the contrary, more than ever before all of us Nigerians are united by poverty than the taunted tongues, religions, regions and similar contrived laagers. Indeed through this historic conference, we must all be united in generating ideas that will build prosperity and commonwealth. While we can agonize over the need for a true Federalism, what is self evident is that the world is divided into rich and poor nations. Nigerians must strive to be counted among the rich nations to overcome poverty. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 112.519 million Nigerians of the country’s estimated 179 million population live in relative poverty conditions. Nigeria’s 112million poor are four times the 22 million population of Uganda and ten times population of Zambian Republic. Whether we use relative poverty index or absolute poverty measure, NBS shows Nigeria fails all poverty measurement standards, notwithstanding the taunted growth rate of 7.6per cent. The attempt to “regionalize” our dismal poverty statistics only confirms that the critical masses of all Nigerians are poor. The tragedy of the last week Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise shows that all states and six (6) geo-political zones are united and even miserably threatened by scourge of unemployment and underemployment. There is no “Muslim” or “Christian” unemployed! There are Nigerian unemployed. Unemployed are unemployed! Regardless of their religious profiling, unemployed suffer same income poverty and early deaths. When millions of youth applicants chased in stampede as few as 4,500 public jobs, as we recently witnessed, it’s time for moderation on the part of delegates to generate new ideas on how to get Nigeria and Nigerians back to work.

The alternative is better just not imagined! Lest we forget it was the self immolation of an unemployed street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi on December 17 2010 that triggered the “Arab spring” type revolution that swept ancient regimes of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Gadfafi in Libya. 19 dead applicants are more than enough to cause social explosion not just in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole! Nigeria’s grim poverty and unemployment statistics task the sense of purpose, moderation and sobriety of the respected delegates which happily parade eminent Nigerians. Let’s emphasize common principles of the two great faiths, namely Islam and Christianity which include compassion, sacrifices, love and forgiving. We should also stop being insular, be pan Nigerian and pan African.

Better to work for a United States of Africa in line with the vision of the late Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, late Sekou Toure than returning to discredited ethnic enclaves that will reopen old buried animosities as we are witnessing in new South Sudan and Ukraine.

We cannot compete with bigger EU, bigger USA, India and China in pieces!

I commend the healthy debate by Nigerians on the allowances of the delegates. Of course, there is no easy answer as to what delegates are entitled to. Certainly delegates uprooted from their routine deserve minimum comfort to deliver service to the nation. The issue therefore is not to grandstand or play to the gallery or exhibit sheer insensitivity. Whatever the allowances of delegates are; delegates must be sensitive to the fact that millions of workers live on minimum wages that are in some states not paid without protest or paid late monthly. A country that unacceptably asks for N1000 from an unemployed applicant cannot justify paying few some prohibitive allowances. With such huge budget deficits at all levels, we should not give an impression that the problem is how to share the money! We are in a country of fast spreading baby factories, in which scandalously teenage girls on account of absolute deprivations get pregnant and deliver babies for sale as cheap as some N300,000! Polytechnics and colleges of education are under lock and key on demands that call for more funding. Also Nigeria is already impoverished by high cost of governance. This conference should not unjustifiably add to the existing cost of governance and divert scarce resources from education or health.

I agree with the late Mahatma Ghandi of India that the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.

Issa Aremu mni


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