The Sovereign National Conferences We Need … By Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko



The call for sovereign national conference in Nigeria has recently gained attention with activists insisting that the only way forward for Nigeria is to convene a sovereign national conference that will provide opportunities for all Nigerians to dialogue on the challenges that the nation is facing. As it is a common practice that in the event of conflict in our relationships, fighting may be good but dialogue is always better, many are carried away that a dialogue of the citizens from the federating units of Nigeria will be the better way to overcome the present fighting and killing in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, many have not taken out time to reflect on the core of the conflict, which has resulted to fighting each other and which we seek to solve through dialogue. At the root of the conflicts within the Nigeria nation is not just the differences in tribes and tongues or the differences between solid minerals and liquid minerals in our regions, but the differences in faiths and denominations in Nigeria.

This was the missing item in Lugard’s effort that culminated in the 1914 amalgamation of North and South into one Nigeria. Yes, the regions of North and South were brought together but the religions of Islam and Christianity were left aside and apart. Consequently, we agreed that our bodies are together but our minds were torn apart, one side facing Islam and the other facing Christianity. The historic failures of addressing our religious differences but focusing on our regional commonalities and joint resources utilization have never worked out. Externally, excuses around resources are given as reasons for our fighting or tribes are mentioned as the differences. Yet, our major differences are in our faiths and denominations, our perceptions of the One God, the last Messenger and the Messiah.

The problems confronting the nation of Nigeria has always revolved around the three major themes of religions, regions and resources. First is our religious differences and misunderstanding, while the second point is our regional affiliations to North or South, East or West. The third point is our development and utilization of resources, whether there are agricultural, solid minerals or oil minerals or solar energy resources. Understanding this order of our challenges and seeking to address them in an ordered form is the surest way to evolving a sustainable solution to our national challenges.

So, if dialogues through conferences are what we need, then what kind of sovereign national conferences do we need at this time? First, we need a national dialogue for religious harmony and cooperation.  What we actually need first is a successful national interreligious conference to discuss our differences in faiths and denominations as these divide us more that regions and tribes as well as resources in the region. A National Interreligious Conference that will bring together all stakeholders is most important and such a conference should articulate a new National Interreligious Policy that will facilitate the realization of Interreligious Harmony and Cooperation in Nigeria where all religious people can live together as brothers and sisters, and keepers of one another unlike the present situation where religious people who acknowledge the teachings of do not kill have become killers of one another.

The second national conference that Nigeria needs will have to deal with issues of regional cooperation on the foundation of religious cooperation. In this regard, we need a SNC to discuss the multiplication of Nigeria and not the division of Nigeria. We need to discuss how Nigeria and other countries of the present region of West Africa can become one Nation and not whether Nigeria should continue as one or not. It is too late to contemplate the division of Nigeria but really early and timely to focus on the multiplication of our nation into West Africa. A regional West Africa sovereign nations conference should bring together all 15 member nations of ECOWAS with Nigeria to discuss the new future of the region. In this way, the conference should look into issues of a common President of one West Africa nation with present nations becoming federating units like state.

Nations will huge population like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and others may be allowed to have more than one state in the new West Africa nation. It is possible that the present agitation for dividing Nigeria into tribes can still take place within the multiplied Nigeria. For instance, Nigeria may produce six states with the nation of West Africa with South East, South South, South West and North East, North Central and North West as states. The present 36 states of Nigeria may become like 36 LGAs within West Africa. Ghana, for instance may also be divided into 2 or 3 states under the nation of West Africa, and other nations may be given due consideration to the extent that we may have up to 36 states of the West Africa nation with Nigeria producing 6 of the 36 states.

Truly, it is very nonsensical for anyone to contemplate on a division of independent Nigeria. The time has come when nations that will lead in the 21st and 22nd centuries need to realize that they have to gain and attain interdependence and no longer independence. The age of independence of nation states have passed already and now is the moment of interdependence of nation states. We need to boldly declare our interdependence now. The founding fathers of the independent Nigeria fought for national independence and got them in the late 1950s and the early 1960s in West Africa except Liberia. After 40 years of wilderness path, the hour has come for a new generation of Nigerians to emerge and fly a bigger flag of West Africa. Our dialogue, our calling and our mandate now is not on how to divide what our forefathers to put together but how to grow what they established. If we fail to grow their efforts, it will be very miserable for us and our descendants. When we say that the labor of our heroes past shall not be in vain, this is what it means. Our heroes past fought for one Nigeria and we need to grow that one Nigeria into one West Africa, One Africa and eventually one World.

It may be interesting to know that when nations were dividing against each other in 1914 in the name of World War 1, the many kingdoms in Nigeria were amalgamated into one Nigeria. Between now and 2014, nations around the world shall be uniting. It therefore sounds very ridiculous and anti-progressive that our 1914 amalgamated nation should become a divided nation by 2014. It means a wasted 100 years and we cannot be forgiven by God, our ancestors and even our descendants.

The third national conference on the foundation of a successful regional conference should be the conference of West African states on the resources in the region. With a common West African culture and West African community, it will be a more simplified effort to discuss on development and utilization of all resources throughout the West African nation. We will need the conference to explore strategies on how to develop all resources and how best to effectively and efficiently utilize the resources for the well being of our people. These are the national conferences that we need at this time to ensure that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear!

Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko, International Coordinator, Global Educators for All Initiative www.globaleducators.org, [email protected]

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