National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani, told SAXONE AKHAINE in Kaduna that the proposed national conference would not solve the country’s numerous problems.
DO you think the committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to midwife the national conference would produce a credible agenda for the dialogue?
I am not very sure if they would have any credible agenda, as I have said and will continue to say. It is an internal mechanism by the federal government on how to go about the conference.
I want to believe that the federal government, even though it is the one convoking the conference, does not want to be seen as determining everything, and as such require public input.
Some people are saying it is a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) that would be the solution. Why is ACF against a sovereign conference?
It is not ACF alone that is against sovereign national conference; I am aware that the Plateau State submission and the South-South Peoples Assembly are against it too.
The only groups that have been in favour, and one has even backed out, are Southeast and Southwest. Even in the Southwest, not all of the people agree on the idea.
However, some of the people are saying that the outcome should be subjected to a referendum. So, where are you people getting the view that it is a popular opinion? The media is the one promoting the opinion.
The problem of Nigeria has nothing to do with the structure of the country, the form of government or the law. It has more to do with the ways we do things. Even up till today we have made that very clear.
But when we say it, you people will say the north doesn’t want SNC or the country to disintegrate and so on.
Do all the countries in the world live on oil? The oil is about finishing and you think the north will be so stupid to allow oil to determine the national or northern agenda? It is a perishable commodity; it is not an outcome of hardwork.
So, the opposition of the north against SNC is that nobody should be allowed to think he/she has the right to set the national agenda and pass a vote of no confidence on our democracy and its institutions.
The opposition against disintegration is borne out of conviction that in the final analysis, we shall be better as a united Nigeria than been in a dismembered situation.
Japan doesn’t have oil, but it is on the move. There is this principle that says necessity is the mother of invention, so they think if there is no oil, we will not survive or what? You think we would just sink? God has not made the world like that.
How many conferences have we had, as a country? The resolutions of those conferences have not really been on how to make this country perform. And in any case, the decisions were supposed to find their ways to the National Assembly in form of executive bills and be made laws. But we have not done that and we want fresh one.
Since we are more or less blackmailed that the north doesn’t want conference and is afraid of it, let us go for the conference and see the outcome. Let them raise the issues and we will reply. We are not afraid!
Do you really think the conference would be the solution to the country’s numerous problems?
It can’t be the solution. For goodness sake, can the hype in ethnic nationalism guarantee the unity of this country? When you begin to promote cleavages along ethnic lines, where in the world has it ever happen like that and people are in peace?
So, those who are talking about SNC are just promoting ethnic nationalism, forgetting about intermarriages. If an Hausa man marries an Ibo woman and they give birth to a child, what is their own position?
So, I have the feeling that we have not sat down to think on how to solve the problems of this country. We in the ACF believe that the problem of this country has more to do with the collapse of national ideals, moral values, sense of social contract and sense of right and sense of wrong.
The factor promoting all these is corruption, and when there is too much corruption, it tends to steal peoples empowerment, their opportunities and future. And when it reaches a level that they will begin to wonder whether they are meant to live at all, you know that you have pushed them to the extreme.
These are the people who take it against society, believing that society has been unfair to them. And in situations like that, will you allow such people to set the national agenda? No!
In most countries of the world, when these things happen, then they come together to confront it. Not to be telling me today that Hausa-Fulanis have been ruling this country for years. The Ibos have been in government all along before, but they will be telling you about marginalization.
Look at the government now, it is like an Ibo government, yet they are talking of marginalisation. The Ijaw are still saying that they are marginalised even when the President is their son. The Yoruba are saying they are marginalised and the north too is saying that. Marginalised by who?
Let us address real issues to revive Nigeria, and this starts from leadership.
Are you saying the proposed national conference cannot resolve the collapse of the national ideals you are talking about?
How will it resolve it? Is it that we don’t know the problems? Do you need a conference to tell you about it?
The issue is to let Nigerians make up their minds and make judicious use of their democratic rights and elect leaders by making their votes count.
When leaders know that peoples vote count, they will naturally be accountable to the people. And when they are accountable to the people, you can be sure that they will deliver on the promise of democracy.
But when Nigerians themselves, including the youth, allow themselves to be bought, to be used to snatch ballot boxes and alter results, do you think the leaders that emerge under such situation will be accountable? Will you hold the leaders responsible in such case, like we are in today?
Let us make up our minds and make judicious use of our democratic rights and ensure our votes count and we elect leaders who would be accountable to Nigerians, and perhaps be able to make poverty history.
At the moment we are not doing that. We have been keeping singing the same song. We must be able to struggle for our rights, with strength and courage.
But federal executive and National Assembly members said they were legitimately and properly elected, so hold sovereignty on behalf of the people?
I saw a paper delivered by Afenifere tabulating the numbers of Nigerians that turned out to vote in the last general elections and from that, the executive and members of the National Assembly are not legitimate, because of the percentage is very low.
I ask the question, if democracy allows you to vote and you don’t go out to vote, who do you blame? There is this saying that bad leaders are as a result of those who do not come out to vote. If you don’t come out to vote, then don’t blame anybody, but blame yourself when things are not going right in the country.
That is why religious leaders always say that God gives a society the leaders that suit such society.
But we in the school of political science will say if you do not make good use of your democratic right and as a result, wrong leaders emerge, you have yourselves to blame.
Since you are of the opinion that the national conference will not solve the problems, why is ACF now turning round to participate?
It is because they are always blackmailing us. If we say a thing, we would be blackmailed. If we say we would not participate in the conference, they will say north is afraid, they can’t confront us, they are cheating us, they are taking our oil; they don’t want the country to break.
So, no problem! Let us go for the conference and we would reply them. We would have answers, so let us go for the conference.
It is not that we believe that it will solve any problem, at least let them see us as participating, so that we are not seen as undermining the system.
Has ACF in any way alert the government that the national conference might not be a solution to the country’s problems?
There have been constitutional review committees and we made submissions. We went to Ohanaeze and made submissions. We went to Afenifere and made submissions. So, what do you people want us to do?
They spoke about the structure of the country, we told them our views. They said state police and we told them our views. So, what do you want us to say again, since they say it is national conference that will solve the problems and are giving us names?