The premise of this opinion article is predicated on the notion that Southern Nigeria needs to insist on the Sovereign National Conference (SNG) in order to rectify the divisions, poverties, and insecurities within the constituent nationalities of the United Nations of Nigeria. Like South Sudan, Southern Nigeria must be willing to peacefully shut down the entire oil pipelines in the Niger Delta. These actions are necessary in light of the high levels of mass decadence and elites’ sponsored terrorism that we have witnessed for the last 40years and past 4year respectively.
There ought to be some reactions from the masses to send some shockwaves to the strata so that we can break away from the status quo. Hence this is by no means a call to arms but a calculated strategy of bringing representatives of all our various nationalities together to craft a republic that is beneficial for the regular Nigerians. Haphazard and half measures like the much heralded constitutional amendment in Nigeria would not suffice. We need to form a union that is not based on 19th/20th century European protectorate contraptions or those of our military and civilian dictators and scoundrels a.k.a. internal colonial masters. Instead ours should be a union grounded in self-determination, our combined destinies, and inter-regional survival.
Consequently, the nationalities within Southern Nigeria need to convey a 3-5days conference on national security, transparency, and economic development. This august summit would seek to build on the just concluded South-South Economic Summit that took place in Asaba Delta State on April 27, 2012 at which Professor Wole Soyinka spoke. Civil society groups, states and local government representatives from the South West, South East, and South-South should attend the aforementioned conference with a mission of laying the groundwork for security, good governance, and development in Southern Nigeria in lieu of the systematic corruption in Nigeria and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram and other insurgencies in the country. This gathering should be the precursor for the Sovereign National Conference and emissaries from the Middlebelt of Nigeria should be encouraged to attend. The key issues that should be discussed include the actualization of the Sovereign National Conference, the demand for a confederation system of government in Nigeria, transparency in states and municipal governments, and job creation through investments in infrastructures to benefit our burgeoning youth populations.
The expediency of this gathering cannot be over emphasized when we are witnessing an elitist bankrolled terrorist onslaught on the Nigerian people in northern Nigeria. Our police stations, military barracks/installations, churches, prisons/jails, and the international community buildings have become primary targets for the bloodthirsty Boko Haram criminals in the north. As a sad testament to our current realities the so-called northern elders have been unambiguous in their predilections to offer rhetorical shield for the relentless carnages in the north.
Unlike the perennial meetings of the North Elders Forum/Arewa Elders Forum that have yielded sycophantic comments and no substances, the Southern Nigerian Guidelines workshop would be results oriented. For example, when retired General Theophilus Danjuma said that the north is on fire during recent gatherings, others should have immediately asked him to bring out some of his ill-gotten wealth to quench the fire. We need to ask Mr. Danjuma if his pronounced “Somalialisation of Nigeria” has a correlation with the massive national fortunes the members of the 1% Northern Military Industrial Complex like him have amassed to the detriment of the public good. Similar questions could be asked of Senate President Mr. David Mark and his foundations. Do they still generate revenues from oil wells in the Niger Delta? How much of their rogue funds have they used in making some differences in the lives of everyday northerners and other folks?
During the Southern Nigerian Guidelines conference we have to tell ourselves the truth which should be distinct from the presentations in recent assemblies of General Yakubu Gowon former Nigerian Head of State and Mr. Ibrahim Shekarau former governor of Kano State. Both men are comparable to other so-called elites who continue to wallow in their own self-imposed denials and realities. Gowon keeps on blaming General Ojukwu for succession rather than the ethnic and religious inspired pogrom in the north that he oversaw before the war and during the Biafra genocide. Similar killings are continuing today because so-called elder statesmen like Dictator Gowon continue their embellishments.
Relatively, no one ventures to ask the ex-chief executive in Kano State about his stewardship to the people. Why did Mr. Shekarau stop polio vaccinations under his watch and as a result institutionalize increased poverty? Governor Shekarau contested for the presidency in 2011 and was bestowed with the title Sardauna of Kano by the Emir of Kano because he stood for the interest of the northern Nigerian 1%. However to his credit and under his watch Nigeria remained part of the three nations who were unsuccessful in eradicating polio. In this disgracefully World Health Organization WHO rankings, we stand hand in hand with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Stewardship and accountability should be the hallmark of the Southern confab. Instead of worshipping positions, status, and power, our goals should include identifying the root causes of our problems in a land where it is not enough to be a chief, but one has to be a high chief without any community service, morals, and mores.
Generally, clinicians recognize “acceptance” as the first step in dealing with denial. Meanwhile the elites in Nigeria continue to be in denial concerning our dire straits we have to go ahead with the southern workshop to address our pandemic addiction to corruption, massive underdevelopment, and swelling insecurities. Civil society activists, state legislators and local government representatives of the various southern nations should be the primary conduit of actualizing this conference. Afterwards some of our governors are entrenched in the status quo as members of the 1% in Nigeria and maybe the world; we cannot allow them to undermine the south confab.
Therefore one of the first resolutions that should be addressed in the assembly is the stripping of immunity from governors and all other serving officials. There is a need to realize that the official immunity tradition is as antiqued as the British inspired and informed hair wigs that our barristers still place on their heads under the Nigerian scorching sun. Prosecutorial or Qualified Immunity is at the heart of the systematic corruption in the south and the whole nation. Our legislators need to look into a framework of recalling all elected officials in southern Nigeria through referendums which should be organized by obtaining signatories of certain percentages of the electorate.
Former and present governors and judges in south Nigeria would have to be sent the message that the business of governance and accountability will demand drastic changes. In the Southern Nigerian Guidelines conference our state legislators and human rights and environmental rights activists need to come up with best practices to hold prior, present, future politicians, and public trust office holders responsible for their actions and inactions. Gone should be the days when criminal and corruption charges are only brought by the federal government as in the case of Governor Bode George of Ondo State and another nation such as United Kingdom have to sentence and incarcerate our known thieves like Governor James Ibori of Delta State for wanton fraud.
State laws and prosecutors should be strengthened and encouraged to go after crooked politicians, businesses, and judges. State legislators should pass laws that increase the amount of incarceration periods for intimidating, comprising, and bribing government officials especially judges. The acceptance of quid pro quo arrangements in terms of offering and receiving favors should also be brainstormed and criminalized when legislators return to their various southern states. If these measured are successfully codified into laws after the south conference, then we might very well bid farewell to the era of fugitive ex-governors.
Some have asked about how we plan to convene a Sovereign Nation Conference and how do we assign the representatives for the said conference. We go by pass our federal legislators, make dem go hug transformers because dem too mago mago (Pidgin English). Our federal senators and house of assembly members are some of the highest paid legislators in the world, they are insensitive, corrupt, and out of touch with the people. Our local legislators, who are more representative of the 99% of Nigerians, have to occupy the quest for true representative democracy. In the interest of more transparency we also need to push for public funded elections so that we do not have a plutocracy influenced by cabals. We have to create systems that empower our people and rekindles our ethical can do spirits. Our societies and communities should be receptive to the contributions of our youthful expatriates that are scattered all around the world. More importantly we need to invest in inter-state public works projects that would elevate the standard of living for our ever expanding home-based youth and elderly populations.
Part of the mission of the Southern Nigerian Guidelines gathering must be to offer pragmatic solutions to our ongoing problems. With all the aforementioned plugged holes of corruption we would have the opportunity to capitalize on infrastructures that are going to benefit the masses for the next 50-100years. Primary bilateral areas to concentrate on includes, improving the healthcare delivery systems and research facilities in the south. With the number of southern medical manpower and specialists in Nigeria and around the globe there are no reasons why the health-wealth gradient continues to deteriorate. At the very least we need to have comprehensive plans to cure and feed ourselves with our human capital. The agriculture sectors would demand enormous investments and subsidies so that we can reduce our importation of basic food stuffs. Our universities and tertiary institutions from Obafemi Awolowo University IIe Ife to Rivers States University of Science and Technology, from University of Nigeria Nsukka to University of Lagos, from University of Uyo to University of Benin, and from Federal University of Technology Owerri to University of Calabar need to have each other’s faculties on speed dial.
Consequently, the four walls of these educational centers need to establish a fifth wall for research industries and technological zones to nourish and heal the rest of West Africa. There is also the need for southern Nigerian nation states to cooperate with other countries along the West African coastlines including the Bright of Biafra, to enable us build thriving fishing and tourism industries. This is not the 15th century and we should not allow our mangrove swamps and maritime estuaries to be pillaged by other countries and corporations through unannounced and unaccounted fishing raids. Plans should be made to monetize these sectors by establishing secure tourist coastal cities with boardwalks activities and thriving seafood processing businesses to serve the African and international markets. It makes no sense for South Koreans, Europeans, or any other countries to steal our seafood commodities in broad daylight and then sell them back to Africans for triple the prices or more in the form of processed fisheries. These are valuable sources of community development projects that we need to take into consideration.
Another priority area that we have to finance and cooperate on in southern Nigeria is the transportation system. After more than 50years of independence we seem to exist on the colonial setups because most of our so-called leaders have been more concerned with enriching themselves and their cronies rather than establishing safe and modern inter-state highway and subway systems. Despite our strides in aviation within the past 10years we have not efficiently developed our roads and the consequence and cost in preventable lost lives remains one of the saddest testimonies of our ineptitude. In reality, if we are to calculate all the monies that have been derived from petroleum production since Dictator Yakubu Gowon infamously announced to the world in the 1970’s that Nigeria had so much money that we did not know what to do with it, we should have constructed multiple beltways throughout the nation. As part of the southern Nigerian conference we have to come up with plans to build these rail and road systems to the outskirts of Benin Republic via Ogun and Oyo States on the West as a gateway to the rest of West Africa and to the outskirts of Cameroun through Cross River and Benue States as a gateway to Central Africa. This would ensure viability to transport regular people, agriculture, and other goods that would increase business enterprises.
Southern Nigerian Guidelines confab has to deal with the problems of security within and outside south Nigeria. With the amount of resources in south Nigeria there is no justifiable reason why anyone in that region should want for anything. We have to espouse the dignity of the African/Black life through our deeds and be willing to take drastic measures to buttress this point. In the absence of the Sovereign National Conference, presence of rampant corruption, and the provocation of terrorism, we have to create Human Rights shields to occupy and takeover all the petroleum pipelines and trucks that are supplying the north with crude and refined oil when necessary. There is no need to blow up these infrastructures to prove our points.
As a final point, our domestic agenda in the south should include the eventual divestment in petroleum productions, so that we can clean our environment after years (1956-Present) of relentless pollutions/oil spills, corruption, underdevelopment and exposures to carcinogens. These actions should be taken as self-determination survival measures notwithstanding the bottom lines of our federal government, petroleum cabals, and the global petroleum industry cartels. Since we have one of the largest per capital graduates within the engineering and technology fields in the whole of Africa, we have to reintroduce the clean energy and renewable energy paradigm to our schools and ways of life. Southern Nigeria is surrounding by the Atlantic Ocean which is a possible source of hydroelectric plants and wind turbine energies and we have enough sunlight to manufacture and export solar energies.
Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Ken Saro-Wiwa
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist