Path to a Better Nigeria: National Monologue before National Dialogue – Ogunyemi Bukola

“So then, we may no longer be children, tossed (like ships) to and fro between chance gusts of teaching (and) wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, (the prey of) the cunning (and) cleverness of unscrupulous men, (gamblers engaged) in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead” ~ Paul, The Apostle.

The above is an Amplified version of an admonition by Paul, The Apostle, to the people of Ephesus over 2000 years ago. I believe it is an admonition Nigerians need at a time they find themselves at the mercy of a government intent on tossing them, like ships, to and fro between chance gusts of ill-thought policies and every changing wind of divisive agenda. Independence Day speeches in Nigeria are as unmemorable as the people who write them, but the ignominy of presidential broadcasts have been taken to new heights under Goodluck Jonathan. The last one was no exception, except that at a time when crude oil theft has risen to 400,000 bpd, when Boko Haram attacks have resurfaced in a more gruesome manner, when rumours of a collapsing economy are rife, when university and polytechnic lecturers are on strike, Goodluck Jonathan’s government needed a distraction, something to get Nigerians talking about everything but the things that matter. Enter National Dialogue.

National Dialogue, or by whatever other nomenclature it may be known, has been a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s history. The apostles of a national (sovereign) conference abound in all of Nigeria’s geopolitical zones. They advocate the need for the redefinition of the concept of Nigerianism and a renegotiation of the terms of the contract of the confederate units amalgamated by Lord Lugard close to a century ago. These agitations are not baseless. There is indeed a need for an urgent reassessment of our common ethos as a people.

While opinions converge on the need for a national discourse, there is divergence of thoughts on the structure such should take, and I am one of those who do not subscribe to the idea of gathering handpicked, overpaid representatives from each state in Abuja to engage in debates around predominantly selfish communal interests like resource control and state creation, our National Assembly already does that. This from all indications is the road Goodluck Jonathan National Dialogue is destined to travel.

I am of three minds. The optimist in me sees a national dialogue that will lead to the development of a roadmap for Nigeria’s development over the next hundred years. A dialogue that will factor in the contributions of the best brains Nigeria can parade, and a government that will put the interests of the people first and implement the recommendations drawn from such dialogue. The pessimist in me sees a national dialogue of speeches without substance, whose recommendations will be reviewed by another committee which will then forward its review to another committee until there’s no more tea to commit. The conspiracy theorist in me sees the national dialogue as another PDP conference to rubberstamp the candidacy of Goodluck Jonathan for 2015.

It’s good to dialogue about the future of Nigeria, but of what use is such when nothing is being done to salvage the present? Why dialogue about the future when nothing in the present is being done to secure it? Our oil-dependent economy groans under the weight of unprecedented crude oil theft, infrastructures are in a total state of decay, insecurity and corruption have become our national emblem, education and health are not getting adequate attention. These are issues Jonathan’s government should attend to in the present before asking us to dialogue about an uncertain future.

What Nigeria needs at this moment is a National Monologue by the president who doesn’t give a damn about what his people want, and the team of sycophants he has surrounded himself with. Mr. Jonathan should have a chat with himself and resolve to stop blaming everyone but himself for the woes bedmating the nation luck has conspired to have him govern at this moment. Mr. Jonathan should resolve to stop giving excuses for his failure, own the problems and challenges his administration is faced with and spend more time solving them than he does engaging in petty politics and opposition witch-hunting.

The rhetorical recommendations of a national dialogue committee are the last thing Jonathan needs to listen to at the moment. He rather should listen to the cry of 11 million malnourished Nigerian children, the danger of 10 million out of school Nigerian children, the grief of relatives of the estimated 3600 lives taken by Boko Haram since 2009, the sufferings of 112.5 million Nigerians living in poverty, the frustrations of 40 million unemployed Nigerians. These are issues Jonathan should commit himself to solving in the immediate, before we dialogue about the future.

Meanwhile none of the members of the advisory committee constituted by the president saddled with the responsibility of formulating the modalities of the national dialogue to deliberate on the future of Nigeria is below 45 years. Brethren, so then, we may no longer be learners, tossed (like ships) to and fro between chance gusts of (transformation) agenda (and) wavering with every changing wind of policy, (the prey of) the cunning (and) cleverness of corrupt leaders, (crooks engaged) in every shifting form of distraction in constituting committees to confuse.

Ogunyemi Bukola (@zebbook) is a blogger and social media strategist based in Lagos.

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