Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Segun James write that the latest intervention to change the direction of politics in Nigeria needs to present concrete evidence of enduring beyond the initial fanfare
Nigeria’s intellectual and professional class have often wondered how it got the short end of the governance stick in the country. With the start of political cycle, some of them are recruited to write the body of rules guiding political parties. Unfortunately, these egg heads who served in the engine of these political parties at their formation are often manipulated out from holding key offices that can realise and sustain the set objectives of these political parties. More often than not, the political environment does not favour them to become relevant in the scheme of things.
Last week the number of political groups seeking visibility increased with the emergence of the National Consultative Forum (NCF), a new Pan Nigerian collision of intellectuals and professionals who are determined to chart a new political course for the country.
In Nigerian politics, it’s usually not hard to tell when a war has started. The battle line is drawn when members of a party, may be, out of frustration or ideological differences, cross the political divide into another party.
However, this is a different scenario. This time, it is the professionals and the intellectuals who have decided that the ship of state is too important to be left in the hands of persons whose competence is suspect. They are working on the theory that Nigeria may be the better for it if the ship of state is intellectually driven instead of leaving it to people who may run it aground. But their argument may be countered with the fact that the major political parties are not lacking in members with intimidating intellectual capacity.
The members of the forum include former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Ghali Umar Na’Abba; Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; Prof Pat Utomi; Dr Obadiah Mailafia; Barr Femi Falana SAN; Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Prof Jibo Ibrahim; Col Umar Abubarkar Dangiwa; Comrade Isa Aremu; Prof Chidi Odinkalu; Barr Dan Nwanyanwu; Dr Osagie Obayuawana; Alhaji Shettima Yerima and Dr Chris Ekiyor.
Others are Mr Jude Feranmi; Saadatu Falila Hamu; Mallam Hamzat Lawal; Hajia Khadijat Abdullahi; Mr Alistair Soyode and Prof Anthony Kila who is the facilitator. To be sure, this is not the first time Kila who runs a policy and governance tink tank, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS). His previous intervention with the Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) painted in similar colours did not quite yield the expected fruits and quietly slipped into oblivion.
His co-travelllers like Agbakoba and Utomi too have either championed groups like this or worked with others. And this is not excluding bodies like the Save Nigeria Group formed by Pastor Tunde Bakare. Not too long ago, there was the Revolution Now group spearheaded by Omoyele Sowore, who had clear support from the likes of Falana. With the presence of members like Na’Abba, Nwanyanwu, Ezekwesili, Utomi, Mailafia, Aremu and Soyode, it can’t be exactly said that the composition is free from political colouration, as some of them have canvassed partisan opinions in the past. It would be interesting to see how their different widely advertised political stance is fused into sustainable common group goals
The NCF said the forum came together against the worrisome background of the continued slide of Nigeria into political anarchy and unabated bloodletting and deaths, owing to the incompetence and failure of the present political leadership of the country in dealing with the national democratic question of Nigeria as a diverse multi ethnic, multi religious and multi cultural entity, “We, a select group of National Leaders of Conscience, Social Democrats and Revolutionary Ideologues, have been in consultations under the auspices of a new Pan Nigerian Consultative Political Front with other like-minded fresh breed political Ideologues and Stakeholders, beginning from Wednesday, 27th May 2020 to Friday, 12 June 2020 trying to agree on a new political intervention for rescuing our dear country from the exploitative grip of a lacklustre leadership and the manipulation of a bickering, factionalised ruling political elites in Nigeria.”
They stressed that “our nationwide consultations, essentially, motivated by patriotic concerns of stakeholders regarding the chaotic and insecure state of Nigeria, an unfortunate situation basically induced by the country’s self serving politicians and rulers, were held largely within the prevailing ambience of the new Webinar communications technology, with a clear vision of building a new disciplined/competent political leadership for the liberation of Nigeria’s muzzled democracy and hijacked State powers
“Therefore, we of the new patriotic association of select Leaders of Conscience and Stakeholders in Project Nigeria, having undertaken thorough and painstaking deliberations and dialogue on the agenda to save our country from imminent political collapse and civil strife.”
When the final whistle for political activities in the country is blown, the consultative forum may not be among the parties jostling for relevance and power, but the forum surely would have jolted the system and forced a rethink among the political leadership and the elite. Perhaps, this is its intention, but how it goes about achieving this goal will be an interesting spectacle, given the fact that these same persons, acting individually or in concert with others have embarked on a similar mission but failed.
For many of the forum members, most of whom never bothered to venture into active politicking until recently, politics really resumed when they found that their political leaders today were the never-do-wells they ignored when they left the political space. These set of people ended up being the ones that determine the political direction and future of their respective states and the nation. It was a rude awakening.
No doubt, recent political events in the country prompted the formation of the NCF. To these distinguished persons who came together to save the country, Nigeria is on the verge of overheating, politically. Everybody seems to be pretending that all is well within the polity, but they lamented that when the eruption comes, the reverberation will be devastating, the consequence of which is better imagined than experienced.
To most of them, in a country full of both ambition and frustration, President Muhammadu Buhari has been a disaster in the handling of state matters. He is not a role model for those who dare to dream and he could not be the change the nation was looking for. The NCF thinks, he has not only fallen short of expectation, but has indeed become an unmitigated disaster.
Some of the accusations against President Buhari is that he has stoked ethnic strives among the several nationalities that make up the country. He is also said to be responsible for creating religious disharmony, a situation which led to sectarian wars among the various religions, especially between Christians and Muslims.
Kila and Jibo in their statement said that the “facilitating secretariat of the National Consultative Front is mandated to immediately facilitate an interim steering coordinating council made up of experienced leaders of conscience and Democratic Ideologues to drive a new popular political intervention for urgently save Nigeria from the precipice of political anarchy and civil strife. The provisional leadership shall be inclusive and collegiate in structure, capturing the critical segments and crucial essence of the Nigerian diversity, in inspiring substantial confidence, trust, sense of belonging and ownership from all Stakeholders aligned within the new initiative notwithstanding social, cultural, religious and gender differences; such that every Nigerian can easily become a stakeholder and automatically imbibe a common sense of commitment and duty towards mass support, ownership and control of the new movement slated for launching this month as a counter force to the current politics of moneybags, highest bidders and the cash and carry harakiri prevalent under the mercantilist ruling elites in Nigeria”
They insisted that a new ideological mass movement shall be initiated to embark on an immediate mass mobilisation of the nooks and crannies of the country for popular mass action towards political constitution reforms that is citizens-driven and process-led in engendering a new Peoples’ Constitution for a new Nigeria that can work for all.
“The new movement shall also, without delay, mobilise for the economic wellbeing and prosperity of all Nigerians by demanding and ensuring that Chapter 2 of the present Constitution i e; Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of State Policy becomes justiceable once and for all, while also mounting an articulate and vigorous campaign to deconstruct and reconstruct obnoxious election laws which have provided leeway for opportunists in the corridor of power to subvert the will of the electorates making voting irrelevant in determining who actually becomes elected in NIgeria.”
They stressed that due to the critical deficiency identified in the governance structure of Nigeria, especially as regards the question of competence, discipline, cohesion and lack of democratic best practices among the present ruling class; a problem emanating from the dearth of principled, disciplined and ideologically motivated Political class and the absence of democratically birthed and ideologically inspired Political parties in the country; currently breeding factional and chaotic political emissions within the country’s ruling political parties; the new Movement shall undertake, as its key mandate, the conscious cultivation/building of a new ideologically disciplined alternative Political class as well as the formation of a new formidable ideologically driven, democratic mega political platform through popular Mobilisation to provide a reliable ideological leadership for the country, while positioning the masses for electoral power as was done by ANC in South Africa.
“Consequently, the Secretariat of the National Consultative Front has been mandated to review and tease out lessons from certain past initiatives and interventions, so as to enrich & strengthen the new initiative in such a way that mistakes are not repeated and risks can be easily mitigated in the growth and expansion of the new Movement.
“Similarly, it was also resolved that the Secretariat should create massive awareness and sensitization about the bankrupt political and economic situation of the country vis a vis the historical mission of the new movement’s agenda to deliver the country from its present comatose state and stem its fast decline into a failed state. To this end, the Secretariat shall engage in conscious mass mobilisation and careful recruitment of revolutionary and true Change Agents in the media, academia, grassroots; among the Women, Youths, Artisan, Vulnerable Nigerians for the purpose of organising to engender a new Nigeria that works for all.”
They said that the new mass movement shall deploy a dual approach in its national and public engagement by expounding a combination of ideological and pragmatic perspectives, especially in its communications in the mass/social media and its outreach to the grassroots and the everyday Nigerians. This is with the aim of clearly exposing everything wrong with Nigeria’s current governance system and its political architecture, while providing viable and workable alternatives and simplifying our new ideological mission and agenda for the country so as to make it easily understandable and interpretable for effective buy-in of every Nigerian.
“That the emerging mass movement shall constantly consult with credible fraternal political elders for their solidarity, while consistently slating policy issues for debate & engagements at the grassroots in developing the political consciousness and culture of the ordinary people on the street for them to realize and understand how to collectively change the demoralising and demobilising narrative and situation in Nigeria without having to give up but instead take ownership of the country through solidarity with like-minded Stakeholders, based on a new conviction and confidence motivated that the country can work in the hands of a new principled and disciplined leadership.”
To them, this is not the time of the season when politicians get top billing. After all, the political season is not here, but surprisingly, some of the leaders of the movement are politicians like Ghali Na’Abba. A situation which begs the question, who determines the professional and who identifies the intellectual?
To show the seriousness attached to the Project Save Nigeria, the NCF initiated “a 30 persons Interim Steering Coordinating Team of Eminent National Leaders of Conscience based on the diversity of Nigeria to henceforth pioneer and supervise the agenda, mission and engagements of the National Consultative Front towards the agenda for a new Nigeria.
“The Interim Steering Council shall operate as a collegiate leadership within the frame of a Rotational Chairmanship based on Geo Politics, Gender etc of its membership and shall have the responsibility of leading and supervising the planning and mobilisation process of our Political Agenda until the end of January, 2021, when the new political initiative shall be expected to transform fully into a major mass
“Movement in Nigeria enroute the birth of a revolutionary super mega Political Party by the adoption of an existing allied Political Party or the registration of a new electoral platform to be formally launched by June, 2021 at a major National Political Summit/Convention, where its first substantive National Executives shall be elected and inaugurated.”
Most of what is said about Nigerian politics these days could be true or false, depending on your angle or school of thought. And that may be because Nigeria is too complex or too diverse to be described usefully by blackest statement.
This is because the Nigerian constitution was specific on the criteria for seeking political office and the minimum requirement. Although the professionals believe that they could be the difference, but the truth remain that most of them are not only far from the grease roots, they are alienated from it.
In order to bridge this gap, the NCF mandated its secretariat to immediately initiate a grand plan for the purpose of institutionalizing a formidable foundation for the new organization by setting up of veritable offices in the six geo political zones of Nigeria.
“To this end the National Secretariat is to urgently engage and interface with Rt Hon Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Engr Yabagi Yusuf Sanni and Dr Obadiah Mailafia to facilitate suitable temporary Secretariats in the Northern Zone and in the FCT, just as it has also been mandated to meet with Prof Pat Utomi, Barr Femi Falana, SAN and Barr Bolaji Ayorinde SAN for suitable Secretariats in the Southern Axis and Lagos within the next one month, to immediately rally and harmonise the interests and structures of all identified credible Allies and Stakeholders in solidifying the base of the new movement.
They identified platforms and constituencies for further engagement and alignment including “NIM anchored by Olisa Agbakoba, Fix Politics Initiative anchored by Oby Ezekwesili, ASCAB anchored by Femi Falana, CVL anchored by Pat Utomi, Yes Movement anchored by Alistair Soyode, ADP anchored by Yabagi Yusuf Sani, LP anchored by Joe Ajero /Isa Aremu, Zenith Labour anchored by Dan Nwanyanwu, CUPP – Peter Ameh, Women4Women – Nkoyo Toyo, Not too Young to Run – Samson Itodo/ Saadatu Fali, TBAN – Kingsley Moghalu, PT – Hashim, ANN – Fela Durotoye, Northern Progressives – Col Umar/Shehu Sanni/Yerima, Organised Civil Society – Jibo Ibrahim/Chidi Odinkalu, Coalition For Revolution, CORE- Sheni Ajayi, among others.
NCF’s willingness to collaborate with existing groups with set objectives renders its overall aims suspect and further lends credence to the confusing times in Nigerian politics. Barely one year after the 2019 general election, the polity seems to be falling apart. If recent events are anything to go by, but what manner of redeeming intervention can the NCF bring?
Could it be that the NCF is only riding on the prevailing sentiments? When the group writes everybody is complaining about the dysfunction in the political system, it is only saying the obvious. It is true that Nigeria now has a government divided against itself; with a ruling party that is not coordinated and a people that are exasperated by a President that is totally distant to the reality of things in the country.
“Our Political Coalition wish to assert that the current factionalisation and imbroglio rocking dominant political parties in Nigeria as well as the heightening political tension in the country, especially within the Nigerian ruling class have further given credence to our resolve and intervention to provide a credible alternative political class and leadership for Nigeria as most of those who pride themselves as Leaders of our country in the last twenty one years of civil rule have proved to be huge failures and burden to the wellbeing of our people
“To this end, we decry in categorical terms, the ongoing mindless massacre and kidnappings in the North West, North East, Southern Kaduna, the Middle Belt, Southern part of Nigeria and in fact the country at large by armed bandits and insurgents, who invade our communities, especially at night to inflict terror and murder on hapless residents and unsuspecting indigenes. We hereby call on those presently in charge of our Federal Government, military and security apparatus to immediately wake up and do everything to stop the ongoing senseless pogrom against the masses of our people.”
At the end of the day, if all that the NCF is able to do is to awaken Nigerians from a deep slumber that may have led them to forget the past, thereby saving the country from the doom of repeating past mistakes, a mighty achievement would have recorded in the march towards a society thriving on the dreams of its founding fathers. This is the direction the NCF is determined to help drive the leadership of the country, assuming it does not succumb to the usual Nigerian malaise, that rendered previous efforts stillborn.
NCF’s willingness to collaborate with existing groups with set objectives renders its overall aims suspect and further lends credence to the confusing times in Nigerian politics. Barely one year after the 2019 general election, the polity seems to be falling apart. If recent events are anything to go by, but what manner of redeeming intervention can the NCF bring? Could it be that the NCF is only riding on the prevailing sentiments?
The new mass movement shall deploy a dual approach in its national and public engagement by expounding a combination of ideological and pragmatic perspectives, especially in its communications in the mass/social media and its outreach to the grassroots and the everyday Nigerians. This is with the aim of clearly exposing everything wrong with Nigeria’s current governance system and its political architecture, while providing viable and workable alternatives and simplifying our new ideological mission and agenda for the country so as to make it easily understandable and interpretable for effective buy-in of every Nigerian