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Saturday, 27 April 2013

BETWEEN CENTENARY CELEBRATION AND NATIONAL CONFERENCE


                                                                      
President Jonathan & the Centenary Torch
 The drums and trumpets would be rolled out on January 1, 2014 to celebrate the 100 years of the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates that gave birth to Nigeria on January 1, 1914. Nigerian leaders are fond of celebrations. They celebrate 100 days in office, one year in office etc without any achievements. On February 4, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathatn inaugurated the nation’s centenary anniversary celebration. During the flag off the anniversary, four former Head of States and two former Presidents were present. They included: Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd), Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar(rtd), former Presidents Shehu Shagari and Olusegun Obasanjo.
Speaking at the inauguration, President Goodluck Jonathan said that the amalgamation of 1914 was not a mistake but the act of God. According to President Jonathan, the amalgamation created “a unique entity of the globe called Nigeria; a beautiful country richly blessed and which had turned out innovative people across the world”. President Jonathan, Buhari, a 120 year-old man from Zugeru in Niger State who witness the 1914 amalgamation and two children, representing the younger generation lit the centenary torch. The Federal Government has promised to build a new city that will be called a Centenary City which will be located in Abuja. A new gate shall also be built in Abuja and recreational facilities too. All universities in Nigeria will get information and communication technology (ICT) facilities. The celebration is to hold in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; all state capitals; all cities and all historical towns etc. The centenary celebration will also create 15,000 jobs. The Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim, has sent a proposal to the Senate about the cost of the celebration but the Senate expressed worry as to the source of getting the funds. But Anyim said the funds that will be used for the celebration would be sourced from national lottery, donations from corporate organizations and adverts placements.
But what is Nigeria celebrating? What has the country achieved in her 100 years of existence that we want to celebrate? Are we going to celebrate the civil war that claimed the lives of 100,000 Igbo soldiers and over a million civilians? Are we going to celebrate the Boko Haram’s insurgency that has led to the bombings of churches, United Nation building, Police Headquarters, Army barracks etc?  Are we going to celebrate the killings of the environmental right activist and playwright, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa or Adakar Boro? Are we going to celebrate kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution, human trafficking, high rate of unemployment, lack of electricity, importation of refined petroleum products? Are we going to celebrate our decrepit hospitals and our leaders are patronizing foreign hospitals after 100 years of our existence? Is it our deplorable roads that have become death traps we want to celebrate? Is it corruption or the poor education sector that is making our leaders to send their children to foreign schools we want to celebrate?
 The killings of Igbo people started in 1945 in Jos and in 1953, another group of Igbos were massacred. A panel of enquiry was set up to look at the incident. At the end of the enquiry, the British wrote that “No amount of provocation, short-term or long-term, can in any way justify their behaviour….the seeds of the trouble which broke out in Kano on May 16, (1953) have their counterparts still in the ground. It could happen again, and only a realization and acceptance of the underlying causes can remove the danger reoccurrence”. This prediction came pass in 1980 as many Igbos were killed in Kano, Maiduguri in 1982, Jimeta in 1984, Gombe in 1985, Kaduna and Kafanchan in 1991, Bauchi, Katsina and Kano 1991, Zango-Kataf in 1992, Funtua in 1993, Kano in 1994. Today, the wanton killings of the Igbos are still going on in the north! It must be made clear that people from the South-South zone are also regarded as Igbo people by people from the South-West and the monolithic North and not only the people from the South-East zone. Since the crisis broke out in Jos, many Urhobo people have been killed since Jos is the second home to the Urhobo people because the first set of Urhobo migrated to Jos in the early 13th century. 
                                                                             
Patience Jonathan & the Centenary Torch
 
Every zone in Nigeria has made an attempt to secede from the country. In January 1966, late Adaka Boro declared the Niger Delta Peoples Republic. After the counter coup that was carried out by the Northern military officers, the intention was to secede from Nigeria but Gen. Yakubu Gowo was asked to drop the idea by politicians from the West. When Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra in 1966 in response to the genocide against the Igbos in the North, Obafemi Awolowo announced to the world that the West would pull out of Nigeria should the East go. When the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was won by late Chief M.K.O. Abiola was annulled, the Yoruba threatened to secede from Nigeria if late Chief M.K.O. Abiola was not installed as the president of Nigeria. 
Those calling for the centenary celebration are contractors who will become richer through the mouth-watering contracts they will get from the Federal Government. Some Nigerians say we must celebrate the 100 years of our existence because we have not broken up in spite of the many crises that are confronting the country! But people do not celebrate simply because they are coexisting in one country and have not broken up rather people celebrate because of the achievements they have made for being together. A country that has existed for 100 years and still bedeviled by tribalism, ethnicity, sectionalism, religious intolerance, political polarization has no basis to celebrate!
Many prominent Nigerians have condemned the plans by the Federal Government to spend huge sums of money to celebrate the centenary anniversary; saying that it is not necessary. “It doesn’t make sense to budget money for it”. Akande said through an aide, Mr. Lai Baderinwa. “What is there to celebrate about the country’s amalgamation when everything is upside down? There’s massive unemployment among the youths, crime is unbearably high and characteristic violence is prevalent all over the land”. In a related statement, National Secretary of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Mr. Robinson Esite said, “The amalgamation is what has brought the woes to Nigeria, it brought strange bed fellows together and so, celebrating it will amount to celebrating the evil day. So, it is not worth celebration; it should have been a period of sober reflection, a period of regret rather than celebration. For the several years the North ruled this country, no ethnic nationality from the South has insisted that those who must be leaders must be Christians. This is the only time a South-South person is President of Nigeria. They call themselves born-to-rule, the question we ask is, “To rule who?” So, it is expedient that a national conference is called for us to decide the modality of our existence and until that conference is called, we continue to see avoidable crisis”. Lord Lugard who amalgamated the Southern and Northern Protectorates to form Nigeria gave the country a lifespan of 100 years to exist!
On January 1, 2004, Nigerians should be in a sober reflection, organize a conference where the myriad of problems that confront the country can be discussed, instead of spending billions of naira to celebrate emptiness, ethnic hatred and disunity. So, we need to hold a national conference where we can discuss the terms and conditions under which we will continue to coexist or disintegrate peacefully. It is not compulsory for us to live as one country. After all, the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) broke into sixteen independent countries and today, they are all happy with themselves.
 Some Nigerians say the members of the National Assembly can discuss the problems of this country because they represent us. This is not true because many of the things that will be discussed at the national conference shall affect the members of the National Assembly and they cannot be a judge in their own case.  Thus, we need neutral people different from the members of the National Assembly for the national conference. After all, there was a National Assembly before former President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the National Political Reforms Conference in 2005! Many fantastic resolutions were achieved during the conference; one of them was the increase of derivation from 13% to 18% but were thrown away because of the attempted Third Term Agenda.
With all sense of honesty and patriotism, instead of spending so much money to celebrate the centenary anniversary, such money should be deplored to convene a national conference where Nigerians will discuss how they will coexist. What is the essence of building a Centenary City, a new Abuja Gate, recreational facilities, information communication technology in all the universities that will be destroyed by militants?  

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