It is worrisome to observe that majority of the delegates to the on-going National Conference are old people who will decide the fate of the youths who are the future generation of leaders as the youths are said to be the leaders of tomorrow. It is however more worrisome that the same old people who destroyed the country are the ones chosen to discuss the future of this country. If the same old people who destroyed the country are called upon to proffer solutions to the problems confronting the country will they be able to achieve any success? Chief E.K. Clark and Senator Florence Ita Giwa admitted this fact that most of the delegates in National Conference were the same people that destroyed the country.A close look at the delegates to the National Conference shows that majority of them are above age 60. The question now is what happened to the myriad of youths across the country? Are the youths who are the leaders of tomorrow not qualified to discuss their future? If the answer is in the affirmative why did they not constitute the majority of the delegates? What stake do the old delegates still have in the Nigerian Project that they want to discuss? Only 18 of the 492 delegates to the National Conference are youths! What an irony?
Majority of the old delegates in the National Conference had participated in previous conferences that did not produce the needed constitution that would guarantee peace, unity and development. Most of the delegates are also former governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, members of State Houses of Assembly, ministers, commissioners, military officers, senior civil servants, traditional rulers etc. What are their antecedents? What were their achievements in their previous appointments? These delegates pride themselves as elder statesmen and stateswomen. They claimed they have served the country meritoriously and have contributed immensely to the development of the country. But the question agitating the minds of Nigerians is, if these elder statesmen and stateswomen have served the country meritoriously as they want us believe, why is the country in the present sorry state? Are these old people not tired of serving the country? Will they ever turn down any appointment or nominations? Was the nomination of the old people based on meritocracy or nepotism?
It is painful that why other nations are adopting the youths with fresh ideas to run their countries, Nigeria is busy recycling the same old people who had ruined the country. Does it not bother us that the old people who have almost spent their entire lives are the ones chosen to decide the future of the youths who are the leaders of tomorrow? Why does Nigeria have the penchant for recycling old people who brought the country into the current mess? The way and manner things are done in other countries that yield positive results are not the way things are done in Nigeria. This is why the country is indeed a peculiar one! This ageist practice in this country has never promoted development.
The worry of most Nigerians including this writer is that Nigeria keeps using the same method to solve her problems but expect different results. How can we continue to apply the same method over the years to solve our problems but expect different results? According Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. How do we expect a different result from the on-going National Conference when the same people who have participated in all previous conferences are also in the present conference? Is it logical to use the same people to prepare a new constitution for the country and expect a workable and acceptable constitution? It is obvious that the bane of development in Nigeria is basically the recycling of the same people in leadership positions that have been in government since the 1960s! How does the country expect the much desired growth and development when the same ideas of the same old people that have been in the saddle of leadership in the 1960s in today’s modern world that is being run by fresh ideas? Would this not be the reason the country is near stagnation? When will the youths be given the opportunity to ever discuss their own future in this country? It is an aberration for the old in this country to always discuss and decide the future of the youths. It is only in Nigeria we see this type of practice.
Initially, I thought the old delegates who are living in opulence would not need the mouth-watering sum of N12 million they are entitled within the three month timescale for the conference. This sum of money could have enabled the youths set up cottage industries at the end of the conference if they are in the majority in the National Conference! How much money do the old people in the National Conference still need in life?
The negative effects of the nature of old people have started to emerge in the National Conference as the old delegates who are in the majority fall asleep regularly. How can the old delegates contribute adequately to debates as they spend much of their times sleeping? Furthermore, it is disturbing that it took the delegates a whole month to discuss President Jonathan’s Speech! If the delegates could spend one month of the three months allocated to the conference just to discuss the speech made by Mr. President, one wonder how they would be able to discuss the main agenda for which the National Conference is set up within the timescale. Another negative effect of having more old people as delegates to the conference is their adoption of 70 per cent votes to take resolutions. The world over, resolutions are arrived at by simple two-thirds (2/3) majority but our old delegates in the National Conference settled for 70 per cent; a benchmark which will make resolutions very complex to achieve! How can the delegates take decisions with this 70 per cent albatross?
Another fallout for having more old delegates is that they already introduced religion, ethnicity and regionalism into the conference; the major obstacles that have divided us over the years! These are the evil elements embedded in the foundation of this country which must be extricated from our midst. Undoubtedly, if the youths were to constitute the majority of the delegates, they would not have revivified these clogs that have bedevilled our collective psyche over the years! How long shall we as a people continue to oscillate in this vicious circle of religion, ethnicity and regionalism that have not added value to our lives in any specific manner? The fear of most Nigerians is that this much talked about National Conference may go the way of previous conferences.
Initially, I thought the old delegates who are living in opulence would turn down the mouth-watering sum of N4 million per month offered to them by the Federal Government for the sake of patriotism but I was mistaken. As to my amazement, they complained that the said sum of money was on the low side! Though, it was not only the old delegates that rejected the N4 million; the young delegates also did but the old delegates being in the majority could have influenced its acceptance if they were satisfied with the allowance. How many Nigerians earn N4 million as salary monthly? Again, to the chagrin of Nigerians, the delegates also bemoaned the food being supplied to them which costs N4,000 per plate. This is upsetting because majority of the delegates have businesses that are yielding huge profits for them yet they are complaining of poor allowances and food. One would have expected that a plate of food that costs N4,000 is decent enough and should be appreciated by the delegates. How many Nigerians can afford a pot soup that would cost as much as N4,000? One should feel that any delegate that is uncomfortable with a plate of food at N4,000 and allowance of N4 million per month is free to resign from the National Conference; after all it is not compulsory for anyone to be part of the conference! Some of the delegates insinuated that they left their flourishing businesses for the conference and for that reason they should be adequately compensated. But if such delegates knew they could not abandon their thriving businesses for the National Conference why did they accept their nominations? After all, Chief Ben Nwabueze, turned down his nomination on health reason. Nigerians believe this should be the honourable thing to do by those who are not pleased with the food and allowances provided by the organizers of the National Conference as there are other Nigerians that will be willing to replace them without delay.
The modern world and governments are driven by the youths so Nigeria cannot operate in isolation as this will be counterproductive. The on-National Conference should have consisted of more young delegates than the old delegates because the youths are the leaders of tomorrow and they should be given the opportunity to discuss their future. The old delegates had introduced ethnicity, religion and regionalism into the National Conference which are albatrosses to the peaceful coexistence of the various ethnic nationalities that constitute the country. Ethnicity, religion and regionalism must be banished from our polity for Nigeria to move forward.