18th March, 2014
As the 492 delegates to the National Conference get down to work, it is pertinent to revisit the list of members that would be discussing the way forward for our country. When I read first the names of the delegates, my heart sank in despondence. In this article, I would argue that none of the people on this list is qualified to represent my interest. They belong to the elite group of Nigerians whose interests are diametrically opposed to mine. That said, I doubt their effectiveness in articulating my position.
I would suggest the names of trusted Nigerians that if it were practically possible to have them added to this list, I would go to bed in peace knowing that they would not be flabbergasted by the crispiness of the filthy lucre that could be flashed in their faces to influence their convictions. Finally, I would recommend for an alternative conference where Nigerians that have found a balance in their lives in the midst of our social realities could subject their innocent intellectualism to designing what would work for us.
The thrust of my argument is that my name should be on this list because I can represent myself, and I would provide the reasons that the conference needs my presence. In my article entitled “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk Dance and the National Conference: The Similarities” published by gamji.com, I found a commonality between Michael Jackson’s moonwalk dance and our conference. Michael’s moonwalk is a deceptive dance move in which a dancer places one foot behind the other as he or she glides away backwards, albeit it, smoothly. Ditto for the National Conference: By promoting its perceived benefits to the socio-political development of the country, the government has sustained its media propaganda to make us believe that we are making progress whereas we are retrogressively moving backwards as if we are engaged in a moonwalk dance.
In the said article, I faulted Senator Okurounmu’s committee on two grounds:
1. I argued that the various ethnic cultural associations, the religious leaders, the traditional custodians, and the political elites who he consulted did not represent a cross section of Nigeria. I had in mind a communitarian approach that incorporated Nigerians in their towns and villages in a process that would ultimately affect their lives. Failure to acknowledge and involve them in the programs of the committee would result in having a conference of Nigerian elites. The released list of delegates for the conference lends credence to my apprehension.
2. I submitted that the importance of the conference and the issues to be discussed required a mini conference at the local levels through the states and that the resolutions at those levels would form the agenda that would enrich the discussion at the national level. I opined that there would be alignment and realignment of interests between regions and ethnic nationalities that would make the job of the National Conference a lot easier. The facilitators of the conference believe that a full-blown conference was better than a gradual process that would graduate into a national event.
I guess that we are used to leaderships that perceive that its citizens are expendable and that they (the leadership) possess superiority of skills and knowledge that has not been tested since the world began. I disagree! The names of some people on this list represent the same predatory class of Nigerians that would be consigned to the dustbin of history in civilized societies because of their various nefarious roles in our current narratives; but for some inexplicable reasons they are held as heroes by a section of the polity. I read the names of former governors, former members of the National Assembly, disenfranchised politicians: the same perverts that looted the public treasury and are currently living large off their loots. I read the names of Nigerians that were indicted by the EFCC and were standing trial for allegedly enriching themselves with the public treasury and used the judicial system to stall their trials. I could not trust such despicable human personalities to represent my interest and the future of my children. I found it laughable that the Bayelsa State government filed a lawsuit for the recovery of the monies stolen by former Governor Alamieyesiegha. Yet the government has offered a seat to the same Alamieyesiegha as a delegate to the conference. It is sad to conceptualize that a thief would be privileged sit at a conference that would determine my circumstances in the world.
The list shocked me so much that I dreadfully searched for the names of similar “eminent Nigerians” like Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Olusegun Obasanjo, Orji Kalu, Aliko Dangote, Theophilus Danjuma, Jerry Useni, former House Speaker Bankole, Cecilia Ibru (representing women in banking), James Ibori, Philip Emeagwali (Bill Gates of Africa), Barrister Fred Ajudua, Steve Oronsaye, etc. I wondered aloud why they could not make this list because all the above human beings have a common nucleus of reputation with some of the names on this list; they personify the lowest level that any human being could descend in his or her chosen career because they are destitute of integrity.
I read the names of delegates that are Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The Senior Advocate of Nigeria is a social classification that the Nigerian lawyers created within their ranks to perpetuate the compartmentalization of human beings into disparate camps as if the binary world of the whites and blacks was not enough. It is a legacy of colonization when the white man segregated our society between “them and us.” He (the white man) underscored his “whiteness” as evidential of his superiority over and above the “other”– the autochthonous peoples, as a moral justification for the imposition of the white man’s way of life on “barbarous, savages, and uncivilized species of humanity.” The same human categorization insidiously infiltrated into the legal profession in Nigeria where the “silk club” members are given preferential treatment at the peril of their peers.
I have pondered what those men and women in silk have contributed to advance the course of law or to develop their communities. No reasoning of any court in Nigeria has been referenced as a “locus classicus” in the legal world. In addition, Nigerian courts still reference the decisions of courts in England and elsewhere. With the exception of leviathans like Gani Fawehinmi and Femi Falana, the rest of the membership of the “silk club” should hide their faces in shame for their failure to contribute meaningfully to their communities apart from the protection of their solipsistic pecuniary and chauvinistic interests. They still corner the fattest briefs and pay their junior associates peanuts, just enough for them to pay their transportation to and from their residences to their various law offices. It is a sad commentary that the legal profession, which should be the strident advocate of the equality of all persons, is embroiled in the quagmire of inequality and class differentiation.
Conversely, the number of times a lawyer appeared at the Supreme Court or a lawyer being “at home” at the Supreme Court should not be a determining ingredient for membership of the “club.” Rather by how much a lawyer has distinguished himself or herself in the utilization of the instrumentality of law to improve his or her community without privileges attached to it. The community service could be by way of providing pro bono services, establishing foundations that support research centers in law and endowing chairs in faculties of law in various universities, or assisting young lawyers to ease their transition from law students to lawyers, the list is endless.
I would not have insisted that my name make the list if the following eminent Nigerians were located on the list of the delegates: Obilozie Ojukwu (my father), Engineer Ayodele Awojobi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Emeka Ojukwu, Ken Saro Wiwa, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Gani Fawehinmi, Gideon Okar,, Mallam Aminu Kano. Those fine Nigerians represented the conscience of the nation. They were ahead of their time, but in our attempts to pick up the crumbs that fell from the tables of our “masters” and play the compliant citizenries, we failed to either recognize and appreciate their worth or heed their warnings not to dine with these vultures.
My name should be on this list because I have an interest that is at variance with the interest of the majority of the delegates. My absence at the conference would subject Nigerians to conferences without end. Their world is not my world and because our worlds would never intersect, they lack the expertise to offer me effective representation. I have never helped myself with the public treasury. I have lived a life of deprivation and impoverishment because of their variegated activities as politicians, public servants, community leaders, judges, and people placed in position of power. They would never understand why I urge that social safety nets are provided for the less fortunate among us to improve their quality of life because of their (the elites) access to limitless funds. They could have their breakfast in New York, lunch in London and dinner in Paris at my expense and all I am asking for is the serenity to vacation in Jos, the peace of mind to enjoy Edikang Ikong soup in Calabar, and to spread out in the shores of Bayelsa if the oil conglomerates would spare our environment. Indeed, for each super-rich Nigerian, millions live below $1 dollar per day.
I still insist that the absence of my name on this list is a serious oversight. I do not have anything in common with owners of private jets and bulletproof cars. Each day, I am exposed to the harassment of desperate Nigerians like the kidnapers, armed robbers, Boko haram and other evidence of their failure to plan for a secured and all-inclusive society. While I walk and drive on unpaved, pot-holed, death- trap roads, they fly in their jets. While 1.7 million high school graduates strive to obtain few slots in our universities, they send their kids directly from high schools to colleges overseas; some of their kids attend boarding schools overseas. While I sleep in darkness daily exposed to mosquitoes and their cousins, they run their generators 24 hours, seven days in a week interfering with my use and enjoyment of the gift of nature- the quiet night.
I am certain that there are concerned Nigerians that feel the way I do. If we are serious about the trajectory of our country in the coming years, I would urge that the current delegates list is adjusted. Anyone that has held public office or engaged in business and has corruptly enriched himself or herself at the expense of the rest of us should not participate in the conference. No one that has been indicted by any agency of government or under investigation for criminal activities should be on the list. Any traditional custodian that received a certificate of recognition from the government must not go. He has abdicated his responsibility to his people and become the stooge of the government. The authority to perform the functions of his office was conferred on him by tradition and not the government.
I am a Christian and love to practice what I believe without the apprehension that some other perverted mind perceives me as an infidel deserving annihilation to appease a bloodthirsty deity. I will also defend another’s right to practice what he or she believes in as long as it does not directly interfere with mine. Anyone who has shown traces of intolerance or chauvinism for another’s belief should be shown the exit door at the conference.
My interests are complicated and I do not trust anyone to properly articulate them for me. They inform my current position that I am the only one that can represent me. I believe that there are millions of Nigerians like me, who do not have skeletons in their cupboards. If therefore my views reflect your position, let us join our efforts to organize an alternative conference where we would be free to talk frankly to fix a broken polity.
Nwike (S) Ojukwu, is a Doctor of Laws (Cand) The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law