BAYO'S PERISCOPE

Samuel Bayo ArowolajuSunday, February 20, 2005
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bayoeleolaju@yahoo.com
USA

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SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE
- THE PEOPLE'S RIGHT (PART I)


have been an unrepentant advocate and commentator on the need for a Sovereign National Conference, where all the stakeholders in what today is called Nigeria, will seat together and decide the best way to leave together in true peace, progress, and prosperity as the only way of correcting the mistakes of 1914. Even when the present advocates of a constitutional dialogue (whatever that means to them) sworn never to allow any form of constitutional conference because in their ignorance, they arrogate sovereignty to themselves; I believed that in the fullness of time, with or without their will and that of the government they lead, the governed will exercise their will over their rights to self determination as a people. Power belongs to the people and must be used for the best interest of the same people otherwise that power becomes illegal, like the power of an armed robber over his victim.


All theories of Social Contracts about the origin of the State arrogate all political powers to the people. No one governs or rules without a people. It is therefore one of the greatest political anomalies if not tragedies to attempt to make a constitution, which is the basic rules according to how the same people are governed without the same people making the final decision about who should represent them in the making of the constitution and without subjecting the constitution to the peoples' final approval. To do this is to exercise the power of an armed robber who has robbed the people of their rights to self determination.

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS AND ASSUMPTIONS

Nigeria has never had a Nigerian constitution made by Nigerians for Nigerians; that is, a constitution made by the elected representative of the peoples of Nigeria and approved by the peoples of Nigeria through a popular vote or referendum. That is what we need NOW OR NEVER.

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Nigeria is made up of many and different peoples, some of which are viable nation-states.

These peoples have unique and different social, cultural, economic, and political institutions and aspirations that they hold sacred and dear to themselves.

These peoples had existed separately and independent though not mutually exclusive of one another before the mistake of 1914.

By January 1914, these peoples without their consultations or, and consent, were brought together under the same country, the same political, and governmental authorities and control; though tongues and tribes were differ.

Ever since then, these peoples have not been given the opportunity to exercise their rights to self-determination or a choice in whom they would want to or not want to associate with, or under what form of constitution and government they would live.

Subsequent governments and authorities including the colonial of 1914 to 1959; and the neo-colonial (both civil and military) of 1959 to 2005, have unfortunately taken these peoples of Nigeria for granted under a spurious "philosopher king" kind of mentality. While thinking that they were speaking for them as to what form of union or association, constitution and government they would want; they have continuously denied these peoples of their rights to self-determination.

From the foregoing it is true beyond any reasonable doubt that the many peoples of Nigeria, who are made up of tribes, ethnic, or indigenous peoples, nationalities, nations, and nation-states have been flagrantly abused, misused, neglected, and exploited firstly by the British Colonial masters, and unfortunately and subsequently by their own leaders who have wantonly denied them of their fundamental rights under International Laws, Charters, and Conventions, and other legal instruments on self-determination.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE ABOVE ASSUMPTIONS

The consequences are visible or in all modesty palpable to the blind. Since the arrangement was a marriage of strange bedfellows, neither blessed by God nor celebrated by humanity, nothing of substantial good of the peoples, I mean the couples have come out like a marriage without peace and blessing of the womb. Whatever achievements that have accrued have only been mainly towards stacking the coffers of the leaders whose selfish interests have only been protected and promoted as it were in the colonial administrations. We have moved from one crisis to another, culmination into that unfortunate and unnecessary civil war, the wounds of which are still fresh decades after. Yet, it is regrettable to say that we have not learned our lessons. Since the country was founded and administered as a business venture by the Royal Niger Company under a Charter granted by the British government, the same business mentality have permeated the thoughts, minds and ambitions of all other and subsequent rulers who have ruled the country like their business ventures for their private profit gains or, and motives.

In the past, many attempts have been made to correct the mistakes of 1914 but have ended up in unmitigated failures because of the insincerity of the rulers of the past; and unfortunately including those of the present who have always covered the truths with rocks like Olumo in Abeokuta and Zuma in Abuja. The truth about Nigeria is that we have never been "one nation and one destiny" as it has always been trumpeted on the rooftops. I am even sure that we are not under one God. We are not the same people sharing the same hopes or aspirations. We might have been grouped together under the same name; our destinies are not the same. The truth is that what divides us are far more than what unites us as one. Those who had or who still believe otherwise, have been the greatest enemies of the peoples who have been the unfortunate victims of those who want Nigeria as one at all cost including the wealth and health of the peoples of Nigeria.

Here we go again on the same road like those before us and we are sure to have the same result theirs except honest and patriotic people can and salvage Nigeria from President Olusegun Obasanjo and the sponsors of his pet dream, who cannot vouch of having a good intention in this illegal so-called constitutional dialogue. Otherwise the dream will turn into a nightmare not only for then but the innocent peoples who have always been victims of inordinate ambitions. Or else how could somebody who had sworn never to allow any form of constitutional conference under his government because he arrogated sovereignty to himself, suddenly woke up from the bad side of his bed to be doing what he is doing now? There is only one reason I can proffer his misgovernment. Once again, like his old program as a military Head of State, OFN (Obasanjo Fools the Nation), Obasanjo is out there fooling the people again this time. He is only using this exercise as a diversionary tactic; to turn people away from all the corruption, the shame of the sham elections, the confessed rigging and its judicial indictment, and other dark sides of the administration his party and government have heaped on this country. I challenge him to prove me wrong. The only way to do that is for him to organize a Sovereign National Conference the right way, giving the peoples of Nigeria their due rights to self determination, as guaranteed by many international laws, conventions, and charters.

The dialogue or conference as it is being organized now is by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo illegal since it has no legal foundation. By this I mean there is no enabling law. If it is a conference organized for the greatest interest of the greatest number of the peoples of Nigeria, an enabling Bill should have been presented by the presidency to the National Assembly. This is where the peoples' representatives and members of the public would have had the opportunity of discussing and debating the nity-gritty of the bill before it is passed into law. The purpose of an enabling law is to make sure that every participant, the rulers and the ruled will act according to the law without anybody, no matter his/her position, acting or pretending to be above the law. Another advantage is that it will make the whole process and the outcome very predictable without surprises, manipulation, and sacred cows.

Secondly and very importantly, the peoples who present and future lives are to be discussed and determined should be allowed to choose those they want to represent them. The whole essence of democracy is the peoples' direct participation where or as much as it is possible; but where because of size and population the whole polity cannot be on the ground, to take decisions that is when it is logical for them to choose whom they will give their mandate or rights of participation as their representation.

This age old democratic principle and practice has not been given any chance in the Obasanjo Constitutional Dialogue (OCD). In stead, it is just one person in the name of President or governor deciding for the whole country and each state respectfully who should represent them. Without diminishing the status and caliber of those already selected, I can without any doubt in my mind say that OCD has not followed the path of known democratic standards. Who knows how many of the people so selected would have been elected had the peoples given the right of choice?

Then here comes the big question; what becomes of the outcome of the dialogue or conference? Will the process and recommendations be subject to the whims and caprices of the National Assembly or the president alone? This where an enabling law would have made a difference, we would have been able to have an idea of the end right from the beginning rather than being a guessing game it is now.

It is my believe that any constitutional conference or dialogue without an enabling law; with participants not elected directly by the people; and with recommendations not directly approved by the same people in a national election or a referendum, would have been a wasted effort, which will go the same path of perdition of the previous efforts no matter the genuine intentions of the organizers. It will be the same old way of some privileged few imposing the wills and ways on the peoples of Nigeria.

It is high time our leaders recognized that our peoples have endured for too long and like Fela would say, they have suffered and smiled for too long. Nigeria is not made up of artificial but real peoples. If the colonial masters did not think it fit to recognized and respects the rights of the peoples of Nigeria, should our own people do the same?

Let me not speak for other peoples of Nigeria but myself and by extension the Yoruba of the South West of Nigeria. We are not artificial or robots and we should no longer be treated as such. The Yoruba people is made up of individual human beings who before 1914 have enjoyed and are still enjoying the following common features:

  1. Common ancestry - every Yoruba person can trace his ancestral line to Baba Oduduwa like the Jews would to Father Abraham;

  2. Common historical tradition - our traditions and history have the same link and origin, which is why every Yoruba person has something in common traditionally;

  3. The same ethnic identity - a Yoruba is Yoruba whether in Omuo, Ile-Ife, Oyo, Badagry, Ilorin, Kabba, Akoko-Edo, Warri, Benni, Cuba or Brazil; Yoruba has the same physical identity, the same look, the same accent, and the same characteristics;

  4. Cultural homogeneity - we are one culturally no matter the space and distance, in our artifacts, our dress, our food, our home, our occupation and even child rearing

  5. Linguistic unity - though there are dialects at the culture peripheries, yet all dialects have its roots in the same Yoruba language; every Yoruba from Oyo to Warri understands the root of his/her language and there is word association;

  6. Religious and ideological harmony -Yoruba worshipped the one and only Olodumare as God and Olorun as Lord before Christianity and Islam came. In spite the differences which Christianity and Islam brought, our people were not divided. The three different religious beliefs did not create three Yoruba people but one as our people were united in their celebrations. It is common to see three different religious believers live together under the same roof without bitterness but harmony in their rituals beliefs;

  7. Territorial connectedness or contiguity - as a nation and people without artificial boundary, Yoruba in Nigeria and Benin Republic have land access to one another more than all peoples and the states in United States of America. Those in Diaspora, due to the unjust system of slave trade, still have spiritual connectedness;

  8. Common economic system - Yoruba people is hard working, industrious, economically vibrant, independent, and believe in the ancestral land system as a major factor of production.

The above are the universally accepted characteristics of a people. The international legal instruments refers to the right to self-determination as belonging to all peoples with these characteristics, which I am sure other peoples in Nigeria are also entitled to but have been denied for years. These rights are recognized and respected by the Charter of the United Nations Organization (UNO), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The provisions of the Covenant are self-explicit. They are:

"All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

"All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic cooperation, based upon the principles of mutual benefits, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. (That sounds like resource control).

"The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United nations." Other international and regional human rights instruments that recognize, uphold, and protect the rights to self-determination include: the Helsink Final Act 1975; Article 20 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Right; Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial territories and Peoples; International Court of Justice. Besides these, right to self-determination has also been regarded as Jus cogens, which is defined as preemptory norm that is acceptable to all under international laws.

The Vienna Convention on Law and Treaties elaborately provides that Jus cogens are generally accepted and recognized by all members of the international community as a norm without any derogation, and it can only be amended or modified by another norm of international law of a similar nature. To emphasize its importance, the Convention provides that a treaty is void if at the time of its conclusion it conflicts with a preemptory norm of general international law.

If the UNO provides that every state or government, colonial or neo-colonial should of a matter of duty recognize and implement the principle of equal rights and self-determination of all peoples, why did the British colonial government and the subsequent civilian and military governments in Nigeria failed to do this? My simple and only answer is that the rulers have always placed their selfish interests over and above the peoples' interest. I don't buy the illogical argument or reason of some that such rights might be misused and lead to the disintegration of the country.

The point is that the peoples were never consulted in the first place before the union was formed, and the subsequent constitutional conferences have always been according the dictates of the rulers and not the ruled or the government and not the people. The fear of disintegration was taken care off by the covenants. There are many ways of granting the peoples' rights to self-determination without necessarily leading to secession. It could also be implemented without removing the territorial integrity and political sovereignty and unity of the country, if the leaders are honest and sincere about the whole exercise, especially if the people who are the Sovereign freely determined it. This can best be done by allowing the people to decide starting from the enabling law to the final approval, if any change occurs at all, it will be peaceful and to the benefit of the people and the state.

To be continued