Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Article: The Renewed Agitation For Sovereign National Conference In Nigeria

By Jaye Gaskia

In recent times there have been some renewed talks, and agitation for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference [SNC], or any conference, but with more or less constituent powers!

These calls and talks have been pouring and coming in from various quarters, including from the Senate president, and even muted speculations from the presidency of the country.

Well, to be certain, some of these calls are quite self serving, and are usually taken up and parroted in increasingly more strident manners by various wings of the ruling class, at moments of deep intra class ferment, and as a mode of competitive whipping up of popular emotions and stoking up of mass illusions in the supposed responsiveness and sensitivity of the ruling class. The closer to elections these periodic intra class turbulence breaks out, the more vigorous the competitive calls and dismissals of the urgency of a Sovereign National Conference! The more theatrical of the ruling class elements even go as far as hinging national survival, and collective existence on the convocation or not of the said conference!

Now let us try to pay much closer attention to the details of the issue or issues in contention; let us put the demand, struggle and call for the convocation of the SNC in context and in proper perspective.

A Sovereign National Conference [SNC] or a Constituent Assembly [CA], with full constituent powers, in reality means an assembly or conference whose authorities supersedes that of the existing state structures; a conference or assembly, that is supreme to the existing government, and whose decisions, can in the final analysis only be ratified by a popular referendum! It means that its powers are subject only to the outcome of a popular, free and fair referendum.

Now there are several ways through which such a sovereign conference or a constituent assembly can be convened; it can be convened at the height or as the concluding phase of the victorious overthrow of an existing power structure by a popular insurrection or insurgency; in which case we are here speaking of a revolutionary process, an uprising that is culminating in a victorious revolution; where the victorious revolutionary forces are trying to reorganize society and establish incipient organs of popular power. This is the first and purest instance. This was the only way for example that such a sovereign conference or constituent assembly could have been convened under the intransigent military dictatorships; it was through it that the June 12 presidential elections result could have been revalidated, the winner installed as the president and head of an Interim or transitional government etc. But this was also unfortunately the path not taken, the path not favoured by the dissident factions of the ruling elites/class then organised into NADECO and its many incarnations. This was the path, understood, but also feared by a section, the majority, of the popular resistance organised by JACON and UAD in the anti-military struggle.

There are other ways such a sovereign conference or constituent assembly can be convened! This includes a situation and context where the existing state structures and the faction of the ruling class holding power on the one hand; and the opposition forces from both the dissident factions of the ruling class and the popular and exploited subordinate classes have more or less mutually exhausted themselves in a fierce contestation. Hence such a sovereign conference or constituent assembly is convened to organise the resolution of the conflict, and reorganize the society to take account of competing demands in the uprising. Such a situation will create a dual power situation. We were at such a moment in the immediate aftermath of the twin murders of Abacha and Abiola. It was a path which again, the agitators for the SNC did not take.

One other way in which such a conference or constituent assembly can be convened will be in a moment of deep ferment, deep enough to instigate and fuel the implosion of the ruling class into antagonistic and increasingly irreconcilable factions. During such a period the call for the SNC and CA will gain in stridency, and it mat then eventually be convened in an attenuated manner; with the existing state structures retaining their validity, and powers, and with decisions of such a sovereign conference or constituent assembly subjected to a referendum, before they become executive bills which must be passed into law by the legislature. Even as such, this will still create a dual power situation, and it is little wonder that although different factions of the ruling class are making such demands, they are not prepared to take the necessary steps towards actualizing their demands.

But even more important questions than the question of process needs to be raised and discussed! These are questions of content and quality. When the ruling class factions talk of the SNC what do they mean? They are essentially speaking of and reducing this to a conference of ethnic nationalities; they are essentially posing the problem, in primarily ethnic and nationalities context rather than in social context. They want representatives of the ethnic nationalities alone to sit together.

Now how might the representatives of the ethnic nationalities to the conference or assembly be chosen/selected/elected? Which ethnic nationalities are to be represented at this conference? And in what proportions might they be represented? No one is raising or addressing these germane issues if the conference or assembly, sovereign, constituent or not, were to be convened as a conference of ethnic nationalities!

Will the Yorubas for example be represented by Asiwaju, Afenifere [old and new], OPC [Faseun or Adams], the various Odua self determination groups, or by whom? Will the Ijaws be represented by Clark, Tompolo, Asari, Alameisiegha, the INC, IYC, Oronto Douglas; or by whom? In fact for the purpose of Ethnic nationalities conference that is sovereign and has constituent powers; will the Egbas, Okuns, Ijebus, Ondos, Ekitis, be considered separately or as part of the Yoruba nation? Will the Okrikas, Ogbias, Andonis, Kalabaris, etc be considered separately or as part of the Ijaw nation?

We insist that there are far bigger national and social problems confronting us as a people and nation, that have had a collective experience of slavery and the slave trade; the unequal trade which preceded colonialism; colonialism; and the internal class exploitation by a shifting alliance of national ruling class elements and international capital; as well as national exploitation through the global structures of dependence of a globalizing international capitalism.

We insist that the major fault lines in our society are class, not ethnic in nature; that the major contestation is between the ruling elites and the subordinate classes; that real issues are around the share of national wealth owned and controlled by ruling and subordinate classes in society. We know that 70% of our population are living in poverty, and that they come from all the ethnic groups in the country; we know that for every Dangote, Dantata, Abiola, Otedola, Adenuga, Emeka Ofor, Igbinedion, Iwnayanwu, Tompolo, Dokubo, Alaibe etc; there are several millions of people from those same ethnic nationalities who are poor, homeless or living in inhuman habitation; jobless and hopeless! We know that where as the state of public education is such that the education of the children of the poor is happening under conditions that are not conducive to learning; and that the education of the middle class is happening at increasingly unbearable costs to the families; whereas the education of the children of the ruling class is happening in choice private institutions at home and abroad. We know that one in two unemployed youths come from every one of the ethnic nationalities in the country; we know that the 18 million housing deficits is a burden borne exclusively by the poor and lower middle class from all the ethnic nationalities. We know that the problems associated with gross lack, inadequacy, and dilapidation of basic services in health, education, housing, and of basic infrastructures in roads, transport etc; is a burden disproportionately borne by the 70% of the population that are poor in the first instance; followed by the 25% that live on middle class income in the second instance; And we know that they come from all the ethnic groups.

We insist that the fundamental problem of our society is that emanating from the disproportionate access to, ownership and control of social wealth, including basic services. And we know this because a mere 10% of the richest Nigerians own and control 41% of national wealth, whereas the bottom 50% of Nigerians own and control 10% of national wealth.

We affirm that the real issue needing resolution at a sovereign conference or a constituent assembly, is the situation that makes it possible to have a national minimum wage of 18,000 Naira per month that is not even being paid to workers; in a country where the per capital income is over $1,500; where the wealthiest man has a personal fortune of $40bn [making him the richest African, and 25th richest man globally], an amount more than 60% of the entire country’s external reserves and savings; or where its wealthiest woman [who is also the wealthiest Black woman] has a personal fortune in excess of $3bn!; where the wealthiest.

This is the Fundamental, National Social Question that requires urgent attention, and that needs to be addressed through the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference, or Constituent Assembly! We insist that the social forces that ought to be primarily represented at such a national conference or constituent assembly are such social and class categories and forces as Workers and their organisations; employers of labour and their organisations; Professional organisations; active coalitions of membership based citizens’ organisations and other social movements; Youth formations; Student Formations; Women Organisations; Artisanal groups and their organisations; Traders and their organisations; and political parties and political formations; representatives from the NASS and state Assemblies, the LGAs, the Federal and state executive councils; and only after these, religious delegates and delegates from ethnic associations that are organised.

But for us it is clear that the fundamental social forces in our society have been, and continue to be the social formations of citizens that have to do with how they earn their living and how they are trained, etc. These have been the social formations that have shaped our history, and continue to shape our daily existence.

It is only such a Sovereign National Conference or Constituent Assembly, constituted by these social forces rather than the ethnic forces that can dispassionately discuss the issues of restructuring of the federation, and agreeing the procedures and systems for real fiscal and political federalism. It is only in this context that issues around Federal minimum wage standards, local government autonomy, and democratic and representative community governance can be addressed in the interest of the wider population, and not in the treasury looting and light fingered interests of the ruling elite/class.

For the teeming majority of Nigerians who are the collective victims of the collective greed, avarice and misrule of the ruling elites, this must be our agenda for the SNC/CA, if we are ever going to put ourselves in a position that will enable us to Take Back Nigeria, and regain control of our destinies from the death grip of the rampaging pillage of these bands of organised treasury looters.

(Visit: takebacknigeria.blogspot.com; Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & [DPSR]protesttopower; Interact with me on Facebook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria)

News Release: MEND Condemns Apo Killing

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) condemns the recent extrajudicial killings of squatters and injuries to several others in the Apo district of Abuja by a team of unprofessional government security forces whom the spokeswoman for the State Security Service (SSS), Ms Marilyn Ogar, branded as Boko Haram terrorists in her statement filled with lies and fabrication.

The recent revelation from credible security sources of a plot to plant weapons in the uncompleted building as evidence, confirms the same action carried out by the same spokeswoman, Marylyn Ogar after our October 01, 2010 twin car bomb blasts in Abuja , in which she announced that a thorough investigation revealed that the car bombs were detonated by mobile phones. They later contradicted themselves in a South African High Court during Henry Okah’s sham trial when another State Security Service operative testified that the same car bombs were detonated by timing mechanisms supplied by Mr Charles Okah. Other false and misleading statements made by Ms Marylyn Ogar after our October 01, 2010 twin bomb blasts to hoodwink Nigerians and the world was that the perpetrators were captured on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) which the world is yet to see.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) were equally astonished after our October 01, 2010 twin bomb blasts to see that critiques and political opponents of Goodluck Jonathan which included Former Head of State and 2011 Presidential Aspirant, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Raymond Dokpesi Mallam Nasir El Rufai and the Okah brothers were either falsely accused or arrested as accomplices or perpetrators. Following in the footsteps of former despot Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire who branded his opponents as “Communists”, a label guaranteed to make the United Sates government turn a blind eye to his human rights atrocities, the same is happening in Nigeria today where the trending name of “Terrorists” and “Terrorism” is enough for Nigerians not to pay attention to deceit, human rights abuses, setups, wrongful arrests and detention, sham trials and extrajudicial killings.

The rudderless Ship of State is drifting deeper and deeper into an enveloping forge of lies told by government functionaries whose careers would be destroyed by the truth.

Jomo Gbomo

Poem: Kofi Awoonor

Kofi Awoonor(2nd right), author(right) shaking Wole Soyinka

By Chidi Anthony Opara

We have again hidden our heads
Inside heap of excuses
Like the ostrich’s head
Hidden inside heap of sand.
Like the crocodile
We are shedding tears again,
Tumbling with the tears.

On that day,
In that mall,
In that nation
That got freedom with mau mau,
A bard,
Other buyers bounced
The halls of the mall
Buying what needed to be bought.
The mujahideem
Materialized with malice
Multitude with murderous machines,
Some they enslaved.

The carnage claimed Kofi,
Kofi Awoonor
The creator of verses.
That keep souls in ascension,
That keep minds aglow.

This moment will move
Into the mass of moments past.
We will bury
The body of the bard,
The other bodies.
The wounds of the wounded
We will nurse
And negotiate freedom for the enslaved.
Our arms we will fold
And await
Another moment like this moment.

(This poem is presented as a social service, all rights reserved)

How To Save The Nigerian Economy, Higher Education(Part Four)

By International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)

In the part -three of our Public Information on the smokescreen nature of the 2009 Agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria as per solutions to the failed higher education in the country and how less than 5% of Nigeria’s estimated population of 170 million corner and pocket annually close to 80% of the country’s public finances through scandalous allowances and overheads, we concluded that part by pointing out the inability of the Nigerian citizens to access tertiary education in the country owing to inadequate number of higher institutions, awkward education policies by regulatory agencies and prohibitive running costs of government that take chunk of resources off educational development in the country. That only 297 higher education institutions are left to serve 170 million people of Nigeria is a clear sign of monumental failure of higher education in the country. That the 297 higher institutions including 124 accredited universities cannot boast of at least 10 million student population owing to their manual and unscientific guidelines and methods of tutorship makes the country’s tertiary education not only archaic, but also an opponent of modern educational innovations.

The United States, for instance, has 5,758 degree awarding institutions for her 313 million people. Brazil has 2,368 higher institutions for her 192 million people. Japan has 918 universities for her 127.6 million people. Philippine has 2,080 higher institutions for her 92.3 million people. Vietnam has 146 universities for her 87.8 million people. Ethiopia has 141 universities for her 84.3 million people. South Korea has 432 higher institutions for her 48.5 million people and Taiwan has 173 universities including 9 security universities for her 23.4 million people. While Nigeria, with an estimated population of 170 million people has only 124 accredited universities and 173 other higher institutions.

The UK Open University-an internationally rated distance learning provider and one of the best 500 universities in the world, has a total student population of 193, 835 as at 2012. It is followed by the University of London with its colleges, which has a total student population of 128, 580 as at 2012. In Nigeria, the total student population of the 124 accredited universities is not up to 1.5 million and the entire student population of the 297 higher institutions in the country is not up to 3 million. Out of 20.3 million students in the USA universities alone as at 2010, 14, 6 million enrolled full time and 5, 6 million studied through part-time and distance learning.

Nigeria’s higher education institutions are also highly parasitic and scientifically under-developed. Other than exorbitant school fees, government subventions and loans, they will crumble. Corruption and loss of values have become a serious challenge threatening the corporate integrity of the country’s higher institutions. Award of honorary degrees is now pegged for the highest bidders and given to celebrated generators of violence and public corruption in the country. In the United States, as at 2006, 765 colleges and universities had combined endowment assets of $340Billion, out of which, Harvard University had $29Billion(Intersociety 2012). There are 120 full research universities in the USA using their rich libraries and laboratories to find solutions to social problems, but in Nigeria, none of the 297 higher institutions is socio-scientific research oriented.

Apart from the fact that laws setting up the three main regulatory agencies for the 297 higher education institutions in Nigeria such as  the NUC Act of 1974 for 124 accredited universities, NCCE Act of 1989 for 50 colleges of education and NABTE Act of 1977 for 97 polytechnics and 26 monotechnics, are obsolete and out of tune with modern international higher education regulatory requirements, the managements of the three main regulatory agencies are led by BBC scholars; that is to say professors and doctors  born before computer age. Because of arrogance and pride, these BBC professors and doctors refused to learn computer and its immeasurable values and cultures. As a result, they have become resistant to computer age education resources. The only infantile efforts they made to beat “compuphobia” so as to remain relevant among their international colleagues was to hire fresh computers graduates, diploma holders and under-graduates as personal assistants for the purposes of opening and maintenance of electronic mails as well as contributing to electronic journals and researches nationally and internationally.

A good number of Nigerian academic scholars at professorial and doctoral cadre are still computer illiterate. Three, if not four out of every five of them cannot make a presentation or deliver lectures using power-point and excel technologies. Most of the 297 higher education institutions in Nigeria still use pen and paper, chalk and manual board mounted under trees, in shanties and prison-like block apartments with their students swelling and smelling like Christmas Goats and refugees.

There is no accurate data for tertiary institutions’ student population in Nigeria and the student data for individual higher institution is very unreliable. Electronic resources for higher education in Nigeria are near absent. The only university in the country that is computer and electronic friendly is the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), modeled after the UK, Hong Kong and India Open Universities, yet its feat is being frustrated by the BBC professors and doctors at the NUC, who belong to the age of typewriter. Recently, a department in a federal polytechnic in the Southeast Nigeria went wild in celebration over its successful experiment in electronic exams, whereas NOUN has successfully used it for four years only for the BBC professorial and doctorial peopled NUC to command it to revert to pen and paper.

In the Catholic Regis University of USA, built in 1877, for instance, all the modern electronic education resources and international network access are in place despite the university’s ancient age. A professor or doctorate degree holder, who teaches in the university, can be a student in another department (i.e. computer and ICT program). A number of their professors teach in the university through distance access remedial resources such as power-point powered by internet access. One of the University’s professors who lives in Indonesia teaches her students from her country’s base using e-education technology. Through this means, 20,000 students can have access to two professors no matter their locations on earth. In Nigeria, this is the secret behind the successful and historic production of first Nigerian powered criminologists and security experts by NOUN in 2012. Career criminologists are very few in Nigeria, but through e-education resources, their seminal works were made available to the concerned students.  This is a major challenge facing many Nigerian universities that wish to run such an important program owing to mounting security challenges in the country.

It is our recommendation that the Federal and State Ministries of Education should conduct advanced computer and ICT tests on all lecturers in their higher institutions, starting from graduate assistants to full time and contract professors and those without computer and ICT literacy should be enrolled to study and acquire same mandatorily. We also recommend as a matter of firmness and urgency that all the executive secretaries of NUC, NCCE and NABTE should be sacked and their entire managements overhauled and re-peopled with computer and ICT compliant scholars. The NUC Act of 1974, NCCE Act of 1989 and NABTE Act of 1977, which are the typewriter ageenactments should be overhauled and brought in tune with modern international higher education policies and guidelines. Suspension of part-time programs by NUC in 2012 should not only be lifted but also e-education resources including distance learning should be made a policy with merit-based and incorruptible guidelines.

At NOUN, corruption index is at its lowest ebb and to pass exams in the university, course materials must be studied back and front. In its e-exams, exams hours are not only strictly regulated by the computer under the watchful eyes of invigilators, but students’ marks are instantly graded. This gives no rooms for sorting, award of fictitious marks for a fee or for a pant and sexual harassment, violence and student-lecturer cultism. One fundamental way to address the brain drain syndrome in Nigeria is by institutionalizing electronic education resources in the country’s higher education system. The think home philosophy for Nigeria’s tens of thousands of academic scholars teaching in overseas including between 25,000 and 30, 000 or more Nigerian academic scholars in the United States will begin with this noble approach. Through internet powered e-education resources, they can easily teach their country home students without needing to be coming home always, except in a while for purposes of practical, research, etc. It is also cheaper, qualitative, less risky and convenient.

More higher education institutions including universities are not only direly and urgently needed in Nigeria, but also multi-national and multi-billionaire indigenous companies like Shell, Agip, Chevron, GLO, MTN, NNPC, Dangote, etc, should give Nigerians more universities at affordable prices and qualities, as part of their social responsibility obligations to Nigerian citizens. Both Federal and States’ Governments in Nigeria should drastically review and upgrade criteria for membership of higher institutions’ governing councils. Apart from making professors and holders of doctorate degrees heads of governing councils, other members must possess at least first university degrees or their equivalents. Professionals, not career politicians, should head such governing councils and membership of such councils should no longer be used as political settlements.

To effectively manage incessant industrial disputes in Nigeria, all the basic salaries of the leaders and members of the industrial unions capable of downing tools in the country, should be left intact subject to their statutory reviews. But all the allowances with whatever names so attached or called, should be reviewed, aggregated and codified. In the circumstance, we recommend for forensic review of all the allowances presently demandable and payable in respect of all the public industrial unions including ASUU, ASUP, SSANU, NLC, TUC, NMA, NUT and so on. Such review will take into account need to remove ones that are over-bloated and frivolous. The remaining payable allowances after such forensic review should be cut by 30% as a sacrifice to save our economy and resources for the capital development of our higher education. The idea of codification of these allowances with their review periods is to prevent frivolities and proliferation of allowances by demanding industrial unions. Government must honour its obligations with respect to terms so contained and demand maximum outputs from the beneficiaries.

We also strongly recommend that the basic salaries of the 17,500 top public office holders in Nigeria should be left intact. This is because the problem does not lie on salaries but allowances and overheads, which are scandalous and criminal. It is our firm recommendation that all the allowances paid annually to these 17,500 milky Nigerians should be holistically reviewed with a view to removing those found irrelevant such as newspaper allowance of N1.24 Million, hardship allowance of N1.2Million, wardrope allowance of N621, 000, recess allowance of N248, 000, accommodation allowance of N4, 96Million (there is already furniture allowance of N7, 45Million), domestic staff allowance of N868,000(there is already personal assistance allowance of N621,000), entertainment allowance of N828,000 and vehicle maintenance allowance of N1,86Million( there is already motor vehicle allowance of N9,93Million).These categories of irrelevant allowances are basically enjoyed by each of the 469 federal lawmakers in Nigeria and they are extended with minor modifications to others included in the list of the said 17,500 milky Nigerians.

We further recommend that the remaining allowances should be cut by at least 50% so as to save resources for the adequate provision and maintenance of social services including adequate funding of our tertiary education. Nigeria’s 3,500 kilometers of railways are in shambles. The 8,600 kilometers of the country’s inland waterways are not properly developed and policed; her 22 airports are not only too small for 170 million people, but also below international standards. The 34,120 kilometers of federal roads are death trap, likewise the 36 States’ 34, 300 kilometers and the 776 LGAs’ 129, 580 kilometers of roads. The 50% cut in the said allowances will fetch the Nigeria over N275Billion from 12,788 LGAs’ executives and councilors’ allowances, N136Billion from about 2,664 States’ executives, N27Billion from 469 federal lawmakers, N45Billion from about 472 federal executives,N18Billion from 1, 152 States’ lawmakers,N8Billion from 792 States’ judges and N6,5Billion from 142 federal judges, totaling N516Billion a year.

While security votes should be restricted to the president and governors with drastic downward review, such allocation to heads of all top public offices other than governors and the president should be abolished and prohibited by law. The estimated over 35,000 personal assistants working for the said 17,500 milky Nigerians should be trimmed down by 50% with only president, deputy president, governors, deputy governors, senate president, deputy senate president, speaker of the House of Reps and his deputy, Chief Justice of the Federation, the Appeal Court President and Chief Judges of States, FCT and Federal High Courts allowed maximum of three personal assistants other than their constitutionally recognized aides. The scandalous and criminal overhead expenditures in Nigeria should be cut by 50% as well.

For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law

Emeka Umeagbalasi,
Chairman of the Board
08033601078, 08180103912

Comrade Justus Ijeoma,
Head, Publicity Desk