Femi Fani-Kayode: The National Conference And The Explosive Words of Dr. Junaid Mohammed

Femi Fani-Kayode

According to the June 10 edition of the Punch Newspaper, in a story titled ”Ethnic Suspicions Haunt National Conference”, the Convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who is a delegate at the National Conference representing Kano State, said he still did not believe the conference would make any difference. He dared the southern delegates to do their best, saying resource control would not be approved by the conference no matter how hard they tried.

The following are his exact words: “Every issue that has been canvassed for holding the conference has been found to be false. The issues canvassed are agitations by some people sponsored by the Presidency. Whether it is true federalism or true fiscal federalism, none of them has materialised. Those who agitated for the conference should tell us why their darling National Conference has not produced true federalism. We’ll meet at the conference; let’s see how the argument on resource control would go. The one we had in my committee, the Committee on Devolution of Power was knocked off by me and it was declared unconstitutional. RESOURCE CONTROL IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN AS LONG AS WE (NORTHERNERS) ARE PART OF NIGERIA”.

Junaid speaks for many in the north and the implications of his submission are obvious and far reaching. Particularly those contained in the last sentence about resource control not ever happening unless the north agrees. I say this because most of the southern delegates had said they looked forward to the conference recommending a restructuring of the country and establishing a true federalism that would be characterised by regional autonomy, resource control, state police, among other changes.

Yet their northern counterparts wanted the status quo to remain in terms of the country’s governance structure. They also sought for an increase in revenue allocations from the Federal Government to the states in the North.

Going by these diametrically opposing positions and those specially presented by different blocs like the North, the South-West, and the South-South, the recommendation of the committees seem to favour the North more than the South.

The import of Junaid Mohammed’s revealing and instructive words surely cannot be lost on even the dullest and slow in learning amongst us. I thank him for those words because, unlike others, he has displayed the courage of his convictions.

He has been brutally frank and honest about the whole thing and about the existing situation and I commend him for that. Simply put he has said that nothing can change in terms of the constitutional structure of Nigeria unless the north agrees to it regardless of how everyone else feels or what their collective aspirations may be.

I feel vindicated because I told Nigerians all this well before the conference started a few weeks back. As a matter of fact I have been saying the same thing ever since the annulment of Chief MKO Abiola’s June 12th election in 1993.

Right from the beginning I knew that the latest national conference which was put in place by the Jonathan administration, just like all other constitutional conferences that came before it, could not possibly bring any real and fundamental change and was nothing but an exercise in futility and a waste of time and money.

The bitter truth is that Nigeria cannot and will not enjoy any form of deep and meaningful fundamental constitutional change and she will not be restructured or be broken up by peaceful means, negotiation or any long-winded constitutional conference.

It can only be restructured or broken by the force of arms and fire. If you really want the country to be restructured or you want Oduduwa Republic or Biafra you better be ready to pay the price for it and that price will include plenty of violence and blood.

Now this is not a call to arms because personally I deplore the use of violence and the shedding of human blood under any circumstances. I am not declaring war on anyone but simply making an observation and a statement of fact. Take it or leave it.

Those that believe that they own Nigeria and all that is in her have made it so. It is left for the rest of us to determine our fate: do we wish to continue like this, in utter bondage and servitude for the next 100 years in a land where a bunch of desperate, unlettered and uncouth haramites have the power of veto, the right to thwart our will and the guts to slaughter our people?

Do we bequeath nothing but fear, ignorance and slavery to our children and our grandchildren in a land where those that believe that they were born to rule constantly terrorize and kill our citizens when they don’t have political power and when they are not ruling from the centre?

Do we, like the proverbial victim of anal rape, bow down, role over, take a deep breath, take it all in and just accept our sorry plight and pathetic fate and condition?

Or do we finally stand up, accept the fact that slavery, rape and bondage are neither natural or acceptable conditions, say ”no more” and ”enough is enough”, put aside our petty differences, rise up like real men and end it once and for all by breaking the country up completely if we cannot get regional autonomy?

How desperately do we want our freedom? Are we ready to pay the price or shall we just continue to fantasize and talk about it in fanciful and long-winded essays, boring and heated verbal debates, endless and, more often than not, uninformed Facebook and twitter discussions and in laborious and ill-fated government-sponsored national conference?

We either remain passive, accept our lot, stop complaining and keep our mouths shut for the next one hundred years or we put our money where our mouth is, demand change and prepare for a long hard struggle for liberation, autonomy and, ultimately, independence. The choice is ours.

As for me I made my choice long ago. I believe that there are some things that are well above politics and one of those things is nation building.

I believe that if Nigeria cannot be restructured and power devolved from the centre, in accordance with the will and aspirations of the majority of the people of the south and the Middle Belt, and if this cannot be done quickly and smoothly, I say ”give me Oduduwa  or let me die”.

Love me or hate me, that is my stand.

Permit me to conclude this contribution with the words of Senator Femi Okunrounmu, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commitee on the 2014 National Conference. After casting doubt on the possibility of the National Conference achieving any meaningful results he said: “they (core North) came with a very straight forward agenda, which is to block any change and ensure the sustenance of the status quo. So, the conference has mostly been a clash of the South-west against the core North. While the South-west pushed forcefully for the realisation of all the elements of their agenda, they found themselves almost in every case pitted against the core North, enjoying only lukewarm support from the South-east and a near total indifference from the rest of the country”.

Clearly we are in trouble. For those of us that are are still in doubt about the gravity of the situation, that are eternal optimists and that are, despite all, still expecting change under the present system let me end with the insightful words of my friend and brother Mr. Shola Adebowale. In an interesting discussion on my Facebook page on June 11, 2014 he wrote, ”Meanwhile,why are we expecting any drastic change from the status quo,after a delegate at the National Conference, Alhaji Usman Farouk, (the former military Administrator of the old Northwestern Region in the early 1970?s), has told us to our faces that: ‘sovereignty is not earned or discussed on a round table, but obtained in a battle field’. He said this whilst he was challenging his colleagues from the south over discussions on the sovereignty of Nigeria and the powers of the executive at the ongoing Constitutional Conference”.

I need not say more. In case we were in any doubt I guess we all know who the real bosses of Nigeria are now and who really owns our country. What a mess we are in. And it is a mess that needs to be cleaned up pretty quickly before all sense of restraint and decency is thrown out of the window and all hell breaks lose. It must be cleaned up before someone decides to ”cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”.

It is time for us to bury the hatchet and for all southerners including the Igbo and the Yoruba, to come together. We must let bygones be bygones, learn from our past mistakes and not allow ourselves to become slaves of suspicion, history and bitterness. We must also forgive one another for past slights, past insults and past misunderstandings.

I say this because the two-headed dragon that is creeping down from the core north, that seeks to consume and overwhelm us all and that is known as ”ethnic enslavement” and ”Boko Haram” is far more dangerous and frightful than anything that we have ever seen before or experienced in our history. The only thing that can stop it is southern solidarity, unity and understanding and a clear quest for the exercise of southern rights.

Without that we shall all fall. And when I say ”all” I mean the entire south, the Middle Belt and the northern minorities. If we don’t get our act together and do something quickly we shall all be slaves for the next one hundred years.

Dr. Junaid Mohammed represents a powerful and entrenched constituency. His words are deep and consequential and his message is as clear as a beautiful summer morning. Every discerning and politically-sensitive Nigerian would do well to appreciate the import of those words, to get that message and to learn from it.


Femi Fani-Kayode is the Former Nigeria’s Aviation Minister


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