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Govt Might Ignore Wishes of Nigerians - Oshiomhole

By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Vanguard (Lagos) 16 May 2001

Abuja—President of Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has said that going by government antecedent of deceits in the last sixteen years, President Obasanjo's government might not respect Nigerians' verdict in the on-going constitutional review exercise.

Comrade Oshiomhole also said that should the nation's socio-economic and political life continue to be clouded by the politics of religious and ethnic bigotry, Nigeria would not play a leading role in the evolving African union.

The NLC president spoke Monday in Abuja while delivering a paper on sensitizing the public about the African Union to ensure mass participation at a national seminar on the African Union and the challenges of cooperation and integration.

Represented by NLC acting general secretary, Comrade John Odah, Comrade Oshiomhole said: like the rest of humanity, we have had over the years to sensitize the public on crucial issues. In the last sixteen years, I recall there had been a number of such issues. I recall the great debate over the IMF and its conditionalities. A sensitized public rejected the IMF and its destructive adjustment programme. The government acknowledged the verdict of the popular debate, yet ended up imposing the IMF conditionalities on the people.

So the ultimate result of this was deceit by government. There was the political debate on the political direction of our country. Again, government rejected the clear choice and preference of the people as faithfully collated by the political bureau. There was also the issue in the mid 1980s of rebuilding the country along principled and democratic lines. For this MAMSER was set up and a lot of public funds expanded. The people warned up to this, but the architects had a hidden agenda to perpetuate themselves in power and perpetuate dictatorship.

According to Comrade Oshiomhole:

Today there is an on-going sensitization on constitutional review. Zonal presentations of newly cloned constitution are in progress. But the people are not part of this process. To begin with, copies of the two-volume report of presidential committee on the review of 1999 Constitution are not readily available even to the elites. But fundamentally, the whole issue of constitutional review is quite confusing even to the educated.

By the last count, there are three district constitutional reviews in progress. One by the presidency, a second by the National Assembly and the third by civil society organisations. Sensitization in this case has failed from the onset because it is disjointed, lacks focus and is devoid of consultation even at the level of the elites and there are various power centres working at cross purposes.

He argued that the likelihood is that, like has been done previously, a constitution would simply be imposed with the people having been excluded from the process of fashioning it. What is therefore required is a unity of purpose, clear direction, a transparent and purposeful consultation with the people.

On African Union, Comrade Oshiomhole noted that it was obvious that individual economy of African states would not survive in a global village with large socio-economic and political unions.

He said: the African Union has to be economically viable hence the participation of the people is essential. They should be made to realise that Africa is a huge market and that by pooling resources we can all live better.

For our country to play a leading role in the African Union, we first must demonstrate our own unity. In other words, the people must be conscientized to see through the politics of religious and ethnic bigotry. We cannot play the politics of sectional or ethno-religious atomization and hope to play a leading role in a United African polity.

Comrade Oshiomhole called for an aggressive enlightenment and mass debated programmes involving trade unions, market associations, professional bodies, community development associations, youths, students bodies, NGOs, other civil society groups as well as governments.

While emphasing of the importance of the press in the exercise, he said we needed a complete re-orientation and decolonization of minds and developed pride in ourselves and our people.

As part of sensitization, our people must realize that we cannot build the African union without surrendering that of our sovereignty to new union.