Idols of the cave, By Dr. Amanze Obi

Posted by News Express | 17 September 2015 | 3,600 times

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The news out there at the moment is that some northern political leaders operating under the banner of North­ern Reawakening Forum (NRF) have asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference convened by former presi­dent, Goodluck Jonathan. In its place, they want Buhari to convoke a new national conference that would ad­dress the problems of the north east in particular and the entire northern region in general.

The emerging lobbyists led by Alhaji Mohammed Umara Kumalia, a former member of the House of Representatives, are arguing that Nigeria needs a new conference that will pay special attention to the north because, according to them, the region has the highest poverty rate as well as the lowest literacy rate in the country. They want a Buhari national conference that will address these oddities. The forum is also arguing that Buhari has no business implementing a conference report that was organised by a PDP government that has lost power. It wants APC, the new party in power, to put together its own conference.

Anybody who is fairly conversant with the mental make-up of the average Nigerian will hardly be sur­prised at the interjection issuing forth from the forum. It is typical for Nigerians of certain classes to play the spoilsport as Alhaji Kumalia and his co-conspirators are doing. The typical Nigerian takes sardonic pleasure in erecting barriers on the road to national integration and cohesion. He delights in scornful displays that tend to widen the gulf of ethnic suspicion and disunity.

In fact, Kumalia and his group are typical idols of the cave, one of the four idols identified by Francis Bacon, an English philosopher and jurist, as among the logical fallacies that humans have to overcome if they must rea­son clearly. Because they have a certain image held in their mind, those operating under the umbrella of NRF are weighed down by hindrances to their understanding on account of their personal shortcomings. As typical idols of the cave, they are constrained by their tastes and prejudices mostly acquired through acculturation and indoctrination. The mind, as we know, is a cavern. And since the typical idol of the cave cannot see beyond his nose, his thoughts roam in this dark cavern. This results in jaundiced views and prejudices.

The typical Baconian idol is parochial through and through. That is why the Kumalia forum is asking for a new national conference that will particularly address the problems of the north east. They will not appreciate the fact that you do not need a national conference to address whatever that is happening in the north east. If government wants to rebuild the north east or pay a spe­cial attention to it, it can do so using the instrumentality of the Federal Executive Council. Government can roll out a marshal plan or adopt any other strategy to address the devastation in the territory. The situation does not call for a national conference.

In the same vein, government does not need a na­tional conference to address the problem of poverty in the north and the low literacy rate in the region. As a matter of fact, these are issues governments and inter­est groups in the north can deal with. If the 19 northern states see the situation as a malaise that they need to address, they know what to do. The northern think tank can fashion out the way to go. In fact, Kumalia’s NRF should even take up this as an agenda for the northern states. It is not for the federal government to deal with because there is no national policy that promotes pov­erty in the north. There is also no government or institu­tional policy that encourages low school enrollment in the northern region. The problems are largely cultural. They are a fallout of the four Baconian idols, namely, idols of the tribe, the cave, the market place and the theatre. They are inhibiting tendencies which modern and liberated minds do not suffer from. Those who are slaves to certain cultures cannot live above these dis­abilities. I think that concerned northerners like Kuma­lia should look inwards in this regard rather than divert our attention from nagging issues of nationhood.

The truth of the matter is that Kumalia and his allies want the report of the 2014 national conference to die not because of the reasons they have adduced. Other­wise, how will someone in his right senses say that the report should be dumped because the conference that produced it was set up by PDP? That is silliness of the worst order. Interjections such as this reduce national discourse to a joke. They bring juvenility and triviality to bear on national issues. This is most unbecoming of a group which claims to represent a very large regional bloc such as the north.

The Kumalias of the north may do well to tell us what they are driving at. But we know what they are up to, whether they own up to it or not.

The report of the Jonathan conference was produced by Nigerians who represented various groups and in­terests. It was not about the PDP or the south. It was a pan-Nigerian document. It sought to address some of the sore points of our federalism. Nigeria claims to be a federation. Yet, there is a lot in its modus operandi that suggests otherwise. Those who mean well for this country have been clamouring for a redress in this re­gard. They have been advocating for a Nigeria where the different nationalities that make up the federation feel a sense of equity and social justice. They believe that it is such evenness that will make the peoples of the country hang together in the arduous task of nation- building.

But because life and situations do not necessarily fol­low a one-to-one correspondence, some of the expecta­tions we outlined are still very far from being attained. Whenever Nigerians call for national dialogue, they do so because they feel that some of these odds need to be addressed. But there are also those who want a perpetu­ation of the status quo. Those are people that are afraid of equity. They are people that thrive in a state of lopsid­edness. They are the wreckers of our federation. They are not interested in nation-building. Rather, they find flagellation in inequity anchored on a certain form of domination. This is what Kumalia’s NRF is driving at. We know what their motives are.

Delegates to the 2014 conference tried in their own way to deal with some of the knotty issues of our fed­eralism. But there were still so many others begging for attention. Yet, the Kumalias of the north do not want us to move away from where we are. They want the country to remain static to the detriment of national stability.

In order to divert our attention from their true intent, they have taken refuge in the Buhari presidency. They are asking the president to throw away the report. But I do not think that they need to labour to make this point. We know that Jonathan’s conference died the day he decided to relinquish power to Buhari. We also know that Buhari will not, under any circumstance, have any­thing to do with the conference report. We know that its content, no matter how pan-Nigerian, will not appeal to Buhari. So the NRF need not bother talking to the converted. Buhari was their ally even before he became the president. For this reason, NRF will certainly have its way on this matter. But it should not go to the ridicu­lous level of asking Buhari to convoke his own national conference. There is no need for it. Let Nigeria remain in this state of atrophy. There shall come a time for a bailout.

•This piece by Dr. Amanze Obi originally appeared in his column BROKEN TONGUES in today’s edition of Daily Sun. Amanze Obi can be reached via

Source: News Express

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