June 4, 2012. A recent snap poll conducted by NOI Polls Limited has revealed that most Nigerians are not aware of the call for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). Given the attention gathered by the issue in the media, and particularly in recent times, the poll sought the views of over 1000 Nigerians regarding the level of awareness and support for the issue of SNC. Surprising, it was found that nearly 9 in 10 (88%) respondents were not aware of the call to constitute a sovereign national conference.
As background to the study, it would be recalled that there have been several calls by some eminent Nigerians for the convocation of a sovereign national conference (SNC) or a Confab of all ethnic nationalities in the country, with a view to addressing the developmental challenges facing the nation and curbing the increasing incidents of civil unrest and violence. Notable amongst the statesmen are the likes of Chief Anthony Enahoro, Professor Ben Nwabueze, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Audu Ogbe, Professor Pat Utomi, and Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu amongst others.
Consequently, these calls have been trailed with mixed reactions. On one hand, proponents of SNC have argued for the crucial need for Nigerians to come together, sit down, and agree on the way they should be governed and how they want to live as a united nation. In their opinion, running away from a national conference amounts to postponing the evil day. They believe that instead of allowing Nigeria to break up, a national conference would help foster the unity, peace and progress of the nation, strengthen our practice of true federalism, and address the current security challenges.
On the other hand, there are opposing voices, who have described the calls for SNC as unnecessary distractions. In a recent newspaper article, a member of the House of Representatives was reported to have faulted the call for a sovereign national conference, describing it as “unfair, diversionary and unnecessary”. He argued that there was no need for a conference because constituting a national conference amounted to bringing together representatives of the people, which is what the National Assembly is already about. Another dissenting voice to the call argued that a Sovereign National Conference can only be held if Nigerians decided that they can no longer stay together as a united nation. Further stressing that there may be opportunities for strategic summits and technical committees to review the challenges facing the nation in several areas.
It was against this background that NOI Polls sought the opinions of Nigerians regarding the call for a Sovereign National Conference. From a total of 1,296 respondents sampled nationwide for this poll, only 38% of female respondents completed the survey, compared with 62% of male respondents. In addition, majority of the respondents (48%) were aged between 25 – 34 years; while 33% were aged between 35 – 44 years, and 13% between 18 – 24 years. Although thirteen questions were asked to the respondents, the following summarises some of the key findings revealed from the poll. Firstly, respondents were asked if they were aware of the call for the constitution of a Sovereign National Conference by some eminent Nigerian elders. The results revealed that almost 9 in 10 respondents (88%) were not aware of the call for SNC; and only 12% said they were aware of the call. In addition, of the 12% respondents that were aware of the call, the majority (82%) were in support of the constitution of SNC, while 15% were not in support and 3% were not sure.
In furtherance, for those who said they supported the call, the poll sought to understand the reason for their support. The reason most of the respondents (48%) gave for supporting the call for a Sovereign National conference is that it would help foster unity, peace and progress in Nigeria. 20% of the respondents also said it would help address the security challenges in the country while another 19% said they supported it because of the integrity of the elders making the call. A further 13% said it would help to strengthen true federalism while 1% said they were in support because the national assembly is not doing its job. On the other hand, the majority of respondents (33%) who said they were not in support of the call for a Sovereign National Conference said their reason for not supporting it is because it’s the duty of the national assembly. An equal proportion of 30% each said that it was diversionary and unnecessary, and also simply time wasting. Also, 4% said that it would not make a difference and has no legal backing respectively.
Also, respondents were asked if it was still necessary to call for a Sovereign National Conference since we already have the National Assembly. Approximately 8 in 10 (84%) answered affirmatively while only 16% answered negatively. Similarly, when asked how important it is for Nigeria to constitute the Sovereign National Conference, majority (76%) of the respondents said it is very important while 12% said it is moderately important. Only 12% said it is not important at all to have the Sovereign National Conference while 1% said they don’t know.
The poll also sought the opinion of respondents regarding the intentions of those making the call for the SNC. Interestingly, majority of the respondents (78%) were of the opinion that those making the call had good intentions. While 14% said they do not have good intentions, and 8% were unsure. In addition, the opinions of respondents were sought as to their agreement or disagreement on the propositions that the constitution of a Sovereign National Conference would help in: (1) fostering unity, peace and progress; (2) strengthening democracy; and (3) addressing the country’s security challenges. The results revealed that on the issue of helping to foster unity, peace and progress in Nigeria, 50% of the respondents strongly agreed, while 37% agreed; making a total of 87% in agreement. Similarly, on the issue of helping to strengthen democracy, 47% agreed strongly, while 39% agreed; making a total of 86% in agreement. In the same vein, on the issue of helping to address the security challenges facing the nation, 48% agreed strongly, while 40% agreed; making a total of 88% in agreement. Across the three questions 8% each disagreed, while 1% strongly disagreed, and 4% were undecided.
To what extent do you agree that a Sovereign National Conference cab help in the following ways?
Potential Benefits of the
Sovereign National Conference
To Foster Unity, Peace and Progress
To Strengthen Democracy
To help Address the Security Challenges
Moving forward, respondents were asked whether in their opinion the word “Sovereign” brings controversy in the call for a National Conference. To this question, 51% of the respondents answered positively while, 45% answered negatively. 4% were unsure or refused. Consequently, they were asked whether the word “Sovereign” should be removed. The majority of respondents (55%) said it should not be removed, while 34% said it should be removed. 10% were unsure as to whether or not it should be removed.
Finally, respondents were asked if President Jonathan should support the call for a Sovereign National Conference. It is worth stating clearly that, out of the 12% of respondents that are aware of the call for SNC, 8 in 10 respondents (80%) answered were of the opinion that the president should support the call, while 12% answered negative.
In summary, this recent poll has shown that while there appears to have been calls from several eminent Nigerians on the need to constitute a Sovereign National Conference, there hasn’t been much mobilisation of the grassroots towards the call. It is therefore imperative that proponents of the call for a national conference have to adopt more effective strategies disseminating information and creating awareness on the need for such a conference in order to be able to mobilise support from the grassroots. It is worth noting that those respondents who were aware of the call for a Sovereign National Conference were overwhelmingly in favour of its constitution. The respondents were quite optimistic that the constitution of such a conference would help to foster peace, unity and progress; strengthen the country’s democratic experience, and address the increasing security challenges facing the nation. They were also of the opinion that President Jonathan should lend his support to the call. It can therefore be inferred from the poll that if the proponents of SNC adopt more effective strategies to create awareness on the issue and its potential benefits to the nation, it could generate support from more Nigerians, particularly the grassroots.
Results are based on a nationwide poll conducted in April 2012. It involved telephone interviews with 1,296 randomly selected, phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a plus or minus 5% margin of error of what they would have been if the entire population had been surveyed.