60th Independence: This is not the Nigeria Awo, Sardauna, Zik envisioned, elder statesmen lament
From Bola Badmus, Johnson Ba- bajide, Hakeem Gbadamosi, Johnson Babajide, Ebenezer Adurokiya, Michael Ovat, Kola Oyelere
AS Nigeria marks 60 years of independence from Britain as a sovereign country, elder statesmen, including Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Professor Banji Akintoye, among others and Chief Olabode George, have expressed disappointment about the current state of the nation, declaring that the country has failed to achieve the dream of its founding fathers despite the abundant resources available to it.
The elder statesmen, who spoke separately to Tribune Online, noted the cacophony of agitations in the country, charging President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate step to restructure the country to avert a break-up.
Chief Adebanjo said the country’s diamond jubilee is worth celebrating only because God has kept it as one but, not worth it as it has not attained the dream of the founding fathers.
He lamented that Nigeria had been unfortunate to have unprincipled leaders since independence particularly after the military took over in 1966.
According to him, the country has not been able to get its way through, attributing the fundamental problem to change of the constitution by the military to unitary form of government.
He declared that unless Nigeria returns to federalism with the federating units becoming autonomous, which was the agreement by the founding fathers, progress would be impossible under a one-man rule imposed by the military regime.
Adebanjo, an Afenifere chieftain, while maintaining that the country has not witnessed rapid development since the military incursion into governance, further lamented that the country is now more divided than it was at independence.
In his own view, Akintoye, who also admitted that Nigeria was making much progress under its founding fathers, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo, late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, said the country, “tumbled on a dangerous terrain” and “fumbled because the people who were in control of power in the Federal Government developed an unhealthy desire to control the regions.”
According to the foremost historian, “Their first attack was launched against the Western Region by manipulation and so on, by what I can call covert operation.
“They got the leaders of the Western Region, broke up the leadership of the Western Region and the Federal Government then moved in quickly to declare a State of Emergency, suspended the regional government and appointed a sole administrator to oversee its affairs and essentially shut down the development of Western Region. That went on and on.
“A section of the leadership of Western Region became allies of people in the Federal Government and rigged election in the Western Region in order to uphold them in power, and we the young people of the Western Region refused to accept because the election was so blatantly rigged, and so that resulted in the coup in January 1966. That is where we really began to plummet down the slope.”
Akintoye, who leads the Yoruba World Congress (YWC) which a few months ago secured the Yoruba nation membership of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), said the military also came into power without any preparation for governing, adding that they were disrespectful of Nigeria as “they were trained by the British to defend the British interest in Nigeria against the Nigerians.”
“That was what the military was trained for originally. And so it was common among them to refer to our politicians as bloody civilians and they have no skill to govern. So the result is that type of government just became a silly, sally, corrupt establishment, to which every soldier boy that came to power was trying to get money for himself and Nigeria began to go down and down,” he said.
George, in his remark, also agreed that Nigeria as a country is currently in “a state of flux” and on a platform that is wobbling.”
He said the only way to address the problem is to allow justice and fairness to prevail, contending that the absence of such has been responsible for “the cacophony of voices and agitations in the land by the separatists.”
“We are in a state of flux. We are on a platform that is wobbling, why should we be like that? Let justice flow like a river. Let there be fairness in the land. The cacophony of voices, people who want this state and that republic. That is what is causing the agitation because we want fairness under the law.
“Like they say in my part of the world, no Assembly of people that is a slave to an Ijaw man, gathering resources together can’t be interesting if some lack, which means equality of the system,” he said.
“I believe that Oga (Buhari) has a duty, having served in the military, he has a duty, having fought in the civil war, he has a duty to revisit this style of management we have now. We have this opportunity now from 2020 to 2023.
“If we go into the devolution of power, restructuring the country for the benefit of every Nigerian, that is the task he must embark upon and get done before he leaves office,” he admonished.
A former adviser on National Assembly matters to a former president, the late Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, lamented that the country has not achieved much in the area of socio-economic development and infrastructure.
He said every citizen could see the numerous problems like kidnapping, insecurity, poverty, unemployment and other vices to observe that country is not doing well.
He said the country could have achieved more if there a developmental agenda implemented by successive governments over the years.
Alhaji Yakassai, who spoke to Tribune Online in Kano on Saturday added, however, that in area of development, the country has at least achieved something, comparing what is on the ground with what the nation had in the past.
“Before independence, the country had only one university, which was the premier university known as the University of Ibadan. Even at that time, it was not a full-fledged university.
“But as I said earlier, the current government has tried. What I see as the clog in the wheel of progress of the country is lack of developmental agenda,” he said.
Secretary-General of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, on Saturday, said his desire for Nigeria has yet to be fulfilled, 60 years after independence.
Arogbofa said the country has failed to give room for an environment where there is equity and respect for rights and dignity of all citizens.
“We are yet to have a country where the governed are good followers and leaders think first think about the people and not the other way round,” he said.
According to the octogenarian, the desire for a better country where every citizen will feel the impact of governance is still missing at 60, while the dreams and hopes of many Nigerians have been dashed.
He noted that the problems confronting the country will continue to live with Nigerians until the leaders embrace a federal system of government as agreed by leaders at independence.
“All is not well with our country and this is as a result of poor leadership which has also has been producing poor followership, believing that we shall find solutions to the problems.
“Part of the solutions is bringing back that form of government that our founding fathers, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello Sau- dana ran. And going back to that agreement they made before independence that we should have a system of Federal Government.
Former Minister of State for Education and erstwhile Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Jerry Agada and Dr Paul Orhi; respectively have lamented the non-fulfilment of the expectations of Nigerians at independence.
Agada lamented that the country is yet to attain the desired dream, but submitted that there is still room for improvement, blaming corruption and ineptitude, as factors responsible for the non-development recorded in some sectors.
“For instance, the Nigeria railway which we ought to have improved on was left in comatose only to now receive attention. The dispensaries which ought to have been advanced to cottage hospital were abandoned.
“Though we have improved in some areas like education because at independence we had few universities but now have many universities.”
Agada advised the country’s leadership to channel the resources of the country into meaningful areas of development.
In his own submission, the former NAFDAC boss, Dr Orhii, said while the nation has remained undeveloped in some areas, the country has made little progress in few others.
“Nigeria is not the same way it was when I was born. In those days, we had a functional railway and Nigeria airways. But now, Nigeria airways has gone and we are struggling to bring back the rail lines.
“While we have taken big steps backwards in those areas, we have also moving forward in the education sector because now we have so many universities.
Dr Orhi, however, advised that the country should diversify from oil to agriculture as one of the areas that can help the nation to be self-reliant.
Spokesperson for the Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural body, Mr Yinka Odumakin, in his own view, observed that the early founders of the country did not have a common ideal that guided their call for independence.
“Our founding fathers never had an envisioned country. Each of them had his own
idea of what they wanted. There was not a country. Awo wanted a federal Nigeria, where every section would be at liberty to run its affairs and there will be healthy competition.
“Tafawa Balewa and co wanted to dominate. So, there was no common ideal which they were all striving towards,” he said.
Odumakin said the state of foundational discordance led to the civil war which erupted after so many crises in 1967, just about seven years after independence.
He noted that since then, Nigeria has never really been out of war because that civil war never really ended.
“We have been at war since after that war because that war never ended. Like Fredrick Lugard said, we behave more like enemy tribes,” he said.
Odumakin expressed surprise at some of the actions of the Buhari-led Federal Government in recent times as some of the evidence of his assertion.
“I am so surprised that at the 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence, Buhari is now building a rail-line to Niger Republic when there is no rail between Calabar and Lagos.
“His government is more concerned about creating waterways for herdsmen and they are saying that they want to give visa to herdsmen upon arrival in Nigeria.
“Clearly, we do not have a common Nigeria that we are striving towards. That is why, today, you see the kinds of treatment herdsmen are being given. Go to Abuja today, you will see cows strolling on our runway in an international airport,” he said.
Odumakin, who faulted the foundation of Nigeria’s independence, noted that the way the country is currently configured needs to be changed because Nigeria is undergoing a clash of civilizations whose root is traceable to the reactions that greeted the call for independence in 1957.
“It is a clash of civilizations we have been battling with which explains when the motion for independence was moved in 1957, the defunct Northern People’s Congress (NPC) opposed that motion and they walked out of the Parliament. When the defunct Action Group, went to Kano, led by Ladoke Akintola, to explain independence to the people, it was met with a riot. There was Kano riot where people were killed in large number on the quest that we were craving for independence.
“Whatever Nigeria is going through today, the seeds were sown in those [pre-in- dependence] years because it was a false marriage and up till now, we have no charter of union to show that we want to engage ourselves, to live as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Odumakin, however, noted that for Nigeria to be a nation and a better place for every ethnic nationality in the country, certain steps must be taken by conscious efforts.
“If we reconstitute Nigeria, we can make it work if we want to. If we rise above our divisions to strive and build a nation that works, it will be.
“Nigeria is not a nation at the moment and we have not made conscious effort to build a nation out of Nigeria,” he said.
The Anambra State president of the Igbo social-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Demian OgeneOkeke, restated the call for the country restructuring, saying it remains the only solution to the country’s economic challenges.
Ogene-Okeke, in an interview in Awka, on Saturday, lamented that close to 60 years now, the country has had to deal with issues of insecurity, especially in the North-East, unemployment, corruption and other vices.
He counselled that there was no need to celebrate as things are getting worse with no evidence of improvement in all the sectors of the economy.
“How do you expect the voiceless and helpless Nigerians to celebrate when good food is lacking on their table, when there is tribal sentiment among citizens, when there is no longer functional anti-corruption agency in the country, when there is no solution to the continuous killings of Nigerians by Boko Haram and bandits in Northern Nigeria.
“So, what the country needs now is restructuring because it will attract development, job creation and competition among regions in a faulty country like Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, a legal luminary, Sola Ebiseni, attributed the failure experienced by the country to the lack of leadership, saying hopes of the common Nigerians never came to fruition.
Another former Minister of State for Education, Chief Kenneth Gbagi, urged Nigerians to “get involved in every single and important matter that has to do with their lives.”
The business mogul, who spoke to Tribune Online at his country home of Oginibo, Ughelli South, Delta State, enjoined Nigerians to embrace politics as it is done elsewhere.
He warned Nigerians to understand the fact that whether they like it or not, once they have elected a leader, they have practically ceded their lives, power and everything to such a politician.