The 50th birthday celebration of the Chairman, Editor-in-Chief of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, last week, turned out to be a forum where top-echelon members of the nation’s political intelligentia soberly reflected on the severe threats to the Nigerian project. In this analysis, UCHENNA AWOM reviews the events and the various positions canvassed by discussants
The birthday anniversary celebration of Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the LEADERSHIP Newspaper Group, last week made for an apt introspection on the prevailing situation in the country and of course it presented a true platform where truth was told in a no-holds-bared manner. At the end, all agreed that Nigeria is fast entering an abyss unless something is urgently done to arrest the situation.
It was a solemn soul-searching event despite the fact that it was an occasion set aside to celebrate the uncommon success of a man, who in the purview of ‘George Bernard Shaw’s characterization of great men; embraced death to avoid destruction’. That notwithstanding, it was a grand occasion though, but it ended up throwing up pertinent national issues that will dominate national discussion in weeks days to come.
It was not that the issues under focus are new, but the ferociousness with which the bombs and bullets are flying and the attendant questions raised about the corporate existence of Nigeria as an entity made the issues novel.
The dangers of the times occasioned by the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram has put a question mark on Nigeria’s unity, such that the Former Minister of Defence, General T.Y. Danjuma uncharacteristically cried out declaring succinctly that the “country is on fire”.
He was not alone in such characterization. The lead speaker in the occasion, Professor Ango Abdullahi who was also the Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University pointedly said that ‘the country is in a mess’, and declared the urgency of finding ways of tackling the crippling challenges facing the country.
In the same vein, elder statesman, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule lamented that Nigeria’s unity is being eroded and added that the only way Nigeria can attain unity that the country so desires is to entrench love in the fabric of the polity.
A post-mortem of the event, amplifies the urgency of the Nigerian situation. Discussants watered down drastically the politicization of the issues, apparently on the realization that the current problem of insecurity and economic hopelessness transcends political party cleavages.
For the first time the truth was told that all political parties or patently put, the political class must take blame for the fate that has befallen Nigeria. The import was that rather than pointing accusing fingers on any direction, the federal government must be asked or mildly put, should be encouraged to confront the myriad of problems, particularly the frightening state of insecurity head on.
Perhaps the submission of Former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who pinned the blame on President Goodluck Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government, asking them to quit office as it has shown that they are not capable of running the country, stoked the instant school of thought, that all (political class) have sinned and must then make restitution if the country must advance intact as an entity.
This was given effect by the response of former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani. He had told the gathering that no political party in Nigeria is better than the other. “Let me respond to what Asiwaju Tinubu said; No one party in Nigeria is better than the other, all the parties are as bad as the other.
They don’t have the culture of shame. Inside them you see lies, insincerity and impunity. Our country is fighting wars on two fronts; one has been there and is growing bigger and that is corruption.
“Nigeria has been operating a culture of shamelessness and impunity. It is a country where the concept of shame is lacking, where leaders can afford to tell lies and not feel any pinch of shame.
People have committed serious offences and they walk the streets freely as nothing has happened. Some of them deserve to be in Kirikiri now, but we are doing nothing about them and more serious offences are being committed by the day”, he said.
The encounter was seen as capturing the reality of the present situation and of course it successfully navigated the occasion out of political partisanship as it properly alligned the occasion as one that used the instrumentality of intellectual discussion to address the Nigerian problem. That was achieved in the main.
What was the issue and how did they speak?
The issue is Nigeria; that Nigeria must survive and develop remains the base and an irreducible minimum standard that propels Nda-Isaiah’s vision. Like the birthday theme; “Not an Ageing Affair”, the reading was for a sincere reflection on the state of affairs, which has cast the country in a negative way
General Danjuma, not giving to triffling explications and as blunts as ever warned of a certain gloom hovering around Nigeria, yet he expressed optimism that the country would waltz through.
He nonetheless queried the attitude of the Northern state governors in the handling of the precarious security situation in the North, which he said is virtually bringing some states in that region to their knees.
He said: “But believe me in the last two months, I began to wonder. Our house is on fire. Nigeria is becoming Somalia. The Somalinisation of our country is going on now. We have to sit down and tell ourselves the truth.
The responsibility is on us the Northerners, our house is on fire, let us not deceive ourselves. We must tell ourselves the truth. The security situation is telling on us.
“Borno State is today a failed state, Yobe state is almost a failed state and Kano is moving towards becoming a failed state”, he said.
The security of every state according to him is the responsibility of the State Governors.
“But where are the Northern Governors? We hear of multi-billion naira spent to erect fences around the government houses, then what happens to the citizens. We must take stock and also take responsibility”.
His submission was enough to send the message across. That was vantage Danjuma. His submission unwritten as it were guided various discussants; though there were some pockets of deviation owing to unavoidable partisan pressures. Irrespective of that, his views was expounded by the scholarly delivery of the guest speaker at the event, Professor Abdullahi.
The foremost ex-university don, had in his paper faulted the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an index for measuring development and argued that it was insufficient.
According to him; “If you look at our so-called annual GDP growth rate vis-à-vis what is happening to the ordinary man, then, you will know that GDP as an index for measuring development is insufficient and this is why a new concept has to be worked out and this concept is what is called human development”.
In the paper titled; “Nigeria: 1914 to date- the chequered journey so far’, noted that the amalgamation of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria by Lord Lugard in 1914 was done by the British to further its colonial aspirations.
Abdulahi however lamented that ‘even with the best effort of Nigeria’s early leaders, development has stalled due to political instability, bad governance and corruption. Nigeria he added is grouped among the 20 poorest countries in the world and the 30th least developed country in Sub-Saharan Africa. “This tells you everything about where we are now.
Of Nigeria’s 160 million estimated population projected from the 2006 census, about 100million lives on less than a dollar per day, which means that up to 70 percent of Nigerians are classified as poor”.
Consequently he blamed the situation on political instability that has seen the country being led by 14 heads of state in its 52 years of nationhood adding also that tribalism, sectionalism and ethnicity remain the root cause of instability in the nation.
“It is very interesting to note that of these 14 heads of state, nine were not elected and, of the remaining five, only on two occasions were their elections deemed free and fair. So you can say practically that this country has been run by unelected leaders, 12 out 14, over a period of 52 years’.
In all, the erudite scholar blamed Nigerians for not doing enough to repel bad governance and corrupt leadership, which have made it difficult for the country to develop.
The implication was that the Prof. simply questioned the potency of Nigeria’s political followership, which means that rather than inter-party fighting, the political class must be blamed for the problems, simply because of their failure to see political education and political mobilization as also an integral part of the democratic process.
However, Alhaji Maitama Sule sounded an elderly warning to all, saying the chord of Nigeria’s unity must not be broken no matter the current centrifugal pressure. He said; “The essence of every religion is love; both religions (Christianity and Islam) emphasize love to attain spiritual goal. Love is what is lacking in Nigeria today.
Let us teach love, let us preach love, and let us live love. In politics, this words seems to have disappeared from our political dictionary. Anybody who finds himself in power will want to perpetuate his stay in office until death do us part like church marriage.
“We are no longer our brother’s keeper. That is not how it was in the past. What is happening in Nigeria today in indeed in Africa is not in our character. Our past leaders laid a solid foundation for Nigeria. They went into politics to serve and not to be served, to give, but not to take. They rated this country above their personal interest. They respected themselves irrespective of tribes and religious differences because of Nigeria.
The celebration turned out to hit the issues, but yet left a gaping hole on the march to find solution. The truism however was the agreement that all is not well with Nigeria and the celebrant, Nda-Isaiah emotionally summed it up saying; Nigeria today is on the wrong direction. Scandals and scandals of corruption and that people are busy stealing billions of naira are share madness.
He was reeling until he emotionally recollected Nigeria through his enduring friendship with Mallam Abba Kyari. If Nda-Isaiah could be deciphered very well, his transcendental friendship with Kyari is what and how Nigeria should be; ‘Be your brother’s keeper’; though tribe and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand’.
Love, uncommon bond of universal brotherhood was his meaning, though sobs could not allow him to elucidate the meaning of that bond, which perhaps he meant that it is the type of bonding that Nigeria needs at this time to forge ahead. What he could not do was first elucidated unknown to him by Alhaji Maitama Sule.