The ‘Morning of Reflections’ event hosted by the Publisher of LEADERSHIP Newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah, in Abuja last week seems to have set an agenda for the nation, going by comments from the elderstatesmen, political party chieftains and captains of industry at the event as well as reactions. STANLEY NKWOCHA analyses reactions from the event, vis-a-vis the notion that Nigeria is a failed state.
Last Tuesday, at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, it was obviously the gathering of great political minds in Nigeria. As the Executive Hall of the ICC gradually got filled, it became apparent that the event of the day was going to be where the news headlines, especially for the media, would be breaking from.
The event had the newsmakers in the hall from the Great Alh. Maitama Sule, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. T.Y Danjuma, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Senator Ken Nnamani, Nuhu Ribadu, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Speaker Aminu Tambuwwal to numerous others, it was a gathering of distinguished Nigerians known to always shoot from the hip. And did they disappoint?
No sooner had the curtains for the day’s event had been raised that the shape of what was to come begun to take its form. Octogenarian statesman, Alh, Maitama Sule, took guests in his usual philosophical manner down memory lane as he questioned the deterioration of values which hitherto bonded Nigerians, especially love.
Alhaji Maitam Sule earlier had noted that what holds the country together was gradually being eroded, insisting that the only way Nigeria can attain unity that the country so desires is to entrench love in the fabric of the polity.
“The essence of every religion is love, both religion (Christian and Muslim) emphasized 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 word seems to disappear from our political dictionary. Anybody who happens to find 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 and indeed Africa is not in our characters. Our past leaders laid a solid foundation for Nigeria. They went into politics to serve and not be served. To give, but not to take, they rated this country above their personal interest. They respected themselves irrespective of their tribes and religious differences because of Nigeria,’’ Maitama Sule stated.
Furthermore, he revealed how the nation seems stuck in the woods since the love-lost relationship crept into the polity, making the country become a shadow of its once unified self. The elocutionist stated that except the nation and its leaders have a rethink and allow love to become the fulcrum point in all it does, it would be impossible for Nigerians to step out of the present difficulty we have found ourselves in.
Guest speaker at the event, and former Vice Chancellor Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who delivered a paper titled, ‘Nigeria From 1914 to Date: A Chequered Journey So Far,’ blamed the nation’s woes on its amalgamation in 1914, noting that political instability, tribalism/ethnicity/sectionalism, neo-colonisation after 1960 and bad governance have all become hydra-headed and become a clog in the wheel of the nation’s progress.
The erudite Professor further made a bold step as he took the media to the cleaners, blaming the sector for what he called ‘crass journalism’. He opined that a total overhaul was needed to stem the ugly tide in the nation.
“At 73, I am in a position to know what roles the media have so far played especially in the political and social life of Nigeria. In the first Republic, you could easily predict the home base of any newspaper by simply glancing at their main headlines. The papers were replicas of the major political parties in the regions of the Federation, the NCNC in the Eastern Region, the AG in the Western Region and the NPC in the Northern Region.
‘Whatever the issues were at stake, the newspapers in these regions, regardless of their ownership, reported only the partisan and parochial positions of their leadership and their respective areas. The question now is whether there is any significant change in Nigerian journalism today than in the First Republic. And there is no indication yet that the media will be balanced and neutral in their reporting of events in Nigeria,” Prof Ango said.
It was perhaps former minister for defence, Gen. TY Danjuma, who stole the show. Shooting from the hip, the General, known for his non-mincing of words apparently went for the jugular as he warned that the nation was under fire and except if something urgent is done, we may as well plunge the nation into another Somalia.
Danjuma said even though he had always remained optimistic on the future of Nigeria, the events of the time, has raised suspicions for him.
“Each time we appear to be stumbling as a nation, I tell myself, I keep telling myself that we shall muddle through. But believe me in the last few months, I have begun to wonder. Our house is on fire, Nigeria Is becoming a Somalia. Somaliazation of Nigeria is taking place right now,’ Gen Danjuma stated.
He further blamed the governors of the North for what he termed the seeming failure of the states, adding that it was time to get to the root of our problems and find solutions to the problem.
“We have to sit down and face the truth, get to the root of our problems and find solutions to the problem. The responsibility resides with us, those of us who call ourselves Northerners. Our house is on fire. Let’s not deceive ourselves, let’s look at ourselves, face ourselves and tell ourselves the truth and find solutions to our problem.
“The chief security officer of every state is the governor. Where are our governors? Where are they? Right now, Borno is a failed State. Jigawa is almost a failed state. Kano is threatening to become a failed State. Kano of all places, Kano! Where are we going? Where on earth are we going? Where on earth are we going? But we hear talks of multimillion naira fences around Government Houses, but what about the citizens? We will have to search our minds and find solutions to this problem’, Danjuma declared.
Also lending his voice to the problem of insecurity, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Lt. Gen Jeremiah Useni, said it was time for governors in the country, especially from the Northern extraction to rethink their leadership styles.
In his remarks at the event, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu called on the Goodluck Jonathan led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to quit office as in his words they are incapable of running the country. He said the non-adoption of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform report remained a low point for the nation as the country’s electoral system has found it difficult to sustain the malaise brought about by the people in government.
He blamed the PDP for all the crises in the nation, argueing that since it took over the reigns of leadership in 1999, the country has continued to witness brazen theft and connivance with INEC, a situation he said if not checked was capable of disintegrating the country.
“The PDP recently used its majority advantage to amend the electoral act in a manner in which it abridged the rights of Nigerians to seek electoral justice. By restricting to 180 days the period in which election cases and disputes must be concluded, the National Assembly has denied Nigerians electoral justice.
‘’It places a moratorium on justice and denies Nigerians one of the fundamental rights enjoyed under a democracy. Just like the right to obtain justice and fairness, the beauty of democracy lies in the power it confers on the citizenry to elect the leaders they want or reject those who have failed them. The solemn procession to the ballot box is one of democracy’s fundamental pillars. But what do we have? Brazen theft of the peoples mandate and massive manipulation of election results with the connivance of INEC officials,’ Tinubu remarked.
Since the event, comments upon comments have continued to roll in to the extent that the Presidency has had to react to some of the issues raised at the event. For instance, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has aligned itself with the comments of General Danjuma, describing it as a reflection of the failure of leadership in the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Engr Rotimi Fashakin, said that the statement made by the retired general should be taken seriously, adding that “Gen Theophilus Danjuma is a man who has made his mark in this nation, and he is part of those who have contributed immensely to this country. What he said is totally true, that Nigeria is on fire.
“Indeed, the nation is on fire, and if anybody who is not aware of this, that person is suffering from grand delusion, or he is pretending. We are in a dire strait as a people and a nation. We need concerted effort from all citizens to be able to come out of this quagmire. What we have now in the country is a kind of insensitive leadership at the zenith. We have a president that totally looks oblivious of what the common man is feeling. Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun-powder. In fact, Nigeria is really on fire, because we have leadership deficit and danger looms ahead,” said Fashakin.
But there has not been a disagreement with the opinions expressed above. Borno State Government, which Danjuma had labelled a failed state, quickly demanded an apology from the former minister of defence, saying that the State was only being used as a scapegoat.
Reacting to Danjuma’s remarks, the Borno State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture, Inuwa Bwalya, described the General’s remarks as harsh and contemptuous as it did not reflect the situation on ground.
‘’It is rather naïve and mischievous for anyone to insinuate that Borno is the worst case in the present circumstance. Whatever were his yardsticks, it is a known fact that Borno is fast recovering from the problems, with all structures of government fully functioning, businesses picking up and normal life returning.
“We have recorded the worst cases of insecurity in Abuja, Kaduna, Plateau, Kano and lately Taraba, General Danjuma’s home state, yet these cases did not seem to catch the attention of the General: we do not deserve the castigations we got.
“We are not unaware of the conspiracy against Borno state, to the effect that since the crisis broke out, no leader of substance has visited the state to evaluate the situation, rather they sit in the comfort of their rooms and pass judgments on the state, which is struggling to give her people hope,” the Borno Commissioner said.
Bwalya said instead of throwing blames and criticism, coupled with the throwing of blanket statements, what ought to be the focus of all now is how to remedy the situation.
“We have a duty to fellow Nigerians to rekindle their confidence in the state, in the people and the government. We shall not be intimidated, and challenge anybody to prove that the state has failed. Insecurity is a national malady and should be treated as such. Any attempt to make Borno the scapegoat will be resisted”, Bwalya concluded.
And just last Sunday, Dr. Reuben Abati, President Jonathan Goodluck’s adviser on media disagreed that the nation was failing. He said the nation under Jonathan was only passing through a phase.
Abati, who denied that the country was a failed state, said “I was at that event and it was very obvious to everyone that the speakers who were saying Nigeria is a failed state or who were saying that Nigeria has become another Somalia are people making political statements. Nigeria today is not Somalia. For you to compare, you only need to take a trip to Somalia. You only need to take Somalia and place it side by side Nigeria.
“A country that has become a failed state is a country that is in a complete state of anarchy where the rule of law has virtually collapsed; where the country has escaped from the hands of constituted authority into the hands of bandits. That is not the reality in Nigeria. Yes, there are problems in certain parts of the country.
“These problems – security challenges – no doubt are isolated to a part of the country. And the government of the day continues to show its preparedness, its determination, the capacity and the ability to deal with the challenge. What makes the challenge seemingly difficult is the fact that it is a novel challenge; it is a peculiar kind of challenge and President Jonathan made it very clear when terrorism became prominent in our affairs that the major challenge we face is that this was a new phenomenon.
“So, it presented a special challenge to the security agencies who needed to learn new things, who needed to acquire fresh knowledge, who needed to be psychologically re-orientated to be able to deal with this challenge, and I tell people that, despite the issues that keep coming up, anyone who wants to be objective will give due credit to the security agencies that their learning curve has been a very fast one and almost on a daily basis now, we hear of the efforts being made by various security agencies to burst bomb factories, to burst into cells, to detain and prosecute many of the key leaders of the insurgents. And I think that what the president and the entire administration deserve is commendation; it is encouragement and support. That is what President Jonathan is asking for,” Dr Abati stated.
Clearly as Nda-Isaiah chose to name the event ‘Morning of Reflections’, it is indeed reflection time for both leadership and followership in the country. The destiny of the nation is in our hands, and like men paddling canoes, the direction of the canoe will depend on the direction chosen by its passengers. Only the nation and its people can steer the direction for the country. For now, the ding dong continues.