From Martins Oloja, Abuja Bureau Chief
Say nation is on fire
THE 50th birthday ceremony of the publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Nda Isaiah in Abuja yesterday became a platform for prominent Nigerians to reflect on the parlous state of the nation and most of them declared that it is fast becoming a failing state.
Former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma who chaired the well-attended ceremony at the International Conference Centre declared that Nigeria is on fire and called for halt of what he described as “Somalianisation” of Nigeria, even as he noted that northern states of Borno, Kano and Jigawa should be regarded as already failed states.
In the same vein, former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Prof. Ango Abdullahi who led the colloquium, faulted the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria by Lord Fredrick Lugard in 1914 describing it as a “great and tragic mistake”.
Danjuma, chairman of the occasion, decried the various violence in some states in the northern part of the country as a sign of bad times. In his words, “Nigeria is on fire. This house is on fire. The North is on fire. Nigeria is becoming like Somalia. The Somalianisation of Nigeria is taking place right now.”
According the former Chief of Army Staff, “ I am an optimist as far as Nigeria is concerned. Each time we appear to be struggling as a nation, I tell myself that we shall muddle through. In the last two months, I began to wonder, our house in on fire. Nigeria is becoming a Somalia, Somalianisation of Nigeria is taking place right now.
His recipe for rescue operation and redress is: “We have to sit down and face the truth, get to the roots of our problem and find a solution to this problem. Those of us who call ourselves northerners, our house is on fire, our house is on fire, let us not deceive ourselves. Let’s look at ourselves, face ourselves and tell ourselves the truth and find solution to our problem”, he said.
On the role of the governors in conflict resolution, he said: “The chief security officer of every state in Nigeria is the governor. Where are our northern governors? Where are they? Right now, Bornu is a failed state, Jigawa is almost a failed state. Kano is threatening to be a failed state. Kano of all places, where are we going, where on earth are we going?
“You hear talks of multi-million naira fences around government houses, what about the citizens. We have to search our minds and find solution to this problem”, he said.
The former Nigeria’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations (UN), Maitama Sule, in his comment preached peace and love of one another.
According to him: “All the religions of God teach us the same thing, the moral values told by all the religions of God are the same thing, peace with your God, peace of the mind, peace of the fellow man is the teaching of Christianity, the word Islam means peace. Love your neighbor as thyself is another teaching. Be your brother’s keeper is common to both religions”.
In his paper titled “Nigeria 1914 to date – A chequered journey so far”, which he spoke to, the former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Prof. Ango Abdullahi faulted the amalgamation of Nigeria by the former governor- general, Lord Fredrick Lugard, describing it as the greatest and grave mistake that had befallen Nigeria.
He urged that leaders should find and take a quick resolution to correct the mistakes created by the amalgamation, as delay would be late and dangerous. He cited the case of India where the British committed similar mistake, but the Indian example has been resolved through the creation of the state of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In similar cases, he urged Nigeria to take a clue from what is happening in the United Kingdom (UK), where the Northern Ireland and Scotland are fighting separation as sovereign nations, while drawing example from the recent development in Sudan, where the country have divided into the Sudan and Southern Sudan.
Prof. Abdullahi said that the three examples are all British colonies and that the earlier a decision is taken on the continued status of Nigeria, the better. According to the former Vice Chancellor, “things are more likely to become complex in the future, until the correct things are done. We cannot ignore these facts or we continue to pretend as our leaders that this is a passing phase. The question of a likely disintegration is not a too distant future”.
The former Vice Chancellor also faulted the growth rate in the country, stating that though Nigeria is growing at the rate of 7 per cent per year, but it does not reflect the actuality on ground as over 100 million Nigerians still live at below one dollar per day, with a life expectancy going down at less than 48 years.
In his short response, the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, called for the prosecution of Nigerians behind the third term agenda, saying: “If we don’t prosecute those behind the shameful act of the third term, some people will not have the guts to be denying their role”. He said that some people should languish in jail for mismanaging the sovereign wealth of Nigerians. According to him, “some of our leaders tell lies without any pinch of shame”.
He noted that if the 2006 third term saga had been investigated, someone would not be denying its existence today. He was the Senate President who did nothing about this at the time under review.
The former President of the Senate, however praised the House of Representatives for the probe of the oil subsidy, urging that those alleged to have committed some financial crimes should not be allowed to go unpunished. He queried: “How can there be investments without accountability”, explaining that unless this is done, “transformation is on fire”.
In his comment, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Gen. Jeremiah Useni, blamed the growing insecurity in the North on the northern governors, asking: “ What are they doing with the money they are collecting? How can we say that we don’t know who the members of the Boko Haram are? They are attacking churches and mosques, but they are not reaching the people they should reach”(general laughter). He added: “If the governors want security today, there will be security. The Almajiri schools should not be left to the Federal Government alone. That may take 19 years to achieve in the 19 northern states if the governors are indifferent to the education policy”.
Former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, blasted the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for being behind the problems of the country. He cited the case of the sack of the former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Salami without the approval of the Senate. This, he said has put fear into other judges of the Court of Appeal.
According to him, “the sack of Justice Salami has put fears into other judges as they may not have the strength of justice to denounce the PDP or give remarkable judgment because of the fear of what happened to Justice Salami”.
One of the highpoints was the speech by former Aviation Minister, Mr. Femi FaniKayode who said that the trouble with Nigeria now is that people are not condemning evil enough, a development that allows a few vocal one to be vulnerable to attacks. He said pointedly, what the National Security Adviser said in Asaba recently that PDP’s politic of exclusion was quite true and the NSA should be commended for his courage to speak the truth to power.
Former Chairman of The Punch Newspapers, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola in his closing remarks said it was time we stopped blaming the colonial masters for our woes. He urged the leadership to concentrate on fighting corruption and lack of shame that Senator Nnamani talked about.
Sam Nda Isaiah, the convener and celebrant who was eulogised by various testifiers for his consistency and steadfastness in the volatile publishing and journalism business said despite the state of anomie that pervades the land, “I see hope, yes, there is hope. Despite the fact that government can’t even guarantee public order and safety, I see hope in the resilience of the youths I interact with.
At 2.30 p.m., he broke down, wept and was made to sit down without completing his “vote of thanks”. A new columnist with Leadership said the trouble with Sam Nda Isaiah Ayisha Osori is that Sam is impatient. He drives himself and others around him….”
The occasion was attended by former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, former Nigeria’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations (UN), Maitama Sule, former governor of Bauchi State, Adamu Mauzu, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Ahmed Joda, former Minister of Agriculture, Zango Sani Daura, Adamu Fika, former Head of Service, Isiyaku Ibrahim, Bashir Yusyu Ibrahim, Bola Tinubu, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal who walked in, in his Labour Day parade outfit. He said the House would continue to entertain requests and do the right thing and they would continue to be guided by public interest issues.
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