By Ozolua Uhakheme and Emmanuel Oladesu
•Ex-Commonwealth chief calls for Sovereign National Conference •Dignitaries honour ‘activist’ Tinubu at Colloquium in Lagos
ADVOCATES of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) have won a major backer.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku said yesterday that such a conference is a way to tackle Nigeria’s challenges.
He said to return to true federalism, Nigeria needs to restructure the architecture of governance.
Anyaoku spoke on a day Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu reflected on the success of his eight-year administration in Lagos, a feat he attributed to the team spirit in his executive council.
It was all at the colloquium organised by Tinubu’s associates as part of the activities marking his 60th birthday in Lagos.
Anyaoku also called for the creation of six federating units in place of the 36 states, adding that should the 36 states be retained, they should become development zones within the federating units.
The frontline diplomat chaired the 4th Bola Tinubu Colloquium. He said the conference would examine how to reach a consensus and restructure the architecture of governance.
His words: That the support for the SNC is without doubt and the outcome of the conference should be subjected to a national referendum to give it legitimacy.
“No one can deny the fact that there are major challenges of insecurity, heightened by Boko Haram, constant call for new revenue allocation formula, decline in health and education standard. These, in my view, should be addressed at the conference on how to face the challenges.”
He noted that if Nigeria is to arrest the destructive competition among ethnic groups, it must hold a national conference.
Many nodded their heads – apparently in agreement with Anyaoku’s views – as he spoke.
He said Nigeria cannot face these challenges on the basis of the 1999 Constitution; otherwise, the nation’s quest for peace and development would remain elusive.
According to him, to effect this change, “we need a national conference but those who fear the break-up of Nigeria, the burden accruing to Nigeria are sufficiently weighty to outweigh fear”.
“It should be accepted that Nigeria as one entity will not be up for contention. I do believe that a true federation, rather than unitary, will promote unity in Nigeria.”
To Anyaoku, Asiwaju Tinubu is “an effective advocate of federalism and a dedicated activist for the return of democracy and the restitution of Chief MKO Abiola’s presidential election victory in Nigeria”.
He accepted to chair the event, according to him, because of what the celebrator stands for.
The diplomat said: “My second reason for agreeing to be here is the significance of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as a consistent advocate of true federalism in Nigeria. As governor of Lagos State, he undertook some key development projects which, under our existing Constitution, were federal responsibility.
“In this context, I recall an incident on a presidential flight from Lagos to Singapore in 2002 when, in my presence, President Obasanjo and Governor Tinubu were engaged in a rather animated discussion over the issue of reimbursement to Lagos State of the cost of a federal road which the state government had constructed to the satisfaction of the Federal Ministry of Works.
“It was clear to me then that Asiwaju was one of the few people who can speak truth to power. There is, therefore, little wonder that he has become a towering leader of opposition to the federal governing party.”
The former governor aligned with the view of Anyaoku, that only a National Conference can resolve the fundamental questions germane to Nigeria’s unity and stability of the country.
Highlights of the programme included the launch of a book entitled: “Asiwaju Leadership in troubled times”, edited by seasoned journalists; Tunji Bello, Sam Omatseye and Segun Ayobolu; cutting of the anniversary cake by the celebrator and introduction of the ‘Tinubu Institute of Policy and Governance to the public.
An elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule, who revisited the national leadership question, hailed Tinubu’s leadership qualities, urging others to emulate him. Sule, who first saw Tinubu, in 1959, when he was eight years old, said Nigerians should strive to raise leaders and not looters.
The book was reviewed by a frontline journalist, Kunle Ajibade. Another accomplished journalist, Dele Alake, former Information and Strategy Commissioner, gave the toast to the celebrator. Speakers at the colloquium, which was chaired by 79 years old Chief Anyaoku, were former members of Tinubu Executive Council; Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), his Osun State counterpart, Chief Aregbesola, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and his colleagues Dr. Leke Pitan (Health and later, Education), Yemi Cardoso (Economic Planning), and Wale Edun (Finance).
Hailing his former boss, Edun recalled the internally revenue drive of the administration, which led to a pool of resources channeled towards the state’s development. He said the creative approach dwarfed the revenue drive of the military era, which left the state with a meagre N600 million per month.
Hale and hearty, Tinubu strolled into the Eko Hotels Hall, Victoria Island, venue of the events at 4.10pm, accompanied by his wife, Oluremi, and other associates and well wishers. The ceremony kicked off, following an opening prayer by the Lagos State Works Commissioner Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.
At the colourful event were former Chief Justice of Nigeria Mohammed Uwais, former governors Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Diepreye Alamieseigha (Bayelsa), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Aremo Segun Osoba (Ogun), Chief Bisi Akande (Osun), Abubakar Audu (Kogi), Governors Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Aregbesola (Osun), Fashola (Lagos), Aliyu Babangida (Niger), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Dr Doyin Abiola, former Punch chairman Chief Ajibola Ogunsola and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.
Also at the event were House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, Prince Bola Ajibola, Alhaji Abubakar Ahmadu, Senators Ganiyu Solomon, Gbenga Ashafa, Segun Obadara, Sani Abu, Femi Lanlehin, Ajayi Boroffice, Abba Buka Ibrahim and Ayo Adesegun.
Others were former presidential candidate of the ACN Nuhu Ribadu, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Alhaji Yakubu Balogun, Justice Christopher Segun (rtd) Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, Alhaji Tajudeen Olusi, Ayo Opadokun and rights activist-lawyer Femi Falana.
The dignitaries also include Osun State Deputy Governor Grace Laoye-Tomori, Alhaji Yusuf Ali, Mrs. Oprah Benson, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, Mr. Moruf. Akinderu-Fatai, Apena Kaoli Olusanya, Pa Adebayo Faleti, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Chief Fred Agbeyegbe, Mrs. Abba Folawiyo, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Dr. Adebayo Adewusi, Mr. Ayo Adewale, Mrs. Jumoke Okoya-Thomas, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, Ambassador Segun Olusola, Mr. Ayilara, Mr. Demola Seriki, Alhaji Mutiu Are, Chief Funso Ologunde, Prof. Ropo Sekoni, Afeez Ipesa-Balogun, Mr.Awodeyi Akinsehinwa-Apata, Iyiola Oladokun, Sir. Pius Akinyelure, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, Prof. Wale Omole, Prof. Adebayo Williams, Dr. Jayeola Ajatta, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, Ademola Sodiq, Pa Abiodun Sunmola, Olorunfunmi Basorun, Rotimi Obadofin, Bunmi Omoseyindemi, Louis Odion, Shettima Yerima, Chris Ekwilo, Femi Gbajabiamila and Babatunde Adewale Jimoh.
There were also Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, Mrs. Sherifat Aregbesola, Kola Awodein (SAN), Joel Ikenya, Tawa Williams, Ademorin Kuye, Senator Tony Adefuye and Mrs. Abimbola Jakande.
From Ghana were the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Alex Segbefia, Minister of Environment Dr. Mustapha Ahmed, Minister of Local Government Elvis Afriyie, National Vice Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Mr. Danny Anwa and Mr. Ben. Nuwumenresai.
The celebrator thanked the organisers and guests for honouring him.
Tinubu supported Anyaoku’s stand on national conference, saying that there is no alternative to it. He said it is the main issue staring the country in the face, urging Nigerians to embrace the option.
The former governor spoke on the value of team effort, stressing that it is crucial in public administration.
Reminiscing on his two-term tenure as governor, Tinubu said: “Those days were trying period. Any captain can steer the ship in a voyage, but it takes exceptional leadership and cooperative team to chart a new course. With procrastination, there will be no result. Without a team effort and team spirit, there will be no success. I learned team spirit from the private sector.
“I used the best brains and used the best tools to search for them. It was not politically easy to assemble the team. Many of them did not have party cards, except Leke Pitan and Rauf Aregbesola.”
Tinubu exchanged banters with Fashola over his remarks that he should always learn to treat his associates with justice. The former governor said: “God created tall and short men. Osinbajo is short, but he won taller cases. If there is no partiality, you (Fashola) cannot be governor.
“I exercise quick judgment. Whichever way it goes, I say ‘sorry’. With my decision on you, Fayemi, Aregbesola, Ajimobi, I have no regret. What can I change at 60? I will continue with that behaviour.”
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