By Yomi Odunuga
The perennial socio-political problems bedevilling Nigeria’s democratic journey were the focus of a gathering of influential senior citizens and opinion moulders in Abuja yesterday.
The event tagged ‘A morning of reflections’ to mark the 50th birthday Leadership publisher, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiaih, attracted personalities from all walks of life including former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Waziri Tambuwal; National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Senate President Ken Nnamani.
Others include former Head of State and Congress for Progressive Change leader, Gen. Muhammad Buhari; the Guest Speaker, Prof. Ango Abdullahi; Alh. Shehu Malami; former Chairman Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr Ahmed Joda; former Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma; Elder Statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule; former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Gen Jeremiah Useni; the Etsu Nupe Alh. Yahaya Abubakar, Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande; Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Rueben Abati and former chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola.
A paper titled “Reflections: Nigeria, 1914 to date: A chequered journey so far’ was presented by Prof. Abdullahi.
Gen. Danjuma, who chaired the event, said it was manifestly clear that the North is on fire due to a number of factors which, if not checked, could lead to what he called the ‘Somalialisation’ of Nigeria where anarchy could become the order of the day.
Though Danjuma said he was optimistic that the country would, in its usual way, muddle through the present challenges, he called for an urgent solution to the needless bloodletting in order to halt the drift.
He said: “As far as Nigeria is concerned, I am an optimist. I tell myself each time we seem to stumble as a nation, I tell myself, we shall muddle through. But, in the last few months, I begin to wonder-our house is on fire.
“The Somalialisation of Nigeria is taking place right now. We need to sit down and get to the root of the problem and find a solution to it. Let us not deceive ourselves, the Chief Security Officer of a state is the governor. Where are our Northern governors? Borno is a failed state, Jigawa is almost a failed state. Kano is threatening to be a failed state. Where on earth are we going? You hear talks about multi-million naira fences around government houses, what about the people?”
For a man who rarely expresses his feelings about national issues publicly, Danjuma’s comments set the tone for the discourse as other contributors challenged the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to show leadership by addressing the issues and save the country from sinking deeper into the abyss.
Nnamani said his reflections on Nigeria made him to conclude that the country suffers from two maladies – a total lack of shame and the seeming inability to rein in those bleeding the country dry through corrosive corruption.
Nnamani acknowledged the comments made by former Lagos State Governor Tinubu, that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governs with impunity. He however said the same trait could be found in all the parties and this has contributed immensely to the nation’s woes.
He said: “We have a concept where the concept of shame is lacking with leaders who can tell lies without any shame. Our Gross Domestic Products was a lot better than that of South Korea, Indonesia and others in the 1960s. Because we lack the concept of shame, we do not have the capacity to compare ourselves with our contemporaries.
“I agree with Asiwaju Tinubu on what he said about the ruling party, but all the parties share the same element of impunity. We should look at what is on the ground now and stop lamenting about what has gone. The first one is corruption. The outcome of the fuel subsidy report by the House of Representatives should be commended. Here the transformative agenda is on trial.
“The security of the country is another matter. Can the people sleep with two eyes closed? Now that the report of the House has come out, will the leadership act on them?”
Nnamani also spoke on what transpired when he presided over the controversial but failed third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006. He explained that some persons would not have been living in denial of the agenda if they had been investigated and prosecuted for their misdeeds at the time.
“There are people who deserve to be in Kirikiri prison today for what they did at that time, in 2006. If there has been a trial of all of us involved in 2006, some people will not be denying now their various roles.
“It is for us as a country to show the world that we can manage ourselves effectively. What do we do with all these investigations? If we don’t set examples, another one will happen. Nigeria is such a resilient country. Despite all that has been taken out of it, it is still standing. I am surprised.”
Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said Nigerians should understand the basis for the cry for devolution of power and restructuring as different from a call for secession.
He said though he was of the opinion that Nigeria should stay together, there is a need to discuss the terms of that unity.
He also expressed his support for the statement credited to the National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoye Azazi, that the Boko Haram menace was the resultant effect of the dirty politics being played by the leadership of the PDP.
Fani-Kayode said: “Azazi’s statement is the most explosive comment that has been made in a couple of years in this country. They are not only serious comments but, I believe, they are more than true. He said it and it is the truth. During the PDP primaries, a lot of party members from the North were treated in a most disrespectful manner by the party.
“The PDP must reach out to those that were alienated not just within but also outside. The insensitivity of our party is part of the problems we are having in Nigeria today. Not enough people are putting the government on its toes; not enough people are telling this government that blood is flowing on our streets every day. And they tell us things are okay?”
Chief Ogunsola said Nigerians should stop blaming the colonialists for the country’s woes, noting that he aligned with comments made by Nnamani that the country is battling with nationhood today due to the twin problems of total lack of shame and corruption.
Emotion took over Nda-Isaiah while making the closing remarks as he recalled the contribution of Gen. Abba Kyari to his success story.
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