Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai says that although leadership has failed Nigerians, it is worth celebrating that we have remained together for fifty years.

He blames the problem in the country on the military incursion in our politics and he says this misadventure dragged the country backwards.
Excerpts:

Nigerians should be grateful that we are celebrating our 50th anniversary as one nation. We have been able to tackle some of the challenges that confronted us as a nation.

We have made very good strides in the area of development. If you look back to where we started, you will see that we have done fairly well. The colonial administration could only provide one University for Nigeria but as at now, we have about 100 universities and that is an average of two universities per year. It is a great achievement.

If you look at the banking sector, at the time of independence, all the banks were owned by foreigners except African Continental Bank and National Bank. But today, all the 25 major banks in Nigeria are owned by Nigerians and also managed by Nigerians. Formerly, the bank directors and managers were foreigners.

Today, they are all Nigerians. Again, if you look at the country at the time of independence: from Lagos to Kano, Kano to Maiduguri, Sokoto, Yola and other places.

They were untarred roads and usually, one route leading to them but today, we have tarred roads and you have many roads leading to one city. I must confess that generally, there have been tremendous improvements but we have one grey area and that is the area of leadership caused by the military incursion in politics.

If you compare achievements of countries like Malaysia, India, Singapore, you will find out that they recorded greater achievements than Nigeria because there was sustenance of democracy in those countries. But here in Nigeria, now that democracy has been given a chance, it cannot mature overnight. It can mature through gradual process and if given more time, we will perform better.

Would you then say so far, so good?

I wouldn’t say that. But I wouldn’t say we have not achieved anything because if you compare Nigeria’s tertiary education, you would say we have achieved multiplication of universities in that sector.

You said we have derailed in the area of leadership. Where do we go from here?
If we allow democracy to nurture, we will be able to develop leadership. Responsible leadership will emerge.

It happened before the military take-over, after independence but leadership after independence up to the time of military intervention was far better than what we have today.

Since the military intervened in our political lives in 1966, things have not been the same. Leadership has derailed since then but now that we are in democracy, if we nurture democracy and sustain it, we will make progress.

We are heading towards another election, do you have faith that we would address this issue during elections?

Well, to be honest, the only problem we are having with the forthcoming elections is the personal ambition of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. It is this single ambition that is heating up the polity because it is a violation of the PDP programme on rotation and also it’s trying to create a dichotomy of North/South divide in a way we have never experienced before.

But he spoke recently on this issue saying  PDP never zoned it to anywhere.
I don’t want to say that my President tells lies but Jonathan knows the truth. He took part in the meeting where the zoning was confirmed. So, for him to say that it has never been there is being economical with the truth.

But you cannot stop him now because the constitution…
What annoys me is that he is using his incumbency in a very bad way. How can a whole establishment use the police and other security agencies to stop Igbo leaders, credible leaders like Alex Ekwueme, Sam Egwu, Achike Udenwa, Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, all these  credible people like Nwosu; former Chairman of Police Service Commission , Okeke and the rest of them.

It is not good for the government to use the police to prevent them from the meeting allowed by the constitution. It is very callous and a wrong signal that in future, his government is going to adopt a gestapo type of attitude to checkmate perceived opponents.

If government is sure of itself, why is it afraid of other people holding meetings? It shows that he is not sure of getting the nomination of his party because he has refused to maintain zoning. He should allow Nigerians to decide for themselves who to support and who not to support. You cannot intimate people or cajole them to support you. It is not right.

So, our 50 years is worth celebrating?

Yes. Actually, the fact that we survived for 50 years is worth celebrating. Many people didn’t believe we will go this far.

We can still make amends — Maitama Sule

I wish Nigeria well as we celebrate our 50th anniversary. We should not cease praying for Nigeria.  This is the time for us to look into the past, adjust the present and plan for the future. The purpose of history is to know the past, so that you may adjust the present and plan ahead.

What were we when we started? What are we today? What are we getting together for?

The days of our founding fathers were glorious ones; the days of Awolowo, Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa and Sardauna, those were the days when these great Nigerians worked passionately for Nigeria.

They put the interest of  Nigeria above their personal interest. Those were days when great men went into politics to serve and not to be served, to give but not to take.
Nigerian leaders, our founding fathers, in spite of their political differences, and because of the interest in Nigeria, accommodated and respected one another.

Those great Nigerians had great dreams for Nigeria and indeed for Africa. They dreamt that, one day, Nigeria would be a great, peaceful and united  country where everyone would be our brother’s keeper, a place where people would respect their elders and constituted authority; a country where there would be morality, a country where there would be peace and tranquility, a country where there must be honesty.

That was the dream of our forefathers. We may now ask ourselves; has the dreams of our forefathers been realised?

In short, today, there is a vacuum in our philosophy, insecurity and chaos in politics, immorality in society, corruption in the economy, frustration  and lack of creativity in literature. We were not like that before. Our forefathers did not think that we would be like this.

I could still recall a report in 1962, which said that three developing countries within 15 and 20 years would join the industrialised nations of the world. Those three countries were India, Brazil and Nigeria. India has made it because India today is a nuclear power.

In the field of computer and technology, India is at the forefront. India produce more doctors than any other country in the world today. And it is the fastest growing economy in the world,  second to China. So India has made it.

Brazil too has make it because Brazil is building ships, manufacturing planes, cars and so on. Also, Brazil and Nigeria established their defence industry the same year but our defence industry in Kaduna today is producing only furniture.

Something has gone wrong; we have to do something about it; we have to revisit and revive our  glorious past. So, there is the need for us to take stock and harmonise things during this golden independence anniversary to make a change that would actualise the dreams of our founding fathers.

The leaders should unite — Uba Ahmed

Senator Uba Ahmed was the National Secretary of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN   in the Second Republic and was a top member of the Shagari regime. That was before the 1983 controversial  general elections .He served in the senate of  IBB’s ill-fated transition to democracy.

He later became the Minister of  Labour and Productivity under General Sani Abacha’s  regime.

He says of Nigetria at 50:

The state we are politically is very scary, because we appear to be drifting farther away from all reasonable expectation of progress. So, I am scared by what is likely to come.

All the institutions are crumbling. We have retrogressed from what we were in the first republic. We should think back to the situation of things in the first republic and how our forefathers handled things and then  work out a way forward and we need to retrieve the country from total collapse.

We need to call a meeting of experienced politicians to work out a way to help this country because from what I am seeing right now, I am really scared.

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