By Awa Kalu, SAN
It would be intellectually dishonest to attempt a summation of what transpired at this epic summit, considering the sheer breath and scope of the ideas which were freely exchanged at the intellectual market place.
Perhaps, it would serve as a pointer to the fertility of those ideas were one to choose a typical session, the session on Law and Global Peace, integrated with Law and Public Policy, featuring such intellectual heavyweights as Professor Obiorah Okafor, an academic giant, well respected locally and internationally; Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe CFR, former foreign Affairs Minister, multiple Minister of other ministries, current High Commissioner to Canada whose intellectual effervescence and unfailing logic make even his adversaries nod in agreement; Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, elegant Senior Advocate of Nigeria and also a former Foreign Affairs Minister whose strategic insight into Law and Global Peace: Reassessing the place of the super powers was rich and illuminating; and the representative of the statistician General and chief Executive of the National Bureau of Statistics, Mrs. Yvonne Odu-Thomas, who delivered a stinging rebuke to those whose failure to plan has led to failure of policies in different facets of state and national sectors of our economy.
Of course, these gentlemen and lady of ideas were admirably managed by Professor Pat Utomi, a celebrated scholar in his own right who ably guaranteed a clear blending of the views expressed by the panelists and the audience. My recollection of the contributions from all sides was the coalescence of those ideas into the cauldron in which the long running dispute over the “strong man versus strong institutions’ has been brewed.
Whether there will ever be an agreement over which is to be preferred remains to be seen. However, for the purpose of juggling our memory, it appears that the controversy was engineered by a recommendation made by the world’s most powerful man, President Barack Obama during his previous tour of Africa.
His assessment was that Africa would be better off if the continent’s leaders changed from their preference of being ‘strong men’ to concentrating on the development of ‘strong institutions’. I am not quite sure that any consensus emerged but opinions clearly oscillated on both sides of the divide culminating in a grudging indulgence on what would appear to be a compromise – the strong leader as a catalyst for strong institutions.
Femi Falana Esq., SAN, foremost activist posed the teaser, whether the supposed strong man would be in the mould of the dreaded Emperor Jean Bokassa, General Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire or even the leaders who legitimized apartheid in South Africa or could that be a fitting label for the likes of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Senegal’s Leopold Senghor or Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere?
What about Emperor Haile Sellaseie of Ethiopia, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Houphouet Boigny of Cote D’Iviore. In the context of the African continent and its relative underdevelopment how is the strength of an African leader
or the institution he either creates or destroyed to be gauged?
Put in another way, was our industrial base in this country destroyed by strong leaders? Was the dilapidation of our infrastructure occasioned by strong or weak leaders? These are questions that the vibrancy of Professor Azinge’s summit provoked and I join his teaming admirers in thanking him for providing the plat form for examining the Kaleidoscope of pitfalls and ‘progresses’ that we have made in the last 100 years.
Two stirring speeches would sum up the path to the future. Hon. Justice S.M.A, Belgore’s ‘Never-Give-up-on Nigeria’ clarion call was appreciated by Mr. President as well as the Chief Justice’s zero tolerance for corruption in the judiciary, zero tolerance for abuse of office, zero tolerance for indolence, zero tolerance for abuse of the equitable remedy of injunction.
Perhaps, we the citizens of this country may develop zero tolerance for anyone who fails to play his part in the implementation of this administration’s well packaged Transformation Agenda. Nigeria shall never ‘die’ but will celebrate the next centenary.