By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
LAGOS — FORMER Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has advised those postulating that Nigeria could be dismembered before 2015 to have a rethink because “Nigeria will not disintegrate.”
However, he wants the country restructured into a federation of six units to firm up her unity, reduce the cost of governance, boost socio-economic growth and eliminate destructive competition for power at the centre, which he said gives rise to ethno-religious crises.
Anyaoku spoke to Vanguard, yesterday, in Lagos, shortly after the presentation of a book, Footprints of An Iconic Diplomat, a pictorial biography, at the MUSON Centre, Lagos.
The diplomat, who spoke on a day that President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, world leaders and eminent persons showered tributes on him, gave reasons he did not join politics after a chequered career at the Commonwealth and elected to offer the country’s leaders his experience in an advisory capacity free of charge.
‘Why I didn’t join politics’
He said: “When I returned to Nigeria, I decided to make available to the country’s leadership my experience in an advisory capacity pro bono (without charge).
“I decided against joining politics in our country because the nature of our politics is not one that I will feel very comfortable in.”
Asked if there were hopes that things would turn around given the current state of affairs in the country, he said: “We have hope, provided we do certain things.
“I have said that the present structure of governance we have in the country is not serving us well. In my view, this country should return to true federalism so that we can achieve two things.
“First, we can reduce drastically the enormous cost of administration with the existing structure of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Secondly, we can reduce or, in fact, eliminate the destructive and destabilising competition for the control of the all powerful centre because it is that competition that fans the flames of religious and tribal differences in the country.
“If we return to a federation of six units, I believe, we can do much better than we are doing. We were in fact doing better as a country in the first years of our independence when we had four regions.
“The regions were competing in a healthy manner. The centre allowed them; the centre was not in a position to impede their development efforts. We should return to that arrangement.”
On the prediction that Nigeria could disintegrate before 2015 beginning from next year, when the country will attain 100 years of amalgamation, Anyaoku said: “I don’t think this country will disintegrate.
“I think this country will find the wisdom to adopt what I have suggested in terms of structure of governance and once that is done, the country will thrive.”
President Jonathan, who was represented by Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru, said the launching of Anyaoku’s pictorial biography was “a fitting tribute to a worthy son of our great country, a father, brother, friend and uncommon idol whose legendary exploits in public service transcend the ordinary routine.”
Describing Anyaoku as “a rare icon of our time,” the President said he was glad that there existed a consensual perception of what Anyaoku represents for humanity.
He said: “While acknowledging the wisdom and the veracity of this great work we are launching, it is the man himself that fascinates me the most. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, to me, represents an enigma of out time.
“His world straddles the labyrinth of professionalism that is enamoured in a rich and sound philosophical foundation and discharged with an intellectual and scholarly precision.
“Yet he embodies the basic ethics that edify societal values and harmony with nature. The world view through his spectacle represents a collective vision of peace and general well being of the global citizenry.”
Chief Obasanjo, who chaired the event, described Anyaoku as a detribalised and quintessential Nigerian, who is worthy of emulation.
Tinubu, the Chief Launcher, who was represented by Dr. Leke Pitan, said it was unfair and an understatement to merely refer to Anyaoku as ‘iconic diplomat’ because his accomplishments towered beyond diplomacy.
He said the celebrant, who turned 80 recently, was close to “what we can call the Mandela of our nation” because he is a bridge-builder.
On her part, Awolowo-Dosunmu said Anyaoku, who chairs the Dr. Obafemi Awolowo Leadership prize committee, is a delightful person to work with.
She said: “He is a gentleman. He is intelligent and accomplished, but when he talks to you, he makes you feel as important as he is.”
Presidential Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs, Chief Ben Obi, said Anyaoku is a great statesman, a man, who had brought great pride to Nigeria.
Reviewed by Ambassador Martin Uhomoidhi, the 199-page book contained tributes from eminent leaders such as Dr. Alex Ekwueme, General Theophilus Danjuma(rtd.), former South African presidents, Thabo Mbeki and F. W. de Klerk, and Governor Peter Obi.
Danjuma, in his tribute, said: “Chief Emeka Anyaoki is easily one of the best and most refined technocrats that Nigeria has ever produced.
“An articulate and first class gentleman, Chief Anyaoku can always be relied upon to deliver a delicate message without embarrassing or hurting the listener.”
Chief Ekwueme said: “Chief Emeka Anyaoku and I have enjoyed a very close relationship since 1963. He is a great man, a polished gentleman, who rose from the ranks and does not joke with his work and has distinguished himself exceptionally.
“He is somebody all of Nigeria, Africa, and indeed the world should be proud of.”
To Mbeki, whatever Anyaoku said carried weight because “he is one leaders that has been accepted globally.
“From my own point of view, our (South Africa) association with Chief Anyaoku was in the fight for the liberation of our country South Africa. He did not need to be convinced or persuaded by us to engage in the struggle.
“Whether in Zimbabwe or South Africa or anywhere else, Chief Anyaoku felt very much that he was part of that struggle. He was very keenly interested in the objective of our liberation: that we must make a success of it.
“We trusted him and considered him our representative within the Commonwealth, not just for South Africa as a country but for the reconstruction of Africa.”
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State said: “Chief Emeka Anyaoku has been a global model, not just to us here, but a brand globally. He reached the peak of public service and he did this in a style worthy of emulation.
“For me in particular, when I see and talk about Chief Anyaoku, I feel like the chief executive officer of a global brand. At times, I got worried how Nigeria and the world at large can create good brands that can be celebrated in years to come.
“So, as we celebrate Chief Anyaoku, my own worries are what I can contribute to the children so we can celebrate them tomorrow.”