By Yinka Odumakin
PROFESSOR Ango Abdullahi, a supremacist and henchman of Northern Elders Forum was one of the memorable” VCs without CV” in the days when the University idea was still close to the ideal in our country .It was the period when those patriots in ASUU naively thought that we were trying to build a country and were pontificating that anybody who would head a university must have a proper academic background and requisite academic publications.They didn’t quite know that we were yet to have a national consensus on nation building.
By 1986,Prof. Abdullahi as Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University,ABU, acquired national notoriety when he invited police to quell a peaceful students protest at the campus. A young lady, Mustapha Farida and other unspecified number of students were murdered in cold blood.University students all over Nigeria took to the streets to protest the wanton killings. I remember how we poured to the streets in Ile-Ife and granted “amnesty ” to all prisoners in the town as a demonstration of our rage that a criminal state that would kill the innocent lacked the moral authority to confine any citizen for crime.
As anger boiled, the pompous and insensitive VC arrogantly went on air to say that “only four students were killed”. The late Dele Giwa was so enraged by the statement that he wrote in his column that “May God kill only four out of the children of the man making such a statement”. Those were the days when human life still meant anything around here. Not now that herdsmen and zealots can kill at will and law enforcement agencies just look the other way,
Since he left the University as Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdullahi pastime has not been more than saber rattling. And it was in that mould that he spoke last week during presentation of two books: Boko Haram: The Charade vs Reality and The Life and Times of Umaru Turakin Bauchi, written by a former Diplomatic Editor of the Voice of America and now visiting Professor in ABU, Zaria, Hadiza Wada.He bared his mind on the unproductive marriage called Nigeria:
“The Batures (whites) have brought us together. They tried what they could before they left in 1960 to see whether this country could become a political unity that is stable because without political stability, it is impossible to stabilise any aspect of our socio-economic development. They succeeded up to a point but they were very lucky, they found our forefathers and founding fathers, who were honest.
“Take for example, India that became independent in 1948, before one or two years, Pakistan was born and in another one or two years, Bangladesh was born out of Pakistan because there had not been sufficient basis on which India would stay together in the first place and later Pakistan would stand together as Pakistan, even though they have so much in common. Bangladesh and Pakistan are Muslim countries and so on. There are so many areas of disagreement.”
“We are hearing about the restructuring of Nigeria. We’re hearing about secession; we are hearing all sorts of things(sic) and who are the promoters of this rhetoric?
“These are from elite of the country. They’re right to say their minds, but they should also leave me to say my mind when the time is right.
“If Lord Lugard made a mistake in 1914, let’s correct it now. Why not? If Nigerians cannot live together and allow peace and development to take place, then let’s go our different ways and to our different places, so we can concentrate and develop our children and grandchildren in peace.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. So many countries have gone through that before. So, I don’t believe in all this emotion and sentiment that Nigeria is indissoluble. There’s nothing like indissolubility in any country.”
“So what is so special about Nigeria? If we find truly that we cannot develop and guarantee the welfare of our people as a nation and the solution is to go our separate ways, why not? So you see, this is the thing we have to always discuss at all times honestly.”
This Araba (let us separate) song is not a fresh composition. In 1953 when NPC members walked out of the Assembly in Lagos over AG’s motion for independence they vowed not to return except the eight -point demand by the north were met.Those demands spelt confederacy. And by July 1966 when northern officers staged a revenge coup,the theme was “Araba”(separate us).
It took three days of persuasion at Ikeja by the British and American ambassadors to Nigeria and other enlightened elements to drop the idea of a landlocked republic before northern officers agreed to go on with “One Nigeria” because of subsidy on the condition that the most senior officer from the north junior to many officers from the South be made Head of state.
It is about time Prof. Abdullahi be told in clear terms that we advocates of restructuring are the ones holding the leash on self-determination forces who have gone beyond the idea of a Nigeria that elevated him to the position of a VC. I do not know of any major group in Nigeria today that is afraid of standing on it’s own.
Definitely not the Yoruba nation that displayed what it could do on its own under Oloye Obafemi Awolowo in Western Region. Nigeria is a disappointment today compared to the promise that region held, a place where TV was viewed five years after Britain and before many countries in Europe.
There are 50million of us in Nigeria. Only 27 out of the 193 countries in the UN can claim to be more populous. Nauru was admitted to the UN in 1999 with a population of 10,000 people.
We can have a peaceful dissolution so people go fix their lives. And those of us who advocate peace are not cowards. It is just that we will not ask children we have invested so much in to go and die in a war when we can achieve our goal without bloodshed.
If I have to take visa to go see Col. Abubakar Umar in Kaduna, so be it. I have friends in the remotest part of the world and have visited some.
….An evening with Oonirisa and our looming spring
When I called the Oonirisa Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi that I was coming to see him last week all I had in mind was that our Alawiye image of a King resplendent on his throne with Olori by the side cooling off in all majestic rest. It didn’t turn out that way.
As I drove through the palace gates,I saw scores of young desperate looking and weary young men hanging around. You could tell from their faces that these were forlorn youngsters in search of help. I shook my head at the worrying sight.
As I made it into the palace , I met a filled hall with a team from the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi,FIIRO, making a presentation to Kabiysei.The leader of the team was so passionate and made very lucid presentation on the activities of the research body. It ended with presentation of the products of the body to the monarch as gifts.
As they departed after photographs ,Kabiyesi started to receive delegation after delegation. He sent a messenger to me intermittently asking that I bear with him. He invited me to the court at a point to tell me himself. He didn’t know that it was a sociological experience for me which I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for anything.
He patiently attended to each group as they came and handed them over to who should do a follow up where necessary. He would give a career talk to this group and tutor another on skill acquisition and give links to centres where they could hone theirs.He would paint a rosy picture of the good life that awaits those who could explore planting this or that .
As each group left,you could see smiles on their faces as against the gloom that trailed their arrival.I realised on the spot that a leadership that inspires hope can mobilise these people and unleash their capacity for development and reawakening.
I was impressed with the patience of Kabiyesi in dealing with the crowd that throngs his palace and the way he offered them hope. These people cannot see their councillors or council chairmen ,no assembly man,representative or Senator is ready to open doors for them and their state governments no longer pay salaries .
The only time Kabyesi raised his voice in over two hours that I witnessed all these was when he asked one of the palace staff to distribute the gifts presented by FIIRO to him to the people. The guy was already having his own idea on these items and told Kabiysei ” mo fe seto e”(I want to sort). Kabiyesi thundered at him “mo ni ko pin kan fawon eyan o lo fe seto”(I asked you to distribute things to people you said want to sort). He quickly carried out Adimula instruction.
At this point Kabiyesi asked that I should be taken inside his residence for dinner.He took another while before he closed for the day .When he came home he told me he receives average of 3,000 people daily who come from different towns across the state and outside it.My jaw dropped when he told me how much he spends daily on such people who visit him.Those who take security votes can’t boast of spending such monthly .This is a clear departure from the days when the subjects visit Oba to drop gifts.Now there is an Oba they visit to take from.
Our discussions revealed a man well prepared for this assignment and a mind focussed on development with a heart that cares for the people .But I worried at how long he can carry out with the onerous task of giving succor to our dispossessed people if things continue this way . And how many people are ready to do what he is doing across the country ?That raises the specter of a looming spring.
As I left Ile-Ife the following morning,I got to the spot where Akara industry is popular in the outskirts of the town and saw women cutting a loaf of bread to re-bag.I stopped and asked what was going on and one of the women told me that the cheapest bread is N250 which people cannot afford .They had to cut a loaf into smaller sizes of N50!
And you want such a people not to troop to the palace of a man not shutting the door against them?