By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA— Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has said Nigeria was in dire need of new tribe of men and women with integrity and honesty for rapid economic and political development of the country.
He said that it was only with such people the country could be taken to lofty heights.
Osinbajo spoke while paying tributes to former Nigeria High Commissioner to Ghana, late Ambassador Isa Wali, at the 50th anniversary of his demise organized by Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, IWEI, at Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, yesterday.
Wali was the father of Mrs Maryam Uwais, wife of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Mohammed Uwais, who died at the age of 39 while in active service in Accra.
According to Osinbajo, the late ambassador was a fighter for social justice. He likened him to Martin Luther King Jnr of the United States of America and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, saying he stood for social justice for all people.
He said: “Our nation is in need of people who stand for human values, those who believe in trust-worthiness, integrity, honesty and harwork.
“We need to have those values and emphasize them because these are values that build nations around the world. I have spoken about a new tribe of Nigerians who believe in hard work. Our nation needs more of visionary men and women that are ready to put the nation ahead of themselves.”
Gowon, Sanusi, Sule, Mohammed others pay tribute to Wali
Also speaking, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, in whose regime Wali served, said what stood Wali out was his push for girl-child education.
Gowon recalled his failed plan to make Wali a minister but eventually settled for late Aminu Kano.
He said: “He was Ambassador in Ghana during my time; he was ambassador when January 1966 coup was done. I knew about him before I became Head of State.
“He built up himself to a figure that could be respected anywhere. He was one of those I was thinking of making a minister in Kano. At the end, it was Aminu Kano that I got.
“I endorse everything that has been said about him. One thing we should remember him for is his love of education for girls.”
On his part, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, faulted the disparity between men and women in the society.
Emir said the preference was an act of social injustice which needed to be challenged.
According to him, Wali was also a controversial writer who wrote against the unhealthy treatments meted out to women.
He eulogized Wali for writing against social injustice far ahead of his time.
According to him, men who cannot provide for their wives have no business marrying four wives.
Sanusi said the Kano Emirate Council was working on a set of laws that would prohibit many abusive treatments being meted on women in the north but regretted that the concept of men being superior to women had been unchallenged for a long time.
He said: “The world has moved in the direction it should move which was probably why I said he saw far.
“He was a controversial writer. He drew attention to a lot of injustices. We have all seen the consequences of men who can not maintain one wife marrying four, producing many children. A family law which would address the concerns is coming.
“It will outlaw forced marriage, make domestic violence illegal, set out modalities before you can marry a second wife.”
Giving her keynote lecture, Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hajiya Amina Mohammed, corroborated Sanusi’s position, regretting the discrimination against women in the society.
He called for the education of the girl-child, saying everyone needed to be educated.
He said: “We must encourage the girl-child education. Everyone needs to have equal access to education,” she said.
Also speaking, an elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule, described the late ambassador as a chip off the old block.
“He was a chip off the block. He was an incarnation of his father. His late father was a scholar and was one of the most outstanding scholars of his time and so was Isa Wali. Isa Wali was a champion of children and women, the first to speak on women’s right.
“He believes in the freedom of women but education. He gave his children education. He was a genius. A revolutionary, patriotic, courageous man. He wouldn’t attend function unless his wife was invited.”
Sule stated that Wali was instrumental to the formation of the defunct Organization of African Unity, OAU, in Addis Ababa.
The elder statesman also regretted Nigeria’s backwardness in economic and political development.
He said: “The past leaders were always ready to accommodate one another. They went into politics to give and not to take, to serve and not to be served.
“India has made it despite their differences in tribes. Brasil has made it. Have we made it in Nigeria? Incidentally, Nigeria and Brasil started their defence programme the same time. What has gone wrong? We are not the same
‘’The virtues have been thrown overboard. But we started very well. There was morality in the society. But today, the institution of family has been broken. There’s meaninglessness in the society. we are no longer ourselves.”
Paying his owing tributes, former Ambassador to Isreal, Ignatious Olisaemeka, pleaded with the Nigerian government to take care of diplomats who had served the country.
“I fully endorse everything that has been said about the late Isa Wali. He would enter any room, any where and brighten up the place. He was a great man,” he said.
Earlier in his welcome address, the chairman of the occasion, Ambassador Isaac Sagay, who succeeded Wali in Ghana, described his colleague as an epitome of humility.
“What is extraordinary about the ambassador; he himself was is infectious humility…he was physically not a giant of man but his presence in a crowd would hardly be missed,” he said.
Recalling his contributions which he said had been largely unsung, Sagay appealed to the federal government to name a major road after Wali to immortalize him. He stood in the gap for Nigerians in Ghana.
‘’He intensified hope in Nigerians in Ghana and was passionate about how Nigerians lived in Ghana. Each poor and impoverished person receieved cash from him. The news of his death was received with so much public grief. He died in Accra.
“He was the youngest diplomat ever to be appointed as an ambassador. He was also a career diplomat.’’