By Clifford Ndujihe & Gbenga Oke
LAGOS—A HOST of elder statesmen and leaders, yesterday, dissected the state of affairs in Nigeria and returned a grim verdict: We are on the verge of being a failed state.
They consequently canvassed urgent and drastic measures to halt the speady slide into retrogression and put the country on the path of socio-economic recovery and harmonious co-existence.
The measures, according to them, include good leadership, political and economical restructuring, fiscal federalism, devolution of power to the federating units and youth empowerment.
Those who shared these views included erudite constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN; First and Second Republics Minister, Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN; Professors Babatunde Ogunmola and Pat Utomi; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Dr Biodun Adedipe, Prince Chris Asoluka and Mr Oscar Onwudiwe among others.
They spoke in Lagos at the 37th Centre for Values in Leadership, CVL colloquium held in honour of Professor Nwabueze, 86 and Chief Akinjide, 85.
Without restructuring we won’t go far — Utomi
CVL Founder, Professor Pat Utomi, kick-started the dissection by identifying bad leadership as the major problem of the country, a reason he said the group was focussing on training and empowerment of young people to become effective leaders.
To be effective leaders, he said youths must be knowledgeable and have the habit of self-sacrifice and giving.
Apart of leadership, he said: “The issue before Nigeria now is restructuring. If we don’t restructure Nigeria, we won’t go far’’ and urged the younger generation of Nigerians to take their destinies in their hands and save the country.
I’ll also carry arms, if I am from N-Delta — Adebanjo
Speaking in like manner, Chief Adebanjo, who went down memory lane, recalling how the founding fathers arrived at the federal system government and how the regions flourished under fiscal federalism in the First Republic with 50 per cent derivation, said the various agitations and restiveness in the country now will be addressed with restructuring.
According to him, injustice, marginalisation and inequitable distribution of the nation’s resources are the root of the agitation for Biafra Republic and restiveness in the Niger-Delta.
Instead of condemning the agitators, Adebanjo said Nigerians should ask if their complaints and cries are true, adding that any youth who goes to Abuja and sees the development there will carry arms to protest the squalor in his area where the resources come from.
He said:”Will anyone from the South-South go to Abuja and see what is happening there and not go back home to carry arms? Let us stop deceiving ourselves, even if I am the one from the region, I will carry arms.”
Power at the centre too much — Nwabueze
On his part, Professor Nwabueze said the country has not had good leaders after the founding fathers like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, noting the position of the president is not a job for anybody.
He also decried the abandonment of true federalism, saying the power at the centre is too much and ‘’we cannot make progress without restructuring.’’
He urged those opposed to restructuring not to entertain fears because “restructuring is not breaking up of the country. I don’t think the vast majority of Nigerians want break-up.”
Wrong people are in leadership positions – Akinjide
Also, Akinjide, who was represented by his wife, Abimbola, shared his thoughts through a documentary.
He shared the view that bad leadership is the bane of the country, saying: “Many people, who are in certain positions should not be in those positions.
The elder statesman, who lamented that Nigeria is not ready for the presidential or parliamentary system of government, said a major drawback for the country is that those who are ready to rule don’t usually get into power.
For instance, he said in the First Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe were ready to rule but they did not get power as the the position of Prime minister went to Sir Tafawa Balewa.
We are yet to address the leadership question – Onwudiwe
To Mr Oscar Onwudiwe, it is sad that Nigerians have not proved themselves capable of ruling the country as feared by Sir Hugh Clifford in 1922, who said: “I doubt the ability of the Nigerian to rule himself” and actualised the prediction of Harold Smith that most of the people who will rule Nigeria will have military background.
Going forward, he also canvassed restructuring of the country, noting that many northerners like former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, are in support of restructuring.
Why our economy is down – Adedipe
Also speaking, Dr Adedipe identified five reasons the country’s economy is down. According to him, in the First Republic, there was fiscal federalism and healthy competition among the federating units, which has been jettisoned; we also abandoned investments in agriculture as petrol dollars rolled in; we failed to invest earnings from crude oil on infrastructure; allowed the centre to control 52 per cent of our resources and thereby entrenching big and bitter struggle for control of the centre, which is the cause of our current problem in the country with states being unable to pay salaries.
The way out, according to him, is: “We need to change our values. If there will be any restoration in Nigeria, we need to rebuild our values, we have to stop celebrating money but intellects that have contributed to the development of this nation. We should stop promoting mediocrity as well because it will not take this country anywhere.’’
Amalgamation was wrong – Ogunmola
Professor Babatunde Ogunmola, who is a chemist and chancellor of Lead City University, traced Nigeria’s problem to Lord Lugard’s amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914.
His words: “The problem started with the 1914 amalgamation. As a chemist I know that amalgamation is an imperfect mixture or union. We have never attempted to create a perfect structure from the union since 1914. So, there is a basis to restructure the country.’’