By Clifford Ndujihe
Anya, Kolade, Asiodu, Wigwe speak
AS Nigerians go to polls today, Burdened Elders, a group of eminent Nigerians and elder statesmen led by Professor Anya O. Anya and Dr. Christopher Kolade, has urged the citizenry and all stakeholders to see the exercise as an opportunity to get the country working.
The group, which has the likes of Chief Philip Asiodu, Mrs. Folake Solanke, Ambassador George Obiozor, Professor Akin Mabogunje, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, Mr Olumide Onabolu (secretary) and Ladi Thompson (contact person) as members, is worried by the desperate bent of some politicians, which could plunge the country into disaster, if unchecked.
Last week, the elders at a news conference in Lagos, said they could not sit back and watch things balloon out of control without intervening. They recalled the good and early days of Nigeria, and said the country could be rescued and made to work again according to the vision of the founding fathers.
Tasking all stakeholders on initiatives that could defuse the boiling and rancorous tension, the elders, on their part, said they would follow up with further consultations with stakeholders to pursue wise, non-violent and non-partisan interventions towards a nation where no man is oppressed and peace and plenty will be the norm.
‘’As we soak in all the attendant factors including the toxic political culture of the present hour and the predatory tonality of the ongoing election processes, it has become imperative that we must speak up as elders. Our first counsel to the nation as it approaches this new frontier is that innovative strategies and ingenious initiatives that can build consensus and mould opinion to defuse the rancorous tension must be considered as a priority over and above all else with the elections inclusive.
‘’God willing we are determined to honour the call we started out with even if it were the last call to national duty that we must perform before we are summoned to glory where we must answer to our Maker whether the banner we will hand over to the generations after would be stainless or coloured crimson with the blood of the innocent.
‘’Our final appeal to all good persons across all generations and divides of tribe, tongue or creed is to calm down and work for the future of our nation as we deploy everything that God has given us as elders towards a nation where no man is oppressed and peace and plenty will be the norm. Please, let us march forward knowing that no matter how dark the night may become the breaking of the dawn is a promise of God that can never fail,” they said.
Specifically, Pastor Wigwe said Nigeria is at crisis point now and ‘’we must redirect ourselves to the path of rectitude where things work.”
Why I am burdened —Anya
Asked why he is burdened, Professor Anya, in a chat with Saturday Vanguard on Thursday, said: ‘’The burden that one carries over Nigeria is that after more than 50 years of independent existence we should be far away from where we are. What is worse is that our problems now are what we had in the past that should not be reoccurring now. If you take this question of postponing the elections nobody expected that because we thought that it is behind us. It follows in a pattern whether it is census or election even in colonial days, there had always been problems. When will we come out of this?
Advice to INEC, Nigerians
My advice to Nigerians is what has happened you cannot reverse it. And that is my advice also to INEC. Anytime they are called to work they should do their best so that this kind of situation does not go on repeating itself. Nigerians are among the most intelligent and they hold their own within the US, Europe and anywhere else. So, the way we do things is an embarrassment and this embarrassment includes those in INEC, for their sake let’s say let bygone be bygone, let this be a re-dedication to doing the right things for Nigeria.
Advice to military on President Buhari’s order
On President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to the armed forces to be ruthless against Ballot box snatchers, he said: “I can appreciate the Presidents sense of frustration, he is a human being, but having said that the buck stops on his table. There are things a president should not say. There are laws to deal with activities that are not consistent with running election, you allow them to be done according to the law. That is what Rule of Law is all about. The president should not be put in a difficult situation where he has to give separate orders to the military.
“In any case the military’s role is not to be involved in maintaining peace at elections. That is police duty. If we were doing things properly the military should only be called in when there is really need for intervention to restore peace and order, but we are not there yet.
‘’My advice to the military is simple, the world has changed. We have the International Court of Justice at The Hague and whatever you did 20 years earlier you can be called to account for it. As professionals they should not allow themselves to be put in that kind of difficult situation, let them do things according to the law and according to the Code of Conduct that they have been given.”
Advice to Politicians
‘’Politicians must remember that when there is a contest between two people one is bound to lose and the other is bound to win. If we are a nation of the same people when the elections are over we rally around who emerges as leader to get the country moving, where we are is not where we should be.
‘’Indeed we have started wondering whether we really can go on with the charade of pretending that this party or that party will solve the problem. Isn’t it time we probably considered a National government because the problems we have are in all sectors and we need the best and brightest that Nigeria has to address the problems.”
Polls present opportunity to right the wrongs — Kolade
On his part, Dr. Kolade said Nigeria would achieve more as a united country than a divided one and urged Nigerians to use the elections to chart a new front.
He said the elders are burdened because “we have experienced many things in Nigeria. We knew Nigeria when it was a colony, we knew Nigeria when it got independence, we knew Nigeria when it was in crisis and hardship of the Civil war and we knew Nigeria after the civil war. Our focus is to stabilize Nigeria as a nation because from all we have experienced we can very quickly come to the conclusion that Nigeria, as one nation, is better valued and respected around the world than Nigeria in crisis.
“Our focus is how can we make Nigeria live up to her own potential? We are a big country with big population and resources which the Almighty God has endowed us. If we were able to manage these resources and pride ourselves there is no reason at all for Nigeria not to be one of the most advanced and progressive nations of the world.
“What is the main issue? The main issue to me personally is that not many of us are looking at Nigeria as one nation. We are looking first at our own narrow interest and thinking, how can I get the best for myself, my family and group, instead of coming to the very simple understanding that if Nigeria, as a nation, continues to do well and perform excellently, that is the best platform on which I can construct my own success and that of my family.
Therefore our focus is let us work to bring Nigeria back to what it ought to be: a very big, successful nation, performing well with all the resources she has been endowed. Nigeria is a nation of possibilities and potentials. We can do better than we are doing now if we allow ourselves to work for that corporate entity.
The election presents an opportunity for us to get things right and for us to do what we know is the best for our nation.”
No election has been so denounced by leading parties — Asiodu
On his part, Asiodu, who noted that no election has been so denounced by the leading parties as the 2019 with ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and main opposition Peoples Democratic Part, PDP, trading allegations and counter-allegations of rigging each other, warned that the future of a disintegrated Nigeria was not worth it.
I have always regretted over the years the abandonment in 1975 of the plan 1975 to 1980 Plan and the principle of planning. You must have long term plan whether as a person, company or nation.
Before independence, the desire for independence was a uniting anchor. Whatever the differences, people wanted to be free. The tragedy is that since then, especially since the abandonment of the development plan, we have not been able to agree as a country where we are going. We must have a vision, at least 20 years vision, elaborate it whether it is economy, types of governance, etc and let us not discontinue it so that there is continuity. ‘’
He said that if Nigeria had not abandoned the development plan, we would not have been in crisis now because “by 1990, illiteracy would have been abolished.”