By Bashir Bello, KANO
The Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi has told agitators of secession that break-up is not the solution to Nigeria’s problem.
This was as he said the more the country break-up, the more its problems get compounded.
Fayemi stated this while speaking with newsmen shortly after he presented a keynote paper at the 21st anniversary of the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Mambayya house in Kano.
In his words: “if we resort to break-up, we will replicate those problems. If we break-up into three or more places, problems will be replicated into three or more places. Example is, South Sudan where they fought for almost half a century trying to decouple themselves from Sudan and eventually they got it. Now, the President, Salva Kiir and his Vice President, Riek Machar, started their own conflict. We’ve also seen it in Eritrea and as we speak in Ethiopia. But it does not solve the problem. I think what we need is a united Nigeria. But a united Nigeria that is founded on core principles of equity, fairness and justice. That is what can serve Nigerians well rather than a Nigeria that does not give a sense of belonging to all parts of Nigeria.”
Governor Fayemi however advocated for a national rebirth founded on the recurring resonance of the renowned statesman and foremost Northern political leader, Mallam Aminu Kano and adoption of his social order to surmount her mirage of socio-economic and political disorder coupled with systemic dysfunction, which is fast overwhelming the essence of the country’s nationhood.
He described the renowned statesman as an epitome of modesty, simplicity and moderation, whose political ideology hinged on emancipation and empowerment of the downtrodden, the qualities the speaker admitted are fast eluding among Nigeria politicians.
“The first point I would like to raise, and one which has found recurring resonance with me, is the life of principles, courage of conviction, enduring commitment to a just cause, and consistency in public service. For much of his life, despite the fickle and slippery terrain of politics, and against various odds, Mallam stood by his principles and convictions. More than that, he organised within the realms of democratic politics to defend his principles and mobilise for his convictions. The courage and consistency he projected at all times won him the respect of his opponents and critics, and the undiluted respect and adulation of the masses. In this, our very own Mallam Aminu Kano stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Ahmed Ben Bella, and other icons of African liberation from the shackles of colonial rule. The NEPU he led shared many similar attributes with Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples’ Party.
“Flowing out of my first point is a second related one: For all the political influence and power which he came to enjoy once it became clear that his movement was not going to fade out or be destroyed by its rivals, Mallam stood out in our entire post-colonial experience as the very anti-thesis of money politics. The weight of the man across Nigeria generally and northern Nigeria, in particular, did not depend on his ability to dole out tons of money to his followers and fellow-travellers but, rather, the trust and the faith they had in him as the honest, indefatigable, and reliable torchbearer of their interests whom they could trust at all times. There is something in this for all of us who are practising politicians today.
“The third point I would like to make about the life and legacy of Mallam centres on the important place of ideas and ideology in his entire political engagement. Mallam built his emancipatory politics around a clear set of ideas and an ideology of empowerment for the talakawa that left no one in doubt as to what he stood for and represented. In this regard, the Sawaba Declaration of December 1950 which he issued marked a historic milestone in his ideological journey, delineating him and his partisans from the more mainstream sections of the rapidly growing nationalist movement for self-rule and independence in Nigeria.
“At a time when we seem to have increasingly relegated ideas and ideology to the background, the experience and example of Mallam serves as a poignant reminder to us that there once was a time in our national history when ideas drove political choice and affiliation. Those times can still be reinvented if we stand ready to pause for a bit and learn from the likes of Mallam Aminu Kano, especially in these testy and treacherous times in our national history when we are in need of a constant flow of fresh and refreshing ideas for our national rebirth and advancement.
“A fourth point I have drawn out of the life experience of Mallam Aminu Kano for our edification and re-education in these times is the central place of modesty and moderation in the making of a successful servant-leader. All through his life, from his abode here in Mambayya House and the high-density Gwamajja Quarters in which it is located to his dress code, his offices, and his worldly goods, Mallam was the epitome of modesty, simplicity, and moderation. This, in turn, made him one of the most accessible leaders in our history to date. It also ensured that the masses easily identified with him as one of them.
“The fifth and last point I would like to bring to our attention centres on the great store which Mallam set by the place and role of education in the making of personal dignity, social advancement, and nation-building. Whether it be by the open encouragement and calls which he made for the education of girls or the assistance he gave to his staff and followers to acquire education, including, if necessary, self-education, he understood the liberating power of learning and the acquisition of knowledge and skills in the empowerment of a people and the making of a nation.
“For someone who was trained as a teacher and who also practised the profession for a period of time, his strong interest in the liberating power of education should probably not be surprising. However, for Mallam Aminu Kano, education was also a weapon for emancipation and he encouraged it in the conviction that it was a necessary tool for self-actualisation and societal progress. Little wonder then that he started his political activism with his central role in the formation of the Northern Teachers Association.
“In his time, as recounted by Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, one of his young political assistants, Dr A.U. Jalingo, who later went on to become a Senior Lecturer and role model in the Department of Political Science in this University, told of the experience whereby Mallam invested his time between political meetings to teach some of his personal staff who hadn’t been to school to read and write. That was a mark of just how important education was to him. And it is a sector to which we must devote a considerable amount of attention anew in our continued quest for the combination of workable policies that will enable us once and for all to turn the table of underdevelopment in Nigeria.
“Policies designed to advance agendas of state- and nation-building or strengthening democratic governance demand that we take to heart the kinds of social concerns that were at the centre of the world view and politics of Mallam Aminu Kano. These policies must be premised on the starting point which he knew so well that no political order can endure where the majority of its members wallow in abject poverty and exist in a state of disempowerment. And this is why, in the midst of our debates about the National Question and the various options for restructuring the polity, we must remind ourselves that there are underlying social questions that urgently require to be addressed as well. Th crisis of Nigerian nationhood with which we are presently grappling is not simply reducible only to competing ethnicities or religiosities, it is also about a crisis of social livelihoods.
“Every political system derives its legitimacy and is held together by the investment which is made in the empowerment of the citizenry and the protection of their welfare and wellbeing. Citizen empowerment as articulated by the generation of Mallam Aminu Kano was structured – correctly – around the provision through public policy of the basic tools by which individuals and groups could advance themselves in life. This is why at independence, across Nigeria, there was a significant investment in the educational and health sectors that are at the heart of social policy. Healthy citizens equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge could not only get employment but also create employment. No wonder then that in the first two decades of our independence, in tandem with and flowing from public social policy investments, Nigerians enjoyed a phase of generalised upward mobility in their lives.
“Following the onset of the economic crisis in the period from the early 1980s, and as a direct result of some of the austerity measures that had to be put in place, the social expenditures of governments at all levels of the federal system suffered a broad-ranging retrenchment. The structural adjustment measures that were subsequently introduced exacerbated a worsening social situation that effectively eroded the social contract underpinning the country’s governance. This is the background to our slide into the ranks of the countries around the world that harbour the highest number of working poor and the outrightly excluded. Massive and long-term unemployment, especially among our youth, growing social inequality in the country, and the overall thinning out of the middle class are among some of the challenges that steer us in the face every day.
“It does not take a magician to see that we are confronted with a highly combustible cocktail of mass poverty, mass unemployment, and massive inequalities that are already generating various discontents in insurgencies, criminality, banditry, and various extremisms. I want to submit that taking determined and bold steps to address these social problems head-on is as urgent and crucial as the energies we may be required to devote to recalibrating and updating the structures of our federal system. To do so meaningfully, we cannot avoid offering Nigerians a new social bargain around which we can rebuild citizenship, national identity, and the legitimacy of the state. Nigeria and Nigerians need a new Sawaba Declaration that will constitute our collectively-shared national manifesto of emancipation from poverty, unemployment, inequality, marginalisation, and generalised unemployment.
“Thinking through what a new social compact for Nigeria might be, we can borrow a leaf from the late Mallam Aminu Kano and resolve that as part and parcel of the bargain of being a citizen of Nigeria, we will strive to design universal social policies that will enable the generality of our people to renew their faith in the country and their government. Universal access to education should be accompanied by a system of universal health care. It should be underpinned with a national strategy that defines employment creation as a priority concern of public policy. Enhanced efforts at boosting domestic resource mobilisation will need to be accompanied by deliberate measures at redistribution designed to reduce wealth, income, gender, and inter-generational inequalities.
“Beyond these broad categories of what the new Sawaba Declaration should focus on, I would like to argue that those of us who believe that a new Nigeria is possible must get to work quickly on the comprehensive development of this social compact, one which must elevate the dignity of the human person and promote the principles of the common good, solidarity, stewardship, subsidiarity in the functioning of government, active participation of the citizenry, rights and responsibilities, economic justice as well as peace and security. This should be the manifesto that we collectively work on to address the existential threats to the survival and thriving of the Nigerian state.
“When the generation of the late Mallam Aminu Kano was faced with what the historic Sawaba Declaration described as “the shocking state of social order”, they summoned the courage to organise themselves to proffer alternatives that they felt would allow for a social redress. The new Sawaba Declaration which we must produce in order to tackle the myriad of discords and discontents afflicting us today must, it seems to me, aim at nothing less than the rebuilding of the social policy anchor of the Nigerian state. On this occasion of the 21st anniversary of Mambayya House, we owe ourselves nothing less. We owe the memory of the late Mallam Aminu Kano nothing less. Let us rise up to the call as a people determined, in unity and a shared hope, to take a giant leap forward,” Governor Fayemi however stated.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the Vice-Chancellor, Bayero University, Kano, BUK, Prof. Sagir Adamu Abbas said the vision of the centre in becoming a leading research centre is hindered by worn-out structures and lack of funds to remodel the project of the Mambayya house where the remains of late Malam Aminu Kano is peacefully resting.
Prof. Abbas however boasted that the centre has delivered a number of community service initiatives around peace education and skills development on conflict prevention, management, peacebuilding and resolution of disputes within host communities as plans has also been concluded to commence a short certificate program on “Leadership and democratic governance” to develop capacities and skills of Nigerian political leaders, public office holders among others.