February 25, 2022

How Nigeria can be great again despite challenges — Gowon, others


Yakubu Gowon

*Fayemi says political leaders must advance national Agenda

*Ganduje charges intellectuals to take active roles in governance, insists politics not dirty game

*Olukoshi cautions against dependence on foreign aid, technical assistance

By Luminous Jannamike and Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

FORMER Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, has assured Nigerians that despite the various challenges facing the country, Nigeria will be great again.

Gowon stated this while speaking in Abuja at the public presentation of a book entitled, ‘Unfinished Greatness: Envisioning a New Nigeria written by Ekiti governor, John Kayode Fayemi.

Dignitaries at the launch include Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Abdullahi Ganduje, and Dapo Abiodun of Lagos, Kano and Ogun states respectively; the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari; Former Minister of State (Solid Mineral), Abubakar Bass Bwari, among others.

According to Gowon, Nigerians must not relent in the intense search for quality leadership, saying the country’s pace of evolution could be made faster.

He stated that the book addresses two major issues that Nigerians are concerned about; which are why Nigeria has not attained greatness and envisioning a new Nigeria.

The former Head of State said: “I believe Nigeria is meant for greatness. As the convener of Nigeria prays, I led all groups to pray for the good of our land. Regardless of the diverse difficulties that we have been grappling with since independence, our country shall attain the greatness it wants to have. The notion of our greatness is evolutionary though the pace can be made to go faster.

“The second notion of envisioning a new Nigeria addresses the leadership question. Our country may not have gotten this in 62 years as an independent nation, but we’ve all done our best. This should not undermine our search for quality leadership.

“We speak of leadership that seeks to make our unity in diversity work. We speak of leadership that makes our leadership, both internal and external, safe for everyone. Leadership that is concerned about making democracy work. Leadership that makes Nigerians extremely proud of their green pastures.”

Gowon said Fayemi was in a vantage position as a two-time governor of Ekiti and Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to have thought about the two notions, especially before reaching his conclusion in the book.

Presenting the keynote address, a former Director, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, said that though Nigeria possessed the potential to be great, it would continue to play the second fiddle in the global system if it continues to seek dependence on foreign government for aids and technical assistance.

He lamented that the country has not found the right leadership, stressing that leaders who transcend narrow and parochial differences in their thoughts and actions were scarce.

Olukoshi said, “It will not do us any good, in the African continent to seek transformation on the assumption that the world, somehow, owes is a living; that, somehow, they mean well for us.

“To the extent that we continue to count on foreign aid and technical assistance for our transformation on the African continent, for so long shall we continue to play second fiddle in the international system.

“Digging a bit deeper, if we must transform a nation, we must look at dignity. While a character can change a nation, it is the dignity that transforms a nation.

“Indeed, it is impossible to talk of any meaningful form of effective leadership without accompanying it without effective or meaningful contribution from followers.

“But there is a special duty, which belongs to leaders in Nigeria and it is a duty of transcending narrow and parochial differences, and finding that the common denominator of the things that bind us together in a way that will enable us to forge a new consensus around dignity.

“And I am sure not too many people will disagree that dignity is a common currency, which is shared in all our ethnicities, religions and cultures in Nigeria.”

In his remarks, the author of the book, Governor Kayode Fayemi, urged political leaders across the country to look beyond the present challenges and join hands to advance the national agenda.

According to him, the national agenda means to build the country on the ideals of justice, freedom, equity and the rule of law.

He said: “When countries experience their high moments, it is incumbent on leaders to capture the opportunities that are offered to advance the frontiers of the national agenda. When, as is inevitable, bad days come, leadership must assume the responsibility for keeping the ideals of the national agenda high on the radar, provide citizens with a genuine basis for hope that better days lie ahead, and courageously undertake whatever reforms that are required by the times and for the achievement of the better days.

“State and nation-building all over the world have been and remain a permanent work in progress. Although some countries may enjoy a long span of relative tranquillity, the historical fact also needs always to be remembered and restated that stability and progress require the deployment of deliberate efforts by citizens and those entrusted with leadership to advance the national agenda regardless of challenges. Even at that, there are no pre-ordained guarantees of success at all times; every country goes through high and low moments in their historical journey.”

Fayemi noted that over the last few years, Nigeria has been buffeted on all sides by a myriad of problems. However, he expressed discomfort at the ease with which cheap and populist options could have been laughed off as fringe ideas had become mainstream.

“In the meantime, those who have held on to the goal of Nigerian oneness and unity have found themselves pushed to the margins and placed on the defensive.

“Matters have not been helped by the inflammatory partisanship which many in leadership positions have adopted in part to scoring points against opponents but also in order to be recognised by their communities as truly representing their concerns.

“Too many seem to have forgotten that leaders should lead and not simply reproduce the base sentiments and narrow perspectives they encounter.

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“I want to be clear. We are faced with a conjuncture of complex and uncommon challenges which must be confronted openly, head-on, and purposefully, rather than being denied, swept under the carpet, or simply wished away.

“In courageously admitting to and seeking ways to redress the challenges, however, it is important to remember that we come from somewhere, and in the journey, we embarked upon as a country, we have scored some wins, and a web of interdependencies bind us ever closer together.

“This reality should serve to condition and modulate our responses to the real challenges we face not with a view to throwing the baby out with the bathwater but in a determined effort to filter the bathwater so that it is purged of the impurities that could discomfort the baby.

“It is this approach of seeking to build on our many gains as a country and a people whilst recognising and engaging our contemporary difficulties that underpin this book. We have had moments of greatness in all spheres of our national life and human endeavour. We have also seen many difficult days in our forward march to even greater heights.

“Problems must be understood to be part of our unfinished quest for greatness. And greatness has to be our permanent watchword as the only destiny that is acceptable to us and to Global Africa which earnestly looks up to us for leadership.

“Nigeria will surely fulfil destiny and do so as a united country built on justice, freedom, equity and the rule of law. This is the national agenda of our times. I invite each and every one of us to partake in it for the national rebirth we must deliver.”

Earlier, the Governor of Kano state, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, called on intellectuals across the country to participate in politics towards rebuilding the nation.

He said that the active participation of intellectuals in politics and governance was key to building the nation.

According to him, the involvement of people with highly developed intellects in governance would help identify areas of convergence in the nation’s divergent politics.

He said, “It is always important for intellectuals to take active roles in politics, because they are great thinkers, make good forecasts, analyse conflicting issues and find out areas of convergence in divergence. In politics, there are conflicting variables.

“In fact, some people are advocating that governance should be only for intellectuals, but that is contrary to democracy. However, we have seen how important it is.

“Unfortunately, in developing countries, intellectuals are afraid of governance and delving into politics because they regard they regard politics as a dirty game, but politics is not a dirty game.”

The event also featured a panel discussion by the former Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Waziri Adio; Executive Director, Enough-is-Enough Nigeria, Yemi Adamolekun; the Executive Director, Dinidari Foundation, Ndi Kato; and the Executive Director, Connected Development, Hamza Lawal.

Vanguard News Nigeria