By Dapo Akinrefon
FORMER Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, yesterday, warned that Nigeria will continue to limp and underperform if she fails to revert to the constitution negotiated by her founding fathers.
Anayoku, who was a guest of honour, said this at the book presentation of Yemi Ogunbiyi’s memoirs, ‘The Road Never Fails’, held in Lagos to celebrate the author’s 75th birthday.
Apart from decrying the state of the nation, Anyaoku and other notable Nigerians, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, paid glowing tributes to the former Managing Director of Daily Times, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, for bringing intellectualism to the journalism profession.
In his keynote address, Professor Osinbajo said Ogunbiyi is capable of telling a story without embellishments.
Osinbajo said: “I think that by and large, for anyone who has read this book or will, you will notice that all that Dr. Ogunbiyi wants to achieve in this book is to tell a story, not just of himself but also of our country. And I must confess that in this book, not only does he discharge that obligation, he has also shown that he is one who is capable of telling a story without embellishments.
“A young nation lost its innocence, just as the six-year-old Yemi Ogunbiyi lost his, but he has become the brilliant university teacher, newspaper executive, connoisseur of wines, and collector of fine arts. So, in telling this compelling story we are led through the nationalistic idealism of our pre-colonial days, the excitement of civil rule, the military rule, the return of civil rule and other minor contemporary events, but he engages every subject honestly, openly and frankly.”
How Nigeria can make a start —Anyaoku
The former Commonwealth scribe expressed worry over the current state of the country, saying Nigeria can make a fresh start if she wants to effectively tackle the myriad of challenges.
Urging Nigerians not to vote any politician who is not committed to restructuring the country to fiscal federalism, he said: “The pictures that emerge from the book show that Nigeria has largely been on the decline during the period in question and in Yemi’s words; Nigeria needs a fresh start, new thinking and a new beginning.
“I want to repeat the essence of what I have said in many occasions about how Nigeria can make a start if it wants to effectively tackle the myriad of challenges that I have listed in the indices. Informed by my long association with governance in the 54 Commonwealth countries, some of which are as pluralistic as Nigeria, my view remains that we cannot begin to successfully deal with our challenges with the governance system we currently operate.
“With our present federal structure, the country will only continue to limp along and to underperform with a growing threat of a national disaster.
“To achieve political stability and to unleash the country’s inherent abilities, we need a governance system that is a true federation with appropriate devolution of powers from the centre to more viable federating units as against the current largely not viable 36 units we have.
“The facts, I believe are there to show any observer that Nigeria, notwithstanding the years it was held together by military fiat at the centre, began its drift and decline to its present, indisputably, perilous state when it abandoned the truer federal constitution on the basis of which our founding fathers negotiated our independence.
“We should return to a governance system that is based on the lines of our constitution.
“If among other challenges we are to arrest the killings of ordinary people, the latest example being the reported killing four days ago of over 80, with the further abduction and the burning of several houses in Plateau State.
“As the country is now gearing up to the 2023 general elections, I urge all the prospecting candidates to commit themselves to prioritizing the reformation of the country’s present governance system and more importantly, I urge the electorate, our people, not to vote for any candidate who fails to pledge to do that.”
Anyaoku, however, commended Ogunbiyi for his contribution to his emergence as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
He said: “I am delighted to be part of this memoir by Yemi Ogunbiyi. In his career as a university teacher, journalist, publisher and as what I would describe as a general consultant, Yemi has always performed as a true Nigerian patriot.
“I would like a small diversion to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge my thanks to Yemi for his contribution to the then Nigerian government’s diplomatic efforts, robustly led by the foreign Minister, General Ike Nwachukwu, retd, to assist me to defeat a former Australian Prime Minister of seven-and-half years in the election as secretary-general of the Commonwealth.”
Yemi brought intellectualism to journalism —Osoba
Also speaking, former Governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, commended Ogunbiyi for bringing intellectualism to the journalism profession
Osoba said: “When I went into politics, the remark I kept getting from my rivals was that, ‘Yes, Osoba was a great journalist but everywhere he went he recreated newspapers; The Herald, the Sketch and then the Daily Times, but after he left everything collapsed.’ But this is false because Yemi Ogunbiyi continued to create profitability when he succeeded me as the Managing Director of the Daily Times and I am happy that he achieved better than I did.”
He’s a hyperactive individual —Soyinka
Professor Wole Soyinka described Ogunbiyi as a hyperactive individual.
He said: “When Yemi was teaching at Ife in my department which I was head at the time, and he and another businessman, the late Alex Ibru, got together, behind my back and conspired to effect Yemi’s detachment from the academic world for a time. Eventually, they cooked it all up. One day, Alex came to my office and said I am about to take Yemi Ogunbiyi away from you. I said is it the same hyper active Yemi Ogunbiyi? You can have him. I said, ‘this place is too small to contain him, he needs larger space. Take him away, when he gets tired of you, he will come back.’ I am so happy that a school has been named after him and I think that is the most important gesture and development especially for us in this country. I want to lobby all of you to support this noble cause.”
We need judicial reforms —Duke
On his part, former governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke said aside from political reforms, there is need to reform the justice sector.
“Mr Vice President, before you arrived, Chief Emeka Anyaoku did say something symbolic. He said that any candidate that does not make political reforms should not be voted for. I am going to add mine. There should be judicial reforms because if there is no justice, there will be no peace.”
Blaming the elites for decay in the education sector, he said: “We the elites are responsible for the shortcomings of our nation, the way we raise our children leaves a lot to be desired. We sent our children outside the country, because those of us who run the society have no say in the school system.
Notable dignitaries present at the event include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba; Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr Niyi Adebayo; Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Deputy Governor of Osun State, Mr Benedict Alabi; Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa and former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Others are the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi; former Foreign Affairs Minister, Major General Ike Nwachuckwu, retd; former Governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke; Mr Ray Ekpu and Nobel Laurate, Professor Wole Soyinka; and Publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Mrs Maiden Ibru.