By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
Notable Nigerians, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Revd. Matthew Kukah; Governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi; and the First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari; have said the 2023 elections present an opportunity to reset the country so that Nigerians can be empowered to become more productive and self-reliant.
They said this Tuesday at the Leadership Newspaper Annual Conference and Awards in Abuja with the theme: ‘Resetting Nigeria: Culture, Politics, Geography and the Role of Big Ideas’.
In his remarks, VP Osinbajo, who described himself as a progressive, said there was need to create a new Nigeria that is driven by national unity and cohesion.
According to him, “Those of us like Sam Nda-Isaiah (late publisher of Leadership newspaper) who belong to the same political tendency that is loosely described as the progressive tendency agree on certain principles that we must create a country that works for us all.
“That is, a peaceful and secure society founded on law and order and the rule of law, a society that enables commerce and values productivity so that large and small businesses can grow and provide jobs and opportunities for the millions of young people, a society where no one is left behind, a united and tolerant nation where all irrespective of ethnicity or religion or political persuasion are respected treated fairly and justly and have equal access to all opportunities.”
Speaking on the theme of the event, Governor Fayemi said that political systems were not meant to remain static in time and space, but rather were expected by design and the force of circumstances to undergo a regular process of reset.
He explained that in doing so, political systems become able to achieve responsiveness to the changing demands of time and the shifting needs of society, especially at different stages of the development process.
The governor argued that where political systems have become ossified in spite of unfolding and cumulative change, a breakdown of order may not be too far away.
Fayemi said, “Successful political systems are, therefore, those that have a robust capacity to self-correct and recalibrate in a timely, efficient and even anticipatory manner.
“Even where the opportunity for a timely reset is lost, successful political systems are able to undertake a swift course correction before a full-scale crisis of legitimacy and sustainability sets in.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that our country Nigeria is in dire need of an all round reset as an imperative of national rebirth.”
He added that changing conditions have produced an objective demand for a new reset to correct the challenges that have emerged; stressing that the correction called for should span a political, economic, geographic, territorial and cultural aspects of the country.
According to the governor, reforming a political system is a permanent work in progress. However, he maintained that to remake Nigeria, it was not necessary to first unmake the nation.
“Despite our multitude of problems, our unity and cohesion remains our best pathway to achieve the greatness which we all yearn,” Fayemi explained.
Nonetheless, he identified the further decentralisation of the polity, the strengthening of the local government system, the devolution of more powers over safety and security to the states, the adoption of a fairer system of fiscal federalism, the development new approaches to diversity management, the autonomy of the legislative arm of government, the wholesale reform of the justice system and the revamping of the civil service as some of the areas that require a reset.
The First Lady Aisha Buhari, who supported the proposal by other speakers that resetting of the political and economic systems of the country was an all-encompassing work in progress, however, said her office was particularly interested in one of the agenda that has to do with the women i.e. the affirmative action.
She said, “We are interested in the gender agenda. It is not asking for too much, if aspirants into the offices of Nigerian presidency, governors in the respective states, or even chairmen of local governments honour Nigerian women by picking them or by deserving their deputy positions for Nigerian women.”
Earlier in delivering the keynote address, Bishop Matthew Kukah, who was represented by Rev. Fr. Patrick Alumuku, harped on the need for political leaders to cultivate a heightened sense of imagination to be able to identify solutions in the face of daunting challenges and propel the people towards those goals through politics.
“A nation can only grow if it understands the concept of big ideas. For any society that wishes to grow, those who lead must be educated philosopher-kings.
“Elections are important, but they must be clearly aimed at facilitating and not limiting the growth of new ideas. Big ideas will grow in an area that encourages competition and merit.
“Our failure is in our hands based on the choices we ourselves make. The Nigerian state in its present form does not appreciate the value of big ideas. That is why men and women of the underworld are now in charge.
“Whereas it is important to be concerned about social order, non-state actors must not be allowed to use tradition and dogma to limit human imagination.”
The Bishop stressed the need for the government to pay greater attention to education, saying that the nation can only conquer nepotism and prebendalism with proper education of both the leaders and the citizens.
“Once education replaces tribe, religion, and region as a means of accessing the levers of power, then the society has hope that big ideas can grow and blossom and defeat mythologies,” he added.
On her part, the Chairman of Leadership Group Ltd, Mrs. Zainab Nda-Isaiah, called for a system where citizens will be empowered to create solutions and be productive through the availability of accurate information.
Her words, “I have learned to some point the value of accurate data and information and have also seen first inaccurate or false information can have.
“Information is gold. If properly mined to solve problems can be of great advantages to us all in our personal affairs, businesses and nation.”
The 2021 Leadership Conference and Awards also had in attendance Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto (Politician of the Year award recipient), Bala Mohammed of Bauchi (Governor of the Year award recipient) among other governors and eminent personalities who received various other awards for their contribution to nation-building.