PAT UTOMI

By Pat Utomi

NIGERIA has never been more in need of saving than it is today. To save it will require the spirit of yesterday’s heroes. Nigeria is a massive graveyard for heroes. Like was said of the Jews of old, your parents killed the prophets. In Nigeria we mock them. But their essence has preserved us from internal slavery.

They came in the post-independence era from social movements, academia, politics, the professions and even the military which trampled on the rights of Nigerians and made state capture with its debilitating derivatives our lot. Men like Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Professor Ayodele Awojobi, Dr. Bala Usaman, Chidi Ubani and Innocent Chukwuma.

In more recent incarnations they include the Attahiru Jegas, Usman Bugajes, Femi Falanas, General Ishola Williams, and Olisa Agbakobas and Joe Okei-Odumakins, Oby Ezekwesilis, Najatu Mohammeds and the more sober and subtle men of conscience like the late Tunde Akinleye.

As Nigeria turns to the home stretch in the current struggle to eject from the political space the people who hijacked and captured the state for purpose other than the advance of the Common Good of all, the imperative of lifting, in tribute, for honour due them, and to raise their spirits as battle axes in the fight to liberate Nigeria from its current captors and tormentors, seems quite appropriate.

In many ways the collapse of the order of abuse, impunity and obsessive self- love, a hard to understand narcissism, was predictable and predicted. But the speed of the unravelling of political parties of state capture seems to be faster than anticipated. On October 2, 2019 a highly regarded Senior Advocate of Nigeria who had handled many of the big elections cases for one of the so-called major parties said to me: “Your people fear neither God nor man, but just watch, their end is near”.

It sounded quite philosophical but the rush to collapse as we watch today is moving at the pace of the collapse of the Eastern bloc after the Berlin wall came down under Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost. May be it is the hand of God, more clear than that which helped Diego Maradona.

Will the alternative path produce a real political party that will recruit, prune and develop people of service, guided by a world view that advances the good of all and are accountable to the people who are sovereign? Will political life be reduced to simple life of the type that allowed Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa to stop his driver when he saw Rev. Fr. Pedro Martins, Chaplain at St. Gregory’s College by his broken down car, and chose to walk to the PMs residence as he instructed his driver to drop off the priest.

Can our new leaders act as servants and not the served who feel entitled to the treasury? Will the poltical class that emerges next year from this coming Tsunami be knowledgeable enough for us not to be world’s development laggards? Will production replace sharing revenues in the mindset of the new order? These are pertinent questions as engineers of the new order focus on big issues and not big men in the run up to 2023 elections.

In the last three years, beginning while the 2019 shambolic elections were still in progress, quiet and committed work has been going on to construct a new political order that would focus on values of inclusion, the dignity of the human person, the importance of knowledge and a sense of service in leadership, among others.

I have been privileged to be part of these. When I led a delegation to meet the NLC President and his NEC in session more than two years ago I had a feeling we were on to something. But I could hardly have anticipated how much labour would become engaged from both NLC and TUC committed to a new regime of leadership in Nigeria.

The groundswell would be buoyed by women groups injured and brought alive by the sense of exclusion and entitlement of today’s rulers who treated women with contempt in their constitutional review efforts, and youth alienated by the heartless, bloody and brutally undemocratic manner the current order would come against peaceful young people just asking for change with EndSARS protest, something that was the motto of those now in power.

In seeking to build to last a party rooted in a people centred push for inclusive rapid economic growth and social harmony rooted in human solidarity, respect for the environment and that the earth is our mother, we must not forget the people whose passions got us here. I have insisted in these in all the ‘Third Force’, mega party or alternative track party meetings I have attended.

I treat as special the fact that some of the heroes like Innocent Chukwuma and Chidi Ubani often spoke to being inspired by the legend of our time in student politics at the UNN, which they met many years after us. I used to joke that legend was dangerous as they can romanticise and exaggerate reality from a time past. I none-the-less enjoyed that they learnt of the fables our many troubles as student leaders.

It is almost horrifying that I have now to raise the legend of their spectacular contribution instead of focusing on that of Emeka Enejere who was before us, or Adaka Boro much earlier, while they argue about my own time. But it is what it is. What must happen is that the present reconstruction must remember that the youth bulge defines us and that Chidi, Innocent and Co were in the prime of their youth when they became national heroes.

We must then invoke their spirit in seeking to reconstruct the moment to give nobler meaning to being a young person in Nigeria. The hopelessness that has become the reality of now for many young people, triggering suicides in the face of another ASUU strike, needs to be constructed into a party plank for massive employment generation and new challenges that rejuvenate the hope of the young.

As the pledge of our anthem is that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain, the youth of Nigeria need to embrace this tribute to these heroes as impetus for spirited effort in social and political organising to bring Nigeria to a new dawn. Let us release into orbit the spirits of these heroes to guide the young of these times to reclaim the promise of Nigeria.

A starting point for young people is to massively register to vote and seek to proselytise a new order among their peers. They should run with the Ibrahim Shekarau story to others that are being dispirited by the view that votes do not count. That view is the new false consciousness. As the youth in Kano policed the votes in 2007 and a civil servant with no money defeated an incumbent so can youth all over Nigeria, especially now they have some help from the new electoral law do to the power men of today. Hopefully they may have both Shekarau and Kwankwaso on their side.

If you are of voting age and you have not registered to vote you weigh down the spirit of these heroes that we seek to lift off into orbit. If you also volunteer to be part of the vote policing network, you do more. If you canvas voter registration of your peers, you travel even farther.

Surely the remarkable work that Atahiru Jega, Mike Ozekhome, Femi Falana, Ayuba Wabba, Usman Bugaje and others are doing will stand us in good stead for this much longed for rebirth to come to our country. This is much helped by the righteous few in both PDP and APC waiting to join the big tent as the train readies to leave the station. Their coaches are marked R-PDP and R-APC. See you in 2023 when Nigerians can sing Happy Days are here Again.

Utomi, a political economist and professor of Entrepreneurship is Chairman and Leader of the NCFront midwiving the alternative political party in Nigeria

Vanguard News Nigeria

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.