Soyinka: Nigeria on the brink
Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka warned yesterday that Nigeria is on the brink.
If the leadership fails to halt the growing insecurity, said the playwright, it may end in a civil war.
The National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, faulted the Federal Government's handling of the Boko Haram crisis and suggested 'a carrot and stick approach'.
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi faulted the current political arrangement, where people without known pedigrees find their way into public offices. He suggested a review to enthrone the best.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make public the process for mergers to ensure that parties willing to fuse together do so easily. This, he said, will prevent unnecessary acrimony and reduce the cost of elections.
They all spoke in Lagos at the fifth edition of 'The Bola Tinubu Colloquium' held as part of activities marking the former Lagos Governor's 61st birthday.
The theme was 'Beyond mergers: A national movement for change. A new generation speaks'.
Other speakers were young professionals -members of the new generation.
They includeManaging Director, Frontier Capital Limited, Femi Edun; Chief Executive Officer, Venia Consulting, Kolawole Oyeneyin; lawyer Myani Bukar; musician Olubankole Wellington (Banky W) and Special Adviser to Ogun State Governor on Millenium Development Goals Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Costello.
Soyinka particularly faulted the way President Goodluck Jonathan appears to be treating the threat posed by the Boko Haram insurgency.
'Let's face it. This nation is on the brink. There are those who don't understand this, who won't accept this. I feel very sorry that they will wake up and find out that we have fallen over the brink. It is not what we envisaged during our struggle for independence.
'It is not what we envisaged when we struggled to overthrow dictatorship and install the rights and dignity of human beings and citizens in the society. But, whether we like it or not, it has come upon us.
'My problem with the government right now, especially the President of this nation, is that he doesn't seem to realise it.
'He has not taken the people of this nation into confidence. By now, it is my belief that the President should be addressing the nation - and in great details - explaining why, if he agrees, that this nation is at war and that certain things have to be done to ensure that we pull back from this second round of what is moving towards a civil war. That, of course, is if he and his government accept this.
'By now, we should be tightening our belts in many different directions. By now, we should never have persuaded ourselves to see what is happening in the North as being confined in the North. It has been obvious all along that this is not a Northern affair alone; no!
'I read in the papers the other day that some cells have been found, trying to blow up Lagos. My reaction was what is new about that?, We have said this ages before on various lecture podia, that wait a minute, it is happening there, but believe me, it is happening every where.
'And this consciousness should have been imparted to Nigerian citizens from the very beginning, at least two years ago. So that everyone understands that the problem we are facing right now is not just regional. It is national, it is a humanistic problem.
'I remember the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I can't remember precisely what they were, but I know they were plagues. There is the fifth. And it is called Boko Haram. That is the kind of language that the leadership of this nation should be imparting to Nigerian citizens today,' Soyinka said.
In Tinubu's view, Nigeria is drfting apart because 'we have leadership that is dividing us more and more every day'.
He called for value reorientation among the leadership and suggested a reversal to the old national anthem that de-emphasises differences.
'We must question ourselves in Nigeria. I disagree with my brother and friend Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who says youth may form your own party. Politics is not economic policy where you can change a bank note.
'If only to merge, some people are already forging names, and trying to prevent the creation of APC. You can imagine what you will go through.Come and join us. You see, with a wife like this (pointing to Oluremi standing behind him), is politics not sexy? Join us, it's sexy here on our side.
'On your side, it is a challenge that you have to face. It's not a question about age. We have seen example of age.
'The present President is a young man, but he has been appointing an 83-year-old man to be chairman, not just of board of trustees, but of Ports Authority where high decisions, articulated, modern, 21st century information technology are needed. How do you modernise? So, youth belong here.
'We can see the live tweets of this event. So, it's not about age. There are a lot of educated relics. I have not seen anything higher than Ph.D in the academic curriculum of universities. So, we have a Ph.D man (holder) there now.
'What will do it for you is strong determination, perseverance, courage and boldness. If we fail to join the movement, we'll fail to continue to interrogate our leaders, and fail to do what you did during the oil subsidy removal.'
On security, Tinubu said: 'No nation has fought a religious war and survived it. It is no winner, no loser. We'll end up coming to the table to discuss. Therefore, it's a clarion call: we must find those who are responsible for the bloodshed, but we must apply justice.
'Those with human blood in their hands must be brought to justice. But we cannot throw away the question of amnesty. It's a carrot-and-stick approach. And we used it before. Surrender your guns; we give you money for it. Why can't we do it again?'
The CBN Governor, who took over from Soyinka as chairman of the event, argued that it was wrong to assess a nation's economy in isolation of the wellbeing of the people.
'What is destroying this country is that people are corrupt and doing nothing. We need to be asking, as civil society, what are we doing?
'One governor asked a minister publicly, 'in the years you have been minister of so, so ministry, please tell me one project you have completed'. I have been reading the newspapers everyday to see the projects completed by that minister. I have not seen one.
'Now, this is not a question that a governor should be asking a minister. It is a question that Nigerians should be asking their public officers. How can you be a governor or minister for four years and not be able to stand up and say this is what I have done.
'And you know what will happen? After the elections, the same ministers will go through a process that is supposed to be a screening process, and they will stand there on national TV, and talk about what they did as ministers, and they will end up saying nothing. And they will be unanimously confirmed.
'We are a country which has absolutely no regard for merit and competence. We talk about federal character. There must be a minister from every state. I have talked about this over and over again.
'What is the connection or relationship between the number of states in the federation and the number of ministries we should have at the federal level?
'It is so unintelligent. So, you must have 36 ministers whether or not you need 30 ministries. Plus another six from different geo-political zones. And the only qualification to be a minister is that you should come from a state and should have attempted WASCE.
'In other countries, it is assumed that before someone is even proposed for public office, he would have to show certain skills,' Sanusi said.
He urged the youth to be inquisitive, engage the nation's leaders and get involved in political activities so that they could help bring about the needed change.
Sanusi argued that the youth could effect the change the nation desires if they could organise themselves and form a political party. He noted that with their current population, they could displace the current old political players.
Fashola faulted the political arrangement in the country, noting that as things are now, it will be difficult for the ruling party to be displaced and the needed change brought about.
He said such would only be possible if the merger being planned by the opposition succeeds, thereby narrowing down the gap between the ruling party and the opposition.
'In India, the difference between the opposition and the party in power is so thin. So, the party in government disconnects with its people at its own peril. It's out at the next election. So, that is the capacity for change that the merger that is on the horizon brings. The only thing that I can say to the regulator of that process is that I have looked at the provisions for merger as well.
'It is the same oil money that passes through our hands that passes through the leaders of Dubai. Therefore, although the guidelines are there, the question to ask is what does a party that needs to merge do? Should it keep its name and hide it because some people will hijack it?
'Or should it get a trademark and patent first? In my view, the regulator owes a duty to this society to ensure that the provision for mergers have a real chance of being actualised. And in that way, it will save itself the agony of re-registering parties and deregistering them, because once it midwifes one merger, the possibility for strengthening political alliances becomes real.
'The cost of election in that sense will come down. Ballot papers will stop looking like a long sheet for pool betting.
'I think, therefore, that the signs coming out now are very refreshing and I hope that as we look on beyond mergers, we'll see that the birth of mergers will give us a new national movement for change that will include a very strong positioning for this generation, the generation of tomorrow that are here today.'
At the event anchored by Lagos State's Attorney General Ade Ipaye were ACN National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande, the party's chieftain, Tom Ikimi, Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim, Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Abu Ibrahim and Senator OlorunnimbeMamora.
There were also governors - Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), former governors Segun Osoba (Ogun) - Otunba Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Donald Duke (Cross River) and Abubakar Audu (Kogi).
Otthers include Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Ayo Opadokun, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, rights activist and lawyer Femi Falana (SAN).
Oyeneyin, who spoke passionately on the topic, 'Beyond Merger- Responsibility of Older generation to the younger generation said many youths were angry with the country our leaders left for us.
To him, the situation is like a time bomb waiting to explode - if nothing is done to address it.
'We are a generation that have never witness a good Nigeria and I speak for myself and people within my age bracket. We have kept so much in our heart as young people and I think time has come for us to speak out, Oyeneyin said.
He said it is sad that a country with youth population of 67 million, the present political structure is built in such a way that the youth have been cut off from governance.
He said change would come if young people are brought on board, considering that they have the intellectual and human capacity.
He also charged the leaders to kill the mentality that youth are leaders of tomorrow. 'Tomorrow is already here,' Oyeneyin said.
He said the youth must be part of the ideology, stressing that they must not be left out in decision making.
Mrs Abiola-Costello, who spoke on 'Millenium Development Goals- where is Nigeria,' said the country was lagging behind in the implementation of the eight goals, but, in her view, the Southwestern states have done so well compared to their counterparts from other region.
Wellington urged the youth to be involved in the political process, by first, registering to vote, and actually voting for the right candidates.
It is either they do that, he said, or they sit back and let someone else 'steal your voice'.
He said the youth should continue to protest peacefully against misrule, using social media (also new media) as a tool. 'Become fully involved in the political process. Use whatever voice or platform you have constructively,' Wellington said.
Bukar argued that most internal conflicts where citizens kill one another often arise from countries' inability to effectively define who a citizen is.
He praised the effort of the National Assembly to replace state of origin with residency in the Constitution.
'Indigineship should be replaced with residency; Federal Character principle should be done away with. Land ownership should be revisited,' Bukar said.
He urged the youths to be interested in, and involve in the task of nation building.
He praised the attempt by the opposition to form a formidable party, but warned that they should be interested in the country's growth, failing which the youths will cease to collaborate with them. The Nation