AWO AT 101: IS NIGERIA MOVING FORWARD?
The socio-economic and political situation of Nigeria today is one that does not merit the kind of efforts and self-sacrifice our founding leaders made for the country. From the visions they had and how they pursued its actualisation, it is quite obvious this is not the Nigeria of their dreams. Looking at Nigeria from a human point of view, a child born 50 years. ago should by now be a grown-up. He is expected to be married with children, have a good job, comfortable, able to solve his own problems, and planning a secured future for his children.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (the list goes on) are men of indefatigable character, who saw a country with infinitesimal influence on the outside world but still, with an infinity of resources and potentials. And because they believed in fatherland, they set out to achieve a common goal which is the emancipation and unity of Nigeria.
From 1960 to 2010, many leaders have come and gone, all doing what they feel is best, and the result is what we have left today. We saw parliamentary system of government, witnessed coup d'etats and 11 years ago heralded democracy in Nigeria. Thus, we have seen it all and we should have been more than this. To avoid incoherence, I decided to stick to only one past great leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who is very connected to the history of Nigeria.
The qualities that set Pa Awo apart are hardwork, selflessness, courage, patriotism, God-fearing, integrity and his good conscience. With these qualities which are very rare in an average Nigerian politician today, he was able to achieve greatness for himself and his country. No leader in Nigeria today is really interested in casting his name in gold forever. They do not seem to care about what people say or want. Everyday, newspapers write editorials, print people's views and opinions, but still what we have is this inert system.
Pa Awo lived from 1909 till 1987,yet 23 years after his demise, every sector in Nigeria still points to him. His signature is on all the sectors-Labour, Housing, Education, Health, Sports, Agriculture, Industrialisation, Roads & transportation, Political organisations and even the mass media. What a phenomenon! He must be a forerunner or better still, a workaholic.
Through hardwork he was able to stamp his footprints and fingerprints on all sectors. He went into politics because he wanted to serve the people and not to rule them. Many politicians today want to hold public offices at all cost, leading to all the election riggings. Pa Awo's patriotism led him to make friends with leaders of other regions-North and East-without minding the differences they might have had. Come October 1,another green and white cake will be cut in front of an august assembly in Aso Rock to mark the golden jubilee of independence. Does it really call for celebration? Sorry, I do not think so.
President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has been sick, was flown outside the country for three months in which the citizens were left in the dark concerning his state of health. He also failed to transmit a letter formally to the Senate to request for a medical vacation. According to Pa Awo: 'Man is the executant of every project designed by him…His complete fitness is therefore, crucial to his success in the process both of planning and execution…' It is true President Yar'Adua has plans for the country but he can achieve them only when he is healthy. I know he has conscience. He shouldn't allow himself to be gagged by anybody to come back abruptly. It was obvious he needed a vacation long ago, even before he got sick. He deserves a rest, as he met Nigeria not better than this. He was just a victim of time and situations beyond his control.
In the recent reformation of Nigerian banks by the CBN governor, most of the main players affected were religious men and women. One of them (I do not want to mention names) is yet to come out of hiding to vindicate himself. Why? Because he knows sooner or later he will be forgotten by the authorities. Are the authorities really doing enough to curb financial crimes? No, and why should they? The politicians who constitute these authorities are the most involved in financial crimes. They are the real money launderers.
In Nigeria, students study in pressure and discomfort yet, some people (including the education minister) had the effrontery and temerity to speak of half-baked graduates. If our leaders continue to neglect education like they do now, we will soon have 'unbaked' graduates in Nigeria! Why not? Since the system is faulty. All over the world, very intellectual Nigerians are scattered everywhere, afraid of coming home, where the government policies are unpredictable.
During the face-off between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which lasted for about four months last year and which grounded government-owned universities, I saw something in a widely read newspaper (not this one) that will later influence part of this write-up. It was the picture of a southwest governor, the governor's wife and daughter, a PDP chieftain from southwest, and the Minister for Youth Development, all in front of a London university. They went to celebrate the graduation of the governor's daughter from the school. No wonder they were never concerned about the strike.
It has become the normal tradition for some Senators and Honorables whenever they visit their constituencies, to distribute 'dividends of democracy' such as motorcycles, grinding machines and to build vocational training centres with their names. You can never fool all the people at the same time. I believe vocational centres should only be an addition to sound education. Any entrepreneur without education in a country like Nigeria will have no say in the affairs of the country. Even Pa Awo learnt a vocation (stenography), but he never depended on it to fulfill his dreams until he got good education. Lawmakers who build more and more vocational centres everyday are just short of ideas.
When you cannot fix schools which are currently in deteriorating conditions but you can make more cobblers and shoe-shiners through these vocational training stuffs, then you lack good ideologies. I wonder what they treat at their party gatherings. Today's politicians are too occupied with how to stop oppositions and the result is this inertia in the nation. Pa Awo never bothered about oppositions but the masses. What a quintessential man! A man for all seasons! The best president Nigeria never had. What a loss!
We have potentials but no harnessing of these potentials. Nigeria is no longer an industrialized nation. The industries that functioned in the 80s and 90s have all gone to Ghana and South Africa. The main 'industry' in Nigeria today is Okada riding. The Chinese and Lebanese are making all our money now. Yet our leaders pretend as if they do not know all these things.
Public schools are in deteriorating conditions all over the country. In some schools, pupils sit on bare floor or hang on windows. I was part of this system and I know what it looks like. Presently, the future looks gloomy. We cannot make future leaders in this path we currently toe. Our leaders still travel abroad to assess their health and for vacations. Why? There is no qualitative health facility in the country.
In January, I saw a picture of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa while he was still Nigeria's Prime Minister in the 60s.He was on vacation in his village sitting on bare floor with his children and they were eating sugarcane together. Does it mean the man was timid? No, he travelled around the world like many of our present leaders. He was just humble in service. What a great man!
Let us stop abusing the sick President alone. Let all of us do our very best for our country. Some governors are already vying for the post of Vice President. Is this not for their selfish interest? Apart from the time of Pa Awo and the rest, no President or Head of state had the real ambition to serve Nigeria, they were all opportunists. Nigeria is our only home, let us make it a better place.
Yes, Nigeria will move forward if we can all accept our responsibilities as the conductor of our destiny, and our nation.
Tomiwa writes from Lagos