Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Second Republic politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is one of the few surviving statesmen that was very active in politics by 1960 when Nigeria became independent. Reflecting on Nigeria at 60, he went down memory lane.
May we have your thoughts and reflections on Nigeria at 60… you are certainly one of the few remaining key players at the point of Nigeria’s Independence.
We should all be grateful to Almighty Allah for making it possible for us to survive 60 years after Independence. Not all the countries survived this far after their Independence. So, I think we have quite a lot to be grateful to Allah that we are able to surmount a lot of problems, including an attempt to dismember the country. How I wish you were around to know that by December 1960(I will give an example); In the field of education in Kano particularly and in the North…In Kano, we had only one secondary school, that is Kano Mixed School by 1960. After Independence, we started by adding two or three secondary schools- one in Hadejia, one in Birnin – Kudu and one other secondary school. But today, we have so many secondary schools in Kano and across the region. Now, when you look at the development that have taken place in the field of education alone, then you will appreciate that we have progress from where we were by October 1st, 1960. It is important that you look at at it from the perspective of nationwide development in education. By October1st, 1960, we had only the Ibadan College as a tertiary Institution and even that Ibadan was a branch of University in London. Whoever graduated from that college would not be issued the certificate of that Ibadan college. Rather, his certificate would bear the name of the London University or a British university. Today, we have no less than 200 tertiary institutions in Nigeria. And these institutions are churning out graduates year in, year out. Whoever can take the trouble to work out how many graduate are turned out yearly in Nigeria would certainly see that it is a huge number of human capacity development that is taking place in the country. In that aspect, we have made progress, even though I totally agree with those who believed that we would have made more significant progress. But certainly we have made progress. In the field of development in the country, I will tell you that we have no tarred road network across most parts of the country. There was just no tarred roads anywhere. But today, the road networks in Nigeria, both that of the states and the Federal Government, are endless in number. Nobody can today count the number of roads in Nigeria. In that area too- as well as in several areas, we have made progress in the last 60 years. We must admit that too.
Are there disappointments that you will like to talk about in this 60 year-old journey?
Yes, I am coming to that too…immediately after Independence, our leaders then embarked on development efforts.Western Nigeria was fired with free education under Awolowo- some people in Western Nigeria would talk about television, but I don’t see that as a big achievement. If you compare the development of education in Eastern Nigeria as from Independence to 1966, it was awesome. The development of education in Eastern Nigeria was higher that the development of Education in Western Nigeria as at the time of Independence. Now if you come to the North, by 1953, when the motion for Independence was moved by Chief Anthony Enaharo, to the best of my knowledge , we had only one graduate and that was Dr. I. A. B Dikko. If there was any other person, I don’t know. I am sure about Ishaya Audu. But the two of them were sent out by missionaries. Today, it would take you a milestone of efforts to know how many graduates we have in the region and in the country. This is an achievement! Where we have not been able to make progress is in the aspect of governance, good governance. And unfortunately, this is not because our leaders were not capable of good governance, but because of some other factors. What happened between independence in 1960 and 1966, if you compare the achievements recorded by the immediate successors of colonial governance, you would surely be impressed by the achievements made by the three regions and also the Federal Government under Sir Tafewa Balewa. If we had continued all along that line, by this time our achievements would have been greater. But unfortunately, the intervention, the military incursion into politics had scuttled everything. At the time of this military intervention, you can join the rail from Kano straight to Lagos or to Port-Harcourt and the following morning, you are in your destination. But today, you cannot imagine that, talk-less of hoping for that.
Reflections are usually positive and some negative. Are there areas of regrets, areas that we got it wrong substantially that you would like to share with our readers?
Yes this is where I am landing….. our misfortune started with military coup of 1966. It stopped our journey to development, certainly and introduced a number of negative issues. You see, we have been having coups after coups and one of the results of those coups were that they were not driven by the feeling of patriotism. They were driven by envy and selfishness between and among the military officers involved and that disrupted our journey to development. It also killed the spirit of nationalism and introduced hatred along ethnic and religious lines. The same countries that we were at par with at that time, countries like Malaysia, India and the rest of them have done better for themselves than we have done in these years. You would see that they have gone far ahead from where we are today. And what had prevented us from going ahead was the various problems brought about by military intervention.
What is the role of ethnicity and regional hatred in the under-development of Nigeria in these years?
They played a role, no doubt about it. But they were brought about by military politics. Take the instance of state creation. We started with 12 states but now we have 36 states. The negative aspect of state creation is what is making Nigeria impossible to develop. A country that commits 70 percent of its total revenue to bureaucracy would never make progress. It is a simple logic. Seventy to seventy -five of our national earnings, federal and states, are committed to bureaucracy. So, the creation of more states now revived the feelings of ethnicity, tribalism, sectionalism and mediocrity in Nigeria because whether they can do it or not, they are given positions as governors and presidents regardless of their level of competence and merit. The bureaucracy as we have in Nigeria, most of them were not there by merit. They are always picked because they represent a group or an interest.
What are you projections for the future of the country?
Let me say that most of these problems are sustained because our political party system is bastardized. Previously, our parties have their own leaders. Members of the parties were loyal to their leaders, but when Obasanjo came as president, he appointed himself as the leader of the party without any constitutional backing. And no important party decision could be taken by the party without his consent or approval. Then he bribed the governors by making them leaders of the parties in their respective states. The result is that there is nobody that can aspire to a political party in his state without getting the approval of the president or the governor of the state. So, the power of the party had been hijacked by the presidents and governors… and therefore, our political party system has been vandalized. I must add that the same goes to the electoral process. Our election process, too, has been vandalized. Now, the last straw that broke the carmel’s back was the deterioration of the quality of justice in our politics system particularly as it relates to the issue of elections. I am of the opinion that the courts and the tribunals should be given the power to hand over the mandate from one person to another. They can go through the complaints of the petitioners and if they are satisfied that the election process was faulty, all they can do was to dissolve the election and order for fresh polls, but not to hand over or transfer mandate from one person to another.
Do you think that Nigeria can revive the immediate post 1960 growth that you talked about?
Yes, that is possible. But honestly, we must go back to the drawing board, have political parties that are controlled by the members, have elections that would reflect the wishes of the electorate and have a judiciary that do justices to the people. When we do all these and more, then we would start getting back to some of the speed that we lost with the intervention of the military in politics.