Last week, we introduced a new series on the continuous search for Nigeria’s elusive unity and indivisibility. Our thesis is to show that Nigeria at a time once stocked great leaders. Now read on.
Before self-rule, Nigeria was held in high esteem, by the international community, a shadow of what we have today. In fact, a British commentator once said, “Many expect Nigeria to be the foremost negro state of the continent.” Sadly, the failure of our leaders to live up to its billing has left Nigeria in tatters, desolation and despondency.
The problem with Nigeria’s leaderships is that they seem to be oblivious of the negative effect their actions and inactions have on their followers. The truth being that the people imitate their leaders.
The genesis of tribal politics in Nigeria
For instance, sectional and tribal politics was said to have started in Nigeria when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was prevented from heading the government of the western region by the Action Group, which also prevented him from being elected into the Western House of Assembly and to the House of Representatives in Lagos. This action angered the Igbo, who requested Zik to return to Eastern region, where he went and dislodged Chief Eyo Ita, a Calabar man, and became the first premier of Eastern Region.
However, the foregoing does not in any way obviate the critical roles played by the then premiers of the three, later four, regions in lifting Nigeria out of doldrums and colonial asphyxiation.
In his autobiography, “The Realist Of A Nation”, Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, stated that: “In the history of every nation, there are persons whose contributions are so permanent that even when they die, those deeds of theirs will never die. Those are of history immortals. They are found in every field of human endeavours – education, the economy, sports, the sciences, arts, the professions, administration, and politics. God plants them here and there sparingly, once in a while, and scattered through the terrain of human history.”
The Nigerian pathfinders
Nigeria and Nigerians would not in a hurry forget the unforgettable roles played by its founding fathers, namely, their contributions, achievements and, of course, their inadequacies. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo, and Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Michael Okpara, to mention but a few, contributed largely to shaping the present socio-economic, political climate and cultural landscape of Nigeria. The great efforts of these titans, like we saw of strong leaders in Britain, America, China, Russia and the Asian Tigers, form the gravamen of our present discourse in the new series, beginning today.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe
Azikiwe was born on 16th of November, 1904, in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria. Nnamdi means “My father is alive” in the Igbo language. His parents were Igbo; his father, Obededom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe (1879–1958), an Onitsha-indigene and clerk in the British Administration of Nigeria, who had traveled extensively because of the nature of his job. Zik’s mother was Rachel Chinwe Azikiwe, sometimes called Nwanonaku, whose family was descended from a royal house in Onitsha. Her paternal great grandfather was Obi Anazenwu. Azikiwe had only one sibling, a sister, named Cecilia Eziamaka Arinze. Growing up as a young boy in Northern Region, Nigeria, Azikiwe spoke Hausa, the language of the region. However, his father, apprehensive of his child’s fluency in Hausa and not Igbo, sent him to Onitsha, in 1912, to live with his paternal grandmother and aunt to enable him learn the Igbo language and culture.
In Onitsha, Zik attended Holy Trinity School, a Roman Catholic Mission school and then Christ Church School, an Anglican primary school. In 1914, his father was working in Lagos. When Azikiwe was bitten by a dog, his father, worried about Zik’s health, ordered him to come to Lagos, so as to heal and also attend school in the city. Two years later, his father was posted out of Lagos to Kaduna and Azikiwe briefly lived with a relative, who was married to a Muslim from Sierra Leone. (To be continued next week).
Rivers rerun heralds jackboot democracy
It is so shameful and embarrassing to our collective decency that a ruling party, the APC, and its highest leadership, will resort to incendiary vituperations over mere Senatorial, House of Representatives and State Assembly elections. What manner of jackboot democracy will force the chairman of the ruling party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to urge his party members to retaliate whatever they receive from the PDP (an eye for an eye and tit for tat)? Describing the rerun as “the beginning of a rescue mission”, he said, “if they push you, push them back. If they slap you, slap them back… We came in force. The whole federal might is here. You have the governors of this nation, here today… enough is enough.”
And indeed, the federal might was blatantly and unconscionably exhibited with an armada and apparatchik of armoured tanks, platoons of soldiers, thousands of police, hovering helicopters, and patrol gun boats. Such a statement (which was clearly derided and belittled by the final outcome of the election where the APC managed a miserly one Senator, three House of Representatives and three House of Assembly victories, as against PDP’s two, ten and six, respectively), was inflammatory. What of immediate past governor, Rotimi Amaechi, a PDP Speaker for eight years and PDP governor for six years? Cheered on by twelve APC governors, NASS members, ministers and top government shots, Amaechi roared:
“This is what is called election of our lives… Do not kill anybody; but don’t allow yourself to be killed… I don’t want to hear that they snatched the result sheet from you. If they snatch it, collect it back from them. My phone will be switched off. Nobody should call me. The only time you will call me is from 6pm when you have won the election.”
Such barefaced drumbeat of war and instigation to violence from a minister of the Federal Republic, and a former governor, who should protect his people, as father of all, did not brood nor accommodate the humiliating defeat they suffered in the hands of a divided, ill-equipped, but popular party of Rivers people.
The icing on the cake was by Governor Mohammed Ganduje of Kano State (who has been biting Kwankwanso’s generous fingers that fed him). He urged APC supporters to take cover when shot at, and emerge to shoot back.
Pray, when did election in Nigeria graduate from the peaceful concession and handover by GEJ of May 29, 2016, to a major internecine warfare that threatens to overshadow Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Our electoral democracy has simply been bastardised into jackboot democracy. It is simply egregious, alarming and spine-chilling. The earlier President Buhari gets interested in this bizarre naked dance of madness, the earlier he can save our savagely endangered democratic process.
Thought for the week
Concession speech by Ghanain President, John Mahama
“I think we lost because our time was simply up, and no amount of deceptive campaign promises could keep us in power. No amount of monopolisation of the media space could save us. No amount of money could stop our defeat. No amount of local and international celebrity endorsements could help us. And no amount of vote buying could stand the irresistible hurricane of change that shook our nation on Wednesday.
I will urge my party members to stop the “blamestorming” that has started so that we brainstorm on how to get ourselves out of the mess we have put ourselves in. The future of our great party looks gloomy and we have to start work on how to get ourselves out of what appears like an eternal stay in opposition. In life, when you are hit by the subduing blow of misfortune, you have two options. You can allow that blow to crush you. You can also move on with the enormous lessons such misfortunes often present. I cannot immediately tell my next move in life, politics and my role in our great party. But if I should ever make a comeback to politics, the lessons I have learnt from our defeat should serve as the moral code, which will guide how I guide myself.
I have learnt that the Ghanaian voter, though mainly uneducated and simple, is more sophisticated than we thought. I have learnt that it is unacceptable for the people to loot, hoard and splash during elections.
I have learnt that the calls of the noisy minority cannot be ignored because they largely shape the opinions of the silent minority, whom we politicians exploit for our selfish gain. I have learnt that not all those who criticised us hated us. Sometimes, the best way to express your love for someone is to be critical of their actions. If I should ever return, I will not display a “dead-goat syndrome” towards disaffection of the masses.
When those who opposed us cried foul, we retorted, “Hate can’t win.” Tonight, however, I am the first to admit that some hate can win. This election has taught me that the hate of corruption can win. It has taught me that hate of incompetence can win. Our defeat has taught me that hate of impunity can win. I have learnt that the hate of the obscene display of ill-gotten opulence wins. I have learnt that hate of mediocrity and deception definitely wins. And I have learnt that hating evil will forever triumph over the love of evil. That was what happened on Wednesday.
Another important lesson I have learnt from this defeat is that the success or failure of a leader depends on the kind of people he or she surrounds themselves with. While Rawlings appointed the likes of Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas as deputy ministers, I made the mistake of giving that respectable position to the likes of John Oti Bless. I have now realised, rather too late, that if I had kept the likes of Ben Dotsei Malor and Dr. Raymond Atuguba around me, they would have injected some semblance of sanity into the Presidency and given that high office an aura of respectability and decency. The praise-singing sycophants, who act on the dictates of their stomachs are only specialised at telling you what you want to hear. Unfortunately, I did not listen to voices of reason. Our elders say a disease that will kill a man first breaks sticks into his ears.”
Is PMB reading, hearing and digesting Mahama’s heart-rendering confession? Time will tell. Happy week, Nigerians.