By Ariyo-Dare Atoye & Rotimi Opeyeoluwa
Alas, the dam of impunity is fast caving in on us and it will not be too long before everything bursts, that is, if we fail to urgently act to salvage this sinking nation of great potentials that are begging to be tapped. For how long shall we continue on this conscienceless path, groping aimlessly in the dark and thinking that this nation will not one day explode on all of us? Truth exalts a nation, but lack of wisdom drives it into ignominy. By our own undoing, we are held captive in exile away from rational approaches to building a working and decent nation. But, for how long will this be?
The sacrificial blood of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi – a redemptive blood of July 29, 1967, may soon expire except we act to urgently salvage this nation. The man we all love to remember today had a deep spiritual foresight about Nigeria, through the grace of God upon his life, before he convinced himself to give his all. He saw in Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, not just a visiting Head of State or a guest that must be protected, but he saw the spirit of Nigeria in him and a nation waiting to be killed. The shedding of Fajuyi’s precious blood is a fundamental spiritual reason God has been using the Yoruba nation to keep this country alive till today.
The startling level of leadership inertia, recklessness, injustice, wickedness, hatred, divisiveness, ethno-religious crises is weighing heavily on this nation, tearing down the cord of unity and making the different federating units to be having a serious rethink. It is evident all over and we may continue to pretend at our own peril, but the realities are with us. The current agitation over restructuring is the least we can do to redeem a lost nation. The crux of it is that, if we do not know where we are headed with our false federalism, we should know where we are coming from – a regional government that worked. So much lessons to learn from what had worked.
We lack conscientious leaders, and for decades, Nigeria is left to be ravaged by the two most dangerous afflictions that could annihilate a modern state and drive the people into eternal servitude: leadership profligacy and economic repartitioning. As a nation, we have made nonsense of the popular axiom: “once bitten, twice shy.” The historical European scrambling for and partitioning of Africa in which Nigeria became a victim during the December 1884-1885 (January) Berlin Conference, was never enough a lesson. Because we wasted the abundant opportunity to use what we had to develop ourselves, we wallowed in profligacy. We have now painfully drifted into a new phase of shameful partitioning.
A sincere evaluation of the present day Nigeria will reveal a nation that is economically partitioned by the Chinese, Lebanese, Indians and South Africa. Other emerging economies who have also come to feast on Nigeria as a large market waiting to be conquered. We are in a state worse than neo-colonialism. The current landlords of our economy are exploiting us in a fashion similar to a nation in exile, lacking purpose and direction. Unfortunately we have outsourced our development to foreigners. Our leadership sense is warped. Every year, we are producing manpower that our government cannot think of how to effectively utilise. We have failed to learn from the sacrifice put in place by some past eminent leaders and heroes of our nation.
Fifty-one years after the death of Fajuyi, the unfolding scenario in the political arena where ethnic and clannish leadership is jeopardising the continuous unity of this nation, leaves much to be desired. The reality, today, is indeed unpalatable and sad. Our country is still far from the real harbour of peace and unity. The country is challenged by needless blood-letting, strife, anger and deep power imbalance to the utter shock and expectation of what ought to be in a pluralistic state.
The path of Fajuyi was defined by what is entirely lacking in our leadership system – conscientious and sacrificial leadership. He was reputed to have said: “When our country calls upon us for sacrifice, we shall be worthy to follow those who, in all the ages and countries, have lived and even died for God and freedom.” This profound statement of courage and nobility had, sadly, been alienated from the thinking of several leaders who have led us since the demise of this great soldier. He fought wars to preserve the peace of the world and gave his all to Nigeria. He understood the need for everyone to live in peace and enjoy stability.
On assuming duty as a Military Governor of Western Nigeria, he brought into his office all the qualities which had distinguished him as a great soldier. ‘It was a call to duty’ according to him, and he further explained in a military fashion – “Quite honestly, I don’t feel like a Governor; I feel more like a soldier – a soldier of peace. Essentially, I am a soldier. This is merely an extra – regimental duty as far as I am concerned. I would be happier in the barracks with my soldiers than in this palatial Government House.”
As we remember Fajuyi, a soldier of soldiers with great attributes: professional in service, dutiful in assignments, affable and warm personality, intensely patriotic, accommodating, broad-minded, frank, devoted and resolute officer; let us also be reflective of the state of our country and how we appreciate the real sacrifice of our past heroes. A country that ill-treats its true heroes with disdain or lacking in means of recognising them and giving them their entitlement (eternal memorial) is living a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Ultimately, the story of his death is a testimony of courage.
In 1967, the place of Lt. Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi as a conscientious leader of immense bravery was etched in the annals of this nation. In the Nigerian pantheon, his place as a great leader and an exceptional military officer who was killed protecting his Commander-in-Chief, Major General Aguyi-Ironsi, makes him fit for yearly remembrance. We will continue to remember him and celebrate his unparalleled virtues.
But as we approach another electoral circus in 2019, the onus is on all of us to commence very early, the noble search for conscientious and God fearing leaders. We are talking of leaders who are more than willing to give their all to this nation through selfless sacrifice; leaders who will not live at the expense of the masses or value foreign goods above locally produced ones; leaders who will drive Nigeria on the path of knowledge revolution; a leader who will not sleep when the life of one Nigerian is endangered.
Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Nigerian from Ekiti State, is commencing a Competitive Educational Awards for outstanding pupils at St. Georges Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, in honour of Fajuyi, to bring lost pride back to public primary schools.
Atoye and Opeyeoluwa write from Abuja