By Livinus Richard Okwara
Nigeria is a very big country. It is like a polygamous house with so many children and different characters. In that house, you have those who like education, sports, like football, lawn tennis, basketball, among others.
Then, you have those who are troublemakers. And we have to understand the question of how to cope with the different characters and how to compromise the different characters in that household. If you are able to do that, the children in the household would become notable characters in the society. This is because, to be successful, you have to be a radical; to have a radical mind- that is the mind of a researcher; the mind of somebody who asks questions. You must be a thinker who seeks solutions now and in future. If you don’t have that in the society, that society cannot progress.
That leaves a man who is so much by the people. Some people don’t know what to do to be close to him. He was a thinker, an orator and solutions to problems in the society. He makes tremendous progress and an insignia to Nigerians. He started living his life without him realising it. He became hypnotised by what he has become in you, to the extent that if you are with your woman and you heard, ‘Up Awo’ while you were in session, you take a break, give a V-sign and continue with your business.
Awo was so infectious. He was a promoter of free education in the Western Region of Nigeria, free health; he was a promoter of decent living, including free housing, which people had then or had close to it. That was his mission, and that was the idea of the progressives. Anything outside that is no progressive.
But to talk of progressive now, well, you ask them, they are the direct beneficiaries of Awo’s legacies of free education, free health, subsidized housing, among several other initiatives. In fact, Awo delved into other welfare development areas, such as agriculture; he specified in what it takes for human beings to have a comfortable life. He was credited as the saviour of Nigeria, because by his management, he saved Nigeria from disintegration. You like him or hate him, he left us with so many good things, so many people, including late Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, popularly called Baba Kekere, who carried on Awo’s policies.
Jakande was simply an effigy of Awo. Jakande was a man of the people; he was a man for the people and he was the people himself. You do not need any formal appointment to meet him in his house; and any time you came, he was always seated there to attend to people; and as you come, he received you with his commissioners standing; he then listened to you with rapt attention together with his team.
After discussing with you, he sent you to the appropriate commissioner who would take the details of your problems and helped to solve them. That is part of what progressives do for the people. They live for the people. Jakande also fondly called LKJ, was, in fact, a miracle worker; he was simply magical. Within three months of his administration as the civilian governor of Lagos State, between 1979-1983, he changed the education landscape in the state. He changed part time education system to full time. But to Jakande, the feat he achieved was nothing but a call to duty.
However, it was unfortunate that some people had bellyache against somebody who wanted to solve their problems for them. The people in Khaki (soldiers) felt he was too good for them to like. Baba Kekere did in one term of his administration what would have taken others ten to 20 years to do. We miss him. Can you imagine if such a person became Nigeria’s president or a think- tank for the president of this country? I dare say that Jakande would have been the best president Nigeria never had. In fact, Jakande worked as if there was no tomorrow; he realized that he had limited time to carry out his programmes. Adieu Baba Kekere.
There are other prodigies that are still there today, like Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former civilian governor of Lagos State. Tinubu was the governor that continued with the works of LKJ. Love him, hate him, Tinubu transformed the state in a miraculous way. When he was elected as the governor of the state in 1999, the state was budgeting N17billion per annum, but within a few years in his first tenure in office, the state was budgeting over N400bn. By the time he finished his second term in 2007, infrastructure development on the state had got a big boost.
For example, the drainage problems in Lagos Island had disappeared, and by the time he finished his second time, he had designed an enduring template for infrastructure development across the state covering decades. Indeed, Tinubu also introduced a political strategy of continuity of governance, patriotic attitude to work, and had put the state on a good stead to becoming a megacity in Africa to the envy of so many people from near and far, including other countries, many of who came to the state to understudy him or borrow his ideas.
In just eight years of magical development of Lagos, and for the first time since the country’s independence, progressive governance came to Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, such that a progressive president in person of President Muhammadu Buhari was installed on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.
Again, our budgets at the federal level had since jumped from N3trillion to over N10trn. The implication of this is a development in different dimensions on our route to becoming a developed Nation. This was not an easy task to accomplish, though. But, let me warn Nigerians that irrespective of your party or tribal affiliations, you must keep Tinubu alive. Harm or kill him, you have killed yourself or the country. As a former Senator, Tinubu is still alive as an ordinary man, as a former governor, he is here with us; therefore, Nigeria must ensure that he lives. They will be losers if anything untoward happens to him.
I do not see anybody in the horizon to challenge him. Those who are trying are drinking from his tap of knowledge. I know this because I have been following him and his contributions to the society. I was there when he first started, when he was going through the Alliance for Democracy (AD) primaries. I was there during his campaigns for the governorship position; I was there to wish him well. And I was there to congratulate him when he won the election. I was also there during his swearing-in ceremony.
But Tinubu must realise that he does not have to be the president of Nigeria before he can make Nigeria great. After all, he is the leader of the governing political party, and the party and its machinery of governance are the things that run and manage the country. During the quest for a progressive as Nigeria’s president in 2015, I was there to promote Buhari’s presidency, because of his progressive tendencies. With the slogan, ‘Buhari is the answer’, I contributed significantly in my campaigns to promote him in Lagos, Ogun and the whole South East geo-political zone.
I must add that Buhari still has a chance to become a hero, because we are still to find a man who can command the attention and influence that could stabilise Nigeria, even with its attendant transparency. I want to specially warn Nigerians; don’t let tribalism, bigotry dictate to, or deceive you.
•Chief Livinus Richard Okwara writes from Lagos