Magnus Eze, Enugu
Eminent businessman and politician, Dr Obiora Okonkwo was at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) on May 15, where he spoke on the topical issue of restructuring Nigeria.
It was indeed a momentous occasion, as the Princess Alexandra Auditorium was filled to capacity with a highly desirous audience.
Beyond the 2018 public lecture of Faculty of Social Sciences, which the Russian-trained political scientist delivered, the event eventually snowballed into a carnival of some sort with the cocktail of cultural activities that spiced the day.
The National Association of Anambra State Students (NASS), many of whom dressed in traditional attires were on hand to receive Dr Okonkwo, fondly called Dikeora Ogidi.
They extolled his laudable contribution to national development especially in promoting scholarship through sponsorship of students for various university programmes across the globe.
Speaking on “The value of diversity: Restructuring to save Nigeria,” Okonkwo said as a businessman that restructuring is a process of rejigging a failing enterprise to bring it back to profitability.
On how restructuring could favour the Igbo of South East, he posited that reconfiguring Nigeria into six geo-political zones will make the centre less attractive and at the same time create healthy competition amongst the various regions.
According to him, “We can restructure our systems to create an integrated structure where the Southeast can drive its rapid development from three points-heavy industries in the Nnewi/Onitsha axis, light industries in Aba/Owerri axis and agro-allied hub in Abakaliki axis. These can be linked with dedicated rail lines and expressways along which shall be estates and business districts. This is something that we can achieve if we agree.”
He summarised Nigeria as nation of diverse ethnic groups with diverse ways of life, culture, mannerisms, ideologies, philosophies, and added that each distinct group has its own expectation from the leadership.
He noted that these individual expectations breed the sort of conflict that had given rise to the clamour for restructuring, which according to him, has become a national appeal whose time has come.
The businessman blamed the nation’s woes on its inability to manage diversity, which ordinarily should be a blessing, and therefore, urged Nigerians to ensure that restructuring becomes a major campaign issue in the 2019 election.
“In this regard, our advance toward the next general elections must take into cognisance the need to restructure our polity and make it work effectively for the people. This is where the people, me and you, who desire to live as members of this State, should begin to demand from their political leaders, strong commitment towards restructuring.
“This should now be the battle the people must undertake to create the sort of society that they desire. We must now demand that from our politicians as condition for being voted,” he stated.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof Chukwuma Ozumba said the UNN had always intermarried social interactions with academics.
He thanked the Dean Faculty of Social Sciences; Prof. Hilary Achunike for reminding them through the lecture series “the days of Profs Ikenna Nzimiro, Eteng, and Miriam Ikejiani-Clark when we used to abandon our lectures to go to listen to lectures delivered by outsiders here. At a point, they even brought Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.”
Represented by Vice Chancellor Administration, Prof Charles Igwe, he emphasized that in UNN they interface the town and gown to enhance everything about intellectualism.
His words: “If social scientists cannot discuss about man and his social environment, then what are we doing; at some point we saw ourselves indulging mundane things.
“But the story is different today; we have tolerated student unionism, including staff unionism. People are now free to discuss in the university. This means that the university was already restructuring as shown by the restructured students union.”
Prof Fr. Achunike in his welcome remarks said that biodiversity is necessary to nature, just as cultural diversity is to man for sustainability.
The event ended on a good note with souvenirs presented Okonkwo by various groups including the Faculty of Social Sciences and National Association of Anambra Students.