…As ThisNigeria honours Wike, Zulum, Yakubu, others
By Dirisu Yakubu
Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Wednesday, decried the role injustice has played in making Nigeria a country that has failed to take advantage of her opportunities to improve the lives of her citizens.
The duo stated this in their respective presentations in Abuja at the inaugural lecture and gold prize award, organised by ThisNigeria Media Limited, publishers of ThisNigeria Newspaper.
Kayode who chaired the occasion in his opening remarks described Nigeria as country yet to rise above primordial fault lines, adding that a new Nigeria cannot be built or founded on the altar of iniquity and injustice.
He said: “We can talk about unity as much as we like, we can talk about national integration as much as we want and we can lionize patriotism and ask not what the country can do for us but we can do for the country; but you cannot build a country on the basis of iniquity, injustice, lack of fairness and expect unity to prevail.
“For those of us who still saw that good Nigeria, relatively speaking, we have a sense of what that country should be. We have a sense of what we expected from the largest country with black people in the world. We also have a sense of the expectation that the world has of us which we clearly we have not lived up to.”
Difficult as the road to national rebirth may appear, Kayode said the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the November 6 Anambra governorship election is an indication of the possibility of the Nigerian dream.
He continued: “What happened in Anambra state was a near miracle because many of us had come to the conclusion that Anambra was going to be a bedlam. We had come to the conclusion that there was going to be a bloodbath. But at the end of the exercise, we saw what transpired. We must give kudos to the national peace committee which Bishop Kukah was a key player, kudos to the people of Anambra and INEC for making what we witnessed, possible. Yes, it was not perfect and turnout was not what we would have loved it to be, but ultimately, peace prevailed. And many believed that the outcome of the election was the will of the people.”
Guest lecturer, Bishop Kukah who spoke on the theme, “National cohesion for growth and progress: The national dilemma,” noted that at the height of the failure of Nigerians to close ranks is the lack of a functional constitution that truly emanates from the people.
His words: “What really are the building blocks of national cohesion? I think that the critical pillar has to be quality of the constitution that a country has. A constitution doesn’t necessarily solve all the problems but it offers a moral pillar to hang the debates and expectations. Americans addressed the issue of taxation and even ideological disposition and how people were feeling about the new country. There were issues of inter-state trade and external aggression. How do we keep our country protected? So they had a constitutional convention which helped them reconcile these disparate, conflicting perceptions about what the future of the country was going to look like.
“Nigerians are angrier now and they will mistakenly get nostalgic about the past. They think the past was better. In reality, it was not that the past was better. Truly, we had less capacity to interrogate the system and we were less educated. Now, we are better educated and we are travelling more and we are seeing more. Nigerians are rightly becoming impatient. The real challenge is a leadership with the right disposition. Critical to our conversation is the quality of leadership and also the depth of understanding of those who are our leaders.
“From 1914 till date, we are still not in agreement about the nature of our constitution. The debates have become acrimonious, frustrating and what has been very interesting about the debates is the perception, quality and the calibre of people that have always been sent to the constituent assembly.
“I was lucky that in 2005, I was appointed secretary of the National Political Reform Conference. I know what I saw. I know the calibre of people I saw. There were a lot of people who had absolutely no idea of why they came, beyond, “governor said I should come.” In 1977, one thing was very interesting. During the Sharia debate, most Southerners said they were hearing about the word Sharia for the very first time.
“At the end of the debate in 1978, it was interesting that subsequent discussions on the Nigerian Constitution, the hottest part of the debate were the status of Sharia. A participant, Christian from the North said those of us that defeated Sharia went back to tell our people that if you don’t vote for us, Sharia will come. The Muslims who thought they lost Sharia went back to their people and said if you don’t vote for us, we will not get back Sharia.”
Lead discussant, Mike Ozekhome agreed with Kukah, saying the process that gave birth to the Nigerian Constitution is up for debate for in his words, “the process by which a constitution come into being is even more important than the content of the constitution itself.”
Highlight of the event was the award of recognition for quality service delivery bestowed by the paper on Governors Nyesom Wike and Babagana Zulum of Rivers and Borno states respectively as well as Professor Ishaq Oloyede, Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board and Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission.
While Wike and Zulum bagged the Gold Prize in exceptional leadership, Oloyede and Yakubu bagged Gold Prize in good governance.
The event was attended by eminent personalities including former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, famed labour leader, Comrade Issa Aremu among others.