I was pleasantly touched but not really surprised by three major news reports in the past week. This was particularly so in view of the importance of the events to our nation.
According to one news report, President Obasanjo was a guest at a joint session of the National Assembly last week. He was there to present the final report of the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC).
While there, he spoke on the importance of the just concluded conference to the stability and growth of our nation. The president also briefed the honorable members of the two legislative houses on the recent debt relief granted our nation.
The most important highlight of the speech however was his admonition to the nation on the way forward. Indirectly, he appeared to be expressing a concern about the choices of our people at elections. The seriousness of this concern could be underscored by the penchant of many of the electorates for voting along narrow lines. And the urgency of the admonition could not have been misplaced as 2007, another election year, is fast approaching.
For instance, in checking future possibility of unbridled borrowing by our leaders at Federal and State levels, the president advised that “we must join hands and resolve to break with the past; identify new voices and new leaders…”
The question now however is how we can easily and quickly break with the past when some of our people still believe in “cash and carry” elections by which money is demanded before votes are cast? It was such a situation that produced a well-known drug baron cum 419 king pin as an “honorable” member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1999.
And how do we identify new voices and new leaders when many of our people (including the highly educated) still find it difficult to look and think beyond ethnic and religious sentiments before casting votes? This is especially embarrassing in the present era when some selfless, well-intentioned individuals have been proved to exist in our nation’s political horizon.
If our nation must emerge alive and strong from the ashes of its ugly past, we don’t only need to break with the past, we also have to embrace the new, selfless, incorruptible leaders on the horizon. And this must have informed Obasanjo’s advocacy that our nation should now be protected from “scavengers and kleptomaniacs of the past and their off-springs and associates…”
Here, Obasanjo was referring to the selfish interest-protecting individuals who can only function and thrive in military government-induced chaos, dichotomy and treasury-looting. And they have been so used to this uneven field of operation that they are prepared to do anything to maintain the status quo, at least, for the benefit of their off-springs.
These are the individuals who, since the advent of the present democratic dispensation, have demonstrated their retrogressive stances in political circles, religious enclaves and even in the media. Worse, their off-springs, relations and associates have been bombarding us with their nauseating tantrums on the internet. According to Obasanjo, these are the people who have no place in the new environment of “due process, fair competition, accountability, responsibility and social justice”. Those who have ears let them hear!
Also last week, one of our revered elder statesmen, Chief Anthony Enahoro was in the United States. He was here to address a section of the Nigerians in the diasporas on the activities of the Pro-National Conference Organizations (PRONACO).
A major aspect of his address was the advice he gave to the Nigerians abroad to go “beyond just supporting progressive movements and standing up for what is right”. The astute politician wanted them to go participate in the administration of our nation through politics.
Enahoro must have been irritated by the usual style of some Nigerians lurking in their foreign bases where all they do is shout slogans and engage in silly arguments. It was the same type of people in England (in the pre-independent Nigeria) who the Chief said encouraged him to move for our nation’s independence. But afterwards, he lamented, those same Nigerians insisted on sitting on the fence while he (Enahoro) and the few other progressives battled with the forces of retrogression back home.
One however wish to inform the Chief that things are different this time around. In the United States alone, there are several individual Nigerians who have expressed the interest to participate in the 2007 elections. The only problem is that most of these persons are only interested in running for the presidential, gubernatorial and senatorial offices.
In a simple application of logic though, one would have expected these largely unknown political neophytes to go start their political careers at the grass roots. As local government chairpersons, State legislators and commissioners for instance, they will have the chance to showcase their public administration skills and gradually make their ways up the nation’s political ladder.
And last but not the least of the major news report was on the issue of new council creation. Along with Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Niger, Katsina, Nasarawa, and Yobe States, The Lagos State government has, in the past two years been engaged in a fruitless battle with the Federal government over the creation of new councils.
But last week, t
he Lagos State government finally allowed common sense to prevail by scrapping its 37 new councils as demanded by the Federal government. At a special session of the State legislature, the honorable members amended the “creation of New Local Government Areas Amendment Law 2004”.
For their mature resolve to yield to voices of reason and wise counsel, both the executive and the legislative arms of the Lagos State government must be commended by all lovers of peace and harmony. And simultaneously, may God bless the Yoruba elders who intervened to resolve the dispute.
One of the major tragedies of the encroachment of Military officers in our nation’s political leadership has been the creation of many spurious States and Local Government Areas (LGAs). The biased approach to this issue by the military autocrats has since been among the sad, ugly legacies left for our nascent democracy to grapple with.
As a people desirous of unity and progress for our nation, we don’t have to be at some elaborate national confab before we learn to confront issues head-on and without mincing words or beating about the bush. Therefore, we need to accept that during the abominable military era, justice and equity were willfully trampled by the military leaders more so, those of them who hailed from a certain geographical section of our nation.
It is also true that these military leaders openly gave undue and unfair advantages to their geographical section of our nation in the creation of States and LGAs. Unfortunately, many of these States and LGAs were so moribund and barren that they lacked (some still do) in viability and self-sustenance.
Consequently, they constitute themselves into leeches and bugs that feed largely on the blood of the nation. In those inglorious days, some of those newly created States were so deficient in necessary infrastructures that their capital cities (or villages?) had to depend on generators for electricity supplies.
And all these were happening at a time when a State like Lagos had several LGAs that were much more viable than some of the so-called States in other parts of the nation. Indeed, each of the Lagos LGAs were absolutely ripe to be broken into two or more new LGAs to allow for greater growth and development. But the powers that be refused to act accordingly.
This state of affairs must have contributed to the decision of the Lagos State government under the watch of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu to create the new, controversial LGAs. But two wrongs don’t make a right! It would not augur well for our present democratic dispensation if a State could unilaterally create new LGAs without the approvals of the National Assembly.
If the Lagos State had been allowed to get away with that constitutional breach, almost every other State in the Federation would have seized upon that “opportunity” to embark on a jamboree of LGA creations. And they would all do this just in a bid to surreptitiously increase their Federal allocations through the back doors.
There have been several injustices in our past as a nation. And they are all crying for a redress. But no redress needs be achieved through unconstitutional means.
I have always been an advocate of regular cabinet reshuffles by the Obasanjo administration. Without it, there would have been no sky for the various rising stars in our nation to shine. Nigeria is now blessed with a crop of new leaders who need at least one chance to demonstrate their great skills and talents in public administration. However, a reshuffle soon comes with a bit of disappointment. And that happens when an exceptionally good hand is replaced.
Such was the way I felt when the erstwhile Minister of information and National Orientation, Chief Emeka Chikelu was replaced by the President. I neither know the man in person nor have any personal or official relationship with him. But since his appointment, I have been one of his greatest fans in view of the fact that he belongs to a generation that is showing the people of our nation that all hopes are not lost.
And I thought I was alone in my sentiments until I read the August 1, 2005 editorial column of the Nigerian Guardian newspaper which had this to say about Chief Chikelu:
On the other hand, we note with satisfaction that the Ministry of Information and National Orientation under the youthful Chief Emeka Chikelu witnessed vigorous activities that were both refreshingly new in ideas and style. His was an interesting regime and he has done his generation proud.