Nigeria at 50: Independence Speech of Obafemi Awolowo

by Adewale T. Akande

All protocols observed. “Possible Solutions to Nigeria’s Problems”

Fellow Nigerians; Good day and happy golden independence anniversary celebrations to you all my fellow country men. Officially, three of us (Balewa, Zik and me ) were invited few months ago to grace this golden occasion of this great nation, but we decided not to come to express our grievances on the bad state of the country. It evident that our successive leaders had ruin this nation and make it what great Chinua Achebe refers to as: “This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house has fallen.” The country have suffered and sunk in pervasive corruption, social catastrophe and economic dilapidation since we left the for the great beyond few decades ago. Our much respected values of patriotism and uncompromising emphasis on intergrity and honesty have been thrown to the winds. My wife said, it has gotten to a state that you cannot trust anybody again. The leaders are despots. Education in ruins. All inherited infrastructures are in shambles. Health care have been neglected. Security of life and property is no longer guaranteed. The image of lawlessness is seen everywhere. Nigerians lives in frustrations, regrets, dejections, hopelessness, misery, pains and sufferings. Almost 80 percents of Nigerians are in poverty line while a few clique are stinkingly rich. Politics has turned to “do or die affairs” and “winner takes all”. Democracy is now coinned to mean “government of some people by some people and for some people”. To be honest with you all, we have seen and heard a lot of things up here.We could not sleep for three days when Gani Fawehinmi joined us. He gave us the full situation reports of what has happened in Nigeria. We have been very sad with the situation of the country for the past three decades. The past despots refused to deliver our independence speeches. It is so sad that, only very few of the leaders we left behind maintain their status quo. The rest have joinned the maddening crowd. Most of them have lost their integrity and dignity because of money. They have lost their sense of reasoning because of naira. They have ruin the future of Nigerian youths because of greediness and lust for power. The world’s largest oil producer refused to develop because of its leaders who are reckless and self-centered. The country has both human and natural resources that can make her greater than any country in the world. I remember what my political son, Chief Bola Ige who once commented on the strenght of Africa giant. He said: “The resilence, the wonderfulness, the energy – Nigeria can be compared favourably with the United States of America. I put it crudely sometimes that if you know how to package shit, you can sell it in Nigeria. I want this country to be the first black superpower.” The world largest supplier of oil, with huge fertile land and human resources are now suffering in the midst of plenty. There is no country in the world where you will not find Nigerian professionals or a Nigerian community. And there is no human being on earth that have not received Nigerian 419 scam letters on their mail box. That is the end results of what bad governance can do to a nation. There is a need for urgent and radical solutions to revive the falling giant of Africa.

Nigeria is our country and there is no other place to replace our fatherland. Now is the time to re-build the falling house. History teaches us that every problem has a life span. Like I have said before, I do not have a monopoly of wisdom, but I will provide five important possible solutions which am very sure if it is taken with all seriousness, the nation will have reasons to celebrate in nearest the future.

Fellow Nigerians, my first important possible solution might come to you as a surprise. This is a four letter word call LOVE. This country is in a precarious situation because there is no real love within the entire people. Since independence, all Nigerian tribes; Hausas, Ibos, and Yorubas have only unite on “geographical expression” and not in the real sense of it. We still don’t regard ourselves as one nation-one destiny. It is has been very difficult to find unity and peace among the Kanuris, the Fulanis, the Hausas, the Gbagyis,(Gwaris) the Tivs, the Nupes, the Yorubas, the Edos, the Urhobos, the Igbos, the Ijaws and the Ibibios. Ironically, the Nigerian’s motto of “Unity and Faith, Peace and Unity” that act as a guide to people’s conduct does no longer reflect in all people actions. Where there is no love, unity, peace and progress can never exist. Love defines essence of living. Love guides, love protects, and love leads to the end. Love is the only road that leads to true peace. Our wellbeing will be developed if we love and care for each other. That was the first thing that inspired me on my first day in Europe. I saw how people in government trascend love to their citizens through provision of all the basic fundamental human needs and how citizens in turn provide certain responsibilities towards the government. If there is love, all Nigerians cannot still be living in darkness with irregular power supply at this 21st century. If there is love, oil and gas revenue can develop all States of the federation like Abuja city. If there is love, the regions that produce oil for the whole nation will never be in such a state of environmental disaster to its people. If there is love, a leader will never think of looting all the treasury and leave his subject in abject poverty and squalor. If there is love, no man can kill another human being for religion, political, economic or ethnic reasons. Our rulers can provide all the basic fundamental human needs for its citizens if there is love and feeling for humanity. All these will never happen if we don’t love our neighbour as ourselves. What is then the essence of having churches and mosques in every ten metres on the street of Nigeria if we cannot live with love? The problem is not religion, but ourselves who are still languishing in mediocracy of religion. There is no bad religion. What we have is bad people. If we have to be sincere, there is no living Nigerian who have no link either directly or indirectly with other person of different religion at home or place of work. We are all brothers and sisters worshiping the same one Creator called by different names. Those who kill others are worshiping Devils. We should not see ourselves as enemies.When you are good to others you are best to yourself. Human beings are created to be bundle of joy and blessings to his or her generation. Our generation is not yet wasted.That is the only point I do not agree with Soyinka. This is the golden time for personal repentance and national renewal to move Nigeria forward. The situation in our country is so seriously that all we need now is to LOVE each other. This four letter word conquers all Nigerian problems from A-Z. According to the Holy Bible, in the book of 1st Corinthians 13:4-8; It states thus;“Love is patient, love is kind.It is not jealous, is not pompous,it is not inflated,it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,…it bears all things,….endures all things. Lover never fails.” Also, the Holy Quran preaches love, patience, generousity and honesty in all ramifications.. The following two verses from the Holy Quran testifies for this: “Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do rightous deeds, and join together in the mutual enjoining of truth, and of patience and constancy.” Holy Quran 103:2-3 This second verse gives the meaning of Islam as peace and submission to the will of God and not to the will of people; “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West. But it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, And the Angels, and the Book, and th

e Messengers; To spend of your substance, out of love for Him, For your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves;To be steadfast in prayer and give in charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth,the God-fearing” Holy Quran 2:177 .

Meanwhile, my second solution to Nigeria problem concerns electing of our leaders to hold public offices. This has been our problem since we got independence in 1960 . We have not been fortunate to have good leaders. What we have been having is what Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah tagged “accidental leaders.” The most sad thing about them is that after being sworn in with the Oath of Allegiance of good conduct, then they will proceed to churches and mosques with their family, relations and associates for thanks-giving services. By the time you see them again, they have already looted the whole treasury. Dr. Akinola Aguda keynote address at the 3rd Obafemi Awolowo Foundation on December,1994 on a leader that Nigeria needs explained that it : “…is not a semi-educated person lacking in intelligent, ability and transparent honesty.”. Prof. Jega, the new INEC Chairman actually gives the best description our past leaders, when he said in a recent lecture in Abuja that; “If the truth be told, past Nigerian leaders with few exceptions were self-serving rulers, not leaders. Some were even despots…There is perhaps no other country in the world where power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely as in Nigeria…They have generaly lacked vision, focus and selflessness and even enlighted self-interest. Many in leadership positions are unimaginably corrupt, they are greedy, they are vindictive, they are reckless and in many fundamental respects,senseless. Virtualy, whoever has access to power attempts to abuse it.” I don’t think there is another words to describe them than this. Nigeria needs leaders that will base their greatness on the services they render for good of the citizens rather than the property accumulated within shortest time .We need people who are ethical and who can convey a strong vision of the future. We need trusted leaders and achievers who will build a humane society capable of looking after the legitimate needs of the citizenry. Leaders in this context does mean the President alone.With good leaders, all these socio-economic and political problems will be history. It does not take good leaders two years to solve the problem of epileptic electricity supply and irregular pipe-borne water supply. Libya got her independence in 1969, Kenya in 1963, Algeria in 1962, South Africa in 1961, Ghana in 1957, Morocco in 1956 and their elecrticity supply have been stable for many years. The issue of electricity needs to be addressed immediately for meaninful development to take place in this country. With good leaders, all the cities in Nigeria will be like Abuja city. Good leaders will know how to rehabilitate all infrastrutures inherited which are in shambles. Concern leaders will make provision for standard Health Care Centres in all the Nigeria 774 local governments. Good leaders know that if agriculture remains stagnant, industry cannot grow. Reliable transportation system should be in place to improve the quality of life. We refuse to make use of our potential population as China is doing now. All these things are possible. As Napoleon Bonaparte would say: “Impossible is a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools.” You just need to go to Lagos state and see what Fashola has done to let you know the meaning of good governance, transparency and accountability. If the new Lagos State we see on You Tube, and what Mama and Wole told me of the new-look Oshodi market, the New Nigeria is imminent and possible. Great men or leaders are great because they willed to be great. We have to be very concern and careful in electing person of intellectual capability, trust and integrity to run the affairs of the country or the states. The size of a man is not determined by the lenght of his legs, but by what’s in his head. We have have to be very concern to put people where they can be productive-men of virtue and example of modest. We have to recruit professionals to head sensitive posts. It is only in Nigeria, where you have a graduate of history as a Commisioner for Agriculture and natural resources when there are Agricultural science graduates, or you have a beautician to head a sensitive political post all in the name of party allegiance. They prefer mediocrity to meritocracy. This is stupidity and not in line with principles of effective and efficient administrative policy. That is more reason why they do not have positive results. This is very wrong in anywhere, even here in heaven. Leadership is to render qualitative services. We have not heard of an ex-football international player to head the country’s football body. How do we you expect our Green Eagles to fly when it has no wings. A country of more than 150 million of people cannot produce thirty best legs to rule the world in South Africa . Wole even told me that Nigerians, now prefer to pay to watch English premier league football match on big screen than to watch Nigeria premier league soccer match live free of charge at any stadium. You can see what our so-called administrators have done to the system. Leaders are servants of the people and the people are their pay-masters.You do not need to contest for an election if you do not want to be the servant of the people. Leadership is not for glamour, pleasure, privilege, fun or opportunity to buy mansions here and abroad while your people are dying of malaria and squalor. Leadership is not opportunity to loot the state treasury and keep the money in foreign accounts while his people cannot afford three-square meals a day. Leadership is not stealing the government money and donate it to churches or mosques. Leadership is to bless the life of others. I will use this opportunity to inform all Nigeria political parties to base their selections and appointments on qualified professionals with intgrity in all sensitive posts and not solely rely on party allegiance which had ruined the last regime.

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