By Dele Momodu
“And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men it will come to nothing. But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest you even be found to fight against God.” – Acts of The Apostles 5: 38-39
Fellow Nigerians, let me make a quick confession. Our dear country has been very sick. As a matter of fact, we’ve been lying critically prostrate without any concrete attempt to find a cure for our maladies. The reason for the lack of interest is simple and straight-forward.
Many of our political leaders are those the Yoruba often refer to as arijenidimodaru (those who thrive in chaos). They must continue to scatter everywhere and scare everyone with their chicanery. That is the only business they know that can yield bountiful harvest. They do not care how many of our citizens would suffer untold hardship in the process.
I’m an unrepentant disciple of the founder father and first President of the Republic of Ghana, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah. As a young student at the then University of Ife, I bought, devoured and savoured practically all his seminal works on political science and ideology. My favourite of his books was Africa Must Unite. It opened my eyes to the limitless opportunities that await Africa if our different countries can stand as one as opposed to the artificial barriers or divisions deliberately erected by the colonialists. The colonial masters are gone but they have been speedily replaced by neo-colonialists who seek act worse by enslaving their own people.
It would amount to a grand illusion to think Africa can unite when the individual countries that make up our continent are virtually in tatters. Brothers are up in arms against their brethren. And the falcon can no longer hear the falconer. As a small boy in Ile-Ife we lived in peace with our neighbours no matter where they had migrated from. Even the Igbos who travelled home during the Biafra internecine war came back to meet most of their properties and personal effects intack. The politicians competed amongst themselves and each of our six regions enjoyed some measure of autonomy and progressed at its own pace.
I don’t know what went wrong. All that I know is that something terrible happened to our country and we all started misbehaving by mistrusting ourselves. What made matters worse was the fact that the solutions we thought could help actually worsened the situation and our condition became even more critical. Today, we have all returned to our ethnic cocoons and the so-called Federal Character has failed to characterise us as a people with serious vision and mission. Federal Character has become nothing but a nomenclature for a grand scam to distribute the national cake amongst the few members of the privileged class while the ordinary man on the streets continues to wallow perpetually in abject poverty.
I wish to sound a note of warning and caution please. Nigeria cannot continue to live in fools’ paradise. I will endeavour to explain what I mean by that statement. We all know what made some countries develop while others remain backward. It is not too difficult to study the history of nations to examine, discover and emulate what they did right and eschew what they did wrong. One of the things I discovered about great nations is the ability to be as tolerant of different races, or ethnicities as much as possible, even if they have to pretend about the existence of prejudices. For Nigeria to join the comity of great nations our people must learn to embrace meritocracy above ethnic jingoism.
It is easy to validate my thesis. I don’t know if you already suspect where I’m coming from and going. But I will explain it as best as I can. Once again, our President is under attack from those who believe he is on a mission to Northernise the whole of Nigeria by offering the juiciest appointments to people from his own parts of our great country. An old schoolmate called me frantically yesterday to complain bitterly about the recent appointments of people of Northern origin into key positions of the Buhari administration. “Dele, I’m calling you so that you can explain what your government is doing because you were one of those who forced Buhari on us…” he thundered. I was as cool as cucumber and replied him calmly…
“I’m not in government and so cannot hold brief for President Muhammadu Buhari but I’m willing to put a bet on him that he will deliver as promised. His style and methodology may be strange and quaint to our clime but I think he is serious about changing Nigeria for good. Let us watch for a little while and see what happens.”
I was able to calm my friend down but he promised to come back to me as soon as he feels the president is fumbling too much. I said, I will welcome him again. What I noticed about all those criticising the President is that they are unhappy because their kinsmen have not been chosen and not because most of the appointees are not competent or qualified, The trouble is we’ve come on this long journey leading to perdition that we no longer know how to turn back to our path of salvation.
Many of the young ones have been cruelly infected with the same disease, unfortunately. I read many of them beating the drums of war, annihilation and complete disintegration. It is such a shame. Even if I admit and agree that we have some serious ethnic issues to sort out, I don’t believe it warrants an invitation to anarchy. War has never been a tea party anywhere. It has never given birth to something good and we must be careful not to make our matters worse than they are right now.
I have never receive answers to some cogent questions I raise about what we stand to gain if we break up into tiny pieces. No amount of frustration should drive us to the precipice again. A little tolerance and self-discipline can cure our migraine, trust me. Nigeria is a beautiful country as well. The more I travel round our nation the more I discover our inherent beauty. Two things should be invested in urgently. The first is education. And when I talk about education, we must improve on our school curriculum to include our ancient and contemporary history. An average Nigerian youth today is less informed than in our own time about Nigerian history. Education and exposure to other cultures would break down some of the artificial barriers that have separated us for far too long. Our schools must encourage our kids to learn about Nigeria while teaching them about other places.
I have had the privilege of visiting several cities in recent time. There was nowhere I went in Nigeria that we were not well received. I came to the conclusion that education and social media have opened up our country in a way that was difficult or impossible in the past. At airports, banks, palaces, people walked up to me joyfully asking for photo-opportunities and where I came from was never an issue.
The second solution is to engage our traditional institutions more. Attempts to whittle down the power and relevance of our traditional rulers have been counter-productive. It is obvious that customs don’t die. Culture is very obstinate and there is not much we can do to modify or obliterate it. People respect their kings more than political leaders. Once upon a time, kings were very powerful and influential. Just imagine that the first African Governor in Nigeria was The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi. He was still able to combine that with his traditional duties. He was able to do that because he was educated.
I was very impressed when I visited his Eminence The Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar III last weekend. That visit opened my eyes to so many things the chief of which is that our country is changing. We were warmly received in the palace by Sarkin Kudu Sokoto, PrinceMuazzu Abubakar III, who led us into a waiting room. Apparently THE Sultan had just returned from an environmental sanitation exercise with the Sokoto State Governor, Waziri Aminu Tambuwal. Before long, we (The Ife Princes Adedamola and Adedayo Aderemi and I) were ushered in to the spacious office of His Eminence. I really didn’t know what to expect as my palpitating heart did some frog jumps. But behing that desk sat one of the most important spiritual leaders in Nigeria.
We exchanged pleasantries and it wasn’t very long before we started discussing like old buddies. We met a man completely at ease with everyone around him. We chatted endlessly and eventually went to our hotel to refresh. The big deal was when The Sultan told us to return for dinner at about 830pm. We were indeed flabbergasted by this gesture. We arranged promptly as arranged and we entered the special hut only to meet The Sultan alone. We seized that rare opportunity to ask almost everything under the sun. We were stunned to discover how articulate. The Sultan is so informed and we were wowed by his elevated level of discourse. The palace is run like a communist enclave with so many dependants living in the over hundred houses attached to the palace. All of them are connected to electricity and generators.
He told us he was expecting his guests. About 12 of them joined us inside while many others are outside the hut. The dishes were elaborately laid out on the floor. Everyone was served and after dinner, guests left one after the other after paying homage to The Sultan. We spent another hour chatting and by the time we left, were more informed about Sokoto and Nigeria in general.
Our next port of call was Kano. We spent more time in Kano and gained so much knowledge. If you’ve never visited Kano, then you’ve missed a lot. The Kano palace is in a class of its own. Its splendour is a sight to behold. We were welcomed to the palace by The Emir’s special aide Babaisa Ado-Bayero who later took us to a Moroccan-styled garden to meet His Highness. His Highness The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi combines Western education with a solid grounding in Islamic studies. He’s never hidden the fact that his greatest ambition on earth is to be The Emir of Kano and God answered his prayers. His trajectory is a fairy-tale of sorts. He was able to face and conquer adversities.
Having audience with The Emir is a great delight. He speaks the best of Queen’s English just as he knows his Holy Koran by rote. We were greatly inspired by him. We saw a man who matched his words with action. He demonstrated how a true believer should forgive the past by not dwelling on the issues he had with my past articles. The Emir is very methodical and it was to my greatest delight watching him at such close proximity. Our first meeting was in the night of last Monday while the second was the following morning. We had private audience on both occasions and left totally humbled by such efficiency. We left absolutely satisfied that a Nigeria without borders is very possible in the foreseeable future. We must tear down these walls and build new bridges of love.
AN EVENING WITH WOLE SOYINKA
I was privileged to attend what was tagged An Evening with Wole Soyinka which was hosted by telecom giant GLOBACOM last night in Lagos. It was an event organised to celebrate the life of the Nobel Laureate, a literary giant who has successfully combined all the genres of writing almost effortlessly.
It was such a great fun for many of us as we watched and listened to the question and answer session. The ceremony ran smoothly and we enjoyed good plays, readings, music, food and wines as usual with events hosted by the one and only Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga. At 81, Professor Soyinka looked very strong and spritely. What more can one ask for in life? Let’s toast to this awesome writer and one of the world’s greatest icons, Professor Wole Soyinka.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu/Thisday