LEADERS drawn from various parts of the country Monday, dissected the state of affairs, and urged urgent actions to save the country.
The actions include learning from the mistakes of the past and restructuring the country to fiscal federalism and a sincere and just national system that would birth a united Nigeria.
The leaders who spoke on the state of the nation include erudite Historian, Professor Jide Osuntokun; Afenifere Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General, Professor George Obiozor; Spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed; and Professor Uche Azikiwe, wife of late Nationalist, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
They spoke at a National Summit themed: “Nationalism and Nation Building in Nigerians History,” organised by Ohanaeze in Lagos.
Delivering the lecture, Professor Osuntokun, who was the guest lecturer, insisted that since 1966 Nigeria has struggled to find a modus operandi of ruling a multinational state and balancing regional desire for autonomy under an overarching national structure.
He said: “The search for a modus vivendi unfortunately led to the disastrous civil war which some millions of Nigerians predominantly Igbo people died between 1967 and 1970. One would have thought that Nigeria had learnt a bitter lesson from our recent history but the contrary is the case.
” Nigeria has not succeeded yet and from the various demands for restructuring of the country by almost everyone, those in power had better listen and control events from above rather than leaving the people to demand it by force of numbers from below. Our future as a country is pregnant and no one with mathematical precision can hazard what it will bear.
“What we need if this country is to succeed is to find a collective and equitable solution to the way we choose our government.”
He decried what he termed “the odious and rampant corruption ruining the country while the majority of our people vegetate in poverty and want.”
Nigeria’s unity negotiable, needs renegotiation – Obiozor, Baba Ahmed
On his part, host of National dialogue, Prof George Obiozor in his open remarks, insisted that the popular claim that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable is simply a historical fallacy.
He stressed that contrary to false claims of Nigeria’s non-negotiability by some leaders, the unity of the county must be renegotiated for it to stand or survive the prevailing circumstances.
He said: “Recently, some Nigerian political leaders have said that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. This is an ironry because these leaders seem to have forgotten Nigeria’s history or have failed to learn the lessons of history in general.
“Nigerian unity is definitely negotiable and must be re-negotiated for it to stand or survive the test of time. The reality over the years remains that in spite of the best efforts of all our leaders past or present, Nigeria’s unity is not guaranteed.
“It is simply at best, an aspiration not yet an achievement. Consequently, the statement that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable is simply a historical fallacy”.
He added that “Nationalism, including ethnic nationalism, is not about to disappear in the world generally, and certainly not in Nigeria. It is still a potent force and all its advocates feel they have a strong case and believe that history is on their side.”
Speaking in like manner, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed agreed that Nigeria’s unity is negotiable adding that no leader in the North would say Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
He said: “We have seen nations negotiate their existence. Anybody who says Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable is not being honest. It is only the military that can say such and even at that force alone cannot keep Nigeria together. If you can’t negotiate then you must fight your way out; it is either we negotiate or we fight our way out. So, we should and must negotiate our unity and it must be based on well spelt out principles.”
He noted that Nigeria must use the history of the past to shape today and the future, lamenting that “we have derailed not because we quarrelled but because we have forgotten our destiny. We don’t hear much about where we come from but where we are going or not going and it is a tragedy.”
He noted that politicians who seek to exploit and manipulate Nigerians by hijacking political power were the ones causing problems in Nigeria.
On the 2023 presidential election, he called on the elite not to sit and watch politicians control the country as they like but to stand up and give direction. “We got our fingers burnt in 2015 and that is why we are being careful this time. We are saying that the best candidate should be allowed to win the election.
“The North has not endorsed any candidate and we will resist that attempt. All the elites in Nigeria are hostage and captives of politicians but we must remove ourselves from that bondage. So, we will reach out to elites from the other regions and together we will welcome any presidential candidate who says he has a solution to Nigeria’s problems.
“We worry about the South East. We don’t know whether they are in support of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party or not. The nation can see what is happening now and if the South-East fails to line up behind Obi, they should not blame anybody.
“If the Igbo believe it is time for them, they should support Obi, reach out to other Nigerians and tell them they are supporting Obi not because he is an Igbo man but because he is the best. We will give our support to the best man who can heal the wounds in the land because actually, everybody in Nigeria is marginalised right now,” he said.
Why South-East should produce next president — Adebanjo
Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who lampooned the North for not being sincere over true federalism said: “The case of the South-East is not about begging. Some southerners must have been brainwashed to believe that only the North can make anybody president of Nigeria but I don’t believe that.
“The South-West has produced the president, the South-South has produced and the North is completing eight years by next year. So, it must come back to the South and when that happens, justice, equity and fairness demand that it should go to the South-East Igbo. So, to live together must be on agreeable terms. You can’t deny a prodigal son his right because he is prodigal. Afenifere is on the principle of equity, justice and fairness. The Yoruba don’t believe in dishonesty, that is why I am supporting Peter Obi. How can we be together when the significant unit is being cheated?”
All we want is a united Nigeria — Azikiwe
Also Fielding questions from newsmen, wife of late Zik of Africa, Prof. Uche Azikiwe who craves for a united Nigeria said: “All that we have been saying since independence is one Nigeria. We have decided that we have to be together for Nigeria to be great.
” Azikiwe’s legacy of one Nigeria is what I am talking about. It was true that he compromised anytime there’s a problem, he said okay I give up provided we are one and there’s peace.
“He was part of the Independent struggle but when the time for Prime minister arose, the North said we are not ready but because he wanted independence he said he doesn’t mind being president-general.
“Let our leaders learn to compromise if they know what they are pushing for would bind us together.
“It is high time we look for someone with capacity, stamina to lead Nigeria and I think that is what some people see in Obi but all I crave for is the unity of Nigeria, if it is Obi, Tinubu or Atiku so be it.”
Among top dignitaries at the lecture were Senator Ike Nwachwukwu, Prof. Anya O Anya; and former Governor of Anambra State State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife among others.