At Awolowo lecture, leaders re-echo calls for true federalism
• Why I back restructuring, by ex-Vice President Atiku
Nigeria’s pressing challenges require urgent solutions. And the panacea could come a little sooner if the current federal system is readjusted to fit the prescription of the late elder statesman and founder of the defunct Action Group (AG), Chief Obafemi Awolowo. This was the consensus of prominent leaders at the 2017 Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture and his 108th posthumous birthday event in Lagos yesterday.
The eminent Nigerians included former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd); Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II; Obi of Onitsha, HRM Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe; former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; Governors, Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos) as well as Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and Chief Olusegun Osoba, both erstwhile governors of Delta and Ogun states.
Also present were The Guardian’s Publisher, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru; former Minister of Defence, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd); Chief J.K. Randle, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and National Coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams.
To them, the nation’s foundation needs urgent tinkering with to enable it to deliver the expectations of the founding fathers for the citizenry.
The speakers noted: “If Nigeria had embraced the political advice of Awolowo on how a multi-ethnic country like ours should be run, we would have been walking side by side with some of the Western nations like Japan, United Kingdom, America and others today.”
Anyaoku particularly expressed sadness at what he described as the prevalent poverty rate and disrespect for the judiciary by the Federal Government over the years.
His words: “The founding fathers would be disappointed to find out that instead of having viable federating units, we have weaker and non-viable ones with an all-powerful government at the centre which stifles competition and growth.
“They would also be disappointed in the way that the Federal Government disrespects the judiciary and disobeys court orders. Our fathers would be disappointed in the direction the country is heading to.”
Anyaoku, who is also the chairman, Selection Committee, Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, therefore called on those in government to review their stance on the restructuring of the country.
Gowon lauded Awolowo’s sagacity, saying he was a great Nigerian who gave all to keep the nation united, especially during the civil war.The Ooni of Ife, who also condemned the current federal structure, however, challenged all on stewardship. He stressed that it was good for one to be remembered for service.
Aregbesola however, differed, saying the critical deficiency of the country was the concept of money.He noted: “A nation that does not care about how its income is distributed to the class of workers cannot be said to be serious. This is responsible for the great poverty in our country and until income is predicated on production of good and services, we are going nowhere.”
But the guest lecturer, Prof. Banji Akintoye, faulted the governor, noting that the abandonment of the late sage’s prescription had done the nation a lot of evil. He stressed that true federalism remains the only way to go.
To Osoba, Awolowo left a great legacy that the country could not afford to overlook.Later yesterday, political associates and family members held a thanksgiving service at Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne-Remo Ogun State to commemorate the day.
The Vicar Venerable Samuel Enike, who spoke on the theme, “Living for Christ”, noted that the free education policy initiated by the late Awolowo afforded countless Nigerians the opportunity to be educated.
Also yesterday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said he was championing the restructuring of the country because the current system gives room for suspicion and makes the nation weak.
Atiku, who spoke at the annual public lecture of Prof. Ademola Popoola of the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife, Osun State under the theme, “Constitutional and political framework for reconstructing Nigeria for true federalism and national integration,” termed the current structure a “unitary federalism.”