One of the most trending news items that has enveloped Nigeria’s media landscape in the recent time is the statement credited to Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the country’s present Minister of Works and Housing.
According to the reports making the rounds in the print, electronic and social media, the man who is often seen as one that has made his mark as a Lawyer and two-term Governor of Lagos State has responded to the cry of many Nigerians over the sorry-state of Federal roads under his supervision. The minister was quoted to have told Nigerians that the state of roads in our country is exaggerated. In other words, those who are criticizing his ministry and by extension, the government of Mohammadu Buhari are idle fellows with acute shortage of knowledge of the administration’s ‘superlative’ performance on road constructions and maintenance. This is sad!
Given Fashola’s erudite scholarship as a “learned” man and an accomplished governor of the state of Lagos, one would expect that men like him would constantly take a “journey” into Nigeria’s history with a view to discovering the damming consequences of past careless responses to burning issues by leaders since our independence in 1960.
In the 60s when disaffection arose among Nigerians, especially soldiers from the three major ethnic groups (Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo), the issues surrounding the threat to the country’s unity were taken to Aburi for a round table discussions.
While Yakubu Gowon led the Federal Government delegation to that conference, Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu led the delegates from the Eastern region.
However, when all the delegates returned to the country, the Federal Government representatives allegedly reneged on the agreements reached at Aburi. Ojukwu and his people on the other hand insisted on “on Aburi we stand”. The end result of this was the Nigerian civil war (a.k.a Biafran war) between 1967 and 1970.
Though the war was prosecuted and “killed” in 1970, its only “child” from the estranged relationship between Nigeria and Biafra “named” tribulation was already “born”. Unlike the civil war, while Nigeria is still fighting to “kill” tribalism, it has continued to wax stronger with its “birth” of many ‘children’ such as nepotism, distorted religion, IPOB, OPC, Boko Haram, MOSOP and the mess is still on-going.
Whereas governors like late Samuel Ogbenudia and Mobolaji Johnson of Midwest and Lagos State respectively strived to leave positive foot prints on the sands of time in terms sports and other forms development in their areas of governance, Ukpabi Asika of the East Central State was busy with movements that led to nowhere. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria noticed this misguided leadership style of Asika and attempted to caution him. Asika reacted by pointing out to Azikiwe that affluence from governance is rotational. In his words, “Onye Ube ru, Ya racha” (he who receives boiled native pear should take full advantage and consume it with rapidity). Zik left the matter at that. Today, the late president is continually remembered by history as one who meant well for Nigeria and Africa while Asika’s poor performance in the East remains a major cause of the present neglect of the region.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari defeated Chief Obafemi Awolowo at the 1979 Presidential polls and thus became Nigeria’s first executive president. In 1982, Chief Awolowo warned that the ‘economic ship’ of the country was heading towards a ‘rock’ and urged Shagari to do something about it urgently. In his response, the President’s Political Adviser, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo described Awo’s statement as the “ranting of an ant”. Not too long after, the NPN government of Shagari introduced an economic policy it referred to “Austerity measure”. This was one of the reasons why Buhari toppled the government on the 31st of December, 1983. The nation was thus plunged into another fifteen years of backward military rule (1984-1999).
The fifteen-year rule of the military was characterized by leaders with little or no formal education who introduced us to World Bank rated economists as finance ministers. These men managed the national economy from the World Bank perspective. And this brought about the Dutch auction sales of the naira at the Central Bank of Nigeria which in turn brought about the devaluation of our currency from 82k to one dollar in 1981 to N366/dollar in 2019. And we are even happy that naira is appreciating. These high-flying economists that managed the economy with the military include Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Dr. Onalapo Soleye and Dr. Chu S.P Okongwu. Hopefully, we shall recover from the present economic mess which would have been avoided had Shagari heeded the counsel of Awolowo.
Even as the military continued with this economic trend, Obasanjo became critical of the issues and as a statesman urged them to bring human face to governance. Instead of listening to this call, Abacha understood the ex-head of state as one inciting Nigerians against the Federal Government.
He therefore tried and sentenced the man to life imprisonment. Of course, Abacha stubbornly died in office while OBJ moved from prison to Aso Rock as a civilian president of Nigeria. The rest of the matter is now history.
Events of recent memory show that Obasanjo was the first Nigerian President to put a structure in place for the purpose of combating corruption in the country. He did this by creating the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independence Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
Few years after leaving office, he observed that the foundation he laboured so hard to lay for the fight against corruption was rapidly being destroyed. He cried to no avail until he became so frustrated. Not knowing what else to do, OBJ picked his pen and wrote a stinker to President Goodluck Jonathan, warning him of the impending doom on the nation if he failed to check the alarming rate of corruption among his “boys”. Instead of listening to OBJ, PDP members and supporters started referring to Obasanjo simply as “Baba” (Old man). At last, it the allegation of corruption against Jonathan and his party that largely ensured the termination of the PDP rule in Nigeria. Even those who were corruptly enriched by PDP crossed over to APC and used their wealth to oust Jonathan.
As usual and expected, Fashola, being a “learned” man and political friend of the press has since disowned this statement. But then, the facts still remains that many leaders are yet to come to terms with the sayings that, “it is better to keep shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and clear all doubts”.
BY AUGUSTINE OMILO