•Chief Servant says marriage of 1914 is a blessing, not a curse
By HENRY AKUBUIRO
Is the 1914 amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates by Lord Lugard a blessing or curse? Many would hazard different guesses – for and against. That was the theme of a speech presented by the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, on Tuesday, September 5, at the Lagos Country Club Diamond Jubilee Hall. The event was part of the club’s Business Lecture Series where distinguished personalities spoke on topical matters of national significance.
The theme, “The Marriage of 1914: A Curse or Blessing”, was borne out of Nigeria’s attainment of 100 years since its amalgamation in 1914, at Zungeru in Niger State, under the supervision of the then Governor-General, Fredrick Lugard.
Welcoming the guests to the lecture, the club’s president, Barrister Wale Oshomo, urged the guests to sit back and enjoy the Chief Servant’s lecture, saying that theirs was a club “where people have fun.”
Governor Aliyu, while speaking on the 1914 amalgamation, traced the history of Nigeria’s amalgamation to when Miss Flora Shaw published an article in the London Times and suggesting “Niger Area” as the name for Nigeria. The governor said the amalgamation was destined to be and that “we must explore our diversity for strength, adopt the approach of unity and peace for a harmonious co-existence.”
According to him, “the leaders that emerged as a result of the Richard’s Constitution of 1946 kick-started the roadmap for the development of Nigeria and God has, however, ordained that the marriage will work.”
The Niger State governor said the call for disintegration by a few people is misplaced, quoting the Holy Quran and the Bible to illustrate God’s divine will that His people must live in unity. He equally said disintegration and balkanisation cannot solve Nigeria’s problems.
In his charismatic nature, the Chief Servant’s lecture contained issues of pivotal concern to all. He spoke about the contempt, which the citizenry seems to have for the nation. He wondered if the nation could survive for a month without a central government. He queried the lack of functional systems as the bane of Nigeria’s growth. “Our country lacks strong institutions,” he said. He lampooned the inefficient leadership and structural crisis, confronting the nation, regretting that many people become dictators once elected. He urged the people to set their target, insisting that the people are the government. “Of course, this is because a country without visionary leaders will be faced with economic and social instability,” he submitted.
Besides not having succession plans, he noted that Nigerians were most confronted with despotism. While saying those who take leadership and not willing to listen to the people or criticism should leave the scene, he advised leaders to stop pretending that they know everything. He said leaders should consult with their people before imposing policies on them since the people know what they want better than anyone else.
The PDP crisis has become a major talking point in Nigeria, a dilemma which the Chief Servant touched in his speech. For him, there is no intention of leaving the party except he is dismissed. “I will never leave PDP unless I am dismissed. I believe that, members of PDP appreciate robust debate and robust discussion, because if we can have democracy in the party system, that will transcend into democracy in the country. But you cannot expect democracy in the country when the channels for producing the leaders do not have democracy. The discussion in the party is not to destroy it but to strengthen it for greater growth.”
He was confident that Nigeria won’t fail as a nation. Even though he is against a sovereign conference, he agreed that the people needed to decide how they want to live through a national conference. While making possible suggestions to the dwindling woes, he suggested that there is “the need to imbibe democratic values and practices at all levels of society.”
There was the familiar echo of the federal government taking the lion’s share in the revenue allocation formula when he reiterated: “The federal government now takes the bulk of the revenue at the expense of states where people live, doing jobs that should be prerogative of states with attendant wages. Thus, it is appropriate to call for proper constitutional review to devolve more responsibilities to the states and local governments.”
He was miffed that the wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the greater majority of the country to languish in penury.”
According to the Chief Servant, the melodrama being staged in Taraba State is a re-enactment of history. He went down the memory lane to remind the guests of what became of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua when his allies held unto power. He pointed at his ministers, whom the constitution empowers to proclaim the president incapacitated so that the vice president could take over power but who refused to do so because of sentiments. He recalled that it took the proactive intervention of the Northern Governors’ Forum and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to seek the consent of the Senate President to swear in Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the Acting President.
For Nigerians to earn proper living wages, Dr. Aliyu said there has to be fewer people in the corridors of power. He said that there is the need to reduce the amount of money at the centre to make the centre less attractive to curb mass incursion into government or politics, because there would be nothing to steal when the money is not there. He demanded for better schools to be built if children must not go out of the country to study. He submitted that people should not come with their Harvard training and impose impracticable policies on the people. While querying local government autonomy, he argued that many local governments cannot generate substantial revenue to cater for their welfare, noting that many may collapse as a result.
He also called on the leadership of the country to pay attention to realigning the nation alongside veritable hope for development, saying: “We must not allow anything to disintegrate our country. Hence, the marriage is a blessing, not a curse. We must not lose hope, for tomorrow shall be better than today.”
Among the dignitaries at the event were the Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, the Secretary to the Niger State Government, Chief Of Staff to the Niger State Government, Senator Moshood Abimbola, Professor Wale Are Olaitan, former Vice Chancellor of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Mr Wole Sowole, Dr Mariam Wole Sowole, Engr. Kayode Akinwowon, Aare Bisi Lawal and Kayode Onanugu.