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Saturday, 14 September 2013

New lessons I’ve learnt

New lessons I’ve learnt
Experiences of the past six weeks have taught me new lessons, opened fresh vistas to me about life, and equally brought home certain truths about our country rather vividly.  That is what I want to share in this piece today.
I lost a mum.  Some cynical people will say, so what?  Don’t people die everyday?  Yes, people die everyday, but they are not your mother, so when you hear the news, it seems like mere statistics to you.  But when it happens to you direct, then you know that he who feels it knows it.
Let us start from last Saturday, when we had the last rites of passage for the departed, and then work our way back.  The Good Book tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.  Nigerians take divine charges quite serious, irrespective of religion.  From all walks of life, from different parts of the country, irrespective of creed, tongue, tribe, people came to join the Adesina family, as we had the last dance with our mother.  Right and true were the words of our former National Anthem, which stated that: “though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”  What I saw last Saturday was the brotherhood of man, the expression of our collective humanity, in which religion did not matter, language, ethnicity or political persuasion were inconsequential.
It was a Christian farewell service we were holding, and the invitation cards sent out indicated so.  In a country so fractured, so polarized down the middle by ethnicity and religion, you would think Muslims would give the event a wide berth.  But let me do a quick checklist of committed Muslims who were at event.  Former military head of state, Gen Muhammadu Buhari.  Don’t they say he’s a religious bigot?  Yet, he came to a Christian service, in which there was singing, clapping and raising of hands in worship, and there was a preaching session, as done by the National Secretary of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, Rev Ikechukwu Ugbaja.  Bigot, bigot, yet Buhari sat all through it, and remained for many hours after. The word bigotry sure then needs to be redefined!
Yes, I was listing the prominent Muslims. Who can be more Muslim than the Sultan of Sokoto, head of the Muslim Ummah in the country?  Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III was represented at the event by Alhaji Aminu Idris Yaro, Sakin Hausawan Lagos.  Yet, people think religion will scatter Nigeria, and break her apart at the seams.  No, it should not happen, except the politicians exploit the unwary and misguided, as they have always done.
Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is a Muslim.  He came, and even spoke about the state being a huge factory of great mothers, since my late mum was an Ijebu.
Former military president, Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, was represented by one of his aides, Salman Yusuf, a Muslim.  Former Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Tafa Balogun was there, former EFCC boss, Mrs Farida Waziri, politician and publisher Chief Abiola Ogundokun, Dr Muiz Banire, former Commissioner for the Environment in Lagos, Lateef Ibirogba, current Commissioner for Information in Lagos, Hakeem Bello, Senior Special Adviser to Gov Raji Fashola on Media, Suleiman Gaya, Vice President (North) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, and my colleague and friend, Alhaji Yusuf Olaniyonu, Commissioner for Information in Ogun State.  The list is not exhaustive, but those are some Muslims that were at the Christian service.  And it set me thinking.
Why should religion ever be a source of rift between any people?  Why should it be a centrifugal force in a country?  Today, politics is played on the altar of religion and ethnicity.  Is he a member of my church, or my mosque?  Does he speak my language?  Does he worship the same God I worship, and in the same way?   And while we major in all these minors, the country is decaying and putrefying under us.  While we neglect weightier matters, boxing the air like an expiring pugilist, the ship of state is heading for the rocks.  Nigerians, be wise.  God never intended religion to drive a wedge between us, but to lead us into harmony, even in our diversity.
Another lesson.  We should not take certain things personal, in the bid to engender the country of our dreams.  This I learnt from former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida. As I wrote last week, he had phoned on Thursday, 48 hours to the event, condoled me, and asked for details of the last rites.  When I told him, he promised to send an aide.  And he did.  Has it changed my opinion about the former president?  No.  For 20 years since he voided the June 12, 1993 election won by M.K.O. Abiola, I have taken against a position against Babangida.  I am still against him, even as I write now.  But is it a virulent, do or die thing?  No.  Nothing personal.  It is all about our country.  He had the opportunity to move our country forward into democratic realms, he rather stuck us in perpetual reverse gear, producing the evil regime of Sani Abacha, under which we groaned for five years.  IBB is still a culprit, but you cannot deny his personal charm and human relations.  The fact that he mourned with me at a time I was mourning showed me a new perspective of him.
And yet another lesson!  You need people, good people around you.  The Yoruba have a saying, which if translated freely means “people are the dress we wear, they are our clothing.”  Yes, I have experienced it, and can speak authoritatively now.  If not for the people around me, the volume of tears I shed would have been child’s play.  People flocked round me, sat with me, comforted me, consoled me.  I had wondered how I was going to go through the farewell service last Saturday and not precipitate an ocean at the venue with my tears, but I ended up not shedding any.  And when the preacher, Rev Ugbaja, in his homily, said what we were doing was not the last dance with my mum, that we were still going to dance with her again when we get to heaven, you needed to see the peace and comfort that flooded into my soul.  The raindrops stopped, and if they would ever come again, it would be in very private moments. How comforting the words of God can be. No wonder the hymn writer declared: “Lord thy word abideth, and our footsteps guideth, who its truth believeth, light and joy receiveth.” True.
Talking of good people, there were many, scores really, whom I never met before, but who turned up to comfort the Adesina family.  I only knew Navy Captain Abiodun Olukoya by reputation when he was military governor in Ondo State between September 1990 and January 1992.  He retired later from the Navy as a Rear Admiral.  He reads me on this page on Fridays, and we had exchanged text messages a number of times.  He was at the event, in flesh and blood, last Saturday.  That’s a good man, if you’re looking for one.
What of other people I met for the first time?  Group Captain Tola Adediji, former spokesman of the Nigerian Air Force, Lagos-based lawyer, Chijioke Emeka, public commentator, Peter Claver Oparah, Omo Oba Kolade Roberts, and many others.  We had been acquainted one way or the other in the past, never met them physically before, but they came.  Good people.  When Dr Dora Akunyili came with the campaign that we were Good People, Great Nation, I remember I had written that we were Good People, yes, but Great Nation, no.  There are, indeed, good people in Nigeria, and I’m a witness.  Even the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) sent a representative, though I have no direct relationship with the leadership of the foremost labour union.  I doff my cap.
It is a new day, a new dawn, a new visitation in a brand new way. It is another season of life. No father, no mother.  Life is in stages and seasons, with each season having its own peculiarities. But one person is common to all those seasons.  God.  When He is with you, He becomes father, mother, uncle, aunt and everything.
Buhari and 2015: The Mugabe example
Given the example of some politicians in other parts of the world and even Nigeria, if Gen Muhammadu Buhari decides to contest for the highest political office in Nigeria in 2015, there is nothing wrong with it. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees him that, no matter his age, provided he does not contravene any law of the land that would inhibit him from contesting.
Apart from constitutional and natural inhibitions, Buhari and of course any other Nigerian of his age and above, is free to contest for the presidency. Apart from the very recent example of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, there are other world leaders that have reached 70 years and above, and are still in active partisan politics, including running for elective positions. How old is Cameroun’s President Paul Biya and he is still running for election? How old is the Chinese President? How old is Ahmed Karzai of Afghanistan, or the deposed Hosni Mubarak of Egypt before his fall?
Even our own highly revered Pa 7Michael Ajasin, how old was he when he ran for a second term in office as governor of old Ondo State?  If Buhari is considered too old to run for the country’s presidency in 2015, as the fear of certain elements who feel he could win indicates, how about our Mr. Fix it Chief Tony Anenih who ran for the PDP B.O.T Chairman recently and is still holding that post to the happiness of few PDP members?
Is the post of PDP national chairman that the over 70 years old Alhaji Bamanga Tukur currently holding not a top position like that of President? The fear of Buhari within some political quarters in the land is the beginning of wisdom. The vocal few against Buhari’s presidency are merely trumping up and fanning all manners of blackmail such as religious bigotry, sponsorship of Boko Haram, of being Igbo-phobic, etc. And the allegations are not substantiated. For instance, to some undiscerning or uninformed Ndi Igbo, Buhari is tagged enemy number one, without their knowing that their greatest enemies are those that had been impoverishing them and pretending to be representing them. The last time the Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageway and the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt dual carriage highway were in good order was when Buhari used the PTF to reconstruct them. It was Buhari’s PTF that established the Greater Oji River water scheme (a former military administrator of Enugu State, Brigadier Lucky Mike Torey is still alive and could attest to this because it happened during his tenure). The water scheme draws water from far away Oji River to Enugu metropolis, for provision of potable water to Enugu, which the present state government is now reticulating to all nooks and crannies of the Coal City, and the taps are now flowing in many parts of the city that hitherto had no pipe-borne water.
Have we so soon forgotten the intervention of Buhari’s PTF in the health and education sectors, when public hospitals had infrastructure improvement and were rid of the hitherto ‘out of stock’ syndrome that characterized public hospitals? Have we for instance forgotten soon in Igbo states that Buhari’s PTF reconstructed (not rehabilitated) some major urban roads, like in Enugu where I live, Edinburgh, Edozie, Obioma, Zik Avenue, etc? How can we be so easily swayed that Buhari is Igbo hater when he did all this in the southeast zone? The two dual carriageways earlier mentioned are today serious death traps where our people die daily, yet we have federal and state governments in place and our people are not talking.
During the era of Babangida, a construction company from Imo State was said to have been awarded the contract to reconstruct the heavily deplorable Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt dual carriageway, but the project became abandoned after the contract fee was said to have been released. The road was left in that state till Buhari’s PTF came and reconstructed it. Before then, people traveled to Owerri, Aba and Port Harcourt from Enugu through the tortuous Enugu-Awka-Ekwuluobia-Orlu-Owerri single lane route.
Since 2000 till date, do you know the number of Igbo people that have died untimely on the federal roads in the southeast zone because of the terrible state? Was Buhari responsible? Yet since then, we have had PDP federal governments and even state governments which have the support of Ndi Igbo and in which Ndi Igbo served prominently as ministers, senate presidents, deputy senate presidents, deputy speakers of House of Representatives, federal special advisers, special assistants, etc? The harrowing aspect of it is that our political class, some of them holding very high public posts, are alleged to have cornered the contracts for the reconstruction of these roads and those of federal erosion controls and the monies became diverted into private use, yet Buhari is the Igbo enemy and not these people. Some of them now traverse the southeast by helicopter, while others go by very expensive SUVs that no bad road can adversely affect.
Buhari came and tried to sanitize our polity in 1983 but the bad eggs in our society, the parasites that are the clogs in the country’s wheel of progress, did not want him. He is accused of being a religious bigot and anti-Christianity but when he had autocratic power as military head of state he never took Nigeria to the dreaded Organization of Islamic Countries (O.I.C), rather Ibrahim Babangida who ousted him on August 27,1985 was the one who did.
On Boko Haram, Buhari may have forthrightly spoken his mind on the heinous sect, but my mind tells me that some of the secret prominent accomplices and promoters of the Boko Haram group may not be totally outside the circles of the northern Islamic political elites that have nothing to do with Buhari but may even be among the membership of the ruling political party because of the pursuit of their own political interests. Such characters turn around like the fox to push the Boko Haram insurgence to Buhari, just because he warned against election rigging.
I had sometime ago said it on this page that as onye Igbo, I would want an Igbo person to lead this country in 2015, but from the look of things, I’m yet to see the Igbo man with the liver to come out to take over from Jonathan. I have been looking forward to seeing a Patrick Utomi or a Charles Chukwuma Soludo or any other credible Igbo personality strongly running for the Presidency in 2015, but my sight seem to be failing me, as I can’t see such credible people of Igbo stock on the block, and it seems already late.  From the public utterances and body language of some Igbo politicians, they have once again conceded the Igbo right to aspire to the country’s highest political post to President Jonathan again, as they did in 2011. If you’re interested in something, you should be bold enough to go for it, but where you are being lethargic, it means you don’t know what you want. You should therefore not turn around to rub mud or throw sand on some other fellows who have the will and courage to run for the post you have already conceded for mere porridge.
So, let us leave Buhari alone, and if he’s the one that will provide the desired or required good governance, as I believe he can, then let it be. What I am simply saying is that Buhari has the constitutional right to run for any post in the land, just like any other good citizen, if he so desires. Most of those pointing fingers are no better than him.
•Abuchi Anueyiagu, Public Affairs Commentator/Veteran Journalist, 08080242128, “”

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