I have had cause to be tempted sometimes to merely sit back and watch events as they unfold in Nigeria without getting involved. The temptation is borne out of the fact that our efforts at building a virile and progressive nation has always failed largely due to our own making.
But as a patriot and full-blooded Nigerian who has played and continues to play an important role in the emerging new Nigeria, I cannot but speak up on national issues. The need to join in national discourse becomes even more imperative in view of the fact that confusionists can seize the stage if men and women of goodwill decide to say nothing.
However, rather than attend political meetings which, more often than not, do not point the way forward, I have chosen to use this medium to address some of the nagging issues affecting the country today. Of immediate concern to me is the recent meeting of Northern leaders where issues of security, poverty and revenue allocation, especially as they affect the North, were raised. Even though the issues raised are germane and need to be addressed, it is misleading to present them as problems of the North alone. They affect the entire country and should therefore be of concern to all. Unfortunately, when the chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, who spoke on behalf of Northern Governors, broached the matter, he made the revenue sharing issue a particularly northern affair when he stated that Southern states were unduly favoured by the present revenue sharing formula.
But I ask Governor Aliyu: why now? Why has he not raised this issue since five years when he became governor? In this era of enhanced revenue accruing to the States of the Federation, it is likely that his five years in office has yielded more revenue to the state than what some governors received for eight years between 1999 and 2007. Therefore, rather than agonise over inadequate revenue, the governors should be more concerned about prudent management of the resources available to them. They should provide dividends of democracy to the governed with the allocations at their disposal before raising issues about more funds.
As Governor, I lived in my personal residence for eight years and I did not collect any money in lieu of official government quarters. You can juxtapose that with what some governors who are living in their personal houses are doing today. They are being paid hundreds of millions of Naira as house rent. This is part of the way they squander the resources of their states only to turn round to seek to bring disunity between the North and the South over revenue allocation. Review of revenue allocation formula is not a bad idea. But those advocating that should approach the issue with maturity and decency. Leaders have a responsibility to enthrone peace in the land and not to fan the embers of disunity.
Governors should work to improve their revenue base through internally generated revenue. They should not rely so much on allocation from the Federation Account as they are doing at present. People in positions of authority should not, because of their failure, throw bones at the dogs in order to make them fight.
If the governors manage the allocations they receive on monthly basis prudently, they will develop their states and thereby bring about peace and progress. If they reduce the hardship in the land through the provision of dividends of democracy, Nigeria can live without Boko Haram, political haram, poverty haram, injustice haram, or any other form of haram. The governors are in the best position to make this country better because they have a direct relationship with the grassroots.
As I have earlier stated, poverty and security challenges in Nigeria are not exclusive to the North. They affect the entire Nigeria. Boko Haram, religious crises, ethnic tensions are Nigerian problems. But we should ask ourselves why these problems persist despite our efforts at curbing them.
Why have conferences, seminars and workshops aimed at addressing these issues achieved nothing? The answer is simple. Most of those behind these workshops and seminars are pretenders. They are mostly those behind the crises and uprisings that we face periodically. They come to such conferences with ulterior motives. They say one thing when they mean another. That is why discerning minds who cannot be deceived by these pretenders shun such gatherings. That is why I have personally refrained from attending meetings and gatherings of similar nature lately.
Those who have been calling for meetings here and there are the same people behind the problems we are facing today. Therefore, they cannot offer any solution except if they come out openly to admit that they are part of the problem and tender public apology to the people. Having done that, they should go ahead to institute foundations that will improve the lot of the less privileged and downtrodden. If they do this, Nigerians will forgive them and begin to see and respect them as statesmen and not necessarily elders by age.
In fact, my fear increases everyday when I see that our neighbouring countries are developing rapidly. When you look at Ghana and Niger Republic and how they are developing rapidly, not even to talk of Dubai and the rest of them, it is simply amazing. Let us even compare Nigeria with sister African countries in terms of discipline and the rule of law e.g. Ghana,, Egypt, Niger Republic, just to mention a few. Until we borrow good example from them, we shall continue to deceive ourselves. Calling our country the mother of Africa while we cannot even compare ourselves with the child of our neighbouring countries is self-deceit. If we are waiting for somebody to come and fix our roads, electricity, educational system, hospitals, our security, economy, our image, our judiciary and our legislature, then we are joking.
We cannot expect to enjoy peace in a country where majority of the people will wake up in the morning without food to eat due to unemployment. We all know this is a fact and yet nobody is willing or ready to sit down and look at the situation critically. Both present and past leaders are trying to make themselves comfortable without thinking of the suffering masses. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria as a country. What is lacking are good leaders who have a vision and motivation to move the country forward. We have all the resources that can make our country better but what we are lacking are leaders who will have the country at heart and work to improve it.
The situation poses a challenge to President Goodluck Jonathan. It is not late for Mr. President to wake up and see what he can achieve within his time. He still has three good years to leave a legacy for his administration. Mr. President, it is very easy to achieve something if you are determined to do so by taking Nigeria to be your constituency. You have to see yourself as a Hausa-Fulani man, a Yoruba man, an Igbo man and the rest of the tribes that I have not mentioned. Don’t look at yourself as an Ijaw man, but see yourself as belonging to all the tribes and their cultures. Don’t see yourself as coming from the South-South. Instead you must see yourself as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By doing so, you have to bring close to you people who will see themselves as Nigerians and the whole country as their constituency and who are ready and committed to serve their fatherland without any selfish interest. I believe there are millions of Nigerians who are ready to do so if they are asked to serve. Mr. President, if you decide to change your style of government, everything will change for the better for the country. By the time you are able to achieve 50% of your targets, it will be a remarkable feat. Then you will be judged as a statesman not as an elder. Therefore, try and differentiate between an elder and a statesman. Try to distance yourself from the praise singers who are always at the corridors of power.
They will be there until the next government comes and they will continue to sing the same song, that is, you’re the one and the only one! Beware of them, Mr. President. I urge Nigerians to wake up and salvage our country from total collapse. We should not see the problems as those of the President or National Assembly or Judiciary. It is our collective responsibility to sit up and contribute our own quota so that our children and grand children and even those who are not yet born will come to enjoy.
Finally, I use this opportunity to advise Mr. President to still go through the report of Sheikh Ahmed Lemu. I believe if Mr. President will start to implement the recommendations of the report, things will start changing for the better instead of holding various meetings which are generally ending up in futility.
It is my belief that sooner or later, peace will return to the country and the Boko Harm problem will come to an end.
Alhaji (Dr.) Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa
(Garkuwan Sokoto) is the Former Executive Governor of Sokoto State
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