Awo at 101: Is Nigeria moving forward?

AWOThe socio-economic and political situation of Nigeria today is one that does not merit the kind of efforts and self-sacrifice our founding leaders made for the country.From the visions they had and how they pursued its actualisation,it is quite obvious this is not the Nigeria of their dreams.Looking at Nigeria from a human point of view,a child born 50 yrs. ago should by now be a grown-up man.He is expected to be married with children,have a good job,comfortable,able to solve his own problems,and planning a secured future for his children.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo,Dr Nnamdi Azikwe,Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa(the list goes on) are men of indefatigable character who saw a country with infinitesimal influence on the outside world but still,with an infinity of resources and potentials.And because they believed in fatherland,they set out to achieve a common goal which is the emancipation and unity of Nigeria.From 1960 to 2010,many leaders have come and gone, all doing what they feel is best, and the result is what we have left today.We saw parliamentary system of government, witnessed coup d’etats and 11 yrs ago heralded democracy rule in Nigeria.Thus,we have seen it all in Nigeria and we should have been more than this. To avoid incoherence, I decided to stick to only one past great leader,Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who is very connected to the history of Nigeria.
The qualities that set Pa Awo apart are hardwork,selflessness,courage,Patriotism,God-fearing,integrity and his good conscience.With this qualities which are very rare in an average Nigerian politician today,he was able to achieve greatness for himself and his country.No leader in Nigeria today is really interested in casting his name in platters of gold forever.They do not seem to care about what people say or want.Everyday, newspapers write editorials,print people’s views and opinions,but still what we have is this inert system.
Pa Awo lived from 1909 till 1987,yet 23 yrs after his demise,every sector in Nigeria still points to him.His signature is on all the sectors-Labour,Housing,Education,Health,Sports,Agriculture,
Industrialisation,Roads & transportation,Political organisations and even the mass media.What a phenomenon!He must be a fore-runner or better still,a workaholic.
Through hardwork he was able to stamp his footprints and fingerprints on all sectors.He went into politics because he wanted to
serve the people and not to rule them.Many politicians today want to hold public offices at all cost leading to all the election riggings.Pa Awo’s patriotism led him to make friends with leaders of other regions-North and East-without minding the differences they might have had.Come October 1,another green and white cake will be cut in front of an august assembly in Aso Rock to mark the golden jubilee of independence.Does it really call for celebration?Sorry,I do not think so.
President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has been sick and flown outside of the country for three months in which the citizens of the country were left in the dark concerning the his state of health.He also failed to transmit a letter formally to the Senate to request for a medical vacation.According to Pa Awo:’Man is the executant of every project designed by him…His complete fitness is therefore,crucial to his success in the process both of planning and execution…’ It is true President Yar’adua has plans for the country but he can achieve them only when he is healthy. I know he has conscience. He shouldn’t allow himself to be gagged by anybody to come back abruptly.It was obvious he needed a vacation long ago,even before he got sick.He deserves a rest as he met Nigeria not better than this.He was just a victim of time and situations beyond his control.
The sickness of the President exposed some unpatriotic men in his cabinet.Yes,we all saw how the former Justice Minister wanted to make use of the logjam in the country then to boost his own political CV,gain filthy lucre and political stronghold at the detriment of the whole nation.He had the audacity to say the President can rule from anywhere,including the moon.Where is the conscience?What is loyalty to your boss when your personal integrity is being stained?Without integrity,there can be no lasting greatness.Is there still men of integrity in Nigeria today?I presume so,only that they are very few and probably not in government.We also saw how a minister flew to Vienna in december disregarding the order of then Vice-President,Goodluck Jonathan.
In february,the Financial Action Task Force{FATF}, an intergovernmental group that sets the global anti-money laundering standard listed Nigeria among 27 nations which are not doing enough to crack down on financial crime.All the former governors accused of money laundering by the EFFC in 2007 now go about freely without anybody daring to raise a finger.The people who commit crimes in Nigeria knows our laws are not firm enough.It is only in Nigeria that a public officer embezzles money,get charged to court,argues for a month or two,and then set free to go an enjoy his loot.
We have of, if not, the largest police force in Africa! It was widely reported last year that the Police Service Commission{PSC} do not have the exact number of policemen in the country.Police posts is everywhere but the result is still rise in crimes and money laundering.Nigeria is now reputed as the most religious nation in the world.This is the only country all over the world where people build houses and turn them to semi-churches.The total number of mosques in Nigeria today is much more than what they have in some Arab countries yet ,this countries have no other religion except Islam in contrast to Nigeria. We are so pious yet,many of us do not have conscience.
In the recent reformation of Nigerian banks by the new CBN governor, most of the main players affected by that reform were religious men and women.One of them(I do not want to mention names)is still yet to come out of his hiding place to vindicate himself. Why? Because he knows sooner or later he will be forgotten by the authorities.Are the authorities really doing enough to curb financial crimes? No, an why should they? The politicians who constitute this authorities are the most involved in financial crimes.They are the real money launderers.
As a youth in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am yet to be touched personally by one single initiative by the Federal Ministry of youth development in Nigeria.Yet, the minister who heads this sector of government as I know and believe, takes vacations and travels around the world.He knows and sees the kind of programmes they have in place for their youths-tomorrow’s leaders and the future of any country.For how long will our present leaders continue to toy with our future in Nigeria? An average youth in America will speak very confidently about their country, what they intend to do with their lives and how they believe their country is going to support them all the way.How many undergraguate is confident of securing employment in Nigeria as a fresher?
In Nigeria, students study in pressure and discomfort yet, some people (including the education minister) had the effrontery and temerity to speak of half-baked graduates.If our leaders continue to neglect education like they do now,we will soon have ‘unbaked’ graduates in Nigeria! Why not? Since the system is faulty. All over the world,very intellectual Nigerians are scattered everywhere, afraid of coming home, where the government policies are unpredictable.
Young people with the great potentials and ideas some of our current leaders do not even have are being frustrated day by day. So many talented young people are wasting away each day. Nowadays, your scores no longer guarantee you admissions into government-owned universities unless you know a bigwig in the society.This is why many students do not read again because they know someone will help them. If the education of Nigeria is left to private schools(universities) as it is now, then how many people in this economy can afford their exorbitant fees?
During the face-off between the Federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU) which lasted for about four months last year and which grounded all works in government-owned universities, I saw something in a widely read newspaper(not this one) that will later influence part of this write-up. It was the picture of a south-west governor, the governor’s wife and daughter, a PDP Chieftain from south-west, and the Minister for youth development, all in front of a London university. They went to celebrate the graduation of the governor’s daughter from the school.No wonder they were never concerned about the strike.
These people are holding very strong positions in government and they could have easily influenced the Federal government into making a fast decision about the strike.But since they were not affected, only the masses were, they preferred to be non-challant. The wife of that PDP chieftain (I will not mention names) died not long after that time and the strike was resolved through a man not even in government, Deacon Gamaliel Onosode. This is a man every youth in Nigeria should never forget.Up till now, many universities are still battling with the consequences of that strike.Yet, we say we want ‘full baked’ graduates. Has our current leaders done their very best for Nigeria?
It has become the normal tradition for some Senators and Honorables whenever they visit their constituencies, to distribute ‘dividends of democracy’ such as motorcycles,grinding machines and to build vocational training centres with their names.(Some ministers do that too). You can never fool all the people at the same time. I believe vocational centres should only be an addition to sound education. Any entrepreneur without education in a country like Nigeria will have no say in the affairs of the country. Even Pa Awo learnt a vocation(stenography), but he never depended on it to fulfil his dreams until he got good education.Lawmakers who build more and more vocational centres everyday are just short of ideas.
When you cannot fix schools which are currently in deteriorating conditions but you can make more cobblers and shoe-shiners through these vocational training stuffs then you lack good ideologies. I wonder what they treat at their party gatherings.Today’s politicians are too occupied with how to stop oppositions and the result is this inertia in the nation.Pa Awo never bothered about oppositions but the masses.What a quintessential man! A man for all seasons! The best president Nigeria never had. What a loss!
Unexpected earthquakes have rocked countries like Haiti,Solomon Islands,Chile and most recently Taiwan and Turkey.Hurricane has flooded some parts of western Europe in countries which are technologically and environmentally better than Nigeria. Since then, and even before, we have had call by experts about the possibility of a disaster especially in the south-western part of Nigeria. Up till this moment, I do not know of any measures put in place to lessen (if not prevent) the severity of a disaster.Infact, I doubt whether we can ever have such measures in a country which is not even politically stable enough. We are always at the mercies of God in Nigeria! May God save us.
Recently, I read of an incident in Jigawa state where a pregnant woman was neglected in labour by a hospital(Ringim General Hospital) and this led to her untimely death. The reason for the neglect was that the husband failed to produce the sum of 24,000 naira demanded as medical bill. Now, for how long shall we continue to watch our fellow compatriots die like animals? Many people die preventable deaths in Nigeria everyday due to the attitude of all of us.The recent Jos crisis is an example. Over 500 people including women and children were butchered by their fellow countrymen whose greatest claim to ethnicity is just language and culture. We are all the same. One people in one nation.
No nation can achieve good transformation without peace and unity. In an atmosphere of uneasiness, terrorism, cabalism, and bloodshed there can be no moving forward-no lasting greatness. Remember the almajiris are still piling up in the north. At 50 years of independence, our refineries are still not working, electricity is proving to be beyond PHCN’s control, the Federal government is proclaiming deregulation, and already there is hike in price of petrol. This is an irony in a nation regarded as the sixth largest producer of oil in the world.
We have potentials but no harnessing of these potentials. Nigeria is no longer an industrialized nation. The industries that functioned in the 80s and 90s had all gone to Ghana and South Africa. The main ‘industry’ in Nigeria today is Okada riding. The Chinese and Lebanese are making all our money now.Yet our leaders pretend as if they do not know all this things.
Public schools are in deteriorating conditions all over the country. In some schools, pupils sit on bare floor or hang on windows. I was part of this system and I know what it looks like. Presently, the future looks gloomy. We cannot make future leaders in this path we currently tow. Our leaders still travel abroad to access their health and for vacations. Why? There is no qualitative health facility in the country.
In january, I saw a picture of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa while he was still Nigeria’s Prime Minister in the 60s.He was on vacation in his village sitting on bare floor with his children and they were eating sugarcane together. Does it mean the man was timid? No, he travelled around the world like many of our presnt leaders. He was just humble in service. What a great man!

My Prescription
Let us stop abusing the sick President alone. Let all of us do our very best for our country. Some governors are already vying for the post of Vice President. Is this not for their selfish interest? Apart from the time of Pa Awo and the rest, no President or Head of state had the real ambition to serve Nigeria, they were all opportunists. Nigeria is our only home, let us make it a better place.
To the youths: ‘We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power towards good ends- Maya Angelou.
From my personal book of quotes: ‘It is when you learn to hold yourself responsible for your woes that you come up with great ideas to move forward.’
Yes, Nigeria will move forward if we can all accept our responsibilities as the conductor of our destiny ,and our nation.

Tomiwa Olasiyan,
a concerned Nigerian youth.
Opinions welcomed at

N.B: This article was written by me for publication in 2010. You could ask your vendor or librarian for a copy of the March 16th edition of The Sun Newspapers(for those in Nigeria) to read the published & edited version.