Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) spoke to GODWIN OBI
NIGERIA as a corporate entity lacks leaders that are more statesmanlike and purpose driven, who have their constituencies at heart. If Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other eminent Nigerians who fought to secure Nigeria’s independence were to look at us from their graves, they would see that we have been gravely challenged. From the crises in the country to coups and to our return to democracy in 1999, they would wonder why we have not been able to harness our endowed natural resources since 2000.
Our political leadership is weak and too fragile. We have bad leadership, insecurity and crises everywhere, poor economic growth and recession starring in our faces. I cannot score any Nigerian politician beyond five per cent because no politician is ready to put his head on the block. Our leaders are not geared towards economic growth.
We don’t have a robust political leadership, robust civil society, strong independent media and strong religious leaders. Why are we in this path? We have failed to harmonise our amalgamation. We failed to find a common denominator to harness our diversity. No political leader seems to understand the reality of immortality. Every politician wants to take to himself what belongs to others.
COVID – 19 pandemic has shown that we live in a mad situation; where we hardly think deeper and wiser. The pandemic has shown that we can disrupt old pattern of behavior. Now, we make do with virtual meetings rather than congregating at a place and thereby risking transmission of the virus. I hope that this post-COVID way of doing things will continue, and make us to be more statesmanlike and purpose driven, feel the pains of the people we represent, and as well, get prepared in all sectors of our national life in case of emergency situations.
If our leaders feel the pains of the common people, they will begin to treat everybody equally, provide schools and hospitals, do good roads, pay pensioners at the right time.
We have to prioritise areas of investment. It is absurdity to approve I.9bn Dollars for Kano – Niger rail network project when Abuja – Lokoja Road, which is a gateway to Southern Nigeria and with huge human traffic does not have a rail network; when the East- West Road, Calabar – Benue Road ,et cetera, have not been connected to rail network.
What we can do in this circumstance can be likened to what a polygamous husband whose wives quarrel all the time did to keep them united. The man decentralised the main house and built separate houses for all his wives. The Igbo woman will cook okra soup, the Yoruba woman cooks their delicacy so are the Hausa and Ijaw women. That ended the fight over which woman will cook for the man. The federal structure is skewed in favour of federal government. The federal government has too many powers that the state has to be going to Abuja for handouts every month. What is ideal in practical terms is to adopt devolution of powers since the North does not want restructuring. If devolution is adopted, the Dr. Alex Ekweme’s proposition for a six geo-political regional structure may be reviewed to conform to the essential notion of federalism – where they are homogeneous in culture. If that is adopted, the underlying energy will be generated within that region and poverty and unemployment that is huge will be removed.
In the next 10 to 30 years Nigeria may go bankrupt if our leaders continue with their attitude to governance. Already 15 states are completely bankrupt. The spirit of COVID – 19 pandemic should guide the leadership to be able to take radical measures that are geared towards achieving economic development, protection of lives of the citizenry, as well as strengthening Nigeria’s unity.