Letter from Chief Awolowo

Prof. Eghagha
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By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

                It has been a while since I last wrote to you compatriots if I may still refer to you as such. Up here we are disturbed by the insane and criminal hustling that has become politics in the country. We are also worried about the economy, (what is this story about the Central Bank Governor and the DSS?), insecurity, inflation, poverty, banditry, and hunger in the land. We had a meeting last week; it was chaired by Zik. Ahmadu Bello, Balewa, Ojukwu were all present. Murtala came in late and sat quietly through the meeting, fuming over corruption and why his erstwhile colleagues had become so compromised that they looked the other way. I saw a recently deceased Army Chief of Staff remonstrating with him over the outmoded violent way of changing governments. What about Mali and Burkina Faso the fiery General asked loudly. Zik advised him to give up such thoughts because their misadventure in 1966 did not save the country from anarchy. If civilians had been running the country in 1966, there would have been no war, he concluded.

Fela sent a message through the young Okposo that he wasn’t going to attend a meeting with the ‘politicians who destroyed the country’ and that he was still waiting for the militician who threw his mother out the window in Kalakuta. Madam Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was in full attendance still spitting fire about the absence of women in the centre of power. What about Shehu Shagari and Umoru Yar ’Adua? They were present too, along with Tunji Brathwaite and Lateef Jakande. Tarka and Daboh sat in one corner throughout the meeting discussing Fulani incursion inro Tivland and how they must urge Ortom to stand firm against restoring grazing routes!  

The ASUU strike occupied our attention here. Sadly, the government handled the situation poorly. How do you pay a professor four hundred thousand naira monthly? Why did they allow the strike to drag for eight long months? Yet we hear that trillions of naira from Stamp Duty have been cornered by a few powerful persons. Heaven will punish them with an ailment that nobody can cure for exploiting the poor and killing education. The government should pay the backlog of salaries due to ASUU. The spirit of teaching has been killed in many of them. This government will only kill the public university system if they continue this way.   

                The debate centered on whether we should intervene in the hocus-pocus that has become politics in your world, and the level of looting of public funds. Gani Fawehinmi argued brilliantly for hours on why we should guide you all with knowledge from the other world. On the other side of the argument was Justice Oputa ably supported by Archbishop Idahosa. Their view was that if politicians do not listen to the preachers with them what would they make of a letter from an assembly of dead old People, asking whether a drop of water could quench the thirst of people in hell? I finally advised that there was no harm in trying to tactfully steer the affairs of our people and that things have degenerated so badly that even God Almighty was alarmed. It was for this reason I was mandated to write this letter.

                It seems that the Man in Aso Rock is the only good main this government. Sadly, he does not seem to have enough information about the ongoings in his government. Old age debilitations and a mind that trusts people who pledge to be good seem to affect him. We are indeed worried about how loose his grip is over government officials. He seems to be surrounded by a brood of vipers, feeding fat on the integrity of the Aso Rock Man. I remember when he in 1983 his government claimed that Chief Bisi Onabanjo had been interrogated and I corrected them that at the time that pronouncement was made, Chief Onabanjo had not been interrogated at all. General Idiagbon was running the show and giving him feedback. Who is his point man in the scheme of things? Who are his genuine loyalists? Are they truly loyal? Are they managing the economy well? Is it a free for all government? He should remember that a government is not jugged by its intentions. A government is assessed both in the short and long terms by its actions. There is too much hunger and anger in the land.         

                As for those fellows jostling for the Presidency, we have decided not to endorse anyone of them. We would like Nigerians to make a sensible choice. INEC seems to be serious about conducting a free and fair competition. Politicians are still scheming anyway to scuttle things. This CBN policy that is designed to mop excess currency from private hands appears good on the surface. But we have no faith in it. The big men of the country have already done enough damage and made emergency plans to access cash. The time has come for revolutionary thinking. Do not elect a leader whose health is a challenge even before occupying the seat. The current experience is enough pointer to the danger of electing a sick leader. Indeed, we expected PDP like APC to zone power to the south after eight years of President Buhari. There is need for regional balancing. PDP should put its house in order. I wonder why Atiku has not been able to pacify Wike. That man is a one-man riot squad, and he seems to sway opinions against Atiku. With the dismal state of the national economy, APC should stand no chance in 2023. But voting patterns in Nigeria have never followed any logic. Indeed, Shagari has told me here that I should have been allowed to manage Nigeria in 1979.

As for Peter Obi he has gained popularity across the country. We do not endorse anybody because even here we have not reached a consensus. But we agreed to urge all Nigerians to vote according to their conscience. We commend President Buhari for saying that Nigerians should vote whoever they think can right the wrongs of the country. That is the spirit of a statesman.   

Finally, the year is coming to an end. Let the government work on food security. Let the economy work. Let hope be restored to the people. The picture we see here is frightening. May God save the country that we so worked for.  

Prof.  Eghagha writes from the University of Lagos (UNILAG). His syndicated column appears in The Dream Daily Newspaper on Mondays.

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