By Muhammad Bello
Political, religious, and ethnic barriers were set aside on Monday at the tenth memorial lecture of the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) held in Abuja. Politicians across the party divide, monarchs, and a large spectrum of Nigeria’s political elite showed up at the event where President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by Borno state Governor.
At the lecture, Kenyan intellectual, Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba offered that Nigerian leaders should not only memorialize the life and times of late Saraki but exhibit his ‘basket of good deeds.’
“Saraki was present on this earth. He had his time and he is gone. We are all gathered here today to remember him and his basket of deeds. It would appear to me that his basket of good deeds outweighs his basket of bad deeds.
Lumumba imagined that Saraki in heaven is now asking Nigerians: “it is ten years since I left, where the leaders are? How have they served?; and is also asking Nigerians how have been served.
“The great Saraki is asking the followers have you demanded and the followers whether they have been served. just as he asks for the unity of those who are seeking to do good,”
The quintessential don, known for his oratory while telling the story of the shepherds leading and protecting their cattle from elements w nature said leading human beings is entirely different. “You may mislead them, but remember that there is the day of reckoning. History has demonstrated that men can rise when they are misled,” he said.
Recalling with nostalgia the enthusiasm that heralded independence in Africa and how African leaders: Awolowo, Nkrumah, Garvey, Nyerere, Kaunda, Machel, Azikiwe, and Nasser denied themselves material gains and fought for independence, Lumumba said this no longer the case with many leaders of Africa and Nigeria today.
“Kaunda had only $5000 dollars when he died. That is what current politicians spend on breakfast.
“We are suffering from a deficit of leadership,” he indicated, taking a tour of Africa, quoting Chinua Achebe’s: “The Trouble with Nigeria; and asking whether the continent is at peace and quiet. “If Nigeria is not at peace, Africa will never be at peace,” he emphasized.
He enumerated that although the country has many of the best professionals in the world, is tainted with the e-fraud syndrome of yahoo boys and that Nigerians are present everywhere in the world: “Can it, with its billion dollars investment capability, which can afford a trillion dollar gross domestic product (GDP), realize its potential?” he asked.
Lamenting the continent’s and Nigeria’s mortality rate, hunger, failings institutions, educational backwardness, and dearth of amenities, he submits that the politics and economies of Africa “are controlled by others from other civilizations.”
Suggesting that true and reliable leadership must have knowledgeable followership, he said “instead African leaders have now assigned the question of educating their citizens to NGOs financed abroad and other civilizations.
“He who pays the piper pays the due. African followership is built from the outside. Africa will never realize their potentials until those in leadership instill what is right in the minds of the citizens, and shun ethnicism and religious bigotry.
“I look forward to when leaders and followers in Africa will realize that it is not for us to fight for God but that the nature of the God we serve fights for us.
“Exorcise the ghosts of ethnicity, poverty, ignorance, and selfishness. Everything rises and falls on leadership,” he added, further suggesting that “Nigerian leaders must be in front to serve and never to be served” by a critical mass of followers, who he insists must be knowledgeable.
Historicizing the enviable roles African leaders played to disentangle the continent from colonial rule, he, however, regretted that “the colonialists are yet to leave,” just as African leaders are not visible in the international arena where important decisions about humanity are taken.
“When G7, G20, and the UN congregate, there are no African leaders. Where are the pillars in Africa? What was the leadership structure before we were rudely disrupted? We had traditional rulers. Where are they now? What do we expect from them? Precolonial Africa was forgotten and the mimicry of colonial leadership was adopted.
“Britain created the Commonwealth of Nations headed by the British monarch. This is neo-colonialism used to massage the ego of Africans. Through this, they continue to control and manipulate us. France did the same through the idea of Francophone Africa. In as much as African leaders try to turn around our fortunes, these efforts are being torpedoed by external influence.
“Nigeria is an artificial entity. There is no Nigerian in the sense that there is a Dutch or Finnish. In order to be a leader in Africa, African leaders must be their own among their people. If Africa were to succeed, the tribes must die,” he said quoting extensively the erstwhile Mozambican leader, Samora Machel.
In the same vein, he again noted that Africa and Nigeria are being weighed down by tribalism. “Tribalism is a mosaic used to divide the people,” he said while advocating for a role for traditional rulers in the scheme of leadership.
“What was the leadership like before we were rudely disrupted? We had traditional rulers. Where are they now? What do we expect from them? Precolonial Africa has been forgotten. Instead, mimicry of colonial leadership has been adopted,” he said.
In his opening remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad described the Saraki anniversary topic as apt.
According to him, the lecture and the one held by his alma mater: Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA) recently at Maiduguri, are not a coincidence. “They come at a time when our country is shopping for a new leadership.”
“If you need good leadership, you must have good followership and vice versa, the Sultan quipped, noting that: leaders must be told the truth. “Conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it,” he said quoting Sheikh Usmanu Danfodio.
The Sultan prayed that leaders present at the lecture will take its message with them while campaigning, urging them to campaign honestly; “and when you win you do justice to the people of the country.”
Scion of the Saraki dynasty and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki said the occasion was a national platform to address issues such as the philosophies, ideals, goals, and aspirations of his late father, who he described as “passionate about politics.”
He explained that the deceased never took decisions without consulting his followers,” pointing out that he believes a leader is as good as his followers.
He urged for a solemn observation of the lessons of his father’s life and expressed happiness at how Nigerians set aside partisan politics to attend the lecture, hoping that the lessons learned would permeate the society.
The lecture was attended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, ministers of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development; science and technology, environment, health (state), and power.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Vice Presidential candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state, the Chairman of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization (APCO), Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom and the Director General of the APCO, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as well as the party Chairman, Prof. Iyorchia Ayu attended the event along with Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa and his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu.
Other chieftains of the PDP at the event were: Chief Sam Anyawu, PDP national secretary, and Muhammad Kadade, the party’s national youth leader.
The Senate minority leader, Sen. Philip Tanimu Aduda, Sen. Lee Maeba, Sen. Dino Melaye, and Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume also attended the event.
Former highbrow legislators including former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, and the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara was also at the function.
Ex-Governors of Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Katsina, Kogi, Kebbi, Kwara, Niger, and Sokoto states: Boni Haruna, Obong Victor Attah, Isa Yuguda, Liyel Imoke, James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, Ibrahim Idris, Adamu Aliero, Abdulfatah Ahmed, Muazu Babangida Aliyu and Attahiru Bafarrawa respectively attended.
Erstwhile ministers: Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN), Sanusi Daggash, Femi Fani-Kayode, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Don Etiebet, and Bolaji Abdullahi; of ministries for special duties, national planning, aviation, trade and investment, petroleum resources as well as sports showed up.
So also did former Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Abubakar, former PDP chairman, Kawu Baraje, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, former chairman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, Mrs. Bola Shagaya, Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Suleiman, former Director General of National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, minister of mines and steel, who is also a daughter of late Saraki were at the lecture.
Monarchs from various parts of the country also graced the occasion. They include the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, the Attah of Igala, Dr. Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni 11, the Emir of Ilorin represented by Balogun Gambari of Ilorin Alhaji Adebayo Aliyu, the Emir of Ningi, Alhaji Yunusa Muhammadu Danyaya and Sarkin Kiyawa of Kauran Namoda, Maj. Sanusi Kaura Mohammed (rtd).
Also at the event were media mavens, Chief Nduka Obaigbena, founder, and CEO of ARISE Television and THIS DAY newspapers, and Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, founder of DAAR Communications PLC.
Bello is Special Adviser Media and Publicity to the Governor