on August 02, 2015 / in Politics 7:23 am / Comments (Vanguard Newspaper)
By Gboyega Amoboye
The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and President Muhammadu Buhari might have lived at different times but, like identical twins, possess many things in common-dynamism, pragmatism, integrity, self- discipline, vision and passion-to make Nigeria work. The impeccable past of these tested leaders has proved that the bane of the country’s slow development since independence has been lack of purposeful leadership.
Unlike the reluctant leaders who had been imposed on us, Awolowo and Buhari, both armed with impeccable records of performance, the former as Premier of the old Western Region as well as Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council in the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and the latter, as a military Head of State, etc, adequately prepared for the leadership of Nigeria. Three times were each unsuccessful- Awolowo in 1959, 1979, 1983 and President Buhari in 2003, 2007 and 20011.
Their paths might have crossed in one form or the other, that may been the unseen hand of God in their lives preparatory to the task ahead that :”You Obafemi Awolowo is my Moses and you Muhammadu Buhari, my Joshua, for the libration of your people from the ‘rats and mosquitoes’ of your country”. Or could it be by sheer coincidence that, for the first time since independence, both the North and the South West are in effective political alliance? The Thomas’s may continue to doubt.
Like the Nostradamus that he was, Awolowo, in a paper delivered in Kano in 1970,had proposed a seven- point agenda which he called national objectives that should be implemented simultaneously in all the states of the federation for the rapid and even development of the country. He explained that the revenue allocation formula should be based on the implementation of the seven objectives and, by so doing, put an end to the “endless search for the appropriate allocation formula”. He was speaking in a paper titled, Revenue Allocation Must be Based on Even Progress and Needs, delivered in his capacity as the Federal Commissioner of Finance, to the annual conference of state commissioners of finance.
As if confirming the link between these great national heroes, Buhari recently implemented item seven of the Awolowo’s seven- point objectives for national development of 45 years ago and, by so doing, been praised for “bailing” out states that could not pay workers salaries. The late sage had said under this item that it was imperative to put the federal government in sufficient funds to enable it not only to perform its allotted functions but also to come readily to the aid of any state in need while arguing: “But perchance any state falls on evil day, it would be the duty of the federal government, acting as an accredited agent of all the states, to come to the aid of such a needy state without delay…
Before leaving this topic , one may ask Buhari’s critics where they were when former President Goodluck Jonathan granted some members of the private sector a bail out. For instance, Arik Airline got 600m dollars, Aero -200m dollars, Air Nigeria-225.8mdollars, Chachangi-55m dollars etc.(AMCON) in addition to an attempt to buy aircrafts for them but for adverse public opinion.
Revisiting the Awo agenda
If one of Awolowo’s seven objectives has been considered well enough for implementation, the remaining six, which may equally be as good, are therefore presented though in abridged form, for consideration by Mr. President. They are-full employment, free education at all levels and free health services for all, modernisation of agriculture and rural development, rapid industrialization of each state and rapid development of system of transportation. Owing to the relevance of Awolowo’s paper to the Nigeria of today, I had, at the formation of the All Progressive Party (APC), dropped a copy of it for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at his office, Freedom House, Victoria Island, for possible incorporation into the APC manifesto.
Discussing full employment, Awolowo called for full exploitation and efficient utilization of minerals resources as well as modernization of agriculture explaining that the country’s capability for phenomenal growth was tremendous and colossal. He warned that anything short of full employment which could only be provided by exploitation of mineral resources and agriculture, would be an admission of failure on the part of Nigerian leaders “ that they are not equal to their admittedly difficult but at the same time inspiring and manageable assignment”.
Whenever we talk of merely reducing employment and not stamping it out he said, “The question which I always ask myself is- who are the unfortunate victims we are planning to keep on the unemployment market?”Like Awolowo, bailing out distressed states could be regarded as Buhari’s demonstration of love for workers too.
On modernization of agriculture, and industrialization, the sage, supporting his argument with characteristic statistics, said to achieve any of the ambitious projection, the country’s agriculture must be modernized and mechanized in a bold and massive manner. “We shall need to invest heavily in tractors, mechanical ploughs and riggers, fertilizers, pest control, irrigation, research into high yielding grains and cattle ranches, fishing trawlers, etc”. Awolowo, however, cautioned that none of the states could alone afford the level of investment involved without the intervention of the federal government acting in concert simultaneously with all the states.
As for industrialisation, he argued, that a properly developed agriculture in every state would lead to development of agro- allied industries automatically as well as manufacturing industries and consequently, disappearance of uneven location of industries. He however warned that between agriculture and industries, the choice should be agriculture to eradicate unemployment explaining that while industries if properly managed could provide employment for 220,000 workers in the next 12 years, agriculture would provide employment for six million within five years. Seeing 2015 way back in 1970, Chief Awolowo warned that “if it is the ardent and burning desire of those of us in the vanguard of public life to serve our age and the next generation faithfully, our area of concentration must ipso facto be agriculture.”
But how could uneducated and unhealthy population be productive? This was the concern of Awolowo as he canvassed as ever, for free education at all levels and free medical services for all, arguing: “Man is the alpha and omega of production and therefore indispensable to rapid economic progress, political stability and social harmony. The more educated and healthy he becomes the more productive he becomes as an economic agent and more effective as a member of the society”. He dismissed the fear that money would be the problem but adequate manpower and called for immediate planning.
On development of system of transportation, Awolowo said, “While the northern and riverine areas of the country, for social and economic reasons, lag behind in transportation development and should be therefore given a special attention henceforth, the crucial point of convergence for most transportation activities were those adjacent to the ports of Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Sapele,Warri, Escravos, Lagos and Apapa. It follows from this fact that the development of those roads within the areas of the Mid-West, Eastern, Western and Lagos Region which give access to the ports, is of concern to all of the states in the federation.” Predicting the chaotic situations of the roads witnessed today, Awolowo warned: “Any transportation difficulties in these areas are bound to constitute time- wasting bottle-necks of the worst order.”
The question may be asked, of what relevance is the vision of 1970 to 2015? The answer may be found in the reality that Nigeria has not been blessed with a visionary and patriotic leader since the Gowon era of 1970,who could harness the common wealth for the benefit of all her citizens as Chief Awolowo did for his people as the Premier of the Western Region. The metaphysical and psychological relationship between Awolowo and Buhari has shown that for the country to attain its potentials, there is an urgent need for another visionary, competent and honest leader like Awolowo, who Nigerians have found in Buhari, a man who came to power with tons of ‘universally acknowledged’ credibility that was uncommon with his fore runners.
Apparently in tandem with Awolowo, Buhari has already indicated that he would continue from where the sage stopped. Apart from”bailing” out distressed states, the President told the Nigerian community during his four-day visit to the United States: “The All Progressives Congress administration would fulfil its three-pronged campaign manifesto of providing security, turning around the economy with major focus on youth employment and fighting corruption.” He said agriculture and mining would receive priority as a faster job- creating avenues for the teeming unemployed youths.
Those who could not see yet any difference in electricity supply in the past two months may equally not find the correlation between Awolowo’s economic road map and that of Buhari. The sad news however is that if the projection of 1970 is still relevant in2015, it means the past 45 years has been that of the locusts and caterpillars due to bad governance. It is therefore not a surprise that Nigerians have unanimously voted for a statesman they could trust to remake the country. Good-bye Awo, welcome Buhari.