Ambassador Musiliu Obanikoro is a rare breed of personality who bares his mind in a natural and radical state no matter the peculiarity of clime or whose ox is gored. I had come to this conclusion after two previous occasions I had met him: as Lagos Island Chairman and Tinubu’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, all through Dr. Dapo Thomas. My meeting him in Accra, Ghana two weeks ago was therefore my third. And I realized that not much has changed about him in terms of his sharp thoughts on national socio-political issues.
As Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana, he’s an integral part of the ruling class and party-and indeed being a major stakeholder in the government at the centre- one would therefore expect a more conservative and apologetic disposition culminating in the refinement of words and in a complete sway to the other divide of society. However, what Obanikoro demonstrated during the visit of Professor Kayode Soremekun and I in the company of a select number of graduating students of International Relations of Covenant University, showed that his many years of sojourn in government have not really changed him. I had thought Lord Acton was absolutely right in all cases when he asserted that “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. For Obanikoro, the Actonian premise seems not to hold enough steam.
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For instance, Obanikoro was livid with anger with his own generation of political leaders whom he held accountable for the seeming absolute state of disrepair of the nation. He lamented the downward trend of the economy and lampooned the persons entrusted with public office for their negligence and incompetence. He described the Nigerian political class as a waster of enormous potentials and resources for years because of bad leadership, blaming them for making Nigeria a giant that can now barely justify it. In his words, “Nigeria has become a giant only in the size of population”. His recommendation was that the youths should not keep quiet any longer. They must make themselves heard and heeded in a non-violent fashion. That reminded me of Soyinka’s warning that “the man dies in him that keeps silent in the face of tyranny”. Obanikoro said it was high time for every youth to whom the future indeed belongs to keep talking, shouting, and writing until things are put right. He also tasked the stakeholders to work more concertedly to bring the nation back to its glorious days. He however, noted that without personal prejudice, such heyday and openness for all to speak out is what the government of President Jonathan is working towards.
As we are in an age when good people go bad immediately they are privileged to be in power, talking and working against the masses that empowered them, and can never speak out against the odds of leadership that have stifled national progress and development, one is bound to be bewildered at the Ambassador’s candid submissions. Obanikoro’s assertions and suggestions are therefore very instructive and serious. One cannot but admire and commend the High Commissioner’s courage, honesty and passion.
Taking a second look at the development however, with the calibre of the person of Obanikoro, his high position in government and as a policymaker and Nigeria’s eye abroad, one is bound to have fears that all hope may be lost after all for the nation. The cry of an old man over spilled milk may imply a no-solution. When an elder laments and expresses a near dead-end, what then can the younger and inexperienced ones do? The expression of hopelessness by the leadership of Nigeria spells doom for the country, particularly the youths. What now can the younger ones do in the face of a crossroads?
There are lots of expectations of the people from their leaders. Yet the leaders themselves are wary of policy desertification. The fears and despondency of the policy directors should scare the rest of us and make us wake up to the realities of the uncertainties of our future. It means the head that wears the cap no longer understands how it fits. It has run dry of solutions. There is a huge problem. What do we do?
Dr. Folarin, the Deputy Director of the African Leadership Development Centre (ALDC), Covenant University, Ota, just returned from Ghana.
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