Yakubu Dan-Yumma Gowon, 84, is Nigeria’s former Head of State. He served in the Nigerian Army between 1954 and 1975. Nine of those years were dedicated to Nigeria as her ruler. Within that period, he also led war efforts to keep Nigeria as one indivisible entity. Wikipedia describes Gowon as Nigeria’s military leader who “took power after one military coup d’etat and was overthrown in another.”
The former military strongman has many firsts to his credit: the youngest man and the first bachelor ever – and the only one so far – to rule Nigeria. He is also the father of the ‘No victor, no vanquished’ aphorism that has now won laurels among war mongers and political gladiators. As fate would have it, the war veteran is the Convener of ‘Nigeria Prays’, a Christian religious programme, established some 23 years ago, “out of the need to put an end to the various problems plaguing Nigeria.”
Gowon was in Osun State with his ‘Nigeria Prays’ team recently and the message was that of peace and stability of Nigeria. He came here to assure us that, our predicament notwithstanding, what has gone wrong can be remedied only if we can pray.
Well, let me join other well-meaning Nigerians in commending Gowon as a good and responsible elder-statesman, one who has, since his removal from office and return from exile, been canvassing “attitudinal change among Nigerians.” Unlike others who derive pleasure from doing stuffs that are rich in “compromising the unity and oneness of Nigeria”, this remarkable and fantastic Nigerian has never wavered in urging Nigerians to depart from their old ways so as to allow God to shame their frustrations and dismember their encumbrances. Little wonder Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola described him as “a man of integrity, a man of honour and a man of peace.”
From the sociological analysis of what is on ground, there is no doubt that society still looks up to people of Gowon’s age and pedigree to provide leadership because corruption seems to have made those who are supposed to take over from them lose the privilege and requisite respect. Given his age, the former leader is already old. By now, he is expected to be resting and enjoying the fruits of his labour. In saner climes, there ought to have been a generational change that would have led to the baton falling on somebody else. In this wise, one can understand the retired General’s nostalgia. Unfortunately however, the challenge facing us as a people is that there is no rallying point; there is nobody to believe in and that’s the major issue! For instance, with all that the likes of Bola Tinubu have done, some people still query their motive, space and place in the affairs of Nigeria.
Yes, following God is good! Praying to the Strength of Israel without ceasing is also rewarding! After all, He has awesomely promised to hear His “people who are called” by His name “from heaven, forgive their sin” and “heal their land”, if only they will “humble themselves and pray, and seek” His “face, and turn from their old ways”. That’s God! But how many people believe in God and are we really God’s people?
Broadly speaking, Nigeria is Africa’s biggest market; very hugely import-dependent. Beyond mere postulations and associated externalities, over-55% of her population is educated. By this, I mean, they can read and write. We also have the soil, the sunshine, even the oil and all that’s needed to make our lives worth the while. However, looking at what Nigeria does have, and should have, the current state of her security is, to say the least, uninspiring. Nigeria, as it is, is the paradox of a nation. Like a child, attempting to crawl, dear country is conspicuously “weighed down by social, economic and political problems.” Sad that Nigeria doesn’t look like a country with direction! Since she has been captured by the muddy and messy intrigues of politics, she is now moving dangerously towards extreme poverty and disaster. So, no cohesion! Regrettably, this uncertainty, this fear, is already wreaking havoc! For example, some of our latter-day, so-called leaders have no paid jobs and no second address. In politics and science, there is nobody to lead; and, in sports, the coaches will fight over estacode and selection processes. The crying thing is that our children are not solid on the inside!
But, where did Nigeria get it wrong? Once upon a time, the Ahmadu Bellos of this world were seen and believed as leaders. Even, when Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister was stationed in Lagos, he still deferred to the Sardauna of Sokoto, whose seat as Premier of Northern Nigeria was in Kaduna. Till date, nobody has replaced Nnamdi Azikiwe as leader of the Igbo Race. And, Obafemi Awolowo’s challenges notwithstanding, he remained the leader of the Yoruba race until he passed in 1987. We will want the world to know the truth and the unequivocal truth is that, immediately Abraham Adesanya died, Afenifere as a foremost Yoruba socio-cultural group, from whose rank successive Yoruba leaders had hitherto emerged, disintegrated into factions. As we speak, Afenifere is with no clear leader!
Without doubt, Nigeria needs a philosophy to follow and people with character in geopolitical zones to defer to. But can we have peace without justice and how do we retrieve some of these values from those who are using ‘us against us’ and are prospering at our expense? The more reason the actors in Nigeria will have to sit up and address the salient issues currently threatening the survival of this country. To achieve this, emphasis must be laid on education as well as character formation and nurturing. Take it or leave it: until the people come together and agree on predictable parameters and standards that can serve as guides, the country will continue to wallow in incongruous ideological and political atrocities. Until we realise that distortions in social order will not only lead to dysfunctions in values but also show how complicated we are as a people, this ‘katakata’ will not ease our anguish, no matter the amount of supplications offered onto God.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
Abiodun KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria.