By Nehru Odeh.
Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku has said the only way Nigeria can solve its myriad problems is for it to revert to true federalism, the system of governance the country was practising at the time it gained independence from the British.
Anyaoku made this statement against the backdrop of insecurity, mindless killings and kidnappings currently plaguing the country at the 75th birthday of the Pro- Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and the presentation ceremony of his memoirs, The Road Never Forgets, which held on Thursday 14 September 2022 in Lagos.
“In Yemi’s words, Nigeria needs a fresh start, new thinking and a new beginning.
“My view remains that we cannot begin to successfully deal with our very serious national challenges with the governance system we operate at present .
“With our current federal structure the country will only continue to limp along and be under-performing with the growing threat of a national disaster,” Anyaoku averred.
The astute diplomat and elder statesman then said that in order to achieve political stability the country needs a true federal system with devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units.
“To achieve political stability and unleash the country’s inherent capabilities, we need a governance system that
is true federalism with appropriate devolution of powers from the centre to more viable federating units, possibly six, against the current largely non viable 36 units that we have.
“The facts I believe are there to show an objective observer that Nigeria, notwithstanding the years when it was held together by military fiat, began its free decline to its present indisputably perilous state when it abandoned the true federal constitution on the basis of which our founding fathers negotiated our independence.
Anyaoku also stated without mincing words that true panacea to the nation’s myriad problem lies in the return to a system of government based on the country’s independence constitution.
“We should return to a governance system that is based along the lines of our independence constitution, if among other challenges, we are to stop the daily killings of innocent people, the latest example being the killing four days ago of over 80 people and the abduction of over 70 as well as burning of several houses inn Plateau State.
Anyaoku also charged the prospective candidates in the forthcoming 2023 General Elections to commit themselves to the reformulation of the country’s governance system. He then urged the electorates not to vote for any candidate who refused to pledge to do that.
It was an evening of memories, music and nostalgia. Pupils of the Yemi Ogunbiyi Anglican School, which was named after the celebrant, provided music interludes. Not only did various speakers likened Ogunbiyi’s trajectory to the birth and political.growth of Nigeria – in the sense that he was born in Kano by a Yoruba father an an Igbo mother, as he vividly narrated in his memoirs – they all unanimously agree with the fact that he is a true Nigerian
Professor Femi Osofisan, poet playwright and scholar who reviewed the book spoke about his longstanding friendship with the celebrant who he chose to call Shaft, as he was then known then at the University of Ibadan. He also debunked George Bernard Shaw’s views on biography, saying that Ogunbiyi’s book is an exception The Distinguished academic also said the book was exceptional and very well written.
“Yemi Ogunbiyi’s The Road Never Forgets is exceptional from any angle you may access it. Certainly, as I have stated in the blurb, it is a book you will read and not forget …So gripping was the narrative, so entertaining the experience that I needed no further Spurs of reviewing the book. Indeed I consider it privilege to be the first to share its pleasures to the public on such auspicious occasion.
“As Yemi Ogunbiyi recounts it, we come to realize that this story of his childhood and upbringing, early manhood and subsequent career is so unique that it becomes emblematic of the history of our country, particularly of our generation. The details are so uncanny that it was as if fate was deliberately moulding him into a principal protagonist in the subsequent unfolding of the nation’s drama,” Osofisan maintained.
Former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba was also full of praise of the celebrant, as he narrated the role he played in the development of Nigerian media as Managing Directors of both The Guardian and the Daily Times. “He was part of the team that brought intellectualism to journalism,” Osoba said.
“The book, from the few pages that I have read, is factual, intellectual, educative and thank God, is something of history. And I hope we would get it right, that we would bring history back into our educational system. I can assure you that those of us who want to be educated about the development of Nigeria will find the book interesting. The other part of it is that Yemi.told the story of his life, even in pictures. I must congratulate him for his ability to keep such records,” Osoba noted.
Prince Yemi Adefulu who has had a long history of friendship with Ogunbiyi also went down memory lane narrating how he had featured in the story of his life, apart from when the celebrant was in Kano.
Bankole Olayebi, publisher Bookcraft, who published the memoirs narrated how his relationship with the celebrant started while he (the celebrant was his teacher at the University of Ife. And how he and many of his students gravitated to him because of his accommodating nature, his kindness and willingness to assist and nurture his students. He also said even after graduation, Ogunbiyi continued to be his mentor, adding that he encouraged his former teacher to write the memoirs.
Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, in his speech said Ogunbiyi’s memoirs was a work of love. ” It’s a love story. And very fortunately he really encountered a very marvelous woman who became his life partner. She has a lot to be thanked for not simply for having stood by him, but like lightening rod having taken down the excess lightening …
“It’s a love story, this book and also a lesson in forbearance, the spirit that recounts a very turbulent and often treacherous minefield for recounting some episodes of real psychological trauma with such a forbearance of spirit which people like me are not capable of.
“And I really want to thank him for having find the right balance, the right language in this marvelous story of love to share with the rest of us. It is a work of family love, a revelation of love within a family. That’s why I call it a live story.
The Vice- President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who was introduced by Damiilola Ogunbiyi also likened Ogunbiyi’s story as told in his memoirs to the story of Nigeria, what with the ethnic mix that defined his background and life.
“I think Dr Ogunbiyi’s story is at once a life story of a truly remarkable individual and at the same time the story of a country. And who is better to tell the story of Nigeria and the magical possibilities of our ethnic blending than one born in Kano of a Yoruba father and an Igbo mother and whose first language was Hausa.
“A subtext of this fascinating life story is the account of a man and his country, both struggling to define themselves from his idyllic childhood in Sabongari, he witnessed the first Kano riot, the 1953 Kano riot. How does a you g boy with his own ethnic mix even begin to understand the strong parochial hatred that developed overnight and led to the killing of those of other tribes manynif whom had lived together once? A young nation lost his innocence just as the six year old Yemi Ogunbiyi lost his.
It was truly an evening laced with anecdotes, tributes and nolstagia. Makin Soyinka read excerpts from the book. The former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, who graced the event with his wife Onari, launched the book and urged others to do likewise.
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