As Nigeria marked her 60th Independence Anniversary yesterday, various leaders from all walks of life put the country under a microscope and came out with damning verdict.
Speaking at the yearly The Platform event organized by the Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos, they said the country was far from heading in the right direction.
The event which was hosted online by Poju Oyemade, its convener, was to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary.
Speaking at the event, Matthew Kukah, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto, blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for what h called his actions of making it difficult for Nigerians to celebrate diversity.
He criticized the situation in the country today where Muslims are occupying leading positions across various political institutions.
According to Father Kukah, “I think even the most optimistic Nigerian must conceive that we are nowhere near coming to define the real sense of democracy. Beyond just going through the process of cycles of election, we have a very serious problem with recruitment methods.
“Reflecting federal character should be like viewing ourselves in the mirror and celebrating our diversity because the table is big enough to occupy everyone.
“But when you don’t have that and you put all your apples in one basket, naturally you cannot make headway, because you’re violating the constitution and thinking that we are in a democracy.”
The cleric said in the last few years, “This president (Buhari) in my view has made it very difficult for us to celebrate diversity. And Nigerians will concede that a reward system that is so skewed, whether in favour of men, women, Christians or Muslims is unacceptable because when it was time to vote, all of us came out to vote.
“We need to very quickly reset the template if we are to take our place after 60 years of independence. If we are unable to provide our people with water, food, light, security, then it is a tough call. I am not a happy Nigerian but I remain a hopeful Nigerian.”
Bakare: We cannot make progress with mediocre
Speaking at the same forum, Pastor Tunde Bakare the overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, said no nation can make progress when her best are not at the helm of affairs.
He said there was a need to ensure that the right people are in positions of leadership in order to put the country on the right track.
According to him, “If you compare our performance with the nations that began this journey with us — nations like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea — they’ve left us behind. We are still in the woods and are yet to come out.
“We thank God we are still a nation and we trust God that as we dialogue this afternoon and others bring their ideas to the table, those that are leading us will begin to put the best of us in strategic positions to move our nation forward.
“No nation anywhere can survive or embark on predictable progress when mediocre are in charge. I’m not sure and I’m not limiting the Almighty and I hope this will not be seen as blasphemy; I’m not sure the Bible contemplates Nigerian leadership, because the Bible says when the blind leads the blind, they all end up in a ditch. But we’re in a nation where the blind leads the seeing.”
He said there was a need to change orientation of all to effect changes in the country.
“I think we put the cart before the horse and whenever you put the cart before the horse, there is motion backwards. We need to put the horse before the cart. We need urgent national redemption and until that takes place, we are just wasting our time,” he said.
Pastor Bakare criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to deliver on his campaign promises.
According to him, “The present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari announced three critical things as their focus or agenda as they were coming into power: security, diversified economy and fight against corruption.
“If you look at the security architecture, you will know something is wrong when our soldiers from the battle line are releasing videos of ‘we’re tired.’
“When he took the mantle of leadership and he relocated as it were, he took the power base of the military to the war front and we all had a sigh of relief that something was going to happen, but today, there’s so much bloodletting and bloodshed. I’m not sure we have really won the battle against terrorism in our country.”
The cleric dismissed those who have been criticizing him for failing to lead a protest against the hike in fuel price and electricity tariff, he said,
“I’m not an activist. I did not campaign against subsidy removal during Jonathan’s time; I campaigned against oppression of the poor. We give voice to the voiceless.”
Sanusi: Every one is fighting for themselves
In his contributions, the former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, said those who claim to represent the interest of the country’s geopolitical zones are fighting for their pockets.
He said Nigerians must recognize that irrespective of political office, every citizen must be good representatives of their beliefs, religion and ethnic groups.
He said those who claim to represent the interest of southerners and northerners due to the political positions they occupy are more concerned about their pockets than happenings in the various areas they represent.
He said, “Ethno-religious crisis is not so much from Nigerians but the Nigerian elites. We have identities in Nigeria but the construction of opposing identities, the political process, is basically the Nigerian elite competing among itself for a share of the national cake.
“I don’t think that the people who say they are fighting for Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba are really interested. I mean when they get there at the end of the day, it is about them and their families.
“There is nobody out there that is really representing north or south or east. They claim to be if you look out there in the cabinet. In the history of Nigeria, there has never been a government that does not have people from every part of the country.
“So the first thing to recognize is that we must get away from the sense that holding political office is what makes you representative of a people.”
He lauded the government for its decision to remove fuel subsidy, saying the reforms being adopted by the government will yield positive results.
Peterside: Nigeria’s democracy under threat
Atedo Peterside, the founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, at the event said that Nigeria’s democracy was in grave danger.
He said at The Platform that, “In my generation, about the only thing we delivered through activism was democracy. That democracy is in danger because we decide if and where we have free and fair elections.
“It must not only be free and fair elections in Edo State, it must be free and fair election everywhere. You cannot have a set of rules in Edo and have another set for other states.
“The easiest way to destroy democracy is for people who do not win elections to assume office. That is not the democracy we fought for and that’s the democracy our youths must fight for.”
He appealed to the federal government, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the army and military to put pressure in ensuring that the democracy that was fought for is not tampered with or destroyed.
According to him, “The activism they (youths) have to focus on today is to get free and fair elections. Without free and fair elections, young people cannot participate in politics because they don’t have the tools and they are not the best regal.
“The regal are those with the best learning, which are elderly people. They (youths) will have to dismantle all that so that it will only be those with the best ideas who win elections.”