Monday, March 8, 2021
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REMINISCENCES
PRESSURE GROUPS & OBSTINACY — How NADECO, Nigerian nationalists, labour unions, tormented governors
THEN & NOW – THE DIFFERENCE: Nnamdi Azikiwe is quoted as stating that: None of the Nigerian political parties ever adopted violent means to gain our political freedom and we are happy to claim that not a drop of British or Nigerian blood was shed in the course of our national struggle for our place in the sun.
 
This historical fact enabled me to state publicly in Nigeria that Her Majesty’s Government has presented self-government to us on a platter of gold. Of course, my contemporaries scorned at me, but the facts of history are irrefutable. I consider it most unfortunate that our ‘Young Turks’ decided to introduce the element of violent revolution into Nigerian politics. No matter how they and our general public might have been provoked by obstinate and perhaps grasping politicians, it is an unwise policy.
 
The pertinent questions are: Why is it that political transition activities abroad succeed without violence? What is it that gives the rich abroad a sense of responsibility to the development of his or her society through philanthropy? Conversely, what are the reasons why the affluent in the developing world keep staggering amounts in bank vaults without bothering about the poor in society? Very simple: Cultures, traditions, and societal influences play huge roles in influencing human conduct. But we must also acknowledge the fact that these people abroad find it easy to embrace philanthropy because the welfare schemes in those countries might not affect their children and offspring very adversely when they die, should they decide to bequeath their legacies to the society.
 
While one may not witness wild parties where people paste hard currencies on the foreheads of celebrants and guests abroad; no function might be adjudged good enough in the developing world without ostentatious conduct. We are very good at that and are noted for this show of extravagance in major capitals of the world. I once called it ‘’The Celebration of Ignorance’’

This report forms part of my memoirs being put together. I thought about sharing this for the sake of posterity and humour. Both stories are about negotiations, decoy, and dialogue; very difficult tasks utilized by pressure groups to torment their employers and the opposition.  It was famed Nelson Mandela who once posited that: ’Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development’’ Crises commences when negotiations fail. In this piece, we focus on two interesting issues that occurred over twenty years ago, that have formed part of history. Various interests, including the Not-too-Young to Rule group will definitely find the compilation interesting because many of them might be toddlers when these incidents occurred.

PRE-INDEPENDENCE ERA COMMENDATIONS FOR NIGERIAN NATIONALISTS The Hansard, records of the proceedings of the British Parliament of July 15, 1960 reads:  The three Prime Ministers, the Sardauna of Sokoto in the North, Chief Awolowo in the West, and Dr. Azikiwe in the East, the same doctor who, in my day, was the stormy petrel of Nigerian politics and who, today, is the respected President of the Senate, with perhaps even greater prospects before him—to all those I would equally pay tribute. But I should also like to join the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) in expressing my own sense of appreciation of the Prime Minister of the Federation, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who is one of the outstanding statesmen of the day, whether in Africa or elsewhere. I feel certain that under his guidance the future of Nigeria can be well assured. (Hansard of July 15, 1960) I remember some of the old pioneers of Nigerian independence, such as Herbert Macaulay, who for years agitated for change, and also one who has been referred to as a stormy petrel, Dr. Azikiwe,   Perhaps in the earlier days he was a little irresponsible in his manner, but he was a very great, magnetic leader and he made a considerable impact on the thought of Nigerians for the liberation from aliens of the political life of his country. I couple with these names the Prime Minister of the Federation, the late Premier of Western Nigeria and the Premier of Northern Nigeria, all of whom have played a prudent and patient part in the achievement we are recording today. Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield) 

ON OBAFEMI AWOLOWO: I should like, therefore, to take this brief opportunity of congratulating not only the Premier of the new Federation of Nigeria, who, as the Colonial Secretary said, has impressed all who have met him by his great ability and his high sense of public duty, but also to extend my good wishes—perhaps I may do it more appropriately than the Colonial Secretary—to Chief Awolowo, who has taken on the job of Leader of the Opposition. He, too, has an important job to do. He too, doubtless will from time to time incur difficulties in leading an Opposition, because an Opposition, being somewhat more irresponsible than the Government, often finds it more difficult to make up their mind. We are delighted at the general spirit of goodwill with which Chief Awolowo has undertaken this task and with which everybody in Nigeria accepts that it is his right and duty to do so.

 THEN & NOW – THE DIFFERENCE:  Nnamdi Azikiwe is quoted as stating that: None of the Nigerian political parties ever adopted violent means to gain our political freedom and we are happy to claim that not a drop of British or Nigerian blood was shed in the course of our national struggle for our place in the sun. This historical fact enabled me to state publicly in Nigeria that Her Majesty’s Government has presented self-government to us on a platter of gold. Of course, my contemporaries scorned at me, but the facts of history are irrefutable. I consider it most unfortunate that our ‘Young Turks’ decided to introduce the element of violent revolution into Nigerian politics. No matter how they and our general public might have been provoked by obstinate and perhaps grasping politicians, it is an unwise policy.

PRIORITIES: It could be argued that Nigeria missed it right from Independence in 1960 by failing to put in place radical reforms that could change our attitudes and cultures and help national growth. Culture is dynamic.  Our politicians of the First Republic rode in flashy cars like Pontiac, and Mercedes Benz & Impala; while their British counterparts drove themselves in Morris Minor. British MP’s, till today, cannot afford drivers because they cannot pay their salaries. A book titled: My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours (1975) authored by Nkem Nwankwo – a satire on social conducts in our societies paints a graphic picture of what went wrong shortly after independence. Preferences for glamorous activities and conspicuous consumption started becoming part of our society a long time ago; which is why some people, at a point in history paid huge dowries and suffered untold deprivations after wedding on account of obtaining loans to “procure” a wife. Yet the amount spent on weddings might be enough to settle new couples in their own houses. Young ones growing up naturally learn fast and imbibe the culture of class distinction and the mad inclination for display of wealth to demonstrate that people are rich. Not too long ago, two young Nigerian chaps landed themselves in a British court for fighting over a senseless issue of whose father is wealthier!

NADECOS AS HEROES OF DEMOCRACY: The pressure groups of the pre-independence era were militant only in their requests for political independence, but never shed human blood. The tool was dialogue, dialogue, and dialogue. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa used their intellects and mouths as weapons of war.  Looking back, one could safely assert that those great Nigerians addressed as NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) are real heroes who fought to liberate Nigeria from the clutches of the military and paved the way for representative democratic commencing 1999. . The press, the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Academic Staff Union of Universities and labour unions, particularly PENGASSAN were very brave people who battled the military to a standstill. I have always appreciated the indomitable courage of my colleagues in the media. Such was the level of opposition of some people in some parts of the country that they engaged in strategizing for the failure of plans by the military rulers to placate the civil populace.

THE ‘’GREAT DECOY’’ — NADECOS AS STRATEGISTS: On one occasion in February 1994, I had just arrived Ibadan from my base in Osogbo on a Saturday morning, to spend the weekend with my family when a telephone call came asking me to return to base. I had no choice other than to comply. We were to meet Gen. Oladipo Diya at the Governor’s Office, Ibadan to hold a meeting with representatives of royal fathers and opinion leaders in the South-West to placate them and assure them that the military had plans to quit before too long. Plans for staging the proposed 1995 Constitutional Conference were also to be discussed. Unknown to the military administrators, who were waiting to receive Diya at the Ibadan end of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, one of the members of the groups opposed to military rule had telephoned Gen. Diya, claiming he was acting on the instructions of the military administrators of the South-West states asking him not to bother to attend the meeting because of the alleged ‘poor response’ to invitation forwarded to those who were to participate in the meeting.

Diya believed the misinformation and relaxed in Lagos. After waiting for over four hours, one of the military administrators called Gen. Diya to find out if the meeting would still hold.  All of them were shocked that they had been successfully fooled by anti-government forces. Gen. Diya immediately proceeded to Ibadan to attend the meeting which commenced about 3.00. pm instead of the scheduled time of 10.00am. My good friend and opposite number in Oyo State, Tunde Laniyan and our colleague, serving Col. Lucky Mike Torrey Olusola (Ondo) took solace in Tunde’s office. I told our Aide-de-Camp to tell the principal to let us leave. The young military guy responded: ‘’Go where? Anybody who did that should just drive straight to his village and hang his khaki. Announcement would be made by the service chief. Such officer might also face military questioning. He added: Even you CPS that you are in our convoy, you are subject to both martial and civil laws, if any untoward thing happened.

BACK IN OSOGBO – WIFE SEARCHED UNDER THE BED FOR HUSBAND: Then came a directive from my never to be forgotten boss, Navy Capt Anthony Udofia who located me and appointed me into the position of Chief Press Secretary in January 1994:  ‘’Fetch the Director of News’’ I was instructed.  He had an assignment at the Government House. I succeeded in getting him down to the government house about 2.00 am. We met my very good friend and brother on the personal staff of the governor, Dele Akinola who was then Director of Protocol in the Government House premises. The Director who was my former boss at the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, Sam Bamidele (may his soul rest in peace) queried me: Don’t you people sleep? He never knew the same fate awaited him. After consultations with the military administrator, he knew he had to act on something that had been locked up in a cabinet after Osun State Radio’s transmission ended.

PENETRATING PROPAGANDA: Meanwhile, NADECO activists: Olusola Adeyeye, Kayode Fayemi, and others supervised by notable Nigerians were transmitting on RADIO KUDIRAT from an unknown location abroad. The propaganda was most effective and made government very uncomfortable. It was tough attempting to counterbalance the effects of the radio station’s broadcasts. When I returned the Director on News of OSBC to his residence about 3.30 am, he said he preferred to stay in the corridors of the radio studio until workers resumed about 5.00 am to carry out the military administrator’s assignment on NADECO’s propaganda and never wanted to sleep off because he knew the implication of the story going on air. The wife never knew when I picked up the Director in his house about 2.00am. There was no mobile phone. The wife woke up and looked around. Her husband was missing she thought. She searched under the bed. She didn’t see him. She was almost going to the police station when the husband showed up; very weary.

 LABOUR UNIONS VS MILITARY ADMINISTRATOR One of the worst scenarios I have witnessed in my long walk in the corridor of power occurred February/March 1999. I was then Chief Press Secretary to a most humane personality, boss and brother, Colonel (now Chief) Theophilus Oladapo Bamigboye.  Colonel Bamigboye had been posted to Osun from Bauchi State in 1998, and had resolved to leave his footprints on the sands of time. A few months into his tenure, the military authorities, the bosses in Abuja announced a wage increase for workers effective January 1999. Abuja never required the inputs of States because the federal government ran a unitary arrangement. Osun workers wanted the increase immediately and did not care whether the government could afford it or not. As ‘’Comrades’’ as we in the governor’s team were addressed by our friends in labour unions, we were able to gauge the extent of their plans and intransigence. We could only mitigate. We usually met in the evenings to socialize.

THE NEGOTIATIONS: No explanations would convince the workers that the total allocation accruable to Osun State from all sources was about one-third of monthly Federation Accounts Allocation. It would take an ‘’abracadabra’’ to pay a month’s salaries because you required 300 percent of inflow from the federal government. All Bamigboye’s personal efforts at explaining the situation fell on deaf ears. I heard the chairman of the Joint Negotiating team, Comrade Sola Olanrewaju, tell the military administrator: “go to your father (Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami A. Abubakar)   in Abuja for the difference.”

Before then, some of us in the governor’s personal staff had, before the dialogue appealed to him against being upset by the rude and provocative utterances that the workers’ negotiating team was bound to make.. But being a military man, there was a limit to the level of insubordination that he could take, and neither could he just get up, go to Abuja, and demand for more money. He went out of the meeting. Secretary to Government & Head of Service Elder Femi Adelowokan took over proceedings. The meeting eventually ended in a fiasco and, happily for Bamigboye, he soon returned to the barracks without having to find the money from nowhere. That problem was caused by Abuja that never bothered to check if States could pay revised wages. And as Military Administrator, you dared not complain too loud for your bosses to be irritated. As one of us then used to joke, complain, and proceed straight to your village with your khaki for the last time. The Chief of Army/Navy/Air Force will later be informed that you had been removed by mere words of mouth and would be directed to complete formalities. The difference now is that we are in a democracy and the most effective weapon for peace is dialogue and dialogue and dialogue. The important thing is for both sides to dialogue, present their cards face up, and utilize convincing and negotiating skills to avert crisis. Those were indeed hard times for both the government and the governed. The factor being resented was inequality.

ADDRESSING INEQUALITIES But one must be quick to state that it is heartening that the private sector in Nigeria is fast changing the face of philanthropy. But we are yet to get there. In the past two decades, individuals and corporate organizations have embraced the concept of corporate social responsibility and are increasingly getting committed to philanthropy. At that period, corporate social responsibility was not too popular. Philanthropists preferred the loud option. Public opinion was against showmanship at social functions. These could only promote social vices, particularly criminal conducts since those youths too want to spend extravagantly like the elders do at social functions.

POVERTY ON THE GLOBAL LEVEL: There are hundreds of millions of people all over the world who may have nothing to eat today and are looking unto God and those who have to give them succour

PIX: The Homeless in the United States (Source: Google)

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It is for this reason that the Bill Clinton Reelection Committee submitted that: “By leaving Americans in poverty, at risk of their lives due to lack of basic living essentials, we have stepped across the boundary of civilization. ‘’We have conceded that these people do not matter, and are not important. Allowing them to starve to death, freeze to death, die from deprivation, or simply shooting them, is in the end exactly the same thing. Inflicting or allowing poverty on a group of people or an entire country is a formula for disaster.”   Philanthropy goes a long way in helping societies. One sure way of promoting philanthropy is to work towards a new social contract to bring hope to nations. Policies are shaped to accord more prominence to compassionate contributions. We must commend the positive disposition of philanthropists in Nigeria in the past one or two decades.

THE RICH CAN DO BETTER The United Nations, through its Sustainable Development Goals feels that: Instead of one-off or discontinuous campaigns, companies should encourage their employees to become committed long-term or life-long supporters of causes.” Indeed, there is a need for the society to imbibe the culture of selflessness and abandon selfishness. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through a family philanthropy programme devote as many funds to global health as the World Health Organization. In the case of Warren Buffett, he has programmed it that more than 99% of his wealth will go to philanthropy during his lifetime or at death. He not only committed himself to this ideal but also convinced more than 40 of U.S. billionaires to take his giving pledge, by committing at least 50% of their total wealth to charity. If all those amounts in the vaults of foreign nations are pumped into the economy and properly utilized, millions of souls would benefit directly and indirectly. The Tata Group, the largest Indian conglomerate which accounts for 3.2% of India’s GDP, devotes two-thirds of its profit every year to philanthropy.

The pertinent questions are: What is it that gives the rich abroad a sense of responsibility to the development of his or her society through philanthropy? Conversely, what are the reasons why the affluent in the developing world keep staggering amounts in bank vaults without bothering about the poor in society? Very simple: Cultures, traditions, and societal influences play huge roles in influencing human conducts. But we must also acknowledge the fact that these people abroad find it easy to embrace philanthropy because the welfare schemes in those countries might not affect their children and offspring very adversely when they die, should they decide to bequeath their legacies to the society.  While one may not witness wild parties where people paste hard currencies on the foreheads of celebrants and guests abroad; no function might be adjudged good enough in the developing world without ostentatious conducts. We are very good at that and are noted for this show of extravagance in major capitals of the world. I once called it ‘’The Celebration of Ignorance’’

SELF DENIAL:: Walter Scott is credited with stating that ‘’Teach self-denial and make its practice pleasure, and you can create for the world a destiny more sublime that ever issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer. Elsewhere, Obafemi Awolowo, in an address to 4th OAU Summit in Kinshasa (1967) stated that: Today, Africa is a continent of COMPETING BEGGAR-NATIONS. We vie with one another for favours from our former colonial masters; and we deliberately fall over one another to invite neo-colonialists to come over to our different territories to preside over our economic fortunes … Unless a beggar resolutely shakes off, and irrevocably turn his back on, his begging habit, he will forever remain a beggar. For, the more he begs, the more he develops the beggar characteristics of lack of initiative, courage, drive and self-reliance.”  We must engage in the search for viable strategies to prevent instability and promote peace-building. ‘’It is only then that we would be able to prevent hunger and poverty.

Andrew Carnegie, a one-time richest man in the world as far back as 1949 asserted that: The duty of the man of Wealth: is first, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance. To provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community the man of wealth thus becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.

Andrew Carnegie – donated money to build over 2500 libraries worldwide; John D. Rockefeller Jr., another notable sympathizer of humanity – dramatically expanded the Rockefeller Foundation and Rockefeller University; bought and then donated the land in Manhattan upon which the United Nations headquarters was built as his contribution to fostering peace and international understanding. The succeeding generation of givers in the United States` – the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets are practically touching lives on a global scale; utilizing their hard-earned resources for the common good of all. Andrew Carnegie, at the age of 66 years was the world’s richest man who gave money to good causes. Andrew Carnegie, in 1889 wrote an article on “The Gospel of Wealth”, which describes the responsibility of philanthropy by the then-new upper class of self-made rich. As far back as 1901, Carnegie gave away US$350 million to help the poor. On his part, John D. Rockefeller donated $540 million before his death in 1937 at the age of 97 years.

A PLEA: ‘’NO RIOTS OR VIOLENCE’’: Nnamdi Azikiwe; on the occasion of the visit of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah to Eastern Nigeria in 1959 posited that:  ‘’If we can keep the larger vision in view, if we do not spoil the opportunity that lies before us by petty and inglorious side issues, these African States may yet achieve what the independent and warring States of Europe and the volatile and sometimes undemocratic States of the Americas have never yet accomplished, that is;  a unity undreamt-of; and become models of honest and democratic government, which will give hope to all Africa and offer a challenge to the rest of the world’’ It is true that the global economy is in a mess. That of Nigeria too is in trouble, like those of other nations, arising from effects of COVID-19. It is also true that the economy of the human being is in a terrible shape and many people are dying all over the world. But it is not impossible for government and labour, both serving the interests of the citizenry to agree on peaceful resolution of industrial disputes for the sake of the common man.

We must deemphasize all issues that tie Nigeria down. Dialogue is the right tool that would prove beneficial for the resolution of industrial gridlocks that take place all over the world, including the foremost democracies.  Dialogue would at least douse tension, tone down strong influences of aggressive intentions, and again, ensure that the common man would not suffer whichever way the decisions tilt.

Good luck to both sides.

May the Good Lord bless Nigeria!

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