The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and President Muhammadu Buhari might have lived at different times but like identical twins, possess a lot in common-dynamism, pragmatism, integrity, self-discipline, vision and passion to make the country work for all her citizens. The impeccable past of these tested leaders has proved that the bane of the country’s slow development since independence has been lack of purposeful leadership.
Unlike the reluctant leaders who had been imposed on us, Chief Awolowo and President Buhari, both armed with impeccable records of performances, the former as Premier of the old Western Region as well as Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council in the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and the latter, as a Military Head of State etc., adequately prepared for the office. Three times however, were each unsuccessful- Chief Awolowo in 1959, 1979, 1983 and President Buhari in 2003, 2007 and 20011.
Their paths might have crossed each other in one form or the other, that may be the unseen hand of God in their lives in preparation for the task ahead, that :“you Obafemi Awolowo is my Moses and you Muhammadu Buhari, my Joshua for the liberation of your people from the ‘rats and mosquitoes’ of your country”. Or could it be by sheer coincidence that for the first time since independence both the North and the South West are in effective political alliance?
Like the Nostradamus that he was, Chief Awolowo in a paper delivered in Kano in 1970, had proposed a seven- point agenda which he called national objectives that should be implemented simultaneously in all the states of the federation for the rapid and even development of the country. He explained that revenue allocation formula should be based on the implementation of the seven objectives and, by so doing, put an end to the “endless search for the appropriate allocation formula”. He was speaking in a paper entitled Revenue Allocation Must be Based on Even Progress and Needs, delivered in his capacity as the Federal Commissioner of Finance, to the annual conference of state commissioners of finance.
As if confirming the telepathy between these great national heroes, President Buhari has recently unconsciously implemented item seven of the aforementioned Chief Awolowo’s seven-point objectives for national development of 45 years ago and by so doing, been vindicated for “bailing” out states that could not pay workers’ salaries. The late sage had said under this item entitled “putting the federal government in sufficient funds to enable it not only to perform its allotted functions but also to come readily to the aid of any state in need argued that… “but perchance any state falls on evil days, it would be the duty of the federal government, acting as an accredited agent of all the states, to come to the aid of such a needy state without delay…”
Before leaving this topic, one may ask President Buhari’s critics where they were when former President Goodluck Jonathan granted some members of the private sector a bail out. For instance, Arik Airline got 600m dollars, Aero, 200m dollars, Air Nigeria-225.8m dollars, and Chachangi-55m dollars etc. AMCON, in addition, wanted to an attempt to buy aircraft for them, but for unfavourable public opinion.
If one of Chief Awolowo’s seven objectives has been considered well enough for implementation, the remaining six which may equally be as good are therefore presented, though in abridged form, for consideration by Mr. President. They are-full employment, free education at all levels and free health services for all, modernisation of agriculture and rural development, rapid industrialization of each state and rapid development of system of transportation.
Owing to the relevance of Chief Awolowo’s paper to the Nigeria of today, I had at the formation of the All Progressive Party (APC) dropped a copy of it for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at his office, Freedom House, Victoria Island, for possible incorporation into the APC manifesto.
Discussing full employment, Chief Awolowo called for full exploitation and efficient utilization of mineralresources as well as modernization of agriculture, explaining that the country’s capability for phenomenal growth was tremendous and colossal. He warned that anything short of full employment which could only be provided by exploitation of mineral resources and agriculture would be an admission of failure on the part of Nigerian leaders that they are not equal to their admittedly difficult but at the same time inspiring and manageable assignment”. Whenever we talk of merely reducing employment and not stamping it out, he said, “The question which I always ask myself is- who are the unfortunate victims we are planning to keep on the unemployment market?” Like Chief Awolowo, bailing out distressed states could be regarded as President Buhari’s demonstration of love for workers, too.
On modernization of agriculture, and industrialization, the sage, supporting his argument with statistics, said that to achieve any of the ambitious projections the country’s agriculture must be modernized and mechanized in a bold and massive manner. “We shall need to invest heavily in tractors, mechanical ploughs and riggers, fertilizers, pest control: irrigation, research into high yielding grains and cattle ranches, fishing trawlers etc”. Chief Awolowo, however, cautioned that none of the states could alone afford the level of investment involved without the intervention of the federal government acting in concert with all the states.
As a nexus to agriculture, he argued that properly developed agriculture in every state would lead to development of agro-allied industries automatically as well as manufacturing industries and consequently, disappearance of uneven location of industries. He, however, warned that between agriculture and industries, the choice should be agriculture to eradicate unemployment explaining that while industries, if properly managed, could provide employment for 22,000 workers in the next 12 years, agriculture would provide employment for six million within five years. Seeing 2015 way back in 1970, Chief Awolowo warned that “if it is the ardent and burning desire of those of us in the vanguard of public life to serve our age and the next generation faithfully, our area of concentration must ipso facto be agriculture.”
Amoboye, a journalist, writes from Lagos via [email protected]