The maiden edition of Ripples Nigeria Dialogue tagged “Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria” took place today at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos. Professor Wole Soyinka; former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, Reuben Abati; the Chairperson of Transition Monitoring Group, Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode and others seized the opportunity of the function to speak on the state of the nation and suggest ways forward.
Wole Soyinka, the keynote speaker submitted that President Muhammadu Buhari should have by now sacked Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Alhaji Dan Ali, over his comments on why communities “blocked grazing routes, and expect herdsmen not to react.”
Delivering his speech as guest lecturer on the topic “From Miyetti to Haiti: Notes from a solidarity visit”, Prof Soyinka in comparison, narrated events from his most recent visit to the Caribbean.
“What did you expect them to do after their grazing routes had been blocked?” he quoted the minister as saying at that time. “This is addressing people whose livelihoods and lives have been taken by the herdsmen. Of massacre and of those whose farmlands and properties have been destroyed by the herdsmen from Benue, Nassarawa, Taraba and Plateau states. Land grabbers are trying to take over people’s lands that does not belong to them. Farmers are complaining daily of cattle’s overtaking their lands,” he said.
Soyinka lamented that the excuse of some herdsmen for invading some communities in the south, according to Ripples, is that the Lake Chad has dried up. He noted that Nigeria is not the first country to experience natural disasters, and that this is not an excuse to take guns to destabilize other peace loving people in their communities.
Soyinka lamented further that the “proposed death sentence as punishment for hate speech in Nigeria currently undergoing deliberations at the National Assembly is an instrument to silence fierce criticism and opposition in the county.” He added: “The bill is to silence criticism and buy immunity so that their acts will not be exposed. This is coming at a time the world is trying to end the capital punishment.,” he said.
“I received hate speeches and languages when I said I was not going to be part of the United States Community. I was cursed and received hate speeches and now you want me to condemn the hate speech. I don’t want anybody to be hanged but I want them to be shamed. That is why I said I just want us to look in the mirror. I just want people to stop hate speeches,” he said.
Also, a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, has suggested that Nigeria at the moment no longer needs leaders like President Muhammadu Buhari who will tell the country the problem they met, but those who will profer solutions to the problems.
According to him, that Nigeria “is divided is no longer the issue. The first question is how did we get there? How do we get out” of the situation at the moment.
He added, “The main critical component of governance is trust, do Nigerians trust their government, the answer is no.
“The trust we voted this government for was because it promised us it will solve our problems, but when they get there they are telling us what they met there.”
Making reference to the bill on not too young to run, Obi said that there was nothing wrong in young people ruling Nigeria so long as they are good.
“If too young is good let him rule, we don’t want people that will give us excuses that these are what we met. We want people that can tell us these are what we will do.”
On nepotism, Obi said it “has now become a measure of competence, the only people you now hire are your relatives. These are the things that do not augur well with a society and what Nigeria is facing.
“When you have leaders who do things on merit the agitation we have in the country today will end. In a country where you have 10 million people out of school, there is no way we cannot have the agitation we have in Nigeria today.”
Not left out either was Afolabi-Akiyode, who said the body language of President Muhammdu Buhari shows “a confused administration that cannot lead Nigeria to a state of development,” She said, “I think I have lost confidence in this administration. If you look at the fact that some of the promises he made and the barometers the people have put together to monitor the promises he made based on what is expected of him show he has achieved nothing, especially in the area of corruption.”
“The people (leaders) that represent us do not have the solutions but they are the ones that are bringing up the solutions.”
On the issues of trust and unity among Nigerians, she argued: “There was national conference during the times Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. President Buhari has the opportunity to do the same,” she said.