Yusuf Maitama Sule’s standing as a statesman, beloved and respected by the people, was confirmed recently by Nigerians of all creeds and tongues when the news of his exit filtered into the public domain. From all corners of the country the tributes came pouring in; celebrating a man whose public life was marked by simplicity, service to fatherland and commitment to the public good. Coming at a time of uncertainty in Nigeria, the reactions speak volumes about his place in history and the need for a sustained devotion to the ideals of one indivisible country as a befitting honour to the labours of our heroes past.
With his eloquence and oratorical gifts, the Dan Masanin, as he was popularly called, warmed his way into the hearts of the people for whom he served as a mobile repository of the nation’s history and a bridge between the past and the present. His exit from the stage further depletes the ranks of patriots who made significant contributions to the emergence of modern Nigeria.
As the nation mourns, TheEconomy’s CHINEDU OBIKE recalls an encounter with the Dan Masanin Kano at the International Conference Centre, Abuja last year, and a brief conversation that ensued.
As a key player in Nigeria’s political evolution, are you satisfied with the journey so far?
No, am not.
What is happening today is not in our character and is far from what our fore fathers dreamt of. Politically, Nigeria was not like this. When we started struggling for independence, political leaders teamed up and fought together, despite their differences. They forgot their religious, tribal and indeed, political differences; they were only thinking about Nigeria. They accommodated and cooperated with one another; their main interest was Nigeria and they placed national interest above personal interest.
Good leaders, decent leaders went into politics to serve and not to be served; to give and not to take. Yes, these were the people that laid the foundation for Nigeria in the first Republic. After independence, they also cooperated with one another and created a Nigeria that was respected by the international community and Nigerians were loved and respected wherever they went to because the country was morally sound and politically stable. There was respect for elders and constituted authority.
How do we redirect the course of our political development in line with the dreams of the founding fathers?
Although I have painted the picture bleak, I still remain optimistic. I believe that we can get out of the woods. I know that we had several crises in the past and were able to overcome them. As we did overcome them by the grace of God, so shall we overcome whatever problems or crisis that we have now. I am optimistic because he who has faith in God does not lose hope in Him.
Yes, what we shall do is to try and get good leaders because the problem of Nigeria and indeed, of any country in Africa or any part of the world is that of leadership. If the leadership is good, the followership will be equally good. People take the cue from their leaders.
Our leaders in the First Republic: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Joseph Tarka, were all decent people and they laid the foundation for a decent country, too. They were hopeful of a better future.
If we want to revisit the past and revive the past glory, we must turn to the youths because they are the future leaders and are growing to inherit tomorrow. They, to me, are the panacea to our ills and the solution to our problems. They are the vehicles of change and vanguards of the revolution.
If you can get such youths that can make and not mar the future, they will produce good leaders and it is good leaders that will bring about the change for the better.
The purpose of history is to know the past, in order to adjust the present and plan for the future. Let us tell ourselves what has gone wrong. Let us tell ourselves the truth and agree to be patient with one another. Let us agree to cooperate with one another. Let us make sure everyone is treated fairly. At all times, justice to all should be our watchword.