We can no longer play the ostrich or pretend that all is well with us and our country, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara

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Yakubu Dogara, Former Speaker, Nigeria's House of RepresentativesDistinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed my pleasure to address you today at this 10th Convocation of our dear University, Achievers University, Owo. This is the first convocation after my installation as the Chancellor of this prestigious university. I still savour the splendor and pageantry with which my investiture was carried out about a year ago, and I again, extend my gratitude to the Board of Trustees, the Governing Council and the entire University community for the great honour done to me and my family. I pray I will live up to expectation.

Today, must be a remarkable day for both the graduands as well as their parents for the glory of success after sweat. I join your well-wishers to say a big congratulation to you all. And to the honorary doctoral degree awardees, you deserve a warm handshake, for out of the multitude out there, your stars have shone for recognition and distinction, and whatever good deeds you have done to humanity and the Nigerian nation that has attracted this great honour, I pray that God Almighty will strengthen you the more for greater service to humanity. Thank you for teaching us that service must be at the heart of every true success.

At special occasions like this, it is only proper to dwell on topical national issues. Today, I am persuaded for good reasons to talk on the issue of seemingly intractable security challenges in Nigeria because insecurity is at the heart of every challenge of nationhood confronting us today.

The South West and South East are fast becoming Nigeria’s new zones of instability. Added to this is the long list of other protracted conflicts, including but not limited to Boko Haram insurgency in the North East that has left scores of people death and millions displaced; banditry in the North West; piracy and organised crime in the south South and farmer- herder clashes in much of the rest of the country.

The problem of ungoverned spaces in Nigeria where the government has lost the capacity to exert coercive power or at best maintains sporadic or weak presence leaving vast forested landscapes across the country for terrorists, bandits and sundry criminal cartels to use as sanctuaries and establish operational bases. With an unemployment rate of over 30 percent, epileptic economic growth; overburdened and overwhelmed security agencies coupled with weak institutional capacity within the security agencies; extreme inequality cum poverty and citizens alienation from the government, you need not look no further for compounding factors. According to the Global Terrorism Index released on 27 November, 2020 Nigeria is now the third-most terrorized country in the world.

With the above painted scenario, we can no longer play the ostrich or pretend that all is well with us and our country. We must say it as it is, Nigeria is at war with itself. It’s like all roads lead to Golgotha.  The dam has broken and we have reached an infliction point. These are events that must change the way we think and act in order to walk Nigeria back from the precipice.

How did we get here? This is an open ended question but the signs have always been there. Long before the events of today, the late sage, Chief Obefemi Awolowo remarked in 1947 that Nigeria was not a nation but a “mere geographic expression”. Our literary icons too have wondered in brilliant prose, “is Nigeria a nation and should it be?”- quipped Prof Soyinka. Soyinka also asked the question, “does a state shamelessly plundered by a succession of rulers have any legitimate claim on the loyalty of its citizenry?” Prof Soyinka fears Nigeria may be a farcical illusion.  Also, the late Chinua Achebe had cause to intensely grieve over the demise of a Nigeria that had been promised by the nationalist movement. All these observations were made before now that the cancer that led to those observations has been left to metastasize. This means, all this while, something has been fundamentally wrong with Nigeria, which we have failed to cure.

Other experts have linked Insecurity in Nigeria to government’s failure or lack of capacity to deliver public services as well as provide for basic needs of the people.  This lapse creates a pool of frustrated people who are easily ignited by any event to be violent. Also, inequality and unfairness in appointment and distribution of public utilities create a perception of marginalization by a section of the people, especially the youth, who have a sense of disaffection and/or resentment. The youth bulge means that our inability to place the youth on sustainable career paths has turned this useful demography from dutiful labourers to disaffected rebels.  There is no gainsaying the fact that unprofessional media reports also heighten insecurity among various groups and stakeholders. Other causes of insecurity in the nation include but not limited to inadequate equipping and training of security personnel; loss of socio-cultural and communal value system such as collectivism and loyalty to authority; porous borders that enable untracked individuals and groups moving in and out of the country at will; extreme poverty, illiteracy and inveterate corruption.

The promise of democracy is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The first promise is life because it takes someone who is alive to enjoy the next promise which is liberty and only someone who is alive and free can engage in the third promise which is the pursuit of happiness. Consequently, failure to secure the first promise translates to failure to deliver on the other two. For far too long our democracy has not delivered on the promise of democracy. Insecurity is by far the major cause. We are all to blame for this because all citizens of democracies know that democracy does not work for them, rather, it is the citizens that must  make democracy work for them.

The effects of insecurity in Nigeria are being felt by all.  Many of us in this assembly, who ordinarily would have travelled  by road, would have chosen a journey by flight out of fear, thereby inevitably affecting our budget. The effects of insecurity are multi-dimensional, including loss of investment which in turn discourages potential domestic and international investors; destruction of critical infrastructure; human resource decimation through hostage taking, kidnapping and genocide; disruption of human capital development through kidnaping of students in educational institutions; and disruption of economic activities through theft, armed robbery, assassination, ritual killing, and numerous fraudulent activities, amongst others.

Where do we go from here? The solution is as complex as the problem that is why it will take visionary leadership with the right political will to win this war. I have seen that the response to the inability of our security forces to rein in these fringe elements has led to proliferation of vigilante and zonal security outfits. The challenge with these outfits is that, historically, they have not worked. As it has always been the case in so many communities and nations that promote those outfits, they will soon degenerate into lucrative criminal cartels themselves. Lack of training will result into extra-judicial killings and some of us who have welcomed them as saviours will sooner than later start condemning them for their brinkmanship and lack of transparency. History is replete with disturbing anecdotes on the impossible necessity of vigilantes.

Be that as it may, we must move forward as a nation. Stemming the tide of insecurity in Nigeria requires all hands to be on deck.  We must all be involved. All Nigerians should consider themselves stakeholders if the war against insecurity must be won.

 

Although Nigeria has broken my heart severally, I still love her a lot. This is because of the consequences of a fractured Nigeria not only on the psyche of Nigerians but the black race. Nigeria represent a major promise that a black nation can truly attain the status of a global super power and once Nigeria vanishes that promise will perish with it. Therefore, I will rather be part of a stable and prosperous populous nation with a major promise than a citizen of a fragmented part of Nigeria no matter how well organized it may be. I am sure there are so many here who believe as I do. No doubt, the challenges of our nationhood are difficult but surmountable. We must not give up until something gives in or gives way. Gladly, all problems come with their solutions embedded in them but only those genuinely looking for the solutions get to find them.  Believe me, we can solve these problems if all of us earnestly start looking for the solutions.

Some pundits have posited that Nigeria may not exist by 2023 because prevalence of merchants of violence or conflict entrepreneurs. This shouldn’t scare us. But what scares me are post 2023, if we get it all wrong. What is on 2023 ballot is Nigeria itself. We need a team whose pedigree must match their rhetoric for unity, peace and progress.  Our most immediate challenge now is to bring our disparate peoples together and pull down our barriers otherwise we cannot build. Issues of development, although absolutely important, are not the most immediate. No one without an implementable solution on the questions of unity and justice for us all regardless of ethnicity or creed should have their names on the ballot, period.

Make no mistake, if we dare get it all wrong in 2023, we would have succeeded in hastening the days of the first four – the famous horsemen of the apocalypse on ourselves. Days that will be marked by conquest, war, famine and death. May God forbid.

Today is not a day we should scare our graduands and spoil the party for them. Enough of bad news. The good news is that we can overcome. We are only highlighting our National challenges to underpin the fact that these are no times for you to go out there and live carelessly. You all must leave here determined to be part of the solution and not the problem.

Let us make it happen by ensuring that we work together to confine these difficult times to the dustbin of history. Once again, I congratulate all honorary awardees and the graduands.

 

God bless you all and may God bless Nigeria

 

SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE YAKUBU DOGARA, THE CHANCELLOR, ACHIEVERS UNIVERSITY, OWO, ONDO STATE, AT THE 10TH CONVOCATION CEREMONY, HELD ON SATURDAY, 24TH APRIL, 2021

 

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