A frontline social and political activist, Babatunde Odunuga has called on Nigerians to use the period of the 56th Independence Day celebration to come together as one to fight for a common goal.
Speaking to a cross-section of journalists at a dinner he put together in London in celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day, which he tagged, ‘Nigeria and the Unity of all Tribes’, Odunuga said, “Frankly speaking, we as a nation have every justification to dwell more on what is not right, especially as Nigeria goes through a difficult period of recession.
However, there are so many blessings we have as a nation, which other countries can learn from us. I think those are the factors we should be thankful for as we grow older.”
Highlighting the blessings he meant in his speech, Odunuga, who is a an ex-serviceman in the British Army said, agriculture, abundant rainfall and predictable weather forms a very vital background for the growth of the agricultural sector in the country. He took his guests back to the period when Nigeria was a major contributor to agricultural exports to other parts of the world, and he said he is very positive that very soon, Nigeria shall reclaim her place in the realm of agricultural exportation and relevance.
“Every country has its own peculiar problem and so, Nigeria as it were is not isolated where issues concerning the economy is concerned. Globally, nations are passing through a difficult period. Even Saudi Arabia that seemed to have everything under control is heaving under the weight of the crash of oil prices. They are not alone, so many countries are battling with acute recession and so, Nigeria is not alone.
In fact, if I am permitted to say so, Nigeria has more prospects where getting quickly out of recession is concerned. We were once known as a major exporter of cocoa, groundnuts and other natural resources, we still have the capacity to get back our envied position in that area.”
I have lived outside the country for more than two decades and I can say categorically that most of the super countries Nigerians like to refer to in terms of growth can not boast of the type of fertile land we have in this county. We have human and natural resources in abundance, not only that, we have a government that is focused and ready to assist farmers harness their full potentials. As the world goes through a very arduous period, Nigeria is likely to snap out of her difficult period as soon as we begin to take the issue of agriculture more seriously”, he said.
Fielding questions about security and the effect of poverty on the safety or people due to the soaring level of unemployment, Odunuga said social security and service is one of the areas he hopes to be able to guide the government through within the shortest time possible.
“Let’s not run away from the truth, poverty, lack of employment, economic hardship and total lack of social service contributes largely to crime rates. Even in counties where social services are readily available to citizens, you find out that there is still so much sophisticated crimes going on. So, you could imagine what would be happening in a country where most people are literarily on their own. When there is no hope and people don’t have a place to go to for counseling, solace and funds,
they resort to crimes. In advanced countries, so much is put into place to alleviate the suffering of people. You have council flats for families with children, you have job centers to help with job search, there are provisions put in place for unemployed or unemployable people and so on, yet, there are crimes everywhere. That’s why people like us who have worked in the system of countries where such amenities are provided are desirous of coming back home fully to be involved in the way things are run and done.”
‘Nigeria and the Unity of all Tribes’ may soon become a regular slogan because Babatunde Odunuga has expressed his readiness to begin to work with men, women and youths in Nigeria to achieve this. He said, “This is a workable project and I’m going to start working on the from my Surulere, Lagos constituency. I grew up in Lagos and as you know, Lagos is a cosmopolitan city where people of all tribes have lived in peace for hundreds of years. You have intermarriages, inter-religious events and the grandparents of most people who claim Lagos to be their state of origin today came from different parts of the country and even the world. If the unity of different people of different backgrounds has worked in Lagos for years and worked in Nigeria too, it must continue to work. We should all begin to see policies as matters that affect us all, rather than the other way round. Recession is affecting all Nigerians, the Hausa/Fulani inclusive despite the fact that the President is a Fulani man. When we hate the other man because he’s from the place where the leaders are from, we are not being fair. An average Fulani man does not have personal relationship with the President, so why should he be punished or abused if the economy is not in favour of everyone?”
More on economic recession, he said “In all fairness the present government is one of the luckiest in the history of Nigerian democracy looking back at the national support it enjoyed in the last election; however I make bold to say it is the unluckiest as well, this government came in at the tipping point of our numerous economic woes. We need to be fair with ourselves that the present day economic difficulty did not just start; its a decadal chain reaction of implementing inappropriate polices and system of governance, definitely issues are bound to arise and things will eventually snap.”
“It is a notorious fact that the people of this present government are suffering, but in all fairness everybody is suffering as well”. In one of the most tumultuous moment of the Nigerian economy, collective response is key; being honest and educated is not always enough but seeing beyond the shores of ethnicity by relentlessly committing to a national character is the only breakout from our present dispensation.
“As I have always said, good governance isn’t rocket science, aside from credibility and education, its is good conscience as well”
On National security, he says “Terrorism is an international problem with multi dimensional sources; it requires multi-dimensional approach as well. Arguably most of the litany of researches about terrorism points to poverty as the source of this menace, but from experience and statistics, terrorist are not necessarily poor people. The truth is that poverty increases susceptibility to any form of societal and economic misconduct but sometimes not necessarily the causative agents. In the History of United Kingdom and possible United States no terrorist has been captured only to find out that he is poor. They have lived in the best of places and enjoy the finest things of life. The perpetrator of these gross misconduct have political wills that needs to be thwarted; with most terroristic political wills, it always has the backing of an outside establishment or an inside organization working against the rid of these terrorist acts”.
Odunuga says though the government is on the right tract, but there are methods it should apply in getting it right. He said, “The Nigerian government is on the right tract but we need to synergize our operations, it needs to be watertigh; we cant be advancing on military tactics and not creating a robust system for the fallouts of these advancement. The IDP camps needs to be more managed and security conscious, regulation of influx into the camps needs to be monitored to prevent re-infection of terrorist traits within the camp. Aside other recent untold issues of “sex for food” in the camp, someone needs to manage the continuum of these whole operations from birds view, not necessarily the president but someone needs to be able to look at the resultant effect of military advancement on the camps and the society; proffers and changes intervention and tactic of management regularly to suit the ever changing modes of terrorism. There needs to be a managing body to regulate “command and control”, build support, capacity, consensus and engage all stakeholders, otherwise we are not better than a revolving door.”
Ending the interesting dinner, Odunuga said, overall, he is proud of the achievements of the present Government with the like of Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode whom he described as a innovator and a good example other leaders should emulate. “The Governor of Lagos State is an achiever and those of us coming back home are happy that we have a leader who is not playing lip service to governance. Within a very short period, Gov. Akinwumi Ambode has moved and touched all sectors of Lagos State. Of particular
interest to those of us with a background in the military is the way and manner he is putting back in the area of security in the state. We know he can do a lot more, but he has hit the ground running and we are happy”.