The 17-member panel inaugurated on January 13, 1986, with Samuel Cookey, a professor of political science, as chairman was charged with the responsibility of refocusing Nigeria’s political trajectory by chiseling out a new socio-political order.
With membership cutting across academia, business and labour – Abdullahi Augie, Bala Takaya, Dr. Edwin Madunagu, Prof. Oye Oyediran, Mrs. Hilda Adefarasin, Prof. Eme Awa, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, Dr. Ola Balogun, Haroun Adamu, Comrade Paschal Bafyau – the bureau reached out to prominent Nigerians.
At the end, it received well over 27,000 memoranda on issues ranging from religion to ethnicity and ideology from ever-willing and rambunctious Nigerians.
But Obafemi Awolowo was not sold on the project and refused to participate.
In his rejection letter addressed to Cookey, Awo was clairvoyant and made a damning proclamation.
“I received your letter of February 28, 1986, and sincerely thank you for doing me the honour of inviting me to contribute to the national political debate.
“The purpose of the debate is to clarify our thoughts in our search for a new social order.
“It is therefore proper that all those who have something to contribute should do so.
“I do fervently and will continue fervently to pray that I may be proved wrong.
“For something within me tells me, loud and clear, that we have embarked on a fruitless search.
“At the end of the day, when we imagine that the new order is here, we would be terribly disappointed.
“In other words, at the threshold of our new social order, we would see for ourselves that, as long as Nigerians remain what they are, nothing clean, principled, ethical, and idealistic can work with them.
“And Nigerians will remain what they are, unless the evils which now dominate their hearts, at all levels and in all sectors of our political, business and governmental activities, are exorcised.
“But I venture to assert that they will not be exorcised, and indeed they will be firmly entrenched, unless God Himself imbues a vast majority of us with a revolutionary change of attitude to life and politics or, unless the dialectic processes which have been at work for some twenty years now, perforce, make us perceive the abominable filth that abounds in our society, to the end that an inexorable abhorrence of it will be quickened in our hearts and impel us to make drastic changes for the better.”
But in the event that Nigerians were not attuned to heeding the advice, there was, Awolowo said, an alternative option: “To succumb to permanent social instability and chaos.”
Nigerians obviously settled for the alternative option and 33 years after, we are still treading that self-destructive path.
No matter how anyone cuts it, Nigeria is in trouble. The country under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch is gradually but inexorably succumbing to permanent social instability and chaos.
When Nigerians elected Buhari president in 2015, they believed that they were enthroning a new order. Change was the slogan. Today, not a few are terribly disappointed. Truth be told, with Buhari, we embarked on a fruitless search.
Recently, one of the most virulent critics of former President Goodluck Jonathan who loudly celebrated Buhari’s victory in 2015 sent me a WhapSapp message.
“Jonathan was a comprehensive failure, part of his failing being the emergence of Buhari. But it was good Buhari was given a chance, and as is clear now, to ruin himself. Buhari has turned out, not just to have failed, but to now constitute the greatest risk to our national security. Anyone who says Buhari is doing well should have his head examined.”
This verdict may sound harsh but it is true. It is pretty tough for any well-meaning Nigerian to continue maintaining a sunny outlook about the country right now. But Buhari has neither ruined himself nor about to. In fact, he doesn’t care. I doubt if he gets it. But Nigeria is worse off for the shenanigans of his government.
And the conduct of the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States reinforces the prevailing pessimism.
Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, elections were a do-or-die affair. As bad as that was, Buhari has taken the ugly trend to the next level, a notch higher, where it does not really matter whether you do or you don’t, being a Nigerian willing to express a contrary political opinion makes you an enemy of the state with dire consequences.
Which explains why the Kogi State PDP Woman Leader, Mrs. Salome Abuh, was burnt alive in her home just because of elections.
In broad daylight, hoodlums that were not masked arrived at Abuh’s house, blocked every exit, knowing full well that she was inside, poured petrol on the building, set it ablaze, stepped back and fired gunshots continuously to scare people away from rescuing her. Terrified villagers who apparently knew the assassins could only watch the gory spectacle from afar, helplessly.
Meanwhile, the murderers were having a ball – smoking, drinking and chatting away – without a care in the world while their victim was wailing and begging for mercy.
The blood-thirsty thugs waited patiently, mocking their victim. They had the licence to kill. Like a child sent on a stealing voyage by his father, who loudly and without a care kicks the door open, they stood there supremely confident that their bestial act will go unpunished.
That is the level Nigeria is right now. Almost three weeks after, nobody has been punished for this crime. I dare say that nobody will be made to pay for this heinous crime. Lesser incidents will convulse any other country.
Abuh’s tragic fate reminds me of Mukaila Abdullahi, Kano State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), who was burnt to death at his Kano GRA residence on April 4, 2015 together with his wife and two children.
Abdullahi presided over the presidential and National Assembly elections. He didn’t live to superintend over the governorship and state Assembly elections.
His remains were buried in his home state of Jigawa even before investigations started. To date, there has been no serious attempt to unravel the mystery.
Why should there be when the police concluded without any investigation that the entire family “suffocated after inhaling black smoke emitting from the split air-conditioner hose that caught fire after an electrical fault.” To date, Kano residents and Abdullahi’s neighbours dispute that account.
The Kano State Police Commissioner who made the announcement, Ibrahim Idris, became the Inspector General of Police (IGP) shortly after.
Under Buhari’s watch, Nigeria seems to have succumbed to permanent social instability and chaos.
The homes of Nigerians are routinely burnt down and innocent citizens murdered in cold blood for daring to assemble as was the case of Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer to leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, this week.
The government cherry picks which court order to obey. The National Assembly has become a mere rubber stamp with lawmakers misconstruing patriotism to mean allegiance to the president rather than the Constitution of the country.
Nigerians have been cowed into silence. A Hate Speech Bill that prescribes death penalty is hanging over the heads of naysayers like the axiomatic sword of Damocles. There is also the Social Media Bill.
The ominous warnings are back. Mere protest is a treasonable felony that must be firmly and ruthlessly put down. Any act of dissent is a potential banana skin.
On Tuesday December 3, the Department of State Services (DSS) sounded an ominous warning, claiming to have uncovered plots by some undesirable groups to cause a breakdown of law and order in parts of the country by instigating protests, mass action and violence.
“These predetermined actions have been designed to take place simultaneously in the major cities across the geopolitical zones in the coming weeks,” DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, announced in righteous indignation.
“Considering the implications of these on public safety and national security, the Service wishes to warn the anti-democratic elements responsible for these heinous plots to desist forthwith from their inglorious acts.
“Consequently, parents are advised to rein in their wards and enjoin them not to allow themselves to be used to foment trouble.
“Similarly, Heads of academic and public institutions are to warn their students and employees respectively from engaging in any untoward activity against public order.
“The Service and other sister agencies are at alert and will ensure that peace and security are maintained in all parts of the country before, during and after the festive periods.”
The gloves are off. Buhari claimed he was a born-again democrat. Nigerians believed him. But can the leopard actually change its spots? Hardly!
Awolowo is right. He saw this coming 33 years ago.