By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party in the February 25th general election, Peter Obi has re-echoed Prof Chinua Achebe’s stance that the problem of Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, of the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.
But noted that if Chinua Achebe was to come to Nigeria today, he would weep bitterly for his country as comparatively, there was really no trouble with Nigeria four decades ago when the iroko of literature, Achebe wrote the book, The Trouble With Nigeria. “If Achebe was alive, he would have taken back the book. When he wrote it, there was no trouble. Now, there is real trouble in Nigeria.”
Addressing the audience inside the Arthur Lewis Auditorium, the venue of the occasion, The Chinua Achebe International Symposium and 10th Anniversary Memorial Celebration organized by The Chinua Achebe Foundation and African World Initiative anchored by the very able Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, Director Programme in African Studies, Princeton University, New Jersey, United States, the former governor of Anambra State characteristically drew factual comparisons to drive home the fact that though Achebe was spot on in identifying Nigeria’s troubles as leadership-induced, the globally celebrated writer of Things Fall Apart would weep bitterly today if he came back to observe how far his dear country had deteriorated after 40 years of his warning for positive change.
This was contained in a statement signed by the PA Media toPO, Tai Emeka Obasi made available to Sundiata Post in Abuja.
Obi described Achebe, who incidentally taught him the English Language in his first year at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as a man whose works defined him as one imbued with communal awareness to put in great efforts to better the society.
Mentioning Achebe’s protagonists in his books, from Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, through those of Arrow of God, Man Of The People, and so on, the LP standard bearer impressively summarised the characters in the books as sacrificing whatever it took, including their lives, to better the lots of their people.
“This much he generously exemplified in the case of Okonkwo, who would not cave into the trampling on his cultural heads, but rather got deeply infuriated when the strings that held them together were cut in places, thereby letting in ‘mere anarchy’ upon the world, meaning beyond Umuofia. Take this home, a little scoop of palm oil and all five fingers of a hand are sure to get smeared. Obi drove home his point in categorizing Achebe as a man for the well-being of the people and society.
Obi re-echoed Achebe’s stance that the problem of Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, of the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership … Obi re-emphasized his unchanging belief that Nigeria’s problem is the cumulative effect of leadership failure over the years.
Obi in the usual way of buttressing his position with statistics, recalled that “40 years ago, university professors in Nigeria earned a monthly salary of N1,200 when the Naira exchanged at about $1.6. So, that was about $2,000. And that then brand new popular Corolla vehicles and Peugeot cars sold at between N4000 and N5000. “It meant that any university professor could decide to save his three months’ salary to purchase a brand new of those brands of car. Today, such brands cost as much as N38 million …and the same professors earn N400,000 per month. It will take the same professor eight years of saving every dime earned to be able to purchase the same brand of vehicle.”
“Forty years ago a million Naira was valued at $1.6 million. Today same amount is valued at just $1000. Even though our great father, Achebe would weep at the realities today, he was very right about leadership being the issue. Our country has been bedeviled by corruption. Stealing public money has left us where we are today.
“People say that fighting corruption is not easy but it is very easy. If you are in charge and you are not stealing, your wife is not stealing, your children are not stealing, those working with you will not have any reason to steal and you must have reduced corruption by over 50 percent.” Furthermore, he stressed that
“We can start thinking of a new Nigeria with competence, and capacity that is committed to fighting corruption. Is it possible to fight corruption? The answer is yes!”
Obi recalled how as governor, he met a state that was ranked 27th out of the 36 states of Nigeria in Education but that with conceited efforts through handing schools over to missions and pumping funds into the sector to ensure every conducive atmosphere of learning, his state moved from that position to first and stayed there until he left office.
He also recalled how his administration cleared over N35 billion backlog of pensions and gratuities he inherited and never owed salaries, pensions, gratuities, and contractors and still left behind over N75 billion before vacating office. PO was clearly emphasising that with leaders of proven integrity, capacity, and competence Nigeria would come out of her trouble, the trouble the great man identified four decades earlier before departing three decades later.
Obi regretted that Achebe was left with the lamentation of a failed nation clearly expressed in his last book, There Was A Country. “So painful but I like to assure us Nigerians that There Will Be A Country. A country where leaders will be who they claim to be. A country where leaders will be of known identities, known parentage, where schools they claimed to have attended and certificates obtained would be accurately verified,” he concluded with the auditorium erupting in prolonged cheers.
While Obi dwelt on The Trouble With Nigeria, other notable speakers in the globally screamed event before him included HRM Igwe Onyido of Ogidi; Richard Joseph, Emeritus John Evans Professor of International History and Politics., Northwestern University; Toyin Falola and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, University of Texas at Austin; Sonia Sanchez, Poet, Writer, and Professor; Chika Unigwe, Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia University; Obiora Udechukwu, Emeritus Dana Professor of Fine Arts, St. Lawrence University; HE Abena, P.A. Busia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ghana to Brazil, Professor Emerita, Ruthers University; Simon Gikandi, Class of 1943 University Professor of English, and Chair, Department of English, Princeton University; Anthonia Kalu, Professor of Cooperative Literature, African Studies, University of California-Riverside; Mr Oseloka H. Obaze, an author and Former Secretary to Anambra State Government.