Being Full Text of Address at The Leadership Annual
Conference and 2013 awards
For the sake of all of us, I sincerely hope that this saying holds
true for Nigerians.
Whilst thanking my hosts, the Leadership newspaper, for
inviting me to speak at this event to celebrate General Yakubu
Gowon, a patriot and public servant of no mean repute, I
apologize that I must open with such words of what I may call
frugally measured hope.
This is because the circumstances which thrust a young General
Gowon upon our Nation as a leader in the 1960s are not too
different from what appears on Nigeria’s political and social
landscape from what any honest Nigerian can see.
Indeed the dark clouds that gather are this time prefaced by
an ominous prediction about the continuity of our union from a
place far away.
If anybody has any doubt about what I say, I will recall history
and go back to a speech delivered on Sunday 5th February
1970 in which it was partly said as follows:-
“Before and since the end of the civil war, we have heard a
good deal about physical reconstruction, with particular and
almost exclusive reference to the reconstruction of roads,
bridges, airports, buildings, market-places and other such-like
material and concrete objects which were damaged during the
I know, and I want to assure you, that all the Governments of
the Federation are already busy making gargantuan
preparations to the end that every trace, however slight, of
the extensive physical damage done during the war shall be
totally erased within the next year or two. But, if the
rebuilding of roads, bridges, etc. were all that needed to be
done, then the task of reconstruction would be an exceedingly
For Nigeria has the requisite material and financial, as well as
the human resources to tackle these jobs effectively and
expeditiously. In addition, it has a large circle of friendly
countries which are prepared to come to its aid as and when
But before we have travelled far on the road of material
reconstruction, we must realise, and do so vividly and
truthfully, that the most crucial areas of reconstruction are
the minds of Nigerian citizens on both sides of the fighting
In other words, in addition to material reconstruction, there is
an urgent and massive need for moral and spiritual
reconstruction as well: the kind of reconstruction which will
help to demolish morbid desire for naked power and
domination; abuse and misuse of power and office; greed,
selfishness, and intolerance; nepotism, favouritism, jobbery,
bribery, and other forms of corruption; and erect, in their
places, probity, tolerance, altruism, and devotion; equality of
treatment, justice, equity, and fair play to all.”
This speech was given by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
For those who still need to be persuaded, I ask further, why
would we gather to celebrate the 80th birthday anniversary of
General Gowon, who led us through a bitter civil war,
inaugurated a rebuilding process built on 3Rs of Reconstruction,
Rehabilitation and Reconciliation and 44 years after that
process we will gather to discuss a topic such as “Rebuilding the
Nation: Lessons from other Lands” if all was well with Nigeria.
Why are we not at this occasion celebrating our arrival on the
I do not know how General Gowon feels inwardly as he
continues to lead prayers for Nigeria, but I would not be happy
that today’s Nigeria is what lives were sacrificed to keep
together, if I were him.
Nevertheless, I personally know that all is not lost. I am an
optimist. I am convinced that the problems are man-made, and
therefore men and women can and will solve them.
I have believed as a child and continue to believe as an adult in
the great promise of Nigeria.
Whether we like it or not, the promise of Nigeria will be
fulfilled. What I do not know is when. Whether it will happen in
my lifetime or after.
It would be nice to experience it. I can visualize it.
The world’s largest collection of black people, blessed in many
more ways than one, diverse in human and material resources,
and if only it can unite in its purpose and mission.
I would love to live that dream. And it is possible. But it must
start with us.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Nigeria has not changed. It is us
Nigerians who have changed. As one commentator put it, we
have lost our innocence.
The assets of Nigeria, in men and material resources, have
continued to grow or at least remain undiminished.
What has diminished in many vast quantities are our values.
We have refused to look in the mirror because we know what we
will see and we are not ready to confront it.
What we will see is a people who appear unsure again how to
define good and bad.
In order to avoid the confrontation that we must have with
ourselves, amongst ourselves and within ourselves, we have
thrown up false reasons.
The constitution is bad. It is our diversity. It is our religion or it
is our ethnicity.
So, in order to avoid the truth, we have lived in our own bubble,
amending constitution after constitution as if that was the
Instead of the many Constitutional Conferences that we have
had, what we really need is a conference of values.
Nigerians have not experienced the promise of this country
because our values and moral codes have gone in different
Ever so often, when the Nigerian people have asked the
leadership for a better life, we seem to miss the question or we
avoid it; we give them a new law or a new document, or we set
up one Committee.
The ordinary Nigerian will not be as interested in what is
written in the Constitution, as he will be interested in safety,
food, shelter, prosperity, education and work.
But when we finally agree to look in the mirror, we will see that
these things have been denied by our values.
From the shortage of electric power, to the deficit of roads,
insecurity and crime, sub-optimal economy, high interest rate,
poor exchange rates, the poor value issues and misuse of power,
greed, selfishness, intolerance, nepotism, favouritism, bribery
and other forms of corruption identified since 1970, lie at the
heart and as root-cause.
Therefore on discussing my topic, as chosen by my hosts, which
is: Rebuilding the Nation, lessons from other lands, my
approach today will be to share some of the problems that we
are all too familiar with as examples of what must change.
Then I will proceed to look at other places and make possible
comparisons, in order to show what they have experienced, and
what they did, as lessons that we may consider; if we must re-
build our nation.
Let me start with some of the problems.
And I will not say anything that comes from me. I will only
repeat what some ordinary Nigerians have said and what some
of you may have read.
I will start with Alade Fawole who writes on the back page of
Tribune Newspapers and what he said in the Tuesday edition of
7th October 2014, which he titled “The Mo Ibrahim index
exposed the ugliness of Nigeria’s underdevelopment.”
He said in part as follows:
“A few months ago, after the Nigerian economy was officially
rebased, a mere statistical abracadabra that placed Nigeria as
having the largest economy in Africa ahead of South Africa
which had rightly occupied that position for decades, our
national officials were giddy with celebration, effusively
touted the wielding of that magic wand called rebasing as
another evidence of the success of President Jonathan’s
And they did their level best to persuade us of the ‘benefits’
of this newly minted status. Many perceptive analysts advised
cautious jubilation at the time, stating that the mere
statistical manipulation or creative accounting exercise neither
reflected the actual economic realities on the ground in the
country nor would it make any meaningful impact on the lives
and living standards of the 70 percent ordinary Nigerians who
survive on less than two dollars a day.
Fancy economic statistics that fail to translate into positive
improvement in the living conditions of the mass of the people
is at best useless.
Every commentator with a contrary view was at the time
regarded in official circles in Abuja as either working for the
opposition party, (the accusation routinely leveled at anybody
who disagrees with government), or he/she was downright
unappreciative if not also unpatriotic.
But the reality is that this rebasing did not, and has not,
addressed chronic poverty, infrastructure decay, creeping
authoritarianism, mass youth unemployment, adult
underemployment, burgeoning insecurity and overall bad
governance, and other challenges that confront the country.
The 2014 Ibrahim Index on African Governance (IIAG), an
annual review on governance in Africa of the Mo Ibrahim
Foundation, released on Monday, September 29, ranks Nigeria
among the worst governed countries in Africa. It has revealed
the stark ugliness of Nigeria’s underdeveloped status in the
Of the 52 countries profiled, Nigeria is placed number 37, far
below its principal competitor and continental rival, South
Africa, which ranks number 4, after Mauritius, Cape Verde and
Botswana in that order. Nigeria scoring 45.8 not only ranks
below the West African average of 52.2, it ranks scandalously
lower than the overall African average of 51.5!
What makes this highly atrocious and humiliating, in my humble
view, is that Nigeria is the undisputed sub-regional
‘superpower’ by several statistical considerations. It all shows
that the rebasing was just another statistical hocus pocus
contrived to hoodwink the people that they are actually more
prosperous than previously imagined.
Let’s return to the 2014 Ibrahim Index. Eleven West African
countries, among them post-conflict states like Liberia and
Sierra Leone still coping with the devastating consequences of
civil wars, rank ahead of Nigeria!
How much more scandalous can things get’ All the 52 African
countries were judged on four basic premises, namely: Safety
and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable
Economic Opportunity, and Human Development, and Nigeria
ranked poorly in virtually all of them.
It is customary during major national celebrations for our
governments to reel out their wonderful achievements. This
year’s nationwide independence anniversary broadcast by
President Goodluck Jonathan on 1st October did not disappoint
—– as usual it was full of self-praise and effusive celebration
of the government’s fantastic achievements.
Among the things that caught my attention is the President’s
claim that ‘we have been able to sustain a big, strong and
influential country with a robust economy. We are currently in
our sixteenth year of uninterrupted democratic rule, daily
improving on the consolidation of our democratic process.’
Add to that sundry claims of the power sector reforms that
will bring us electricity, ‘giant strides in the agricultural
sector’ and sundry policies meant to fast-track job creation,
inclusive growth and industrialisation, upgrade existing
infrastructure, and all that. Coming just two days after the
release of the Ibrahim Index, the speech and all the fancy
claims rang rather hollow and unconvincing.
While a little self-congratulation may not be completely out of
place, it’s high time the government came down from its high
horse to acknowledge the ugly realities of Nigeria’s
underdevelopment, and begin to come up with innovative ways
of solving them so that Nigeria can in the next few years
emerge from this sorry state.
Not much will be achieved by wallowing in self-congratulations
instead of facing the facts. I don’t know about our
government, but I consider it shameful, scandalous and
unacceptable that a big country endowed with abundant
natural and human resources like Nigeria would place thirty-
seventh in Africa and tenth out of sixteen in the West Africa
sub-region. The only appropriate appellation for it is ‘big for
I will also quickly refer you to the views expressed by Abimbola
Adelakun who writes on the back page of Punch Newspapers
and this is part of what she had to say in the Tuesday October
9th 2014 edition about security (on which we have received a
poor rating) in a piece she titled “The battle the Army needs
“How, one wonders, does a fundamentalist sect without any
training in modern warfare defeat Army officers? Boko
Haram, ab initio, is a copycat organisation; no original thought.
They are as vicious as any psychopath armed with high-octane
weapons can be. Their videos portray them as a disorganised
band whose major strength is the worthlessness of their lives
which they never hesitate to throw away.
On this page some weeks back, I noted that now that ISIS
beheads people on video, Boko Haram too will soon follow suit –
and they did! Boko Haram is asymptotic of the
spectacularisation of violence elsewhere. Even their triumph is
How can such a group endlessly confound the Nigerian Army if
not for the politics of war?
For now, the evidence that Shekau had truly been killed is weak
yet cuts at the heart of the credibility of the Army. The Army
has been caught in several blatant lies that believing they
actually killed Shekau sounds like ‘tales by the moonlight’.
Worse, the evidence they presented works hard at saying
nothing but destroying their claims.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, I did not say this. Two Nigerian citizens
said so. I have resolved for a long time not to speak badly
about my country.
But that resolve also comes with another resolve not to pretend
about its problems, because I believe they can be solved.
So I cannot pretend that the problems highlighted in these
words by two Nigerians indicate that they exist.
Many words summarize these comments. Inefficiency of
Government, mistrust between the Governed and those
Governing at the national level. And nothing typifies this more
than the Transformation agenda and the Transformation
Ambassadors, who seem to see what all of us and perhaps the
rest of the world do not see in our country.
Yes I agree that Nigerians need to unite around an idea or a
vision, but for that to happen, the idea or vision must be
SHARED and our efforts must be united towards realizing it,
while our actions must be consistent with that idea. This is the
kernel of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s speech that I referred to.
Has this happened? I cannot answer this question alone.
Indeed the answer lies in a joint examination of Nigeria’s
current realities and expressed vision; in a Transformation
Is this a shared idea, vision or agenda? Was it discussed with
you? Do you know what it means?
Let us start from the definition. The word derives from the
verb “Transform” which means:
“to completely change the character or appearance of
something,…so that it is better.”
So if we paraphrase, to transform means ‘to change for the
In the last four years, has Nigeria changed for the better?
I do not know about you. But the signs that there was not going
to be any transformation were obvious to me since 2011 or
As a mere slogan perhaps yes. As a call to purposeful action,
the deception is obvious if you look at the budgets we have
presented as a nation, and more critically at how much of it, we
have been able to implement.
For any serious public officer, nation or Government the
budget is the article of faith.
It is the easiest place from which the seriousness or lack of
seriousness of the people in that country or region are valued.
It determines what investors locally and internationally will do.
In a nation where we need to increase the supply of good road
networks, where power needs to be produced in multiples of
thousands of megawatts, where specialist health care facilities
are needed, one would expect a massive investment in financing
public infrastructure at a time when oil has been selling for
around $100 per barrel.
But details of the Federal Budget pieced together between
2010 and 2013 show that every year in those four years we
have budgeted at least 62% and at most 74% on recurrent
spending, while the maximum budget for capital expenditure,
from which roads, rail, power, hospitals, bridges, etc can be
executed have received at most 38% in 2010 before this
administration started, and as little as 26% in 2011.
If truly there was a desire to make a change for the better
which is what transformation means, it should be obvious as a
statement of intent from the budget.
But contrary to what we profess, our budgets spend more on
recurrent; payment of salaries, travel, importing kerosene,
petrol, rice and every other imaginable thing.
What is transformational about that?
For the record, since around 2011, I have made a conscious
effort not to use that word, and whenever I have succumbed to
the unconscious use of it, it has been with very deep regret.
The truth is that we are not “transforming” for the better.
Our own definition of the word seems to be different from the
one in the dictionary.
It is obvious in all spheres of our national life, the evidence
stares us in the face. No patrol vehicles for Policemen, arms
are being rushed in purchase because none was budgeted for
until we hit a crisis.
So we have heard of wives of soldiers protesting deployment of
their husbands, soldiers making tactical withdrawals, small
nations that are not as big as some local Governments in
Nigeria embarrassing us.
Yet some Nigerians, who claim they are more patriotic than us,
say that they are Ambassadors of this transformation and
that we are wrong because all is well.
Really is all well? When last did Sudan, a nation that has been
caught in civil strife, go to the Nations Cup, not to talk of
I know that they won the Nations Cup in 1970 when they hosted
it. But I cannot remember when last Nigeria lost a match to
Sudan. But it happened on Saturday.
In our group with Congo and South Africa, we are the only
nation that has not defeated Sudan. They lost by 3-0 to South
Africa, and by 2-0 to Congo. FIFA has threatened to ban us,
given us ultimata more times in a year.
This is happening when we are defending champions.
But how did we consolidate our success as African champions?
We removed a young minister who was rebuilding our sports and
connecting with his generation. His offence? He did not attend
a political rally.
How consistent is this action with the transformational agenda
to empower the young people of this country?
Again you will see inconsistency; words leading in the opposite
direction of action.
How can we transform if we spent over N2 Trillion on importing
fuel. This is approximately $12.5 Billion.
For those who are curious enough, please simply Google the cost
of building the Burj Khalifa. It was the tallest building in the
world when it was completed about four years ago and quickly
became a foremost global tourism destination. It cost $1.5
Billion and an oil producing Emirate like our country used the
same income source to send a strong statement of development
and Excellence to the whole world.
According to our own Government, our transformation is
evident in the handful of billionaires and the number of their
In order to understand our transformation, you might wonder
what kind of ideology this transformation is, which makes it
difficult to buy arms to pursue and diminish criminals.
Every person who cares to ask will easily find out that conflicts
around the world are pursued with small arms which are in
proliferation in the hands of criminals.
Yet we have been unable to get legally or illegally, what
criminals get readily.
If this is the case, what does it say of our ability to apprehend
them, if they can do illegally, what we cannot do illegally or
legally? Some transformation.
My heart bleeds when I recount how we move from one
avoidable embarrassment to another and so I will say no more.
What I have said is only necessary to contextualize what I think
we should do.
In order to preface my solution, I will make a final reference
to the arms purchase scandal and the Evangelical thread that
I know that all the scriptures abhor violence and killing, so I will
focus on the ethical and moral message of that thread.
The last time I checked, arms and ammunition were not being
used for making peace, giving life, treating sick people or
providing spiritual renewal.
Arms are used to perpetrate violence or repel it. Usually they
cause death. They are the anti-thesis of the spiritual
injunction that, thou shall not kill.
The inconsistent purpose of arms and ammunition with this
injunction is, for me, the most important reason why there
should never have been that Evangelical thread.
It threatens the foundations of morality and values; and this
is my message for all of us.
What we need most in order to rebuild our nation is to reclaim
our lost values, re-define our moral codes, agree on a common
definition of what is good and what is bad, pursue the
development of our nation along these codes and refuse to
accommodate any ethnic, kinship, tribal, religious or other
coloration whenever these moral codes and ethical values are
We have done it before. An example which I readily cite is a
story told to me by my friend and I will repeat it:
About 40 years ago, when my friend was Ten-Years-Old, he
recalls that his father had a close friend who was also a
neighbour. For many years, his father and that friend
constantly exchanged visits and after work drinks in each
My friend’s paternal grandmother lived with them. One
evening, it was reported in the news that the neighbour, his
father’s friend, was suspected of some impropriety in his
His grandmother had heard the news. When the friend walked
over for the usual evening drink with his father, his
grandmother refused to open the door.
In the exchange between son and mother (my friend’s father
and his grandmother) as to why the well-known friend and
neighbour could not enter, my friend’s grandmother replied
that he must go and clear his name.
This was in Lagos, Nigeria. This was forty years ago.
So how many of us can and will be ready to be like Mama?
If Nigeria needs any type of conference or dialogue at all, it is
a conference about our National values and ethical codes.
If we agree on this, it seems to me that many other things will
fall into place.
All those things that Chief Obafemi Awolowo referred to in his
1970 speech which undermine a nation, will reduce or disappear
because history has shown that they cannot withstand the
compelling purpose of a people united around high ethical and
In order to complete my task, I will only now refer to extracts
from other lands.
“From 1948 to 1994, apartheid was a system of racial
segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by
the Afrikaner-dominated National Party and Broederbond
organisations. Under the system, the rights, associations, and
movements of the black residents of the country were
Under the apartheid system, residents of the country were
divided into four racial groups—”black”, “white”, “coloured”,
and “Indian”, and a person’s classification determined where
they could live, work or even walk, and what kinds of public
services they were legally eligible to receive. A system of racial
discrimination is a very vile and morally deficient system. Its
ethical underpinnings offend the Laws of God.
When W. de Klerk became president in 1989, he opened the door
wider to change and, in the same year, a still imprisoned Nelson
Mandela contacted anti-apartheid leaders and put forward
proposals for negotiations.
After the official abolition of apartheid, former President de
Klerk apologised in his capacity as leader of the NP to the
millions who suffered over the decades of racial discrimination.
Adriaan Vlok, on his part, washed the feet of apartheid victim
Frank Chikane in an act of apology for the wrongs of the
Apartheid regime, and Leon Wessels released a public apology
stating that he was convinced that apartheid was a terrible
mistake that blighted ‘our land’.
A number of formal platforms were set up to ensure this. The
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a court-like
restorative justice body, was set up in South Africa after the
abolition of apartheid.
People who had been victims of gross human rights violations
were invited to give statements about their experiences, and
some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of
violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from
both civil and criminal prosecution.
The TRC marked a crucial component of the transition to full
and free democracy in South Africa. It laid emphasis on
So we can see that South Africa rebuilt by pursuing Truth and
An important way in which South Africa is being rebuilt is
through the deliberate inclusion of blacks in employment. Also,
slums such as Soweto were rebuilt and the general standard of
living of the people has increased with blacks being able to get
quality education which they were previously denied. This has
led to the growth of the black middle-class
Racially motivated land tenure policies were also repealed in
1994, and as white-only areas have opened to other races, the
biggest post-apartheid population shift has been the movement
of black middle-class residents from townships to formerly
Townships have also become the locations of museums and malls
and are thus tourist attractions, a move which brings more
income to the people of the areas who own local businesses. “
“Unlike racial conflict in South Africa, what was at the heart
of the Rwandan experience was ethnic distrust between the
Hutus and Tutsis leading to discrimination.
What sparked off the horror that that the world witnessed for
about 100 days in 1994 was an act suspected to be the murder
of the Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana who was of
The genocide was indescribable.
In situations where some people survived the violence and could
recognize the perpetrators and their assailants, public
reconciliation processes between the warring factions, Hutus
and Tutsis, were conducted and encouraged.
The new government did not dwell on repairing something that
was broken apart but rather sought to build a new nation
devoid of ethnic identities, conflicts or prejudices. One of the
first step was to abolish the system of ethnic identity cards.
Then the establishment of leadership across ethnic lines.
Stringent efforts have been made to ensure access to
education and improve the quality. Today, 97% of its children
attend primary school, one of the highest rates in Africa.
UNESCO acknowledged this feat by listing it as one of the top
three countries invested in the improvement of and access to
With two-thirds of Rwanda’s population under 25 and life
expectancy at just 55, many have placed their hopes in the
country’s youth. Children are discouraged from using labels
that may bring about division such as identifying with one tribe
alone. Rather they are encouraged and taught to focus on a
After the genocide, the country struggled to reduce the
number of deaths. Today, Rwanda is often praised for its
success on key health indicators. Deaths of under-fives have
fallen from 230 per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 55 per 1000 live
births in 2012.
Infant mortality has also plummeted – from 120 deaths per
1,000 live births in 1998 to fewer than 40 in 2012. According to
World Bank statistics, the country spends a good part of its
national budget on health and education. In 2011, almost 24%
of total government expenditure went to health and 17% to
Again we can see forgiveness, public reconciliation and social
and economic justice for all, especially women and children as
what worked for Rwanda.
These are high ideals around which to build our nation. We must
not wait for a genocide before we start.
“Georgia has been a part of Soviet Russia since 1921 and
remained so until 1991.
In 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who was elected as the first
President of independent Georgia stoked Georgian nationalism
and vowed to assert Tbilisi’s authority over regions such as
Abkhazia and South Ossetia that had been classified as
autonomous oblasts under the Soviet Union.
He was deposed by a bloody coup d’état in December 1991,
after which Georgia became entangled in a civil war which
lasted until 1995. The inter-ethnic violence and wars led to
Abkhazia, and South Ossetia achieving de facto independence
from Georgia, with Georgia retaining control only in small
areas of the disputed territories. About 250,000 Georgians
were massacred or expelled from Abkhazia by separatists.
The three-year civil war led to a decade of political
instability, and financial, economic and social crises. These
events resulted in a severe deterioration of relations with
Russia, fuelled also by Russia’s open assistance and support to
the two secessionist areas.
In May 2005 Georgia and Russia reached a bilateral agreement
and under it Russian military bases (dating back to the Soviet
era) in its territory were withdrawn. In 2008, tension with
Russia began escalating. In five days of fighting, the Russian
forces captured Tskhinvali, pushed back Georgian troops, and
largely destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure using
airstrikes deep inside the Georgia proper. The war displaced
192,000 people but it ended in August of the same year.”
“Reforms started as far back as November 2003, when the
liberal-minded Mikheil Saakashvili took over from Eduard
Shevardnadze as the president of Georgia. He embarked on a
program of reform that led to improved quality of life for the
people of the country. As the relics of the Soviet system were
being flushed away, his government privatised state
enterprises, invested in education, health, and infrastructure,
and reformed the police force to get rid of corruption in it.
One of the ways in which the police was reformed was by
increasing the officers’ salaries as an incentive.
Also, and importantly, the country began work to make the
economy one which could be invested in. The process has been so
consistent, despite rough patches in civil stability, that the
country is currently ranked the 8th easiest place to do business
in the world by the World Bank.
Today, bribery is almost non-existent in Georgia, and
according to polls only one percent of Georgians respond that
they’ve been asked for a bribe by police.”
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I started by telling you
about my belief in the promise of Nigeria, I still do.
South Africa waited from 1948-1994 (46 years); Rwanda
recovered in 18 years, Georgia was not free from 1921 – 1991
(70 years) and after 4 years of post-independent conflict and
civil war, has rebounded in less than two decades.
What is instructive is that all these lessons and reforms came
from within those countries. Their people, especially some
outstanding leaders, led a moral and ethical renaissance, which
delivered social and economic justice and results.
The question we must then ask is whether we are sufficiently
dissatisfied with what we have.
If we are not, no leader, no matter how well intentioned, can
lead us anywhere.
We must want change more than our leaders want it.
Our actions must demonstrate our unflinching desire for it like
If we want change, the elections in 2015 are a good place to
start. No amount of ‘stomach infrastructure’ should be
sufficient to influence our vote.
For me, the next elections is not so much about what the
opposition brings as some people have argued.
I know that what the opposition does might or might not be
But I think there is another view that has not been
If you and I are happy with what we have now, and some
ambassadors say that they are, then nothing that the
opposition does should change how we feel or how we choose.
Conversely therefore, if we are unhappy with what we have,
the logical thing is to attempt to change it with our votes; and
to change the next one if we do not find what we want until we
find what works.
That is when the people will have truly claimed power.
Japan has changed Prime Ministers 9 times in 15 years.
England has changed 3 in 10 years and who knows what will
happen in May 2015?
Let me begin my conclusion by sharing with you some material I
dug up about Detroit in Michigan State as typical of what can
happen if we make good or bad choices.
“In February 1802, Detroit became a chartered city, and four
years later it was incorporated as a city in the Michigan
territory. However, it was unincorporated in 1809, then
reincorporated in 1815, at which time it had a population of
When, in 1827, Detroit adopted its motto: Speramus Meliora;
Resurget Cineribus (We hope for better days; it shall rise from
the ashes), no one knew just how good the years ahead would
be, or that the city would once more experience bad times.
The mid-80s witnessed the rise of Detroit’s fortune as a city,
as Bernhard Stroh opened up Stroh Brewery Company and
acquired several brands over the years. In 1896, history was
made when Henry Ford took his first automobile on a test drive
on the streets of Detroit.
He went on to establish the Detroit Automobile Co. Although
that company failed, several other automobile companies would
be birthed in Detroit. Ransom E. Olds opened Detroit’s first
auto manufacturing plant, Ford established his second car
company, Henry Ford Co. Ford, which went on to become
Cadillac Motor Co. Detroit.
Detroit went on to become the automobile capital of the United
States of America, with companies like General Motors,
Chrysler Corp, Packard Motor Car Co. and others also being
headquartered there in the 1900s.
By 1950, with a population of 1.85 million, Detroit was
responsible for 296,000 manufacturing jobs. And it was more
than automobile. The famous Motown Records was founded in
the city, and had great artists like the Temptations, Marvin
Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5 signed onto it.
Detroit was the modern day equivalent of Silicon Valley in the
United States of America at the time. It was the place for
innovation and for bringing ideas to life. It had a population of
1.8 million people and it had the highest per capita income in
the United States.”
Trouble in Detroit
“The first sign of big trouble came in the mid-90s as blacks
moved into Detroit to work and live. Between 1945 and 1965,
there were more than 200 violent racial incidents of whites
attacking blacks in Detroit and almost all stemmed from the
first or second black families moving into an all-white
In July 1967 when The Twelfth Street riot occurred, during
which black residents were pitted against the police. In five
days of rioting, 43 people were killed, 467 injured, and more
than 7,200 arrested while 2,000 buildings were destroyed.
As the years go by, such riots and the often near-state of
anarchy in the city causes companies to begin relocating their
factories and headquarters. It becomes cheaper for them to
operate their manufacturing arm in other continents like Asia
and this resulted in the downsizing and outsourcing of the auto
Because Detroit’s economy was heavily reliant on the auto
industry, and it had a history of racial battles, things went
downhill. Thomas Sugrue, a history professor at the University
of Pennsylvania, said of Detroit: “It’s been 60-plus years of
steady disinvestment, depopulation and an intensive hostility
between the city, the suburbs and the rest of the state.”
Although the influx of blacks into Detroit helped it to achieve
economic rise, it led to a mass exodus of white residents. Those
who could moved out of the city, especially the white
The population of the city also began to fall and in 2008, the
U.S. Census Bureau reported that Detroit’s population has
fallen to 713,777, a 25 percent plummet from 2000 and the
lowest level in 100 years. At the moment, about 83% of the
city’s population is black.
Because Detroit’s finances are premised on a minimum tax
base of 750,000 people, the decline in population had economic
repercussions. A new law, Public Act 4, that allows the state to
intervene in financially troubled local governments takes
Another factor that contributed to the city’s downfall was its
corrupt local government. Things got so bad that in 2013 one of
its former mayors’ was sentenced to 28 years in prison for
corrupt acts done while in office.
A review board describes Detroit as being in “operational
dysfunction” and “unable or unwilling to restructure its
By July 2013, while other cities and states were crawling their
way out of the economic recession, Detroit had hit rock bottom.
The city had as much as $20 billion debt and so it filed a
bankruptcy petition, becoming the largest municipal
bankruptcy filing in history.
Time Magazine, in 2009, posited that the fiscal disaster was
inevitable “because the politicians in Detroit were always
knocking the can forward, not confronting the issues, buying
off public employees by increasing their pensions. They were
always kind of confronting the impending crisis by trying to
make it the next guy’s crisis.”
Today, there are less than 27,000 jobs in Detroit. It also has
about 78,000 homes abandoned by people who fled because of
the high incidence of violence. The crime rate in the city is 5
times higher than the average in the United States.”
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we must turn around
from the road to Detroit.
We cannot kick this can further down the road for another
The consequences will be grave, it will be global, and
Without any more doubt in my mind, the singular
recommendation that I can make for ‘Rebuilding the Nation
and using lessons from other lands’ is that we must renew our
We must act now to rebuild our nation by choosing morality,
high ethics and a value system that inspires.
These are the lessons from other lands, as we seek to rebuild
Another instructive lesson from other lands that we compared,
is that the change has come from within.
Happy Birthday General Gowon, I hope that you and I and all
of us will see the Nigeria of our dream. I also hope that we will
start from today to rebuild the values that will take us to that
I thank you for listening.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Governor of Lagos State