Remarks by the chairman on the occasion, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, at the unveiling of the new look Tribune on January 29, 2019.
As we are still in the first month of the year, I would like to begin by welcoming and wishing all of you here a happy New Year. It is, indeed, truly my pleasure to be here to chair this event, the unveiling of new look Tribune, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Nigerian Tribune Newspaper.
Let me also specially welcome our Keynote Speaker, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, a regular and insightful commentator on Nigeria’s national issues. Bishop Kukah certainly does not need any introduction anywhere in this country; and indeed in all attentive audiences of Nigerian affairs around the world.
The topic he is going to address, which is “Electoral Integrity, Legitimacy of Democratic Institutions and Good Governance,” is most apt as we approach February 16, 2019, the taking off date for the country’s national elections. I have no doubt that Bishop Kukah will do justice to this topic the same way he has always given a good account of himself in his numerous national undertakings, including his involvement in the National Peace Committee where he is working assiduously to ensure that we have a peaceful, free and fair election this year.
The African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc is a conglomerate of publications consisting of the Nigerian Tribune, Saturday Tribune and the Sunday Tribune. They were founded by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in 1949 and have continued to be published since then.
At its launch, the Nigerian Tribune joined other local Nigerian newspapers most notably the West African Pilot, founded by Nnamdi Azikiwe in being the engine of nationalist thoughts and the anti-colonial propaganda that were critical in the decolonisation of Nigeria. Today, the paper is still in existence and waxing very strong. So, in celebrating the Tribune Newspapers at 70, we are also inescapably celebrating the legacy of industry, statesmanship, welfarism and progressive politics of its founder, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The Nigerian Tribune may not have existed for as long as its counterpart in India – the Tribune of India that was founded in February 1881 but on our shores here in Nigeria, it is now the oldest surviving private newspaper which has now outlived both its forebears and contemporaries. It has attained this enviable longevity and still remains a top-rated newspaper that is read all over the country. It is generally regarded as a reliable institutional brand that is widely relied upon throughout the country and beyond because of its independent perspectives, its unflinching commitment to the dissemination of credible information as well as being a stickler to the ethics and other hallowed principles of journalism. As a member of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the Nigerian Tribune has remained one of the country’s sentinels of democracy, liberty and freedom in the larger sense of the word. I, therefore, heartily salute the Nigerian Tribune newspaper on this its 70th anniversary.
And now a few comments relating to the topic of today’s keynote address. As the country prepares for national elections in just over two weeks time, I have three observations to address to our Federal Government and to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The first is that Nigeria’s friends and the international community as a whole are watching the behaviour of the Federal Government and its agencies, including especially the police, the army and the other law enforcement instruments to see how far they respect the country’s constitution, the rule of law and their inherent obligation to act impartially and fairly in playing their roles in the elections.
From my long experience with international politics I must warn that no country can be an island unto itself especially in this increasingly globalising world. Therefore, our Nigerian Government, like all other governments, while of course guarding its sovereignty, should pay heed to the views of the international community, otherwise, the country will return to the pariah status which it happily exited when it once more embraced democracy in 1999.
My second observation is directed to INEC. INEC had earned deserved compliments for its commendable handling of the last gubernatorial elections in Anambra and Ondo states, but it must be admitted that it attracted criticisms for its conduct of the subsequent similar elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
I urge INEC to remain aware of the fact that the credibility of the results of our forthcoming national elections will depend on the level of impartiality and transparency it demonstrates in ensuring that all aspects of the elections are free and fair thereby making the results to truly represent the will of the citizens. Indeed, the image and standing of our country within the international community will be significantly affected by how INEC and the Federal Government as a whole are seen to behave in all matters relating to the elections.
My third observation is on the current deplorable debasement of the sanctity of human life in Nigeria. Last September to the end of November, I was in Harare serving on a high-level Commission of Enquiry which the President of Zimbabwe had felt compelled to appoint following the death of six nationals in a protest that occurred after the country’s national elections. The death of six persons was considered a national tragedy that aroused deep concern throughout the country. On the contrary here in Nigeria, we hear and read virtually every day in the media of the killings of people in their tens, twenties and sometimes more than twenties. And the government and the people seem not to be reacting commensurably to the situation.
I would like to conclude with a comment on the general issue of governance. Judged by all the relevant indices, Nigeria is today clearly underperforming and lacking national cohesion as never before. And so like Cato in the ancient Roman Senate who because of his passionate desire to subjugate Carthage the then arch-rival of Rome, always ended every speech he made in the Senate with the words, Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed), I would like to end these my remarks by once again repeating the view that I have expressed on many occasions namely, that if our country is to succeed on the road to political stability and realisation of its rich development potential, it must by restructuring its present governance architecture return to the true federalism that it practiced in the years before the military intervened in our national politics in January 1966.