President, Historical Society of Nigeria (HSN), Professor Christopher Ogbogbo has described as baffling the fact that Nigerians have bought into the agenda of the ruling class that the nation’s main choices in the 2019 presidential election are limited to either the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari or former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
Ogbogbo, one of the discussants at the Ibadan Social Group Annual Lecture, held in Ibadan, at the weekend, bemoaned that Nigerians lacked a sense of history such that they failed to critique the past of the main contenders and continued to circulate the same leaders since 1960.
He especially noted that with growing poverty and illiteracy in the country, a docile followership, coupled with self- centred elite, Nigerians failed to engage leadership with a sense of history and vote for visionary leaders.
Discussing the lecture theme, “Nigeria Unity Question Since 1969: How far, So far?”, Ogbogbo averred that the elite had the task to continue to fan the embers of a disunited nation or work towards the unity of the nation.
“After 58 years, I have stopped blaming the leadership; I have shifted to very docile followership and the elite. The elite has engaged leadership without a sense of history. Since 1960, the same persons have continued to circulate themselves. We know that they have not done well, but we keep repeating that cycle.
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“Look at the past of the main contenders in the 2019 election, as a historian, I say tell me one thing is in their past that recommends them and I will mention five that disqualifies them. A country of over 180 million, we can’t find other persons who should become President.
“If we have tried someone who has failed, it is better to try someone who perhaps may fail but his records has not shown that he has failed. The ruling class has put it to us that our choices are limited to two persons and we are all gravitating around those two persons.
“Poverty has taken over; illiteracy is growing in our midst. These are indications that will make unifying the country difficult. There are people who should not smell political leadership but you find us across the divide cheering and clapping for them,” Ogbogbo said.
Another discussant, Reverend Segun Alli observed that religion had become the source of disunity, where political appointments were made based on religion or ethnic group.
Especially, he wondered why rather than seeking for people who will deliver, regardless of religion, parties, in satisfying religious consideration, are unable to fly a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket.
“Do we even have political parties, so-called? What we have are individuals who want to use parties to ensure that their coming fortune is boosted. Let us make it that people are the one to choose, if they chose Christian-Christian, Pagan-Pagan, so be it.
“To make it a convention that once you have a Christian, there must be a Muslim to support the person is funny. The question we should ask is whether that person is going to the office to represent Christians or Muslims. That is the problem. We need people who will deliver not people who will kowtow to their religion. You have to be representative of the people. Leadership must evolve on the basis of society. But today what we have is commercial leadership,” Alli said.
Noting the peculiarities of the nation, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan Branch, Dr Akintayo Oluwole wondered why Nigeria shied away from adopting rotational presidency.
He prayed for the evolution of a Nigerian dream that is pursued by the nation’s leadership while noting that all Nigerians must work out being united as a nation.
In his remarks, Professor Tajudeen Akanji called for a change in the mindset of Nigerians such that division along religious lines, especially during an election, is eliminated.
Others who made their own inputs to the discourse included Mr Olakunle Faokunla, Mr Oyedele Oyedotun and Mr Sulaimon Olanrewaju.
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