Wednesday, 1 June 2016

PUBLIC PRESENTATION OF THE BOOK WE ARE ALL BIAFRANS BY CHIDO ONUMA



I received a personal invitation by the Shehu Yaradua Foundation to attend the book presentation of Chido Onuma’s book WE ARE BIAFRANS.

Chido is no stranger to writing, has written two books earlier NIGERIA IS NEGOTIABLE and TIME TO RECLAIM NIGERIA.


The invitation card described Chido as a participant-observer’s interventions in a country that is sleepwalking to disaster.

The book presentation which coincided with Chido’s 50th birthday was held on the 31st May, 2016 at the Shehu Yaradua Centre.

This was not the ordinary book presentation where people stood up to announce their donations with fanfare. Instead this book launch was used to address many salient issues plaguing Nigeria.

On hand to do justice to the following topics, 50 YEARS AFTER 1966; RECONCILING NIGER; THE CHANGE AGENDA: ONE YEAR AFTER; NIGERIAN YOUTHS AND PROSPECTS OF A NEW NIGERIA were;
H.E Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President of Nigeria. He was the Chairman of the occasion and delivered the key note address.

Next was Dr. Chidi Odinkalu who reviewed the book.

Then the panelists made up of Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Dr. Jibril Ibrahim, Ninimo Bassey and Tope Fasua.


The occasion was ably chaired by Patrick Okigbo.





 
In his speech, H.E Atiku Abubakar GCON, made the following observations/statements;




 
·       The title of the book is a metaphor to show that every part of this country was feeling marginalized like ‘Biafrans.’

·       The current structure was not serving the country well because unlike in developed countries, the structure did not have its way of internally addressing the issues as they arise.

·       There is a need to restructure the country in such a way that each state is responsible for the resources it generates while the Federal Government only earns taxes in order to run its affairs.
·       The bulk of the items on the Federal list should be handed over to the states because some of the things Federal Government is saddled with are embarrassing and uncalled for.


·       Many young people are not aware that Nigeria has not always been relied on oil. Nigeria once had its groundnuts, cocoa, palm oil and other cash crops with the states enjoying the proceeds that came from them to the exclusion of others. Wonders why the situation is different today.

·       Military changed all that when it gave its self-more powers and responsibilities and thus needed more resources. They therefore centralized everything. Took over everything and gave a little to the states.

·       Political class is not interested in the restructure because of their own selfish interests.

·       Oil has made us lazy. 


·       Among all the oil producing countries, we have fared worst as 70% of Nigerians live below poverty line.

·       The country should think of State police as policemen from the same area will understand the terrain better than outsiders.

·       Niger Delta Development Commission should have been cited in Niger Delta not Abuja.

·       Situation in North-East though needing international and national intervention to rebuild the damaged facilities and infrastructure does not need a special board to be created for it.

·       Disappearance of grazing reserves in the North is one of the reasons for conflicts among the Fulani herdsmen and others.

·       Current Government has a pass mark and still has 3 more years to prove itself.


BOOK REVIEW
Dr. Chidi Odinkalu reviewed the book. He said the book was 213 pages of 14 essays.  He described the author as a passionate Nigeria who though is from Imo State never lived there andis  married a Yoruba.

The author he stated from the book is one Nigeria who wants to see Nigeria saved from all the problems plaguing it.
The highlights of the book revealed that Nigeria is a colonial intervention which is yet to evolve into a functional state. The author wonders why our case was different when Nigeria was not the only country that came about as a result of colonial intervention.

The important questions the book raised were; whether we wanted to remain as one country? If yes under what conditions?

The author’s panacea is that Nigeria can build Nationalism where ethnicism exists.

There is indeed a need for a National Conference.

PANEL

The panel was on hand to also lend their voices on the issues plaguing Nigeria as a nation.

Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, former Vice Chairman of World Bank and two times Minister of Nigeria said Yakubu Gowon’s 3 R’s declared after the civil war where over 2million people died did not work because of leadership failure.

She stated that the leadership failed at that moment to seize the opportunity to dialogue and make things right.

The effect of that failure is that Nigerians now look away while the others are suffering. Nigeria is now a place where everyone looks forward to equal opportunity to suffer.

It was unfortunate that Nigeria never went from a country to a nation.

In her opinion, Nigeria has been taken hostage by a political class that has reached a consensus to keep the rest of the people under.

She mentioned Nigeria’s two arch enemies as corruption and poverty. The impact of both of them are felt by all.

She insisted that every citizen in Nigeria must have a sense of belonging. Nigeria needs to engage every community to analyse their special needs and agitations.

Ninimo Bassey a renowned environmentalist wants the law governing resources to be reviewed. He was also in agreement with His Excellency Atiku Abubakar on restructuring Nigeria in the way he suggested.


Jibrin Ibrahim a civil rights activist, noted that many times, the political class did not mean what they say.

He posited that Federal Government is concerned and saddled with many things that they had no business with.

He stated that everyone in Nigeria has one story of marginalization or the other. Meanwhile he noted that it is Nigerians that are systematically marginalized and sentenced to a life of poverty.

He concluded by making this epoch statement that the political class was ruling and ruining the country at the same time!


Tope Fasua the Public analyst urged the youths to develop apps that recognize and solve our peculiar problems as Nigerians. He was sad that it was foreigners who are producing solutions to the problems that we are suffering not us.

Youths he stressed should not be taught or pushed into borrowing or IT but must learn the importance of getting their fingers dirty before moving on to bigger things.

He noted that Nigeria was unfortunately a place where people love and build big things without subscribing to small details.

He was emphatic that except we got the little things right, we were bound to have problems with the big things.

The occasion came to an end with Chido giving the vote of thanks.

No doubt everyone who attended the book presentation left with one question in their mind; how will Nigeria solve all the problems plaguing it?

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