By Igho Akeregha, Ben Ogbemudia and Denis Mernyi, Abuja
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Kukah, yesterday said Nigerians are suffering psychological trauma under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Kukah said this as the Guest Speaker of ThisNigeria newspaper’s inaugural lecture and Gold Prize which was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.
This came just as the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, charged the media to exert pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the amended Electoral Act.
Chairman of the event and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, agreed with the position of Kukah when he said the country was going through tough times.
However, Kukah, who delivered the inaugural lecture with the theme, “National Cohesion for Sustainable Growth and Progress: The Nigeria Dilemma,” said he was one of those that supported the present administration in 2015 but have not seen the gains for the masses since the government came into power.
He said, “A lot of Nigerians have said and written a lot of disparaging things against me for taking government headlong on issues of governance and credible leadership for the country. But for me, good governance is my concern whether it is APC (All Progressives Congress) or any other political party in government.
“I don’t speak against any party but tackle issues of good governance for the country. I am not a divisive factor in Nigeria. We shouldn’t pretend. We have never had it so bad in Nigeria with this brazen criminal sentiments.”
Speaking on the issue of national cohesion, Kukah said, “The situation is so bad that if you go to our federal universities now, they have been reduced into a tribal enclave.
“The concept has been murdered. No southerner can be a vice-chancellor in any federal university in the North, the same thing with the northerner in any federal university in the South.
“The idea of national cohesion is no longer there. Even within the South, not every Yoruba man will be vice-chancellor in Ibadan or Ife, for instance, same in the North, not every Fulani man or Hausa can become vice-chancellor of a federal university in Sokoto or elsewhere.”
Kukah went on to defend his stake, stressing that “Nigeria is ours to fix. I have the moral duty to defend what is wrong and uphold what is right. It has never been this bad with Nigeria and we must interrogate this situation we have found ourselves.”
Earlier, the Director-General, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, Issa Aremu, accused Kukah and other Nigerians of causing division in the country, describing the priest as a divisive figure.
But responding, however, Kukah said the state had created the division and not Nigerians who are the victims.
One of the discussants and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr Mike Ozekhome agreed with Kukah, saying the process that gave birth to the Nigerian Constitution was up for debate.
“The process by which a constitution comes into being is even more important than the content of the constitution itself,” Ozekhome said.
Meanwhile, speaking on the need to sign the amended Electoral Act, Wike said it was important for the media to enlighten the citizens on why there should be an electronic transmission of the election result to save the nation’s democracy.
The governor, who spoke after he was conferred with the “Gold Prize for Exceptional Leadership, said considering the importance of the Electoral Act amendment to the survival of the nation’s democracy, the media ought to deem it a priority to exert pressure on the President to sign the amended Act.
And as a watchdog of the society, Wike said the Nigerian media should enlighten Nigerians on the benefits of both direct and indirect primaries.
“Who are those to benefit more if the direct primaries are conducted? Who are those to benefit more if it is indirect primaries? So, Nigerians must know why there should be the electronic transmission of results to save our democracy.”
According to Wike, the only way those in the position of authority can become accountable to the people is when the electoral process is free and fair.
He maintained any electoral system that permits security agencies to be used to rig elections, and for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials to be manipulated, will not yield accountable governance.
Wike also commended the INEC for the successful conduct of the just concluded Anambra State governorship election.
“Now, they have performed well in Anambra State, everybody is praising them. But when they did not perform well in Rivers State, should we praise them? We cannot. When a general in the Army will convert a whole division to INEC office, will you be happy?” he queried.
Wike urged Nigerians to always de-emphasise their ethnic and religious affiliation for the country to achieve the desired national cohesion.
Meanwhile, Fayemi decried the role injustice has played in making Nigeria a country that has failed to take advantage of its opportunities to improve the lives of its citizens.
He said, “We can talk about unity as much as we like, we can talk about national integration as much as we want and we can sermonise about patriotism and ask not what the country can do for us but what we can do for the country; but you cannot build a country based on inequality, injustice, lack of fairness and expect unity to prevail.
“For those of us who still see that good Nigeria, relatively speaking, we have a sense of what that country should be. We have a sense of what we expected from the largest country of black people in the world. We also have a sense of the expectation that the world has of us which we have not lived up to.”
Fayemi commended ThisNigeria newspaper for providing the platform as the people’s parliament by bringing Nigerians together to discuss the future and prospects of Nigeria.
Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of ThisNigeria, Mr. Eric Osagie, said Governor Wike was conferred with the flagship award of the newspaper because of his exceptional leadership in the vanguard of the infrastructural revolution.
The “Gold Prize for Exceptional Leadership, according to him, is usually bestowed on that man or woman who has impacted exceedingly in the lives of Nigerians and in whose legacy has the potential of transcending time and space.
Wike, the newspaper noted, has injected over 70 per cent of the state income in capital projects in the funding of roads and other critical infrastructure. A feat, that is unprecedented in the history of state administration in Nigeria.
The event, which was moderated by a former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority, Prof Tonnie Iredia, saw the conferment of Gold Prize on the Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede; Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, and the Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, respectively for their achievements in public offices.
The event was attended by eminent personalities including Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu; a former Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase; National Secretary of Coalition for New Nigeria, Chief Godson Okoye; an Ogoni rights activist, Ledum Mitee, among many others.