Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), yesterday in Abuja called for the convocation of a National Conference as a platform to discuss and agree on common national values and moral codes towards the rebuilding of the country.
Such platform, he said, would also spell out sanctions for violation of the code of rules and values agreed on during the conference in a manner devoid of ethnic and religious colouration.
In a paper titled, “Rebuilding The Nation: Lessons From Other Lands”, which he delivered at the ThisDay Dome, Abuja, venue of the Leadership Annual Conference and 2013 Awards, to celebrate 80th birthday of former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, at 80, Fashola said instead of the recurrent Constitutional Conferences what the country needed most in order get better was to reclaim her lost values, re-define her moral codes and agree on a common definition of what is good and what is bad.
The Governor said the nation’s leadership at all levels must pursue the development of the country along values and moral codes resulting from such National Conference and refuse to accommodate any ethnic, kinship, tribal, religious or other coloration whenever those moral codes and ethical values are violated adding, “If we agree on this, it seems to me that many other things will fall into place”.
Quoting from a speech by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, after the Nigerian Civil War in 1970 on the things that undermine a nation, he asserted that what Nigerians need at this point in time is “moral and spiritual reconstruction which will help to demolish morbid desire for naked power and domination as well as abuse and misuse of power and office”, among others.
According to him, such moral and spiritual reconstruction will also reduce greed, selfishness, and intolerance; nepotism, favouritism, jobbery, bribery, and other forms of corruption adding that it would erect, in their places, probity, tolerance, altruism, and devotion; equality of treatment, justice, equity, and fair play to all.
He declared, “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 moral values”.
The Governor expressed regrets that 44 years after General Gowon led the nation through a bitter civil war and inaugurated a rebuilding process anchored on Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, Nigerians still have the need to gather to discuss a topic such as “Rebuilding the Nation: Lessons from other Lands” adding that such a discussion at this point in time meant that all was not well with the country.
“Why are we not at this occasion celebrating our arrival on the moon?” he asked.
“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”, Governor Fashola said noting, however, that nothing would be achieved in any efforts to rebuild the nation until Nigerians demonstrate sufficient dissatisfaction with the situation in the country.
He further insisted, “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”.
“If we are not unhappy with what we have now, 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. 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”, he said.
Citing South Africa, Rwanda and Georgia as examples of countries that have been rebuilt by their people after suffering socio-political and economic decadence, the Governor noted that all the lessons and reforms in the rebuilding process came from those within the countries adding, “Their people, especially some outstanding leaders, led a moral and ethical renaissance, which delivered social and economic justice and results”.
According to him, an important way in which South Africa is being rebuilt is through the deliberate inclusion of blacks in employment adding that while slums such as Soweto were rebuilt, the general standard of living of the people increased with blacks being able to get quality education leading to the growth of the black middle-class which, in turn led to blacks middle-class residents moving into previously whites-only suburbs.
The Governor said the people of Rwanda, which suffered 100 days of “indescribable genocide” due to ethnic distrust between the Hutu and the Tutsis, embarked on rebuilding their nation through ethical and moral reconstruction adding that in addition to the physical reconstruction and sound policy initiatives, the country banished all divisive norms and values and concentrated those values and norms that promote oneness.
Governor Fashola however declared, “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 Governor said pointing out that what has diminished in the country is not her assets in men and material resources but her 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”, Governor Fashola noted.
Such false reasons, the Governor identified, include blaming the woes on bad Constitution, diversity of the country, religion or ethnicity, adding that in order to avoid the truth, Nigerians have “lived in their own bubble, amending constitution after constitution as if that was the problem”.
He declared, “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 directions. We must turn around from those directions”.
Citing the example of Detroit which went from being the automobile capital of the United States of America by the 1950s to become a failed city by Year 2013 due to loss of values, Governor Fashola warned that the fabrics that bind the nation together may not withstand if stressed further in the next four years adding, “The consequences will be grave, it will be global, and reverberating”.
“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 values. 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 our nation”, the Governor said.
Wishing General Gowon a happy birthday, Governor Fashola, who expressed the hope that the Dream Nigeria would materialize in the present generation for all to see, urged that the rebuilding of national values should start immediately pointing out that the instructive lesson from other lands that he compared, was that the change came from within.