The 4th Annual Awards and Lecture of Asset Newspaper Ltd took place on Thursday, February 25th, 2021 at the Conference Hall of Nicon Luxury Hotel, CBD, Abuja.
The theme for this year’s award ceremony was “Conflict Management, Peace Building and Development in a Democratic Setting”, delivered by former Nigerian Ambassador to Canada, (Prof) Iyorwuese Hagher. Also present were the Benue State first Lady, Dr. Eunice Ortom, the Director General, Nigeria Television Authority, Alhaji Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, Members of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ben Mzomdu, Hon Francis Otah Agbo and the Publisher of Daily Asset, Dr. Cletus Akwaya who equally made remarks on the theme of the Award ceremony.
Prof Hagher’s lecture situated the cause of insecurity in Nigeria on tribalism which he said, had its foundation laid by the colonial history of Nigeria as initiated by Lord Lugard, who amalgamated Nigeria and deliberately apportioned more land mass to the North where he governed Nigeria from at the time. He described Lord Lugard as a most despicable character who killed a lot of Nigerians as Governor General.
Prof Hagher noted that, ethnicity has taken a center stage in Nigeria today. He said certain ethnic groups and tribes have come to look at themselves as the master tribes while they see other tribes as subservient. He noted that Nigeria was in a state of Anomie, a total breakdown of law and order as postulated by Emile Durkheim. He said Nigeria has found itself in a time of anarchy and following in the teachings of Emile Durkheim, what we need now is to have nation builders. In his words, nation builders are not governors, presidents, ministers or politicians for that matter. Nation builders encompasses all of us as Nigerians acting together to build a better prosperous nation.
Prof Hagher noted with a caveat that, he has not come here to blame President Buhari or any politician as the problems we face today predate the present administration. He was not also blaming any Politian as he has had his own quota as a grassroots politician, a member of the Senate, a two-time Minister of the Federal republic of Nigeria to contribute to nation building. He noted that we have all failed in the effort to make our country better given the trajectory we find ourselves today. In his words, “we are all guilty.”
Professor Hagher noted that, for a very long time we thought our only problem in Nigeria was corruption. We totally undermined, downplayed, ignored and looked the other way when the issue of tribalism was brought to the fore. Nigeria’s major problem is not corruption but tribalism. Tribalism engenders corruption and corruption enforces tribalism according to Prof Hagher.
Professor Hagher said, right from Amalgamation in 1914, the colonial rulers laid the grounds and basis for tribalism. He said the British were a monarchy and their imperialism operated on the basis that, the white race was the superior race and therefor, the black people were inferior. He said, it was for this reason the British could go into black land with the authority of the Maxim Guns and take over their land, forced their Kings, Chiefs and their people to pay taxes to you, the British and then carry the resources to Britain!
Professor Hagher said, Nigeria had it more than the above narrative. He said for 300 years, we were victims of slave trade, when slave trade ended, colonialism took over and when colonialism ended, we became an independent entity. He said through out this period, the emphasis was on tribe, tribe and tribe. He noted that during the slave trade, those tribes that had powerful Kings, Obas, Emirates and Caliphates swooped in on the weaker tribes that were not so strong and raided them, killed them and took their citizens as slaves across the Sahara Desert to the Arab world and across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies, Europe and North America.
When we were colonized, the British came here and said, there were certain tribes that were born to rule and others were to obey. The British did not have any intentions to set up their own structures and so there was a character called Lord Fredrick Lugard whom we have been worshiping in Nigeria. Prof Hagher said he had studied Lugard in detail and that he was the most despicable character that was allowed by the British to come to Nigeria. He said even the British Colonial Office was totally shocked at Lugard’s level of depravity and how wanton he was to kill at will and he would kill and kill and kill. It was his wife, a journalist, Flora Shaw who gave the name Nigeria to Nigeria. Lord Lugard said he was the founder of Nigeria. Therefore, if you go to the President’s office, you will see the pictures of all those who have been Heads of State and Presidents of Nigeria, Lord Lugard is the first on the list.
He said, this despicable fellow, this racist, this man that came and said he was going to rule Nigeria indirectly, thus took different ethnic groups that had no bearing with one another, put them under the authority of others. He drew a line and made Northern Protectorate where he was the former Governor General, to be twice bigger than the Southern Protectorate and the Colony of Lagos, at once giving the basis for tribalism to continue to exist. Lord Lugard drew another line and said, Christianity must not cross over to the far North, he also deprived them (The Northern Protectorate) of education and allowed Christian missionaries to give education in the South, East and parts of the Middle Belt, also laying the foundation for tribalism. Professor Hagher said colonialism laid the basis for corruption because, the people who were trained to succeed the colonialists were made and trained in the image of the colonialists.
Prof. Hagher said that the Nigeria Army that we know of today originated from the Royal Niger Frontiers Force, which Royal Niger Frontiers Force was a militia established to protect the commercial ventures of the British colonialists in Nigeria. It is from this antecedent the Nigeria Army grew to what it is today. Professor Hagher said, when people have this kind of history and upbringing, they tend to assume an indoctrination that makes them behave in a strange way. It is therefore not surprising that our first generation of educated people, cut off from their roots and traditions in their vilages, who passed through boarding schools that integrated Nigerians from various ethnic groups, turned out to be an elite that looked down on their roots and people. So, the white racism was transferred to black people who had been indoctrinated to behave and see themselves as white people, having inculcated the white man’s cultural values and jettisoning their own African culture and values.
According to Professor Hagher, at independence, we were surprised that highly educated people like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello, people who fought as a united people for decolonization, as soon as government was handed over to them, they ended up braking apart, going back into their tribes because they were wired to do so, tribes, tribes, tribes.
He said Ghana on the other hand had a different trajectory. Kwame Nkrumah got Ghanaians to think of themselves first as Africans and so they were able to build a united Ghanaian society. He said nation building for us must start with building a Nigerian nation otherwise, this season of anomie, lack of concern for our various pains, lack of ability to give space for other people to express themselves when they are hurting can only lead us to disaster. He said he does not believe that we should go on and on allowing the social media to divide us, to allow our leaders who engage in rhetoric that is full of bigotry to divide us. He said if we listen to the Miyetti Allah, Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu and those other extremists with their rhetoric that is so very much bigoted, that “Nigeria should have gone to war since yesterday.”
Professor Hagher said, there is one thing that is resilient about Nigeria and that is, the Nigerian people. He said if you go to the rural markets today, you will see Nigerians interacting with one another of different ethnic groups without any problem. He therefore made a call for Nigerians, especially those who are nation builders to understand that, Corruption and Tribalism can never build any nation. He said there is not enough money for everybody’s greed and that there is not a single tribe that is greater than another.
Professor Hagher said, in 1963, Nigeria decided that they were a republic and that in a republic the citizen is king. The President, Governors, members of Parliament and all those elected by citizen’s votes are our servants. They have no right running around the country blaring sirens and kicking us from our roads. They are the ones that should stand when we, the citizens come into the hall and not us because in a republic, the citizen is chief. He noted that, this is the reason why there is no king or Chief in the United States of America.
Prof Hagher said, we are running a strange system in Nigeria where we call ourselves a republic and yet we have people who behave as if they are kings, people that we voted for, people who ride in bullet proof vehicles, go to their villages with gun totting police men and the rest of us are at the mercies of criminals and bandits without anything to defend ourselves. He said that is not democracy and that democracy means our ability/tendency to be respected by those we voted into power. He emphasized that this is a time of anomie in our dysfunctional democracy. It is a time when we have lost our ability to be outraged.
The Director General of the NTA, Alhaji Ibn Mohammed decried the fear and mutual suspicion in the country. He recalled his youthful days in Jos when there was never any issue of tribal or religious dichotomy. He recalled how he attended Catholic Primary, Secondary and Tertiary schools without feeling discriminated against, and how he craved for the country to return to the good old days of brotherly love regardless of ethnic or religious differences. He narrated how he was the only Muslim in his catholic secondary school and how he scored the best result in Christian Religious Study in his school certificate examination.
Also speaking, the wife of the Benue State governor, Dr. (Mrs) Eunice Ortom thanked the organisers and publishers of Daily Asset Newspaper for finding her worthy of the award of First Lady of the Year in this year’s Awards. She promised to do more as the award will serve as an encouragement for her to keep doing her best.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, received the Asset Newspapers’ Politician of the Year 2020 award. Governor Diri was represented at the well-attended event by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah. While presenting the award, the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, said the man known as the Miracle Governor was honoured for “successfully working through the murky waters of Bayelsa politics to emerge as governor and for surviving the plethora of legal cases to hold tenaciously to his mandate.”
In his remarks through his Chief Press Secretary, Governor Diri thanked the media organisation for the recognition while noting the importance of the media in national development.
He said the media has been a strategic and important partner in the development of Bayelsa State and has equally supported his administration’s effort to reposition the state and change its developmental narrative.
Other awardees were Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who received the Man of the Year Award, the Nasarawa State Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule (Governor of the Year), wife of the Benue State Governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom who received the First Lady of the Year award, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Engr. Simbi Wabote and National President, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Sir Honour Sirawoo among others.