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Adebanjo, Clark, Amaechi, Yakasai at their sunset

By Eric Teniola

The other day, Alhaji  Salihu Abubakar Tanko-Yakasai (95) lamented that no nation spending 80 percent revenue of its revenue on governance would ever develop. He said “at the moment in Nigeria, 80 percent of Nigeria’s revenue is expended on bureaucracy, spent on running the administration. The bottom line is you cannot develop with 20 per cent of the total revenue, where you commit 80 per cent for recurrent expenditure. This is what is happening at the federal and state levels. With this situation, no country can develop.” Imagine what we are spending on the National Assembly in the midst of poverty, imagine how much INEC  will spend on elections this year and next year too . Imagine what the governors are taking home every month all in the name of security votes .In fact the issue now is beyond the percentage in the cost of governance as lamented by Alhaji Yakasai. It looks as if the soul of this country is on trial. We are at a crossroad, as a people. We have the problem on huge debt, insecurity, over spending especially on the National Assembly, unemployment, high rate of inflation, banditry, bad roads, ill-equipped hospitals and many other problems that we are now faced with. It is good that Alhaji Yakasai and his three other colleagues at the sunset of their lives are crying out now that things are not well with us as a country. We need to hear more from them. They represent perhaps, our last hope now. Their silence will be worse . Honestly this is not the time to keep quite at all.  Our situation is getting worse daily.

The big four I have in mind represent the four regions before 1967 era. They are Chief Ayo Adebanjo(93) from the old Western Region, Chief Mbazulike Amechi(91) from the old Eastern Region, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark (94) from the old Mid-Western Region and Alhaji Tanko Yakasai from the old Northern Region. It is commendable that these octogenarians still speak out on issues concerning this country. I must commend them for voicing their opinions on issues, though such opinions may not be listened to. They should be appreciated for speaking out often, For hardly a week passes without any of them expressing their opinions. One may disagree with their opinions but they should not be ignored. At the sundown of their lives they should be more encouraged to speak out. Let’s take a look at their profile.

In the last few weeks, I have come to know Chief Clark better through Ambassador Godknows Igali and Barrister Kayode Ajulo. On May 25, Chief Clark will be 95 years old. Chief Clark is the Ebi-Ebekekere, Owei of Western Ijaw in Delta State. He is the senior brother of Professor Johnson Pepper Clark (April 6, 1935- October 13, 2020) and Ambassador Akporide Blessing Clark(91), the former Nigeria Representative at the United Nation. He had his education at the African Church School, Effurun, 1939, Native Authority School, Okrika, 1940, Native Authority School, Akugbene, 1940-1945, Government Teacher Training College, Abraka, 1949-1953, Holborn College of Law, London, 1961-1964; headmaster, Local Authority, School, Ofoni, Western Ijaw, headmaster, Local Authority School, Bomadi, 1954, headmaster Secondary Modern School, Bomadi, 1955-1957 and assistant community development officer, 1957-1961. In 1966, the then military governor of Mid Western Region Colonel David Akpode Ejoor( 1932-2019) appointed him special adviser.

Along with Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010), Chief J.I.G. Onyia () and my friend, Dr. Mudiaga Odje (1923-2005), he represented Mid-Western Region in the adhoc committee set up by General Yakubu Gowon (87), GCFR that sat between September 12, 1966 and November 1, 1966. The Midwest delegation was assisted by Chief T.E.A. Salubi, Dr. Christopher Okojie and Dr. D.P. Lawani.

The proposal for the Mid-Western Region at that time was a federation of the existing Regions, Lagos continuing as Federal Territory or becoming a Region. The Mid West memorandum considered a redrawing of the constituent units desirable and set out the following criteria: ethnic, linguistic and cultural affinity or homogeneity, historical association (e.g. Hausa/Fulani, Efik/Ibibio), viability of states both absolutely and relatively, geographical contiguity, comparability in size and reciprocal self determination (i.e. not only should each minority group be given the opportunity to determine its future but also a majority group must be given the opportunity to determine whether it is willing to associate with a minority seeking such association).  On the basis of these criteria, twelve states might be created (4 in the North, 2 in the West, 4 in the East, the Mid-West, and Lagos). Although, desirable, such a rearrangement was considered impracticable in the prevailing circumstances.

The Mid West further proposed a unicameral Parliament, directly elected for four or five years by universal adult suffrage, each Region having an equal number of seats. ‘The place of the opposition shall be entrenched in the Constitution’ (e.g. official salary for its leader; right to choose the business for discussion on certain). To sit for not less than three-quarters of the year. In a separate memorandum detailed proposal were made for ensuring free and fair elections.

Governor Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (17 September 1932 – 9 March 2017) of the old Bendel State appointed Chief Clark as the Commissioner for Education and later Commissioner for Finance and Establishment.

Chief Clark used his vantage position to open Ijaw waterlands; built new secondary schools and gave girls scholarships to attend secondary and tertiary institutions. Chief Clark helped in building the Midwest College of Technology that later metamorphosed into the University of Benin (after failure of several efforts to affiliate the fledgling school to the University of Ibadan and Ife). He was later appointed Pro-Chancellor, chairman, governing council of the university (1970-1975). During his tenure as Pro- Chancellor, Chief Clark gave scholarships to students of what we now regard as Northwest and Southeast.

He was Minister for Information under General Yakubu Gowon till he was overthrown by General Murtala Ramat Muhammad (8 November 1938 – 13 February 1976), GCFR in 1975. Chief Clark was elected a Senator in Bendel Delta zone on August 20, 1983 along with sixty other NPN Senators. He was sworn-in on October 7, 1983 by the then Senate President, Dr. Josep Wayas. I covered the swearing in ceremony on that day. He served for three months before President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari was overthrown by Major General Muhammadu(79), GCFR. Chief Clark was very prominent during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan (64), GCFR,. Beginning in 1996, Chief Clark has been a self described leader of the Ijaw nation. He supported the Ijaw ethnic group in Delta State during an ethnic crisis in Warri and has led Ijaw leadership delegations to meet political leaders.

Chief Amechi is the Dara Akunwafor of Ukpor, Ichie( the headquarters of Nnewi South Local Government Area in Anambra State). He lost his wife, Priscilla Chinelo Okoye, whom he married in 1960, recently.  Chief Amechi was educated at the Catholic School, Umunuko, Ukpor, 1937-1943, Etukokwu College, Onitsha, 1944-1948, Principal organizing Secretary, National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons(NCNC), 1955-1959, Secretary-General , Zikist Movement, 1960-1963, National Publicity Secretary, NCNC, 1964-1966, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Information, 1960-1962, Minister of State for Ports, 1964-1966, member, National Party of Nigeria (NPN), 1979-1983, executive member, Strategy Committee, NPN, 1979-1983; Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation. Recently, Chief Amechi led the South East leaders to President Muhammadu Buhari to THE VILLA, to plead for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.

In 1966, a similar futile plea was made for the release of Major Isaac Jasper Adaka-Boro( 1938-1968). Also in 1995, another futile global plea was made for the release Chief Kenure Beeson Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995).

Chief Adebanjo from Isanya-Ogbo near Ijebu Ode, is presently the leader of the Afenifere, socio-cultural organization for the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The Afenifere was formed in 1998 with Chief Abraham Adesanya as the leader and the late Chief Bola Ige as the deputy leader.  Other founding members were Pa Onasanya, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Wunmi Adegbonmire, Okunrounmu Femi, Ganiyu Dawodu, Olanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae, Adebayo Adefarati and Ayo Adebanjo.

Other Afenifere members that joined include honourable Dipo Olaitan, Senator Mojisola Akinfenwa, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Senator Bayo Salami, Chief Supo Sonibare, Chief (Mrs) Kofo Bucknor Akerele, Chief George Akosile, Chief Nathaniel Aina, Chief S.K. Babalola, Mr. Korede Duyile, Mr. Jimi Agbaje (Treasurer), Mr. Iyiola Omisore, Professor Aikuola, Alhaji Lam Adesina, Chief Segun Ojo(Protem Financial Secretary), Chief Ayo Opadokun (Protem General Secretary), Professor Bolaji Akinyemi(Head of the Think Tank), Chief Gbenga Kaka, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Senator Farunkanmi, Honourable Babatunde Oduyoye, Honourable Afuye as well as NADECO officials in exile. In this group we have Professor Wole Soyinka, Dr Kayode Fayemi and others whose efforts were appreciated.

Afenifere was re-grouped after the demise of Pa Adekunle Ajasin. And its monthly meetings were held in Ijebu Igbo. Alhaji Ganiu Dawudu was the leader of the Group in Lagos. The weekly Caucus meeting of the Group was holding every Monday at Surulere, Lagos, house of Pa Onasanya. Other members were Chief Aikulola, Prof Akin Onigbinde, Chief Lere Adebayo, and Dr Gbola Adetunji. Chief Kole Omololu, the Atunluse of Osoro kingdom in Ondo state who was based in London, was introduced to the Group by Chief Olu Falae.

Chief Bola Tinubu was absolved into Afenifere when he returned to Nigeria after the demise of General Sani Abacha (20 September 1943 – 8 June 1998). Chief Cornelius Adebayo, former Governor of Kwara state, was the Chairman of its Political Committee.

A lot has been written on Chief Ayo Adebanjo and he too has said a lot about himself and his stand on issues almost on daily basis. He is a man who is never afraid of controversy.

During the treasonable felony trial in 1963, Chief Adebanjo was in Ghana with Chief Samuel Goomsu Ikoku (1922-1997). On a personal note, while in Ghana, he formed a personal relationship with my uncle, Chief Edward Afolabi Abimbola, the Lijofi of Idanre, who died at 87 in August 2017. Chief Abimbola was the Managing Director of EAACO Company, that established bicycle factory in Accra, Ghana, in January 17, 1969 and also assembled gas cookers, refrigerators and electric cookers in Ghana at that time.

Chief Adebanjo was present in all the funeral events of Chief Abimbola. Several times when I visited his house in Surulere before his death, Chief Abimbola revealed to me how generous Chief Adebanjo is and how principled and objective he was as a friend to him.

Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is the fourth among those I regard as the last link with the present generation. I have known Alhaji Yakasai since 1976. He was very close to Alhaji Mamoud Waziri, Alhaji Gidado Idris, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, Alhai Uba Ahmed and Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. Always at alert, he reads constantly. Years ago we usually meet at the Roman Garden House, Victoria Island, Lagos, office of Alhaji Mahmoud Waziri.

Alhaji Tanko Yakasai had his elementary education at the Shahuchi Elementary school, Kano, 1934-1937, Shahuchi Evening School, Kano, Wilhelm Pieck Institute, East Germany, (Diploma in Political Science).

In 1946, there emerged some radicals in Kano, they formed the Northern Elements Progressive Association (NEPA). The radicals include Habib Raji Abddallah, Abubakar Zukogi and Abdurrahman Bida. It was the NEPA that gave birth to the Northern Elements Progressive Union, which was launched in Kano on August 8, 1950. The Party was headed by the Headmaster of Maru Teachers College, the legendary Malam Aminu Kano (9 August 1920, Kano- 17 April 1983, Kano along with Malam Sa’ad Zungur, the NCNC Federal Secretary. Eight other radical founded the NEPU then. They are Bello Ijumu, Abba Maikwaru, Mudi Sipikin, Magaji Dnbatta, Babaliya Manaja, Musa Kaula, Abdulkadir Danjai and Garba Bida.

The executive members of NEPU at that time were Malam Yerima Bella (Vice President General), Malam Abubakar Zukogi(General Secretary), Malam Yahaya Sabo, Alhaji Salihu Nakande(Treasurer), Alhaji Ahmadu Tireda(Assistant Treasurer), Malam Shehu Sataima (Financial Secretary General), Malam Tanko Yankasai (National Publicity Secretary), Malam Ibrahim Heebah( Administrative Secretary), Malam Yahaya Abdullahi (Political Secretary to the President General), Malam Lawal  Dan-Bazau (Adviser on Moslem Law), Malam Adamu Jaririand, Malam Abubakar Tanbuwal (Auditor), Malama Gambo Sawaba, Malam M.B. Yunusa and Malam Saliu Tate( National Field Secretaries).

In November 1956 election to the Northern House of Assembly was held. The Government Party, the Northern People’s Congress (N.P.C.) won the election with 100 seats out of 131 elected seats. But for this first time the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) secured five seats in the Regional legislature, the United Middle Belt Congress twelve, the Bornu Youth Movement-two and the Action Group- four.

In 1966, the military overthrew the civilian government and in 1967, Kano state was created by General Yakubu Gowon. General Gowon then appointed Alhaji Audu Bako as the Military Governor of Kano state. Governor Bako later appointed Alhaji Yakasai as the Commissioner for Information, 1967-1971, commissioner for Co-operatives, 1971-1972 and commissioner for finance, 1972-1975. In spite of criticisms, Audu Bako’s administration is today still remembered in Kano for his positive achievements. After his death in 1980, the Tiga irrigation dam built during his governorship was renamed the Audu Bako Dam.

In 1979, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai did not join the People’s Redemption Party of Alhaji Aminu Kano but the likes of S.G. Ikoku, Kanmi Ishola-Oshobu, Ibrahim Barau, A.D. Yahaya, Una Akpan, Dr. Kolabogdi, Adamu Gaya, Ahmed Zakari, Hamisu Musa, Usman A. Dambata, Sabo

Barkin Zuwo, Abubakar Rimi, Balarabe Musa (21 August 1936- 11 November 2020) had surrounded Alhaji Aminu Kano by then. President Shehu Shagari later appointed Alhaji Yakasai as the special assistant on National Assembly matters.

After the overthrow of Alhaji Usman Shehu Aliyu Shagari on December 31st, 1983 by Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Tanko Yankasai was detained like many other politicians in Nigeria then. Till today, he is still bitter about his political persecution. In 1992, during the failed Presidential campaign, Alhaji Yankasai aligned with his close friend, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012), the late Waziri of Ilorin in his Presidential bid. That was when I became closer to Alhaji Yankasai. We met at the flat 18, ninth floor of the Roman Garden House and we were usually hosted by the personal assistant to Alhaji Mahmoud Waziri in the person of Mr. Vincent Usoho to discuss issues. Frequent visitors to that flat 18 at that time were Chief Harry Akande, Alao Aka- Basorun, Comrade, Uche Chukwumerije, Femi Falana, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Professor Biliaminu, Alhji Lateef Jakande, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, General Gibson Sanda Jallo. Alhaji Mahmoud Ata, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Beko Ransom-Kuti and others.

Between 1994 and 1995, he was a member of the Nigerian Constitutional Conference; delegate Nigerian National Conference in 2014 and also a member National Conference Consensus Building Group in 2014. It is good even at the age of 95; a man like Alhaji Tanko Yankasai is still talking on National issues. For if my observation is correct, only few people now talk or advise this Central Government. Most people have realized that it is useless and a waste of time to talk to a government that does not listen. As far this government is concerned, there is no dialogue. So I must commend Alhaji Tanko Yankasai and his colleagues, Chief Adebanjo, Chief Amechi and Chief Clark that they are still concerned about the future of this country.

Nigeria seems to be in a dilemma now. The Nigeria train is moving on a fast speed to a KAPUT destination.

Fragile state is an analytical category that gained prominence from the mid 1990s onwards and gained further traction after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Background is the belief held by many policy-makers and academics alike that the potential for contemporary conflict is harboured within, not between, states. Low capacity and low-income states of the Global South are thought to pose direct threats not only to their own populations, but by extension also to their neighboring Western countries. Following this logic, fragile states are in need of development in order to be able to provide security and basic services to its citizens, decreasing vulnerability and increasing resilience to internal and external shocks. In this way, fragile states exhibit a series of similar threats as failed states, but at a markedly lower magnitude. Their failures are an effective omen of what is to come if their administrative course remains unaltered.”

For sure Nigeria is in the category of countries listed above either as failed or fragile.

* Eric Teniola, a former Director at the Presidency stays in Lagos.

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