…As Lagos Governor , others speak at colloquium in honour of former Vice President
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Tuesday paid tribute to former Vice President and elder statesman, Dr Alex Ekwueme on his 80th birthday celebration, charging that the celebration must be used as a platform for national rebirth and a return to the highest values of brotherhood, restraint and patriotism.
The Governor who spoke at the international Colloquium with the theme, “Nigerian Federalism: Building on the Ekwueme Legacy,” held at This Day Dome, Abuja added that the occasion must be for a return to restraint, compromise and patriotism before it can serve the true purpose of negotiating the basis of a truer and better nation.
Governor Fashola who also spoke on Constitutional amendment explained that the nation’s quest for truer and better union will not be solved by changing a document but lies more in Nigerians changing themselves.
Citing a number of national realities,the Governor noted that the nation has not had election malpractices because its constitution is bad and has not had bad roads because of the kind of constitution it is operating just as people do not drive against traffic because the Constitution is bad.
“Our education did not deteriorate because our constitution is bad. We did not abandon our farmland and resort to food importation because our Constitution is bad. The crash of our stock market, our inability to eradicate polio, or to bring criminals to justice and many other things that frustrate our people and drive them in pursuit of a truer union cannot be laid solely at the door of a bad constitution”, he reiterated.
The Governor identified diminishing value system which must be restored as being responsible adding that no platform can be better to make such a call for the restoration of values than at an occasion when eminent citizens gather to celebrate a man of values.
“I should not be mistaken for suggesting that we do not need a better constitution. We will always need one as our nation marches on in the comity of nations. Indeed that is why constitutions always permit of amendments. What I am saying and I wish to be clearly understood is that we must not put the cart before the horse. The constitution cannot make itself. It is us who will make it. A better union can only come out of a constitution made by people who are driven by the values, of nationhood and patriotism”.
The Governor also listed some of the values which must be preserved and nurtured to include the nation’s choice of multi-party democracy which is well informed urging that in spite of its limitations everyone must rally against any effort to depart from it.
He added that a Federal arrangement is the most appropriate platform for the expression of the nation’s diversity and that political actors of whatever party must never compromise on this just as he also urged everyone to see natural disasters or aggression against the nation from within or outside as a threat to all while every citizen must abandon their political colors for the Green White and Green whenever events of this nature occur.
“I think that the mere occurrence of natural disasters or acts of terror must not on their own become soap boxes for scoring cheap political gains; although I concede that the methodology for their resolution can always be a matter for debate, especially if a superior choice or alternative is offered. I also believe we must be politically and ethnically blind when issues of crime arise. These are the quickest ways to reinforce beliefs in our judicial system. The practice that is evolving where a political party or leaders of an ethnic or religious group begin to garner support for a person accused of a crime diminishes our values”, Governor Fashola emphasized.
He also said the protection of Lagos as the commercial capital of Nigeria, the first or second home of every Nigerian, the refuge of the oppressed people of Nigeria, the theatre where the Nigerian dream of grass or grace has been repeatedly enacted from generation after generation must be something that must be devoid of partisan politics.
While explaining the decision of Lagos not to support the proposal for the creation of six geo-political zones, Governor Fashola said the constitution does not create any entity without responsibility, personnel and funding.
He added that to create 6 (six) Geo-Political zones will require personnel to head them, responsibility for them to carry out and funding, ostensibly from the Federation account, when the existing Federal, State and Local Government are all still asking for more revenue.
He posited that the logical questions to be asked are: which level of Government gives up its share of insufficient funds to go to the regional structure? Which of the functions of the Federal; State and Local Government will be ceded to the regional Government?
“Is this not a recipe for a default break up of Nigeria into regions that may clamour for nationhood, contrary to the ideals of one Nigeria that we fought a civil war for”, the Governor asked.
While conveying the best wishes and felicitation of the Government and good people of Lagos State to Dr Alex Ekwueme, Governor Fashola wished him many more fruitful years of statesmanship in good health, peace and prosperity.
“I do not call him a statesman lightly or without thought. Nigeria has known a few good men and without a doubt, Dr. Alex Ekwueme is one of them. It is therefore always easy to acknowledge men like him. The silence of their quiet achievements is so deafening that they are impossible to ignore; thus making easy, the task of paying them tribute”.
“Or how else does a person show commitment and influence change but by personal example? And how else can we describe the example set by Dr. Ekwueme as Vice President when after all manner of investigation by the Panel set up by the military after they took over government in 1983, it was publicly and now famously declared that Dr. Ekwueme had left politics poorer than he was when he entered it and that to ask for more from him was to set a standard which even saints would be unable to meet”.
“I can think of no greater honour than that which acknowledges a man’s high sense of integrity. In a government that has continued to be defined by the depths of profligacy to which some of its members sank, it is indeed instructive that one good man stood out. A statesman indeed”, Governor Fashola reiterated at the event which had in attendance eminent personalities from all walks of life in the country.