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Independence: London-based Acticust Advises Nigerians To Be United 

A frontline social and  political activist, Babatunde  Odunuga has called on Nigerians to use the  period of the 56th  Independence Day celebration

to come together as one to  fight for a common goal.

Speaking to a cross-section  of journalists at a dinner he  put together in London in celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day,  which he tagged,

‘Nigeria and the Unity of all  Tribes’, Odunuga said, “ Frankly speaking,  “we as a nation have every  justification to dwell more  on what is not right, especially as Nigeria  goes through a difficult  period of recession.

“However, there are so many blessings we have as a nation,  which other countries can learn from us.  I think those are the factors  we should be thankful for as we grow older. ”

Highlighting the blessings he meant in his speech, Odunuga,  who is a an ex-serviceman in the British Army said, agriculture, abundant  rainfall and predictable weather forms a very vital background for the  growth of the agricultural sector in the  country. He took his guests  back to the period when Nigeria was a major  contributor to agricultural  exports to other parts of the world, and he  said he is very positive that  very soon,  Nigeria shall reclaim her  place in the realm of  agricultural exportation and relevance.

“Every country has its own  peculiar problem and so,  Nigeria as it were is not isolated where issues  concerning the economy is  concerned. Globally, nations are passing  through a difficult period.  Even Saudi Arabia that seemed to have  everything under control is  heaving under the weight of the crash of  oil prices. They are not  alone, so many countries are battling with  acute recession and so,  Nigeria is not alone.

In fact, if I am permitted to  say so, Nigeria has more  prospects where getting quickly out of recession is concerned. We  were once known as a major exporter of cocoa,  groundnuts and other natural  resources, we still have the capacity to get back  our envied position in that  area.”

“I have lived outside the  country for more than two  decades and I can say categorically that most of  the super countries Nigerians  like to refer to in terms of growth can not boast of the type of  fertile land we have in this county. We have human  and natural resources in  abundance, not only that, we have a government that is focused  and ready to assist farmers harness their full  potentials. As the world goes  through a very arduous period, Nigeria is  likely to snap out of her  difficult period as soon as we begin to take the  issue of agriculture more  seriously”, he said.

Fielding questions about  security and the effect of  poverty on the safety or people due to the soaring  level of unemployment,  Odunuga said social security and service  is one of the areas he hopes  to be able to guide the government through  within the shortest time  possible.

“Let’s not run away from the  truth, poverty, lack of  employment, economic hardship and total  lack of social service  contributes largely to crime rates. Even in counties  where social services are  readily available to citizens, you find out  that there is still so much  sophisticated crimes going on. So, you could  imagine what would be  happening in a country where most people are  literarily on their own. When  there is no hope and people don’t have a place  to go to for counseling,  solace and funds, they resort to crimes. In  advanced countries, so much  is put into place to alleviate the suffering of  people. You have council  flats for families with children, you have job  centers to help with job  search, there are provisions put in place for  unemployed or unemployable  people and so on, yet, there are crimes  everywhere.  That’s why  people like us who have worked in the system of  countries where such  amenities are provided are desirous of  coming back home fully to be  involved in the way things are run and done.”

‘Nigeria and the Unity of all  Tribes’ may soon become a  regular slogan because Babatunde Odunuga has  expressed his readiness to  begin to work with men, women and youths in Nigeria to achieve  this. He said,

“This is a workable project  and I’m going to start  working on the from my Surulere, Lagos  constituency. I grew up in  Lagos and as you know,

Lagos is a cosmopolitan city  where people of all tribes  have lived in peace for hundreds of years.  You have intermarriages,  inter-religious events and the grandparents  of most people who claim  Lagos to be their state of origin today came  from different parts of the  country and even the world. If the unity of  different people of different  backgrounds has worked in Lagos for years and  worked in Nigeria too, it  must continue to work. We should all begin  to see policies as matters  that affect us all, rather than the other way  round. Recession is affecting  all Nigerians, the Hausa/Fulani inclusive  despite the fact that the  President is a Fulani man. When we hate the other  man because he’s from the  place where the leaders are from, we are  not being fair. An average  Fulani man does not have personal  relationship with the  President, so why should he be punished or abused if the  economy is not in favour of  everyone?”

More on economic recession, he said  “In all fairness the present government is one of the luckiest in the history of Nigerian democracy looking back at the national support it enjoyed in the last election; however I make bold to say it is the unluckiest as well, this government came in at the tipping point of our numerous economic woes.  We need to be fair with ourselves that the present day economic difficulty did not just start; its a decadal chain reaction of implementing inappropriate polices and system of governance, definitely issues are bound to arise and things will eventually snap.”

“It is a notorious fact that the people of this present government are suffering, but in all fairness everybody is suffering as well”.  In one of the most tumultuous moment of the Nigerian economy, collective response is key; being honest and educated is not always enough but seeing beyond the shores of ethnicity by relentlessly committing to a national character is the only breakout from our present dispensation.

“As I have always said, good governance isn’t rocket science, aside from credibility and education, its is good conscience as well”

On national security, he says “Terrorism is an international problem with multi dimensional sources; it requires multi-dimensional approach as well. Arguably most of the litany of researches about terrorism points to poverty as the source of this menace, but from experience and statistics, terrorist are not necessarily poor people. The truth is that poverty increases susceptibility to any form of societal and economic misconduct but sometimes not necessarily the causative agents. In the History of United Kingdom and possible United States no terrorist has been captured only to find out that he is poor. They have lived in the best of places and enjoy the finest things of life. The perpetrator of these gross misconduct have political wills that needs to be thwarted; with most terroristic political wills, it always has the backing of an outside establishment or an inside organization working against the rid of these terrorist acts”.

Odunuga says though the government is on the right tract, but there are methods it should apply in getting it right. He said, “The Nigerian government is on the right tract but we need to synergize our operations, it needs to be watertigh; we cant be advancing on military tactics and not creating a robust system for the fallouts of these advancement. The IDP camps needs to be more managed and security conscious, regulation of influx into the camps needs to be monitored to prevent re-infection of terrorist traits within the camp. Aside other recent untold issues of “sex for food” in the camp, someone needs to manage the continuum of these whole operations from birds view, not necessarily the president but someone needs to be able to look at the resultant effect of military advancement on the camps and the society; proffers and changes intervention and tactic of management regularly to suit the ever changing modes of terrorism. There needs to be a managing body to regulate “command and control”, build support, capacity, consensus and engage all stakeholders, otherwise we are not better than a revolving door.

Ending the interesting dinner,  Odunuga said, overall, he is proud of the  achievements of the present Government with the like of Lagos State Governor,  Akinwumi Ambode whom he described as a innovator  and a good example other  leaders should emulate. “

The Governor of  Lagos State is an achiever  and those of us coming back home are happy  that we have a leader who is  not playing lip service to governance.  Within a very short period,  Gov. Akinwumi Ambode has moved and touched  all sectors of Lagos State.  Of particular interest to those of us with  a background in the military  is the way and manner he is putting back in  the area of security in the  state. We know he can do a lot more, but he  has hit the ground running  and we are happy”.

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