The vexed issue of rising insecurity in the land, corruption in high places and lack of focused political leadership dominated discussion at the LEADERSHIP 2013 Conference and Awards ceremony.
The event, which attracted the crème de la crème of the society, featured the conferment of awards on deserving Nigerians.
Prominent among them was the joint award of LEADERSHIP Persons of the Year to the Catholic Bishop of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III.
A highlight of the ceremony was a joint statement made by Archbishop Onaiyekan and Sultan Abubakar.
The Sultan had, while introducing Onaiyekan, told the audience that it had been their tradition to defer to each other. "We agreed that whatever each of us says represents our opinion.
That has been our tradition even in the Nigeria Interfaith Committee, which both of us co-chair. So, on this occasion, I and my brother, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, have agreed that he should speak for both of us."
The award of LEADERSHIP Governor of the Year went to Akwa Ibom State governor, Obong Godswill Akpabio, and Politician of the Year to Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Expectedly, the state of the Nigerian nation took centre stage. It was agreed that unity and peace remain the panacea for national development.
'Nigeria is no failed state'
The LEADERSHIP Persons of the Year pointedly declared that Nigeria was not a failed state as being insinuated in some quarters.
In granting amnesty to Boko Haram, the federal government must continue to pursue all avenues for dialogue with the sect and relevant stakeholders to halt the deadly terror campaigns, they said.
Rejecting insinuations that Nigeria was going the way of a failed state, they, instead, canvassed "radical renovation" and not a "dismantling" of the country as bandied in some sections.
They identified corruption and insecurity as "monsters" Nigeria must deal with to achieve its lofty goal of national development plans.
Continuing, the duo said: "What we need in Nigeria is a radical renovation. I hope the transformation agenda of the government is just more than a word. Nigeria is not a failed state.
I see a failed state in Somalia and I cannot say that about my country. We still have time to make amends and we can still hold on. When people in government tell me they are doing their best, I always remind them that their best can never be good enough.
The rest of the black race is looking up to us. If Nigeria fails, which other black nation can succeed? We have what it takes to succeed. All it takes to succeed is good leadership.
"Two of the obstacles before us which we must resolutely confront are corruption and insecurity. When I talk about corruption, I am not talking about small bribes, but big, legal and official corruption in high places. We are hearing of billions of dollars being stolen.
The people of Nigeria are being deprived of their belongings. It is no longer a rumour that our funds are being stolen. This stealing must stop.
No more cover-up or pretence. Stolen resources must be recovered and returned. We should pardon our thieves, but they must return the loot."
Onaiyekan also disagreed with Niger State governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, who had, in his lecture "Rebuilding Nigeria", maintained that the Boko Haram sect is in no way Islamic in nature and has no connection to Islam as a religion.
The cleric said: "Insecurity is everywhere. But how do we deal with it? We need all hands on deck. Political forces must link hands. Enough of accusations.
As far as Boko Haram is concerned, there is a religious dimension. Those of us who believe in religion must find a way of increasing our dialogue.
We must offer our own solution. The present debate on amnesty is very healthy. It is okay. Government must bring all the stakeholders together.
Insecurity is difficult because there is corruption. We don't deny there are serious differences among us. But I don't believe that it should divide us.
This country is a model for the world on how Christians and Muslims can live together in peace and harmony."
Leaders have dashed Nigerians' expectations - Aliyu
Governor Aliyu yesterday lamented over the seeming poor political leadership in the country, declaring that the leaders have wilfully dashed Nigerians' expectations.
He advocated a review of the present sharing formula for the Nigeria Consolidated Revenue Fund. He said if the country is to achieve far-reaching development, the revenue formula must be reviewed in favour of states and local governments to make the fund people-friendly.
Aliyu also declared that the inability of Nigeria to conduct a credible census has greatly hampered national development. Manipulated population figures have made the task of proper national planning impossible, he added.
Delivering the keynote address entitled "Rebuilding Nigeria", he lamented, the failure of Nigeria's leaders "to meet the expectations of many who believed that with its wealth of human and material resources, the country should be fine as far as development is concerned."
He said it was worrisome that "we have reached a level where Nigerians are suspicious of virtually every decision or move by public officeholders and government".
"Even the judiciary, which used to be the last hope of the citizens in disputes, especially political adjudication, appears to be losing the respect of the people," he said.
"We need to work hard to restore integrity and respect for our institutions to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of public officeholders."
On economic restructuring, he stated that the economy needed to be restructured to eliminate corruption and institutionalise transparency and accountability in governance.
"This is critical because the upsurge of corruption and its consequences on the nation's development is alarming. For instance, the 2012 Transparency International bribe payers index reported that, 'Corrupt civil servants in oil-rich Nigeria pocketed some $3.2billion (N500billion) in bribes in the 2010/2011 financial year alone.
Most worrisome is the fact that the commonest form of corruption in Nigeria, which used to be bribery, has been overtaken in level of prevalence by embezzlement and theft from public funds, extortion, abuse of discretion, abuse of public office for private gain, favouritism and nepotism, conflict of interest, extortion and illegal political party financing'."
Governor Aliyu also reflected, in retrospect, the "50 wasted years"; he described the nation's slow trudge as a deliberate annihilation of the natural and human resources by those charged with the duty of preserving and even multiplying them.
"Despite enormous resources generated from the oil sector, no accurate data is available to present daily production of crude in the country. These have led to corruption and negative twist in the economic fortunes of the country, as only a few control and siphon our common wealth."
He further lamented on the politicization of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), attributing the political tango strangulating the bill to "Nigeria's penchant for cake sharing rather than cake baking, and the lack of confidence by the citizens in the process and motives behind some of the policies".
On the face-off in the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), Aliyu said the newly formed splinter, the Governor Godswill Akpabio-led Peoples Democratic Party Governors' Forum, was not an adversary but to complement the original forum in achieving its goals.
On religious harmony, he commended the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), while stressing the need for "genuine involvement" in promoting ethno-religious harmony in the country.
We must, he said, emphasise on trust building and mutual respect, for our individual faith must be strengthened in all our religious places of worship and in our daily lives.
Dominant parties promote regional agenda - Gov Okorocha
The Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, took a swipe at the country's dominant political parties, accusing them of pursuing selfish regional interest as voting patterns have shown over the years.
Come 2015, he promised, the newly formed opposition merger, All Progressive Congress (APC), will bring a true national outlook to politics.
Okorocha, who was the chairman at the LEADERSHIP 2013 Conference and Awards ceremony, blamed the problems in the country on poor leadership, adding that the country is in dire need of visionary leaders.
"Nigeria's problem is that Nigeria does not understand its problem."
On insecurity, Okorocha urged religious and traditional leaders to continue to apply restraint by not issuing provocative statement capable of aggravating matters.
He compared the carnage recorded since the terror campaigns by Boko Haram to that recorded during the civil war.
He said, "Nigeria must come together to stop this carnage by Boko Haram. The present bloodletting in this country is worse than the one we had in the civil war."
Boko Haram: It is duty of all Nigerians to fight insecurity - Akpabio
The Akwa Ibom State governor Obong Akpabio declared yesterday that it is not the exclusive prerogative of the government to tackle the rising insecurity in the land, as it is also the business of all Nigerians to tackle the problem.
Akpabio, who was installed as the LEADERSHIP Governor of the Year, at an elaborate ceremony in the main auditorium of the
International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, also pointed out to the audience that Boko Haram insurgency did not start today.
He advised that Nigeria could be rebuilt by rebuilding the media through enthroning responsible journalism.
Nonetheless, Gov. Akpabio, who harped more on unity, dedicated his award to the people of his state Akwa Ibom, saying that Nigeria could achieve its best potential if only the people embrace one another in love and peace.
Most important is that the two major religions must come together, he stated.
"This is a gathering of love," Gov Akpabio declared adding that "the recognition given to our religious leaders today is a worthy one.
And in the task of rebuilding this nation we must recognise the work of the media as well. This is also about rebuilding the media; it is the responsibility of the media to preserve what they have helped build - democracy".
On forging unity across religious divides, language barriers and geographical borders, the Akwa Ibom State governor reiterated his long-time commitment and passionate effort in ensuring the promise of unity in the discharge of affairs that ordinarily is his personal call.
"We must learn to accept ourselves regardless, of our religion, the colour of our skin, or the language we speak. My aide-de-camp is a Bauchi man, from Azare; my chief security officer is from Kano State and my orderly is from Taraba -- these are people that are always by my side and we come from different places.
"When I give money to Christians through the Christian Association of Nigeria, I also give money to the Muslim population within my state.
The Emir of Kazaure bears witness here: I have built a hostel that accommodates 280 students in Kazaure Polytechnic faraway in Jigawa State.
I did those things in order to unite Nigerians and I will continue doing more."
On security, Governor of the Year Akpabio charged all Nigerians: "It is a collective responsibility" that security necessarily doesn't have to be absence of strife but rather guaranteeing and rebuilding critical infrastructure for our communities. I am glad to be a recipient of this award and, once again, I commend the publisher for his work."
Return to old National Anthem - Tinubu
National leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and former Lagos State governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu called for a reversal to the former National Anthem.
Tinubu's remarks: "Let's go back to our first National Anthem we had at independence. All we are talking about is to serve the nation. Let's make the effort to go back to that National Anthem. Let us sing it from the heart and not from the tone.
LEADERSHIP is now voice of the masses - Lai Mohammed
Responding on behalf of the awardees, the national publicity secretary of the ACN and the LEADERSHIP Politician of the Year, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, commended LEADERSHIP Newspapers and the Nigerian media in general for living up to their constitutional role to safeguard democracy.
He specifically said LEADERSHIP was now the voice of the masses and champion of the voiceless in Nigeria.
Mohammed said the ACN therefore condemns the current onslaught on the freedom of the press as suffered by LEADERSHIP, Al-Mizan and Liberty Radio.
"The media is a necessary ingredient for popular participation, which is the essence of our democracy; therefore government must stop the harassment of the media."
He said suppressing the media will not do anyone good and no government, whether in kaaki or agbada, can do it.
On the opposition, the LEADERSHIP Politician of the Year said the sustained attacks on the opposition voices must also stop, as no amount of insults, threats or abuse can stop them from providing alternative political platform for Nigerians. "There can be no true democracy without virile opposition," Mohammed said.
Let's dialogue further ?- Nda-Isaiah
The chairman of the LEADERSHIP Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, called on the government at all levels in the country to accelerate further the level of discourse on the nation's numerous challenges.
According to Nda-Isaiah, the forum which the LEADERSHIP Group provided was a platform to discuss the numerous issues like kidnapping, insecurity, killing, high-level robbery, corruption and bad governance plaguing the country.
Not many fora, he said, provides opportunity for such level of dialogue.
He therefore admonished everyone present, especially the guest speaker and the award winners, to fashion out a better platform to get the country out of the doldrums of darkness.
The LEADERSHIP Annual Conference and Award ceremony was put together by the media group to honour deserving Nigerians whom the chairman described as "worthy Nigerians whose selection the company was proud of".
Persons of The Year Award is very significant to Nigeria's unity - Ribadu
The former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, described the LEADERSHIP Persons of the Year jointly awarded to the Sultan Abubakar and Cardinal Onaiyekan as "very significant" to the unity and co-existence of Nigeria as a nation.
Said he: "This award shows that there is fundamentally nothing wrong with Nigerians. LEADERSHIP brought together heads of the two big pillars of religion in our country and duly recognised them for their effort in healing and uniting the religious divide".
Ribadu further saluted the courage and posture of both religious leaders.
"They are worthy leaders," he said. "The Sultan of Sokoto is experiencing one of the most profound circumstances in Nigeria in terms of religious stewardship; his challenges are enormous and he has done well in preaching the unity of both religions locally and internationally. He has managed it well."
On Cardinal Onaiyekan, Ribadu had this to say: "I have interacted with him on a few occasions and my assumptions are that this man is a leader of the people.
His willingness to collaborate with the leaders of other religions shows that he is indeed a man of faith -- one that believes in the unity of Nigeria and Nigerians."
On Politician of the Year Lai Mohammed, he said he is "a dogged politician who symbolises courage, resilience, determination and the essence of good governance".
"The theme of the ceremony, Rebuilding Nigeria," Mr. Ribadu declared, "is in consonance with the security challenges we are experiencing as a nation.
My problem is that we talk and know the right things but do exactly the opposite, especially those that are in high offices right there."
Asked whether he was referring to the dignitaries present, he said "to those present and not present here, even the minister of information".