By Anote Ajeluorou and Tunde Akinola
While Nigeria’s literary critics and scholars have long argued that Nigerian leaders do not read books and were fast entrenching a culture of anti-intellectualism that hinders the pursuit of knowledge for development purposes, governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has further lent credence to this assertion by stating the obvious: Governance is not driven by knowledge to take the nation from third world status. He made this submission at a book launch in Lagos yesterday entitled Here Comes the Commander-in-Chief: Four Years of Journalistic Activism, written by Gabriel Akinadewo, editor of Nigerian Compass.
Amaechi, who was the special guest of honour and was represented by Hon. Dakolo Peterside, stated that one of the challenges of leadership in the country today was that “we don’t have intellectuals in government; intellectuals shy away from governance leaving the space for others. Governance should be driven by knowledge otherwise we will remain in the third world category of countries that are largely under-developed”.
Amaechi, whom Peterside described as a student of literature and history, said Nigerian leaders do not read, a situation he said largely accounted for the stunted development so far recorded in the nation’s history. Amaechi, who also heads the nation’s Governors’ Forum, declared, “Our leaders don’t read and we certainly won’t make progress. Only readers should lead; those who don’t read should have no business to lead. We must wake up and hold our leaders to account for our commonwealth. Our commonwealth isn’t the leaders’ private estate”.
He described the author Akinadewo as belonging to the last generation of the scholars in journalism. Amaechi said the book has significance for the nation’s democratic practice in tracing its trajectory with an eye on its leaders.
Also, Speaker of the House of Representative, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who was represented by Hon. Zakari Mohammed, said for those in the 7th Assembly, the issue of leadership was a matter they took seriously, saying leaders should be given to those who seek for it rather than for reluctant leaders. He also noted that the assembly had adapted a pan-Nigerian stand to realise the Nigerian Project with the support and prayers of all Nigerians. He also noted that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable and that leaders must not give excuses for failures.
However, elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo took a swipe at current journalistic practice, saying standards had fallen from what they were during the days of struggle against the military by National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Adebanjo lamented, “The Media is deteriorating. 75 per cent of NADECO success against Gen. Sanni Abacha was owed to the media. Are you the same today? You must put the searchlight on your own house; that is my own impression. You are one of those who must rule aright. Do some critical analysis of your people. Go get yourself reborn; examine your reporters. Poor pay should be no excuse for misbehaving. We must continue the Obafemi Awolowo standards to make progress in this country”.
While reviewing the book, The Guardian, Mr. Debo Adesina, noted that the book accurately depicts the Nigerian situation and further prescribes what the country should be in its assessment of both the leaders and the led. He stated, “Taking on politics and politicians, the economy and economics, business and businessmen, religion and the clergy, the Bar and the Bench, from the first page to the last, this is an engaging record of the journey our nation has made over the this period, a description of the wrong road taken and the appropriate one uncharted.
“It is a collection of insightful and astute commentaries on failed promises, dashed hopes, scuttled dreams, darkened days and bleak nights. In many cases, however, the author is able to show us where to find the light with which the lost traveler can find the way home”.
Adesina concluded by asking all Nigerians to take Prof. Chinua Achebe’s words of wisdom to heart when he stated that Nigeria should be regarded as a child, albeit a wayward child “we all need to care for and nurture”, so as to get the best from it.
Also his paper titled ‘The Journalist as Writer’, the guest speaker, Mr. Akogun Tolar Adeniyi, described Akinadewo as “The journalist writer, the journalist historian, the journalist researcher per excellence has fulfilled all the righteousness of a classical journalist”.
Earlier, the author, Akinadewo had dissected the root causes of Nigeria’s ills by observing that attitudinal crisis was to blame, saying it would eventually lead the country down the slippery clop of a failed state. He further stated, “Anything done outside the people will never work. If the attitude of leaders is wrong, attitude of the led will automatically be wrong”.
In attendance at the launch were the former governors of Ogun State and Abia States, Gbenga Daniel and Orji Kalu, ThisDay Sunday editor, Mr. Tunde Rahman, Prof. Dayo Alao, Dipo Ajayi, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, Senior Adviser to the Speaker on Media, Mr. Imam Imam, Senior Assistant to Delta State governor, Omar Djebah, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, Are Oyefeso and a host of others.