Emeka Anyaoku’s name was first heard in my primary school class in 1975 when he became the Assistant Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Though the magnitude of the office and his role were lost to my 9 year old mind. Nevertheless it was worth celebrating that a Nigerian has risen to that height in the service of the Commonwealth.
The seeds of bigotry and tribalism had been planted way back 1966, by successive military coup in those years. The spirit of our National Anthem in the lines; “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”, refused the growth expected as a result of the seeds of discord. Whatever necessitated the change of National Anthem saw not just to the growth of discord but the harvest of it. I was awed and humbled to have my hands in the hands of this extraordinary diplomat, who in his word enjoys reading from me. Dr Kalu Idika Kalu added his voice as a fan of my writing.
This humbling drama unfolded at an emergency meeting called by the Eminent National Leaders Group of Project Nigeria Movement and The Patriots.
Olawale Okunniyi, the head of the Secretariat of this noble club of Nationalists and Statesmen had extended the invitation of the meeting to me just the day before. Not knowing who and who will be there, instinct didn’t fail me, I knew beyond my head that I have to be in the meeting where the ‘old’ was meant to be meeting the ‘new’; to learn, take note and be imparted.
“Bolaji”, that was the husky, unmistakeable commanding tone of Pa Ayo Adebanjo, I told you to see me, time is running against my generation, you, the younger generation are our concern, we need to impart you.
Standing in the midst of men who as youths stood up to our colonial masters and were critical part of the battle of political ideology that saw the military back to barracks, that birthed this democracy was too much an encounter for me in one day.
Central as the agenda of the meeting were issues of national interest. On the front burner was the urgency to push for constitutional reform of our dear country. The meeting also reflected on lives and times of past Leaders of the group. The recent passing of the National Chairman, Prof Ben Nwabueze SAN, who departed the world last week featured prominently in the discussion as well as proposals for the Reform of our dear country, Nigeria.
The meeting held, Thursday, 9th November, 2023 at FRA Williams Chambers, Lagos.
Tributes were paid to the duo of Chief FRA Williams and Professor Ben Nwabueze. FRA Williams was described as a towering legal luminary. Indeed he was, the man I grew up to know as Timi the law had become the benchmark of the practice of law in Nigeria, even in death, his feat in the profession remains enviable.
Ben Nwabueze was a mix of practice and teaching of law, a constitutional lawyer of no mean repute. A giant constructional scholar. His contribution to building institutional constitution of nations transcends Nigeria.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 11AM. I came in late, having pleaded with the Secretary to please indulge my lateness. Transiting in Nigeria by all known means has become more challenging than ever, more challenging however is when it is done from Abuja to any other part of the country. The galloping cost of aviation fuel makes the cost of tickets unpredictable. Choosing the road is like walking through the valley of the shadow of death, with dug graves more than the size of any known pot on the roads in the name of potholes. That has seen many buried before their time. Lurking in the forest through which the roads are constructed are bandits and kidnappers. Abuja is still cut off by rails as a result of the activities of these government indulged non state actors. May the Lord continue to be the Shepherd of all Nigerians. May this “Yatch seeking” government remember the potential of our nation for water transportation and do the needful. Movement to Lagos can be very unpredictable given the hiccups of our transportation system, but I made it to Lagos courtesy of the Shepherd of Nigerians.
Rising from the meeting, His Excellency, Chief Emeka Anyaoku flanked on his immediate right by Pa Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Afenifere and Dr Kalu Idika Kalu former Minister of Finance and on his immediate right by the head of the Secretariat; Olawale Okunniyi, read the statement by the Patriots.
The statement read thus:
Statement By The Patriots
We met as a group of non-partisan individuals whose common purpose is love for our country, Nigeria, and a shared desire to have a united, stable and progressive nation that cares for the welfare of its citizens.
We recalled and paid tribute to our past leaders the late Chief Rotim Williams SAN in whose Chambers we met, and Professor Ben Nwabueze SAN who passed on last week. They were both great Nigerian patriots, the former was a towering legal luminary; the latter was a giant constitutional scholar who served his country and a number of African countries meritoriously.
We accept the reality of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s administration whose legitimacy derives from the judgement of the highest judiciary court in our land on the country’s 2023 national elections.
We are very concerned at the current lamentable state of affairs in our country including the declining sense of national unity, the insecurity of life and property, the increasing poverty and unemployment afflicting our citizens, especially the youth.
Experience over the last 30 years has shown that despite the declared best intentions of our governments, Nigeria’s unity, internal security and economy have continued to deteriorate. In our view, the reason is that our governments have continued to scratch the surface instead of addressing the fundamental issue of the governance system which flows from the constitution of the country.
We believe that President Tinubu’s government has a historic opportunity and responsibility for fixing this fundamental challenge. If he, like the previous governments makes the mistake of avoiding to effect the necessary fundamental change by bringing in a new people’s constitution, Nigeria will inevitably continue its present dangerous decline. Only a truly Federal Constitution as was agreed by Nigerians founding fathers will give the country a chance of tackling its current challenges effectively.
Scion of FRA Williams Dynasty, Mr Tokunbo Williams was the host of the meeting. Your pen warrior was introduced to him as a prolific writer; the meeting privileged me the opportunity of exposure to Patriots, giant minds that have helped to see the house of Nigeria through many storms. Still very strong on their last lap for constitutional reform. The question is are we ready for the baton that will see our yearning for restructuring to a true federation delivered?