Abdullahi Adamu on issues forty-five years ago (2)

By Eric Teniola

  • Continued from last edition

I believe if one only reflects back to 1976 when we had the unfortunate incident of the abortive coup the whole country was in the brink of having another major disaster. I observe, with no apology, that the last resort that the Military had was to turn to the traditional institution to propagate the idea that the coup was neither tribally inspired nor religiously inspired.

It was these institutions more than any other that were able to go down the grass roots and talk to people to bring some sanity in the situation that was threatening the nation.

In a situation like this I think it will be unrealistic to just provide for some ceremonial type of status as presently shown in the Draft Constitution. I feel the traditional institutions-it does not matter where you go in this country, are the custodians of our culture.

I am not an anthropologist, but to my people culture is the sum total of our ways of life and these ways of life are enshrined or are being protected by a particular institution. So, if one wants to be identified with one’s culture and at the same time wants to do away with or relegate to the background the custodians of that institution. I think that is one of the most unrealistic ways of going about it.

I believe also that the fact of our relegating our traditional institutions to the background has been contributory to the wave of indiscipline which is now the major problem of this country. If one takes as an example any part of this country where the traditional ruler is worth his salt, where he is absolutely accepted by his subject, one may take up the question of the collection of taxes.

There is a secretary of a local government area or whatever title you give him. If for any reason the subjects do not pay their taxes one finds that the only person who has that rare ability to persuade the people to meet their civic obligations in society is the traditional ruler.

Now, if on the one hand one appreciates the fact that such an institution can be useful to society, why does one on the other hand turn round to say one does not want it. Today if one goes to London there is one particular square (I have forgotten its name) where one can say any rubbish about anybody but if one dares mention the Queen and says any jazz about her one would be in soup.

Even though she has no executive function the tradition has been kept, the image of the institution is being strengthened over time. We are deceiving ourselves we are deceiving ourselves. Like one of the earlier speakers has mentioned one just takes Napoleon because one reads history.

This is what Napoleon did under certain circumstances. So, one feels, why not Nigeria? Our culture is different. Our standard of civilization is different. Of course, one is not saying that we should remain static. We are definitely progressing, but why do we not spread out the development in relation also to our very property as a people? Let us spread what we believe and what we cherish so that even if we have to sever relations with these institutions we do not give them a sudden break as the Draft has provided.

I believe the Constitution should take a more careful look on these institutions. I want further to touch on the question of freedom of the Press. I believe that any individual in this country should not fundamentally have any better right than another person. I believe the Press, journalism or whatever terminology one uses for it, is a profession and if I am an accountant, a sailor or a traditional ruler, I have got my professional hazards.

Read Also: Abdullahi Adamu on issues forty-five years ago

As long as our Press do not want to accept professional hazards within the profession I think they are being unrealistic themselves. Since the Draft Constitution as now presented provides for one to hold an opinion and to dissipate such an opinion by various news media available, I think it is absolutely adequate for the time being. Of course, there is the type of bias we see because the Nigerian Press is divided along the Nigerian political axis and one saw this clearly during the census exercise.

If one takes the 1973 census into consideration one can see the type of Press we have. I believe in as much as I want the Press to have that accessibility to news items, at the same time I do not believe in giving a blank cheque to this type of organisation.

I believe that the right of the Press has to be related to the rate of development in the same institution, and what is more, since the Constitution is supposed to be a dynamic instrument of state. I believe when the right time comes the legislature or the interested arm of government will initiate reviews in the Constitution as it affects the Press.

However, at the moment I do not believe we should go any further in providing for the freedom of the Press than what have been done to take care of it in the Draft. On the question of individual right to establish newspapers or radio stations, I observe that if care is not taken we are going to end up, having our aspiring multimillionaires to establish newspapers and radio stations and using these as instruments for perpetrating their interests.

I would rather want to see the establishment of radio and television institutionalized. It can be earmarked for the trade unions or the Nigerian Union of Journalists, having sufficient funds to establish radio stations. For instance, they can establish a radio station or a television station.

However, I think there must be check somewhere to the extent of individual per se. With these observations, Mr Chairman, I wish to stop. Thank you.


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