FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo’s alleged attempt to elongate his tenure in office caused controversy yesterday in Ilorin at the 12th yearly lecture of the Nigerian Academy of Letters held at the main auditorium of the University of Ilorin.
The Guest Lecturer, Prof Nur Alkali of the Centre for Trans-Saharan Studies, University of Maiduguri, who spoke on the topic, ‘Nigeria’s Road to Nationhood,’ said Obasanjo’s role during the Constitutional Conference through “his foot soldiers,” has put him on the bad side of history.
But the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, who was represented at the event by Magaji Nda of Ilorin, Alhaji Woru Mohammed, during questions time, queried Alkali’s audacity to single out Obasanjo for criticisms.
“In the course of your lecture, you kept on mentioning the name of Obasanjo as having attempted to elongate his tenure as the president. Is there no good thing he did during his tenure? What of those who took over from him, what did they do? For instance, he was the one who gave us the GSM,” Gambari said.
Responding, Alkali said: “I was not criticising Obasanjo; I was only trying to say that his attempts, through some of his foot soldiers at that conference, which I attended, to change the constitution to allow for his third term, was bad.
“Not that his successors did not have their own weaknesses, but due to my background, I am not allowed to talk ill of the dead.
“For instance, the case of the ailing president under going treatment, he ought to have properly handed over to his second in command, in line with the provisions of the Constitution.”
While canvassing a return to teaching of History in the country’s schools, Alkali sharply criticised those campaigning for control of natural resources in their areas as a condition for the continuous existence of the nation.
He likened Nigeria to a patient needing the help of a doctor. “The solution is not to kill the patient, but to cure him. We fought to live together and to collectively reclaim our rights and resources.
“Therefore, no one should claim ownership of any resources of this country any longer.
“Again, if we must restructure our country, it has to be on the point of addressing deprivation, poverty and unemployment, rather than on the point of breaking up the country.
Members of the academy present at the event included Professors Emeritus Ayo Bamgbose (Foundation president); Ayo Banjo; Tekena Tamuno; Dan Izevbaye; Ben Elugbe (president); Kunle Adeniran (secretary); Oyin Abogunrin; Abiola Irene; and Femi Osunfisan; among others.
The Vice Chancellor University of Ilorin, Prof Ishiaq Oloyede, was the chief host.