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''Tell the young Nigerians when they come that for their tomorrow we sold our today" - Herbert McCauley (Foremost Nigerian Nationalist, Founder of Nigeria�s first national political party, the NNDP and first President of the NCNC)
Those words quoted by my secondary school principal as the death bed words of Herbert McCauley have since remained in my memory as a symbol of the sacrifices of Nigeria founding fathers and of the dream of a united leading African country that they saw and for which many of them died. As President Jonathan admits more Nigerians into the National Honour Roll I cannot but imagine how some fellow Nigerians have influenced the destiny and structure of the country today and in years to come. If public nominations where opened today for who would or should be among the top five most influential National political leaders of all time, I imagine who would be on that list. Personally "who would I have nominated as the top five leaders who have positively influenced the national history of Nigeria as a whole.
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For my list I would consider:
- the national influence not regional or ethnic.
- The leader's influence and how it has positively affected the nation as a whole.
- If the leaders influence could still be felt today in any of the government's policy thrusts.
- I should consider the leader as a personal inspiration and my hero.
There could be more or less reasons to include or exclude leaders from my list, but this is my list, who is on yours? And why? Give your thoughts here.
- Herbert McCauley: For his leadership as the first president of the NCNC and founder of the first opposition party the NNDP. For advocating universal primary education which has lead to various initiatives in national policy to date. McCauley was also a major influence in the life of many early nationalists including that of Nnamdi Azikiwe. If McCauley had been alive during the first election of 1951 (which many argue was the beginning of ethnic politics, with Awolowo�s carpet-crossing) Nigeria would have been different today. Since the carpet-crossing may not have happened or been as effective as it became in dividing up the country�s politics along ethnic and regional lines (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Council_of_Nigeria_and_the_Cameroons#Party_politics). There would have been a non-Igbo intellectual that would have provided a balance to Azikiwe and to the NCNC.
- Nnamdi Azikiwe: for his leadership during the independence struggles. For carrying through the independence struggles started by McCauley. For being selfless in his believe in the concept of one Nigeria even during the civil war years. His concept of a Nigeria devoid of ethnic nationalities. Is a principle we should reconsider. He had a major influence in the direction of Nigeria's foreign policy as a pan.Africanist. he was one of the few faces of the nationalist independence heroes in Africa for which he was fondly called the Zik of Africa. Notable Quote: "My stiffest earthly assignment is ended and my major life's work is done. My country is now free and I have been honoured to be its first indigenous head of state. What more could one desire in life?" �talking about Nigeria's Independence on October 1, 1960.
- Mko abiola: winner of the first free and fair democratic election in the country till date. To Abiola and the June 12 we owe our current democracy and attempt at rule of law. For this he paid with his life. Abiola and the election he contested and fought for would forever stand as a symbol of Nigerian modern democracy. It is of note that MKO did not come from the regional party structures but was a true nationalist and contested his first and only election on the platform of a National party. He won the hearts of people across the country from the North to the South-South. His call for Reparation and redress of injustices done to Africa by Western economies built by the tears and sweat of African conscripted labour was unprecedented.
- Olusegun Obasanjo: An accomplished general in the Nigerian army who fought and helped win the civil war to keep Nigeria as one. As an elected president his performance as the president and commander-in-chief is still unmatched even by President Jonathan. Since 1999 Uncle Segun has consistently remained one of the most influential and uniting leaders in national politics. He ability to cut political deals is still remarkable. During his Presidency Nigeria was respected once more and had a future looking up more than ever before. He was able to put together the best ever economic team that Nigerians still respect including the current Minister of Finance Mrs Okonja-Iweala.
- Abdulsami Abubakar: as one of only two military leaders to successfully conduct a general election and actually handed over to an elected civilian administration at all tiers of government. He continues to be a unifying national figure and a respected national statesman and leader of political thought. His African peace initiative is a one of kind and true to character organisation in Africa (see http://abdusalamiinstitute.org/about.html) . His credential as a Pan-Africanist is boosted by his action as a successor to the late dictator Sani Abacha. When he uncharacteristically opted to organise an election in less than 6months from taking over power. (He was sworn in as Head of State on 9th June 1998 and the first elections leading to a complete handover of authority to a democratically elected leadership began in December 1998 with the LGA elections). An achievement is without match anywhere in the world.
That is my list. Who is on yours? Give your thoughts here.
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