Doesn’t Allison Ayida Speak to This Moment?
At a time such as this, there are certain people whose views ought to be privileged, irrespective of when the views were expressed. From whichever angle one sees it, Allison Ayida is one such person in Nigeria today. Having obtained a degree from Oxford University, he stands very well on epistemic authority. In terms of practical involvement in the politics of power, he can be said to have seen it all. It cannot be otherwise for someone who worked very, very closely “with seven successive Heads of State and Governments in this country” and can claim to know two others reasonably well. And these nine stretch from Tafawa Balewa (the Prime Minister who recommended his appointment to the President) to Nnamdi Azikiwe to Aguiyi Ironsi, Shehu Shagari, Gowon, Murtala and Obasanjo. The two he merely knew reasonably well are Buhari and IBB.
Beyond working with those who personified power at certain points, he was power himself but the power of the technocrat’s technocrat. That is what is conveyed in the ‘Super-Permanent Secretary’ tag for members of their generation in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service. He personified the tag in terms of the extensiveness of his reach, within and outside Nigeria.
Interestingly, he has put down a great deal of his thoughts, of course from the point he saw things but then a point informed a lot by activities he was at the centre. Intervention thinks that while democracy compels us to listen to everyone, the depth of views required to confront crisis in a more progressive manner than the ecstasy of social media posturing compels us to take evidence from an Alison Ayida even as he is probably quite aged now to be interested in granting interviews or deliver lectures. In a world in which people have time for only sketches and materials of sms length, here are some sketchy takes from his very accessible booklet, The Rise and Fall of Nigeria, no less a controversial title. The addresses in the booklet were delivered much earlier than the booklet which was published in 1990. Many would say that it is like he was speaking yesterday! There are no criteria as such for the selection of the quotes here other than editorial judgment. At 66 pages, people should have no problem buying and reading the entire text! Nigeria would be the better for it because, as Senator Murray Bruce hinted last week, part of the crisis in Nigeria is the knowledge foundation for running the modern state.
“As a nation, Nigeria has not been blessed with charismatic leadership universally acclaimed or generally acceptable to all. Neither have Nigerians been fortunate enough to have such a great leadership imposed. A charismatic leader must fire the imagination of the people and reflect their collective ego with pride. There is no historical necessity for this to happen in a heterogeneous society such as Nigeria but if it did, it will assist the process of restoring national self-confidence and arresting further decline of the nation” ”,
“There has been too much preoccupation with the economic depression, especially the fall in petroleum production and pricing, which to the historian and philosopher, is a blessing in disguise. It is a challenge for us to examine the great issues that face us as a nation. If the petro-naira were still flowing, many of us would have thought that the Nigerian nation was endowed with great statesmen and leaders of men at the helm of affairs. Now is the time for us to pause and think of the basic issues at stake in this great society of ours”
“It is not the fall of petroleum prices in the world market as such that has brought the untold hardship and sadness. It is the ineptitude and inability of our management team to adjust to the challenges of modern times. Most, if not all, of our institutions are on the verge of collapse”
“Let me add with a sense of responsibility that Nigeria has survived to date because of the sacrifice and tolerance of the silent majority. We should always try to empathise with the silent minority, and imagine how we would feel if the petroleum oil produced on our soil and in the process of producing which our waters and environment are permanently polluted, is used to develop other places while we remain neglected. We should also focus attention on the increasingly unbearable sacrifice demanded of the silent majority – the have-nots in all parts of the Federation, especially the urban poor and unemployed. Their deafening silence sounds to many like the gathering storm but nobody seems to listen to their cries of anguish”
“They say “Napoleon’s armies always marched on their stomachs”; so do nations, especially the ordinary man. It is difficult to imagine how the urban poor survive in our cities today. The survival of the rural poor has become a miracle. An agrarian revolution can only succeed through changes in technology and farming techniques. How can we produce enough food to feed ourselves and provide the raw materials for our agro-based industries? That is one of the main tests we have to pass for our entry to into the 21st century. We have the manpower and the means to succeed. What is lacking is the will, the inappropriate educational system and the absence of leadership by example at all levels”
“The increasing polarization between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will further weaken the fabric of society and the ability to maintain law and order”
“I can recall what a colleague, Mr S B Awoniyi, told the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, General O Obasanjo after the mass retirement of 1975: “You have asked us to remain in the Service and continue to serve the Government and country loyally and faithfully because we are the good ones. But the bad ones whom you have asked to go , will go into the private sector and become the millionaires of tomorrow and, in their own time, take over the government if they so wish”. This may be one of the considerations why the Obasanjo administration tried so hard to disqualify retired public officers during the 1979 elections. Mr Awoniyi was vindicated. Some of our retired colleagues came back as Governors and Ministers, and king-makers and the power-behind-the throne and successful business tycoons of the Second Republic”