Oloyede, Marwa: Another feather to their cap

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“Saints are in heaven and not here on earth because they are actually not needed here. But we need men and women of conscience, of integrity and with demonstrable ability, capacity, and courage to do the right thing. Marwa and Oloyede have copiously demonstrated that. They are not just armchair critics or mere academic pontiffs but practical men with profound insight into the problems they are saddled with, churning out outstanding results that everyone can see and identify with. “

*Photo: Prof. Oloyede*

By Bola Bolawole

JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, and Chairman of the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), retired General Mohamed Buba Marwa, were two of the hundreds of Nigerians honoured last week by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.

Marwa was awarded the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). The complaint of many was that Marwa deserved more than that and that the second highest award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) would have been more befitting. His exploits as the executive Chairman of the NDLEA are the reasons why many think Marwa deserves all the accolades and the highest award on offer. Maybe the CON is a good starting point and Marwa will get upgraded in years to come! There are an uncountable number of Nigerians with multiple national honours: OON, OFR, CON, GCON, etc. Oloyede, also now honoured with the CON, is one of them.

Some awardees are upgraded with each award while some even get demoted or downgraded! Never mind! Award-loving or award-crazy Nigerians don’t complain whether you shunt them forward or backward! Award na award! No be so! Awards, national honours and even promotions are subject to the vagaries of political vicissitudes, especially in political environments like Nigeria’s where corruption and corruptive influences are rife. So, the eminently qualified get glossed over or get pittance while the less qualified are decorated and lionised and get the juicer awards.

The story was told at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) of how cerebral Marxist scholar and radical lecturer, Dr. Segun Osoba, got passed over many times for the professorship; he got so peeved that he bluntly refused to present himself for the position thereafter even when he was pleaded with to do so! For those not familiar with that story, we at least saw how Gani Fawehinmi was snubbed and denied the SAN, forcing the students of Great Ife to award him their own Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) before Gani eventually got the SAN. In the two cases cited here, it became an embarrassment for the powers-that-be as it became difficult to justify why minnows were getting awards and honours that colossuses were being denied.

So, it is not a surprise that the long list of awardees rolled out last week by Buhari was a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. I looked out for some names, they were not there. I saw many names there and I squirmed. There were, however, a smattering of names on the long, boring list that deserve their award – or something even higher.

For years we have watched the performance of Prof. Ishaq Oloyede as the Registrar of JAMB. He has taken the battle to the barons of examination malpractices within and outside our institutions of higher learning. Without mincing words, Oloyede, like Marwa, deserves even a higher award but it would appear as if the highest awards are reserved for the highest political office holders and their business partners and collaborators.

Since his appointment as the NDLEA boss, Marwa, the erstwhile old Borno and Lagos military administrator, has taken the battle to drug barons, making many eye-popping discoveries and recording many stupendous successes in the process. Marwa’s fame has spread far and wide and I will not be surprised if he has already become the toast of not only considerate Nigerians but also of the international community.

Other heroes of the long-suffering Nigerian masses are those well-placed Nigerians who have leveraged on the occasion of the dispensing of national honours to vent their grievances and draw attention to the abject neglect of the masses by their rulers. Last week, two such Nigerians rose to the occasion: Chimamanda Adichie reportedly quietly rejected her award without making any fuss about it. She simply did not turn up. But I prefer singer Teni Apata’s style; she turned up, collected the award but ignored Buhari’s handshake. She simply left the president’s hand dangling there in the air! If radical lawyer, Kanmi Ishola-Osobu, were alive and were to describe the scene, he probably would have said that Teni gave Buhari “the ignore”! Buhari must have been dazed. Before Teni was my comrade of blessed memory, Bamidele Francis Aturu, a Youth Corper who, in 1988 at his passing out parade, lambasted the military dictatorship and refused to shake the hand of the Niger State military administrator, Lawan Gwadabe, who was about to hand him his Best Corper of the Year award. Since then, we have had the likes of Gani Fawehinmi; Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Tam David-West; and Alhaji Gidado Idris reject national awards in protest against one misrule, governmental malaise or the other.

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, reportedly tossed his CFR medal over the Third Mainland Bridge into the lagoon also in protest against military dictatorship and government misrule while also rejecting his nomination for the Centenary Award by former President Goodluck Jonathan. So, national honours and awards have always been a potpourri of sorts. It is a gathering of hens, hawks and pigeons under the same roof. Such a riotous sight! Separating the grains from the chaff is, therefore, a task that must be done as we congratulate the few deserving of their awards and urge them on to greater heights.

It is ironic that whereas Nigeria is not bereft of quality leaders, our bane as a country is still leadership. Since I was born, I have heard, read and known Nigeria as a “potentially great country”. It has always been described as such ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Nigeria is what my people describe as “ko faili, ko paasi, ko kuro l’oju kan naa!” No failure, no pass, no movement forward or backward but rooted to the same spot!

Since the coming of Buhari Nigeria has even regressed badly. So much so that Jonathan’s incompetent, clueless and corrupt administration now appears the country’s golden age compared with Buhari’s performance. Countries that were at par with Nigeria at our independence have all passed us by. Even countries that were far behind us have since overtaken and passed us by.

The problem? Leadership! Like I said earlier, it is not that there are no leadership materials available, it is that they are never allowed to rule. And so was Chief Obafemi Awolowo “the best president Nigeria never had” while MKO Abiola was said to be “not the Messiah Nigeria needs” Who, then, are the best presidents we have had? Balewa whose hatred for Awo brought grief to the First Republic. Ironsi who destroyed Nigeria’s federalism. Gowon who squandered our riches! Murtala who destroyed the civil service. Shagari who could not differentiate his left hand from his right! IBB, the Maradona who institutionalised corruption (the settlement syndrome) and also destroyed a once vibrant national currency, the Naira! Abacha who stole this country blind! Self-opininated and filibustering Obasanjo who missed a second opportunity to make Nigeria great! And now “the General Overseer of them all”, Buhari, who has driven a dagger into the heart of Nigeria!

Yet, Nigeria has quality materials that can uplift her from its present miry clay. Imagine a combination of Marwa and Oloyede as president and vice-president of this country! They may not be saints and I am not vouching that they are.

In fact, they need not be. Saints are in heaven and not here on earth because they are actually not needed here. But we need men and women of conscience, of integrity and with demonstrable ability, capacity, and courage to do the right thing. Marwa and Oloyede have copiously demonstrated that. They are not just armchair critics or mere academic pontiffs but practical men with profound insight into the problems they are saddled with, churning out outstanding results that everyone can see and identify with.

Will you hear my advice? Rather than waste time and resources on the current jamboree of an election, let us summon both Marwa and Oloyede and toss the coin for them. Head or tail, let one be president and the other vice-president! Chikena!

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