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Politics Of Abuja Street Naming 

1 month ago
6 mins read

Nigeria is increasingly becoming a place whereby observers of events, analyse opinions made by people from the binoculars of myopic and mundane considerations of partisanship or ethnic jingoism.

This approach is anti-intellectualistic and should be consigned to the dustbin of history. I recall what the organisation I founded 17 years ago said about naming institutions and streets after certain personalities just as the group totally condemned the practice of naming of streets or institutions after the serving political office holders.

Civil Rights Advocacy Group: Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to acquiesce to his cabinet ministers naming projects built with public funds after him for that is the height of political sycophantic tendencies which is also self serving. This trend of appropriating streets and naming them after themselves whilst still serving in offices, has seemingly become the new normal. This is irregular, unethical and an absolute bunkum.

HURIWA therefore wasted no time in carpeting the Mr. Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for naming Abuja’s southern parkway after President Bola Tinubu.

The southern parkway stretches from the Christian Centre to Ring Road One and is considered one of the city’s major spines.

Wike made the announcement on Tuesday at the commissioning of the project executed by the FCT administration.

The minister said the project was completed in line with the president’s ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’, 13 years after construction commenced, adding that it would ease free flow of traffic in the FCT.

HURIWA however has cautioned against attempts to turn Nigeria into a Banana Republic because if appointees of President Tinubu are indirectly or directly encouraged to name streets, national projects after the president then it will simply appear like such a minister has something to hide which it doesn’t want the central government to investigate which therefore implies that engraving the name of the President will impose official approval on such a project.

“We think this attitude of political hypocrisy by cabinet appointees to name projects after President Bola Tinubu will offend the principles of transparency and accountability and automatically translates to allowing his ministers turn him into a deity that should be worshipped.

However, there is something political about the decision of the president and his minister of FCT to name major streets after two distinguished literary icons from Nigeria: Professors Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka.

The political undertone of this decision can be deciphered from the follow up naming of Abuja streets after Soyinka and Achebe to coincide with the naming of another major street after President Bola Tinubu. The politics is that the government has the sinister plot to equate the personality, stature of the current president with those of the great scholars Professors Soyinka and Achebe. It is a failed attempt to globalise the personality of the current president by his own minister under his own directive. It is therefore self-serving and parochial.

It was just a political plot to erect a legacy around the neck of Tinubu by his same government which is absolutely unethical. But politicians of the Nigerian contemporary genre do not care about ethics and morality. But ethics underscore the essence of democracy and leadership. Leadership or politics without ethics is like operating just like gangsters. Nigeria is however not a gangsters Republic which the present day politicians want to turn it to. Nigerians ought to resist this antithesis.

But just as it has been pointed out by HURIWA that the decision to name public institutions or streets built with taxpayers money after the serving leader of the Country, it is also wrong because it has been politicised covertly and overtly.

There is no way anyone can convince us that it was a mere coincidence that Tinubu allowed Nyesom Wike to name streets after the trio of Achebe, Soyinka and then Tinubu himself. This decision is what insiders consider as a masterstroke in the attempts of loyalists of Tinubu to elevate him to the same pedestal as the duo of Achebe and Soyinka. Tinubu has literally thrown himself into the public conversations about the global statures of the duo of Professors Soyinka and Achebe. These anti-intellectual coup plotters have failed miserably and they must be told that in very clear terms.

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I hold the aforementioned view because these politicians are wrong because the two intellectual icons of Achebe and Soyinka have global reach, the current president as far as history is concerned, is only but a local political chieftain of Lagos and now Nigeria.

He, Tinubu Bola Ahmed, is not on the same scale as someone like Achebe whose books have been read by over 50 million students and translated into Japanese and several other international languages for use in their schools. Tinubu is also not on the same scale as Soyinka who won a Nobel prize in literature.

The next story tells us how factual my aforementioned assessment is and the need to expose the underbelly of Abuja political sycophants intended on compelling us to believe that our President is no longer who he is but is now to be deified and worshipped as a hero. He is not yet a hero but could become a hero if he governs well. The story of the naming of the multi-billion Naira Airport by the Anambra State administration after Chinua Achebe, easily the finest and most credible Scholar that Nigeria has produced, is a testament to the acceptable and ethical modality for naming publicly built institutions or streets.

About a year ago, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the governor of Anambra State, South East of Nigeria, named the state’s international passenger and cargo airport after the literary icon, Chinua Achebe.

Achebe, a native of Ogidi in Idemili North LGA of the state, died on 21 March 2013, at the age of 82, in Boston, Massachusetts.

In his lifetime, Achebe wrote many books of international repute, including “Things Fall Apart”, “There Was A Country”, “Arrow of God”, “A Man of the People” and many more.

During the Independence Day parade in Awka last year, Governor Soludo said naming the airport after Achebe was to immortalise the novelist for making an indelible mark on the history of human civilisation.

He said Achebe was an African and global hero whose legacy would outlive that of most presidents, governors and ministers.

“Achebe, a Nigerian novelist, poet, and critic, gave the African literature an identity and a voice and he rightly reconstructed and refined the identity of the people,” NAN quoted Soludo as saying.

“Unfortunately, some people wrongly think of legacies in terms of brick and mortar. Legacy is about its impact on human life and human civilisation.

“Achebe was not a president or governor or military. He did not build bridges or roads or airports but he will outlive most presidents, governors and ministers in our minds.

“Achebe rejected Nigeria’s national honours twice in protest against what he perceived as injustice to his home state Anambra. Today, Anambra will finally honour him.

“After wide consultations, there is a broad consensus that no one is more deserving to be named after the first airport in Anambra than Anambra’s all-time greatest literary gift to the world, Chinua Achebe.

“Consequently, we will rename the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, to Chinua Achebe International Airport, Umueri.

“Yes, it has to be an international airport, and we hope to work with the Federal Government to give full effect to its international status.”

Soludo further encouraged Nigerians to be intentional about making the country work and believe in its potential greatness.

He said his administration would continue to create the enabling environment for Anambra residents to thrive and survive.

“We have muddled through the past 63 years with squandered opportunities and yet with the promise of potential greatness,” he said.

“No country or nation is perfect. Every nation continues to struggle in its match to a more perfect union. The path to stability, growth and sustainability will be challenging as there are no quick fixes.

“But all of us must collectively think and work Nigeria out of the current challenges. We have no other country but Nigeria, and we must make it work for everyone.”

I completely agree with Professor Soludo who was at a time, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria equivalent to Federal Reserves in the United States of America or the Bank of England in the United Kingdom, that Achebe rightly deserves to be immortalised. Professor Soludo could have named that Airport after himself if he has same myopic mindset like the person who named streets after his boss the president of Nigeria.

I do also caution politicians, not to seek to score cheap political popularity by exhibiting sycophancy which was at play in the action of naming of institutions after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu by his own minister of FCT in which constitutionally, the President is the governor since the constitution says FCT is to be treated as if it was a state in the federation.

My view is that Tinubu should just keep working hard and delivering good governance. Who knows, one day, in the future, Nigerians and the rest of the globe, especially those historians of Nigerian politics, will appropriately apportion him his deserved place in history. Politicians must not force history to be written in their favours by themselves using public resources. Politicians should become statesmen. Period!

Lastly, let sycophants not read meaning into this piece done purely out of altruism. This is not to say that the FCT Minister is a bad man. Not at all. But this is a critique of his misjudgement in naming a street after his boss:Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and was National Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

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