The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, on Thursday, said the country has derailed from the vision of its founding fathers.
He said this at the 4th Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe Annual Award Lecture, themed: “Promoting Unity in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in Nigeria”, held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.
The event was to mark the 119th posthumous birthday of Dr Azikiwe. In attendance among other dignitaries at the event was his wife, Prof (Emeritus) Uche Azikiwe, who was the mother of the day.
Represented by the Emir of Wase, Alhaji Mohammed Sambo Haruna, the Sultan said the younger generation still has much to learn.
He urged that there should be a conscious effort to set the country back on the path that the founding fathers intended.
He expressed confidence in the capacity of the country to achieve the dreams of Nigerians.
He said: “We would continue to have good people like Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nigeria. We would continue to have people who have this country at heart so that they can be celebrated the way he is being celebrated today.
“Looking back to the generation in which I belonged, the young men of today have a lot to learn. What our forefathers have done, we have derailed from it and I want to use this opportunity to ask Nigerians that we should come back to the way our fathers actually laid the foundation of Nigeria.
“We can still achieve the Nigeria of our dreams. We have no doubt in the crop of leadership that we have in the country and the crop of intelligent Nigerians that we have. We can take Nigeria to where it is supposed to be in this world. It should be ranked as the first, the fastest, the biggest, and the best country in West Africa and Africa.
“It is my hope and prayer that the death of this gentleman should not go in vain. We should wake up and build Nigeria in the way Nnamdi Azikiwe wanted to see Nigeria before departing this world.”
Director General of the Lecture, Hon Chineme Onyeke, said the occasion was to celebrate Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and his philosophy of one united Nigeria.
He said, “We believe that as the 2023 general elections have come and gone, the reincarnation of Zik’s and other founding fathers’ patriotic politics of national integration and unity is more desired now than ever before. We believe that the president is well-equipped and prepared to unite Nigeria for a peaceful coexistence. We all therefore appeal to all opposition political parties and candidates to join forces with the president to unite Nigeria, revamp the ailing economy, and move the great nation to greater heights.”
He stated the award was an occasion to honour patriotic Nigerians and non-Nigerians, living and dead, who have in one way or another helped the Nigerian nation in the area of independent attainment, development of our democracy, good governance, economic investment, human capital development, youths and women empowerment among others.
He used the opportunity to call on the Federal Government to take over the management of Onuiyi Haven, the Nsukka residence of Dr Azikiwe, where he lived till his death.
He described the state of the residence as a national embarrassment.
He said: “We appeal to President Bola Tinubu to approve a land space in Abuja to build a befitting Zik Centre for National Unity. This will serve as a reference point for regionalism and patriotism and as a rallying point for all Nigerians from all worlds of life.
“We also appeal that the Federal Government should take over the management of Zik’s house in Nsukka. When the Board of Trustees visited the delegation, they nearly wept at the state of abandonment of the residence. The building that once housed the great Zik of Africa until his death. The residence is a national embarrassment as the roof of treating Zik leaks during the rainfall. The Federal Government should take over, reconstruct, and renovate, the Zik’s Nsukka House, called Onuiyi Haven, and make it a national heritage centre for tourism, research, and reference.”
He also appealed for assistance to move around primary and secondary schools in the six geopolitical zones to preach, impact, and inculcate in the young ones the virtues of patriotism as lived by Zik and other founding fathers
Former Niger state governor, Babangida Aliyu, who was the keynote speaker, described the late Azikiwe as a foremost politician, knowledgeable gentleman, renowned intellectual, freedom fighter, realist, and pragmatist whose main goal was to fight for humanity and the dignity of the black man wherever he might find himself.