By Razaq Bamidele
Irked by the sorry state of the nation, members of the famous National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the organization that fought the military to a standstill to return the country to democracy are set to go back to the trenches to ensure that the country is put on the right track to the Promised Land.
This was the unanimous decision of the chieftains of the organization and notable stakeholders who converged at the Banquet Hall of the Ikeja Airport Hotel last Tuesday, October 12, earmarked for the National Day of Tributes for the late leader of the group, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (retired).
Kanu, who has ruled Imo and Lagos States respectively as a military governor became the chairman of NADECO until his demise on January 13, 2021, aged 77.
The event was impressively attended by who is who among democracy lovers from within and outside the country. Notable among the attendees, who paid glowing tributes to their departed leaders were, acting Leader of pan- Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; NADECO General Secretary and spokesman, Chief Ayo Opadokun, renowned columnist, Dr Amos Akingba who chaired the occasion, former Federal Lawmaker, Hon. Wale Osun, Chief Supo Shonibare, a veteran legal practitioner, Chief Fred Agbeyegbe and former Deputy Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly and twice Commissioner for health /Works and Transport Barrister Niyi Owolade.
Others included but were not limited to Prof. Adebayo Williams, Chief Jumoke Ogunkeyede, Chief Jide Ajilore, wife of the deceased, Mrs. Gladys Kanu, human right activists Michael Ajayi Popoola and Nelson Ekujumi as well as Lagos State Honourable Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, who represented the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
Setting the tone of tributes rolling is the globally renowned academician, writer, author and activist, Professor Adebayo Williams who posited that, Nigeria has not moved closer to the Promised Land envisioned by NADECO during its fierce struggle for democracy.
He, therefore, called for urgent rejuvenation of the pro-democracy group that led to the struggle for the de-annulment June 12 election won by Chief MKO Abiola.
According to him, there was still a formidable struggle ahead and that it was true that the country had sent the military packing but yet to enjoy good governance envisaged by the organization, noting sadly that those of them that were in the struggle to bring about democratic rule back to the country had been side-lined.
The don asserted that NADECO still had the struggle to pursue as it did during the June 12 era, insisting that the organization needed to do this to see the citizens to the Promised Land, lamenting that, “we have seen the end of military rule but have not seen an end to bad governance in the country.”
The concerned don regrettably noted that the democracy, resulting in sending the military back to the barracks, which NADECO attained with the efforts of people like the late Kanu had been rubbished by bad governance now in place, and, therefore, the need to take Nigeria back to where it was supposed to be.
In concluding, Williams charged, “Let there be a celebration of the renewal of NADECO, our ranks are shrinking. We are waiting for the celebration of renewal so that whatever happens we can take our country back.”
He, therefore, paid glowing tributes to the late Rear- Admiral Kanu, who he described as “a profoundly serious man, who never sought for government contracts and who was also not a racketeer, saying, “We are very proud of him.”
To the children, Williams said, “Your father lived an honourable and distinguished life, he was a man of the outstanding naval gate.”
Spelling out in detail, the way forward for the country, the group’s General Secretary and spokesman, Comrade Ayo Opadokun, in the NADECO tributes to the military administrator, demanded that the country “must return to Federal Constitution Governance as we had in the 1960 and 1963 Constitution to save Nigeria from imminent but avoidable consequential balkanization and conflagration.”
Opadokun, who called for a return to the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions, asserted that doing this would enable ethnic nationalities who had been side-lined, discriminated against and treated as inferior citizens to achieve their self-determination pursuit as endorsed by NADECO and also enshrined under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 as well as the African Charter of Peoples Right adopted in 1998/1999 in Adisa Ababa.
He, therefore, assured that NADECO would “intensify its credible, responsible and patriotic campaign through all legal and legitimate actions to ensure that the current unsustainable and unacceptable national structure which is warped, skewed and lopsided and had given an undue and dubious advantage to a section of the country is restructured so that Nigeria can have a balanced, just and equitable economic and political space for an all-inclusive society.”
Also speaking on the occasion was the acting leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo who said he received the news of Kanu’s death with a lot of shock and sadness which lasted for days due to closeness he enjoyed with him in the struggle for a better Nigeria and being one of the people who held the country together with his detribalized disposition as a true patriot.
According to the Afenifere leader, the late NADECO Chairman, Kanu, should be seen as a “man of the moment” to fight the ongoing tyranny in the country, lamenting that the ongoing tyranny under which the citizens had found themselves and currently battling with was worse than what the country witnessed under the despotic rule of the military jackboot of the late General Sani Abacha!
He spoke further: “People should remember that he did what he did in the struggle for democracy and return to democratic governance religiously and courageously, and damned the consequences, even though he was a retired military man.
“He should be the man of the moment to fight this tyranny because the tyranny we are fighting now in the country is worse than what we had under Abacha. It is an occasion like this that would remind one that we have lost a man of great attributes. A man like Kanu is a rare gem.”
Chief Adebanjo who described the late Kanu as one of the few Igbos that can be trusted, said, “I am sad to be here. When NADECO was formed, there were acrimonies. Kanu told the gathering that, the movement was not formed to discuss what happened between Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, but that they were gathered to save Nigeria.”
Chief Adebanjo, therefore, thanked the wife of the late NADECO leader, Gladys; and all the children of the deceased, and prayed for them just as he also thanked the organizers of the event, for their efforts to keep Kanu’s memories alive.
Also speaking was Chief Jide Ajilore, who, in his remark, assured that NADECO would continue to be alive as long as there existed some people who were out to destroy what the organization struggled to achieve for Nigeria, expressing the belief that a better Nigeria would be brought about come what may.
“NADECO is still alive as long as some people are destroying what we fought for, meaning the struggle still continues until we see a better Nigeria,” he declared.
Ajilore described Kanu as a real Nigerian, and a real soldier, who he said was a detribalized individual, adding: “This man has no colour for Nigerian, whether you are a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa.”
The renowned columnist, Dr. Amos Akingba said the late military administrator was a man worthy of emulation even as he also urged for a good country that would serve all as was also canvassed and struggled for by the late Rear- Admiral Kanu.
Akingba described Kanu as “a democrat, one who fought for people’s rights and never carried himself in a way that was draconian, even though he was a military man.
“I was happy to know him. I think we can emulate him; he would be happy wherever he is. We are here for a short while; we would all go to our Creator. Please, let us have a good country that would serve all. That’s the tribute we can all pay to late Kanu,” he reasoned.
On his part, Chief Supo Shonibare, in his own tribute, also acknowledged the good attributes of the late military administrator, agreeing that, he was a great man as other speakers had observed, recalling that “he was the one we had to depend on when many leaders left the country.”
“He was the leader that continued to let us remember June 12 through the annual rally he holds. We would miss him, he would be remembered in the annals of Nigeria’s history,” Shonibare declared.
Another NADECO chieftain described as the engine room of the struggle for the June 12 actualization in Diaspora, Chief Ogunkeyede, said it was sad that Nigeria was yet to get to the Promised Land, reminding that NADECO was yet to finish that struggle for a better country, while also supporting the call for rejuvenation of the organization towards that purpose.
“Can we rejuvenate NADECO? It would be a tall order. If we rejuvenate NADECO, we would again have Nigeria I would be proud of. Nigeria is not where it is supposed to be,” he said.
The wife of the deceased, Mrs. Gladys, in her response, thanked all for their support, and also blessed them for attending the event to honour the late military administrator.
Responding on behalf of the family Mrs AudreyJoe – Ezigbo, Admiral Kanu second daughter said her father was a democrat to the core, who believed in true federalism, adding, that was why he took the risk to join NADECO struggle. “He was an amazing man. He taught us ideals of discipline and need to be detribalised, he taught us we are one,” she stated with clear emphasis.
Another NEDECO chieftain and former Osun State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Niyi Owolade in his tribute wrote: “Good night, our amiable Chairman, the Officer and Gentleman. Our Chairman was an exceptional leader of NADECO. He led us at a time when democracy was in grave peril. His commitment to democracy was unparalleled. When future historians write volumes about democracy in Nigeria, their narrative will be incomplete without emphasising the name of Admiral Kanu.”
Owolade concluded that the late NADECO boss was an infallible leader, cool calm and collected when others would have lost their nerve, regretting that, “we have lost a true patriot to our nation,” praying the good Lord to repose his soul.
Also, former Federal Lawmaker, Hon. Olawale Oshun, who described Kanu as “an accomplished officer and gentleman,” said his greatest legacy would be his laying down his life in pursuit of democracy and democratic ideals in Nigeria.
Oshun, who was the former NADECO Secretary Abroad saluted a departed brave soldier, whose ‘Cosmopolitanism’ did not diminish his Igbo-nativeness, lamenting that, “we shall miss his personality, his large-heartedness, his wisdom and we shall always miss Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu.”
Others, who sent in their tributes were, Mrs Olajumoke Anifowose (Nee Ajasin), Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, Dr JoeOkei- Odumakin, General Zamani Lekwot (retd), and Comrade Akintunde Adedeji among others.