By Olakunle Agboola – The great Zik of Africa passes on. In his death, he left legacies that were as monumental as his struggles for the Nigerian Nation. Books will have to be written to capture the entire gamut of Zik’s quintessential contributions to the evolving Nigerian nation from the forties through the sixties.
No one in his right mind can set out to disparage Zik. For in spite of his many human frailties, much of which he showed in his lifetime, the being in the man was essentially on the pedestal of the good. He meant very well for his people, fought gallantly for a democratic nation, tried earnestly to fashion a united country and worked tirelessly for its greatness.
What we cannot say is whether he actually succeeded in achieving his ultimate goal- a progressive, democratic, united and internationally respected Nigerian Nation. Zik’s philosophy behind all his struggles, was a kind of liberalism, supported by a really willingness to compromise where necessary. It was this spirit of compromise that perhaps stood him out as a great leader for where others who clung rigidly to principle failed, Zik succeeded through compromise to forge the semblance of unity and progress.
In 1859, when Zik had the opportunity of becoming prime minister of this country, he gave up the chance because he thought that his prime ministership in coalition with Awolowo’s Action Group would have caused the disintegration of the Nigerian nation. In 1964, when he had the opportunity, if Zik had been more decisive on the use of his constitutional power as president during the crises of the 1964 elections, perhaps the shaky compromise that saw Abubakar Tafawa Balewa returned to power would have been differently executed.
The failure of that compromise manifested in the coup of 1966, as captured by Billy…in his book An introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics. Zik would not be daunted by these upsets; he carried forward his optimism on the unity of the country. And his preparedness to make compromises for that end, led him into the compromise of 1979. Up and until this particular year, Zik’s confidence on his philosophy of compromise was in full bloom.
Let it be said at this juncture that Zik was now perceived to—philosophy and that from —depth of his soul, he really mean well for Nigeria. But come1983, Zik got his biggest jolt over the workability of the philosophy of compromise to achieve national unity.
In fact, for the first time in his political career, Zik descended into cursing those who perpetuated the act of massive rigging that created the ‘moonslide electoral victory’ for Shehu Shagari’s second coming. If at any time in his political career Zik had a doubt about where compromise was leading Nigeria, it was during the undemocratic pillage of the 1983 election by the defunct NPN.
Take this ‘with humility and a sense of responsibility as his predecessor in office, I suggest Alhaji Shehu Shagari to profit from the lesson of history and not allow his heart to be hardened like Pharaoh Ramses who did not budge in his decision to flout all the laws of decency and impose a dictatorship upon the people of Israel, only to have his formidable army perish in the red sea and rewrite the history of the Middle East with the blood of the oppressed and downtrodden hoi-polloi’’.
Zik was prophetic in his statement. For exactly 10 years thereafter in 1993, the monumental futility of compromise blew on the faces of everybody on the aftermath of the June 12 election annulment.
A heretic compromise by the victors with the annulers of that election resulted in the perfidy of the interim national Government which culminated in the ‘overthrow’ of that ING and brought us back to status quo ante. Neither was the country more united by the event nor was the prospect of enslavement by a modern day Pharaoh Ramses less probable. Indeed, Nigerian, who were bearing the brunt of the oppression of the traditional power wielders with whom the Zikists always compromised, had real cause to be unhappy.
Infact, I stand to be contradicted that the shock of the event not only created a somersault in Zik over the compromise philosophy, it kept him silent in absolute disbelief until death.
If Zik had cursed in 1983, he would have grieved in 1993 to see his pet dream evaporate. Compromise or no compromise, the error has been made. It is taking its disastrous tolls on the nation and it appears the passing of Zik has left a big hole in the foundation of our polity which will be difficult to fill.
Zik will always be considered as one of the greatest believers in Nigeria who ever lived. It is up to us to make our own landmark as history will not forget us. We must understand that each of us is created to rule , govern, control, master, manage, and lead our environments. You are in essence to make the world a better place, regardless of your colour, family backround or race. Don’t fail your own generation.
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