By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, help me shout hurrah, and say a big thank you to our dear President for finally doing the unthinkable, as I recommended he should be doing only last week, in this column. The best way to lead a nation is to unite the people. Once elections are over, every actor must work together to deliver on campaign promises and return to the trenches closer to the next set of elections. This was what we expected in 2015, but now in 2018, it is as if we are still running election campaigns as the political actors continue tearing at each other’s throats. This was the basis of my recent intervention in which I pleaded that we should borrow a leaf from Kenya and heal the wounds in our own land.

I’m sure President Muhammadu Buhari must have enjoyed a deep sonorous sleep last Wednesday night, June 6, 2018, after announcing the recognition of Chief Moshood Abiola as the authentic winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, and declaring the same June 12 as our true Democracy Day. Trust me, President Buhari deserves accolades and a standing ovation for this tough political decision. I really don’t care what motive(s) informed this extraordinary volte-face, but it is indeed a major coup against those who had obstinately and blatantly refused to do that which is right, fair and just.

There have been all kinds of conjectures on what must have happened to generate this veneration of Abiola and June 12 by President Buhari. Some have said the President is desperate to win substantial votes from South West Nigeria. Why not, all is fair in war. You must use what you have to get what you want. Others have concluded that President Buhari’s decision was fuelled by purely altruistic motives, and upon being nudged, he felt that it was auspicious to right this grave wrong and injustice 25 years after. Either way, I do not believe this is truly about votes. There is no guaranty that this decision, as beautiful as it is, can translate into more votes. For me, the most important thing is that the President has lifted a very heavy burden off his chest and shoulders and dumped it on all his previous predecessors, who lived in denial as if June 12 did not exist and Abiola was a ghost from outer space. What President Buhari has done is simply an act of courage and bravery. Indeed, he has enough muscles and foot-soldiers in the South West, led by the Jagaban, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as well as the power of incumbency and other appurtenances of government to do something so momentous and monumental as this on the altar of voting and political expediency. He could have wasted this glorious opportunity but God entered his heart and he took a leap of faith for fate. We must be charitable and magnanimoius enough to say “well done, for a job well done” and to give nonour to whom honour is due.

There are still many rivers to cross but my advice as always is that the President should resist the temptation of heating up the polity. There is nothing force can achieve that peace cannot achieve much better and cheaper. I have spoken with some of my brothers and sisters in the Abiola family. They are truly grateful and very happy that the President looked in their direction after suffering in silence for 25 agonising years. Chief Abiola did not deserve such cruel punishment for winning a free and fair election. His businesses also perished in the process. This was a classic example of man’s inhumanity to man. The time has come for all of us to come together, embrace and move Nigeria forward from our different corners. Never again should any Nigerian be victimised, humiliated and destroyed in the name of politics. Man shall not live by power alone. We brought nothing to the world, we shall take nothing from it.

This is not a time to taunt or witch-hunt anybody. Abiola was never a vindictive person. He was in the mould of uncommon statesmen like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, men of peace who taught our world the beauty of forgiveness and peaceful co-existence. Abiola did not fight with guns and bayonets but went to war with personal determination and conviction. He died, paying the supreme price with his blood, and that of so many other patriots who laid down their lives, so that democracy could flourish in Nigeria. Let every man live with his conscience and let’s leave vengeance to God.

I hope and pray this is the beginning of a new democratic dispensation in our country Nigeria. There is sweetness in doing good and only bitterness in doing evil.

AS FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON HEADS TO NIGERIA

Fellow Nigerians, I have spent the last two weeks in Paris, France. To say I love Paris is an understatement. I love to visit French restaurants, wherever I can find one. I’ve been here many times, yet I’m not tired or bored of coming to spend my quiet moments in one of the most famous tourist destinations on earth. It has been said that you must see Paris before you die. I admire the renowned patriotism, romanticism and fairness of the French. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not study French in school. It is strange how Nigeria is virtually surrounded by French-speaking countries and majority of us can’t even offer greetings to our neighbours in French.

This is why I’m excited about the good news that Nigeria is about to play host to one of the youngest Presidents in the world, Emmanuel Macron, next month. And not just that Nigeria is set to host the biggest and best Alliance Francaise establishment in Africa. This means more Nigerians can learn about French culture and language in Lagos, our commercial capital. This is a welcome development which is bound to promote greater interaction between Nigeria and France and expand business opportunities, cultural exchange and employment.

The story of President Macron is bound to inspire the youths of Africa. It is a fairy-tale. He wasborn on 21 December 1977 in the French village of Amiens. He had his primary education in the village and went on to complete his final year of High School in Paris. He obtained a degree in Philosophy from the University of Paris-Ouest Nanterres La Defense. Afterwards he expressed the beginning of a literary bent which was to impact positively on his political career by being an editorial assistant to a French Philosopher writing his memoirs and also becoming a member of the editorial board of the literary magazine ESPIRIT. Subsequently, he then went on to obtain a Master’s of Public Affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Sciences Po. Thereafter, he trained and graduated from the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in 2004 and during the course of that training worked at the French Embassy in Nigeria.

 

Upon his graduation from ENA, he worked as a senior civil servant at the Inspectorate General of Finances. He resigned from the Civil Service in 2008 to become an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque. President Macron was responsible for putting together several business deals at Rothschilds. He continued his affiliation and dalliance with the Press by becoming friends with a member of the supervisory board of Le Monde. Thereafter he assisted with the recapitalisation of Le Monde and was promoted to Partner level at the bank in 2010. Also in 2010, he was appointed managing director of the Bank and put in charge of Nestle’s acquisition of a subsidiary of Pfizer. He became an instant millionaire as a result of the huge success of this Nestle transaction. The money and contacts he made as an investment banker and friend of the press were to stand him in good stead during his successful 2017 Presidential bid.

 

His political career is the stuff of dreams for aspiring young politicians. He joined the Socialist Party of France when he was 24, but was an effective member only after 2006. In 2007, he attempted to run for office in the National Assembly on the platform of the Socialist Party, but his application was declined. He joined the staff of President Francois Hollande in 2010, but declined to be Chief of Staff to Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, that year. In 2012, he was made a Deputy Secretary-General on President Hollande’s Staff.

 

Macron resigned from the government in June 2014 to continue his personal aspirations and was employed as Research Fellow at the University of Berlin with the help of his rich businessman friend. Alain Minc. In this period he declined to be a candidate for municipal elections in his hometown of Amiens. Providence was soon to smile on him as he was appointed Minister of Economy and Finance in the government of Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. He was the youngest Minister of the Economy since 1962. As a Minister he pushed through several significant business reforms including his signature law package known as Macron 1.

 

Macron left the Socialist Party in August 2015 and launched his own party, En Marche, in his hometown in April 2016. It was soon clear that he was a popular candidate who engaged and resonated with all sectors of the French populace.  He resigned from the government in August 2016 to launch his campaign to be President in the 2017 Presidential election. In November 2016, Macron declared that he would run as the candidate of En Marche! Macron was heavily supported by the media and business. He won 24% of the votes in the first round of the Presidential elections on 23 April 2017 and, as this was the most votes, went into a run-off election with Marine Le Pen of the National Front. He won this second round of Presidential elections on 7 May 2017 by a landslide victory of more than 66%, thus becoming the youngest ever French President. In June 2017, En Marche and its political partner, the Democratic Movement won a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, winning 350 seats out of 577. Indeed, En Marche itself won an outright majority of 308 seats.

 

Since being elected, President Macron has stamped his unique authority and style not just on French life, but also on the European Union, international politics, business, anti-terrorism, climate change, culture, religion and the general well-being of humanity. His stance on various issues including nuclear proliferation, terrorism and the unity of Europe has won him many admirers and increased the stature of France in the comity of Nations.

President Macron’s visit can therefore not be coming at a more opportune time.  Nigeria is preparing for its own democratic litmus test , and it is a homecoming of sorts because of his short stint in Nigeria. It is also symbolic that his visit coincides with the beautiful renovation and refurbishment of the new Alliance Francaise building in Lagos. This is because of President Macron’s avowed belief that cultural interaction can only benefit the improvement of progressive relations between countries.

 

Playing co-host to President Macron as he visits Nigeria, is the French Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Denys Gauer. Ambassador Gauer is a seasoned International diplomat who has served in various capacities both domestically and internationally on behalf of the French Foreign Ministry. He is an adept and able diplomat whose views are well respected and cherished. He has done a lot for Franco-Nigerian relations since arriving in Nigeria as the French Ambassador which has led to increased business and cultural relationships between French and Nigerian citizens. Indeed, it is this sort of interaction that has facilitated the spectacular facelift that Alliance Francaise Lagos now enjoys.

 

The Alliance Francaise Fondation is the premier cultural organisation in the world, founded on 21 July 1883, and now has 800 local associations in about 133 countries.  It is supported by grants from the French Government and the generosity of patrons, including its founding fathers who are notable Frenchmen like the scientist, Louis Pasteur, the publisher, Armand Colin and writers, Jules Verne and Ernest Renan.

 

The renovated building, which is a villa now has new additions which have transformed it almost completely.  There are spectacular alterations done to the amphitheatre and the internal auditorium to make them bigger and better. The accommodation has been improved and increased. And there is superb space for the library and administrative offices. Quite simply, the modernisation that has gone into the building is simply breath-taking and only befitting of an organisation with the size and stature of Alliance Francaise Fondation.

 

 

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