With a great sense of duty and a rare privilege I accept to speak on this very special occasion to remember our departed political leader and hero, the late Dr. Steven Makoji Achema. That Achema remains a recurring factor at home and in our national life 11 years after…makes it incumbent on us to search into the life and times of this rare political icon. Each time i mourn Achema in my privacy, I experience comfort only from God’s testimony of Enoch who lived before the flood; Enoch’s generation was not worthy of him, so God took him away.
In my own search, I found several unique quantities out of which I shall dwell on just two so as avoid monopolizing our very limited time-space. I discovered that Dr. Achema was available and teachable.
While many of his contemporaries have their homes in the city, and their houses at home, (ostensibly to add color to a “befitting burial” at death), Dr. Achema had one home at home in Idah. Any residence in which Dr. Achema lived outside our homeland is either rented or it is quarters. While his contemporaries become more visible at home during election seasons, Achema was always there for us. He knew not only our highways, but he also knew our bush paths. He not only felt for us. He knew us, he bore our pains with us because he believed that this land has great potentials to provide leadership and direction to the world , and most particularly to our great country Nigeria. So sad, but this is the truth; that many of those who found and are still finding their way into office to provide political leadership for us do not even believe in this land or her nationhood. They simply usurp our quota to expand and consolidate their business empires and to satisfy their other numerous pecuniary interests.
This group feels more at home in the city than when they are at home. It is easier and more convenient for them to travel overseers than it is for them to visit our hometown. This is not in any way referring to full-time businessmen and those in the organized private sector whose professional calling demands frequent traveling.
While Achema was still with us even in those days when there were no mobile phones, one could predict when and where he would be. Thus it was quite easy to reach him. Dr. Achema never tell anyone he was in Abuja if he was actually in Anyigba or Idah. It was habitual of Achema to treat files requiring his attention by the highway on the bonnet of is parked car. Achema was not the kind of politicians who junket around the globe. Such ones are in New York on Monday, London on Tuesday, and Paris on Wednesday and finally in Dubai for the weekend. Their constituencies only see them when the elections are around the corner. With such reckless display of affluence, do we need any prophet to tell us why incidents of robbery, kidnapping and all manners of crime are on the rise? How long shall this vicious rituals continue? If dr. Achema were here, probably, our story would have been a little different.
Traditional Rulers & Politics
Dr. Steven Achema was a great respecter of our traditional tools. He believed that the rights and privileges of the traditional ruling class must be preserved and safeguarded, nevertheless, he also rightly believed that they must shielded and protected from political partisanship so that they would be better positioned to play their “father-t-all” role. He was misunderstood and ignored. Today, some traditional rulers even take it upon themselves to nominate and encourage aspirants to run for elective office. Some give their support to a particular aspirant openly, thereby seriously undermining their traditional role of an unbiased umpire. The frightening result today is evident for all to see. We have drifted from a relatively free society to a fear society.
While politicians thin only about the next election, traditional rulers and elder statesmen alike should be thinking about the next generation. They should always encourage aspirants to relate more closely with the masses in order to know their real needs. It is wise to do this because they have the bulk of the electoral votes. Power must be returned the people, not by rhetoric but in practice or it will be difficult to eradicate the orgy of electoral violence currently pervading our political landscape.
Political Contractors and Charlatans
While Achema was here, he took it upon himself to identify and stop political contractors, traders and charlatans who parade themselves as democrats. He ensured that those who hold the peoples’ mandate must serve the interest of the people first, before they attend to their own personal needs. Achema believed that every legitimate need of Self and be fully ad legitimately realized within the context of service. The story has changed dramatically. Today one can hardly distinguish between many of our lawmakers and the hotelier, many of our political office holders and the petrol dealer or an estate developer. The big question is; if all office holders become businessmen, who will buy from who? Worst of all, this tribe of politicians are still warning up seriously to return to power. This and other subsequent town hall meetings such as this must address this unacceptable phenomenon.
The Evil of money Politics
While Achema acknowledges the crucial role money plays in providing security and logistics in electioneering campaigns, the aspect of corruptive tendencies that have become solidly entrenched in our political culture was quite reprehensible to him. He was always challenging men of honour and goodwill to rise and lend their support to the struggles to expunge the ugly side of money politics from all spheres of our political life. This is not meant to cast aspersions on men of character and the required qualification seeking office. It will rather be an added advantage. By the way, how can we morally demand accountability from an aspirant who literarily bought his way into office? And the awful results are here with us; higher budgets, less human and infrastructural development. More religion, less godliness!
Pressure Groups and Patriotic non-partisan Donors
When Dr. Achema was here, it was easy for non-partisan wealthy sons of the land to actively and financially support non-governmental organizations as Dr. Steven Achema Youth Vanguard which organized this Town Hall meeting. But due to gradual mutual mistrust and the resultant erosion of confidence, such assistance has become very rare in our day. If Dr. Achema were here, he would make the same appeal the NGOs are making today for support. Since the “one who pays the piper usually dictates the tune”. It is more advisable that support for NGOs for the purpose of voter education as Dr. Steven Achema Youth Vanguard is doing should come largely from patriotic non-partisan individuals rather than from aspirants. Let be known that only those who give financial assistance to causes in which they are not direct beneficiaries qualify as elder statemen and true patriots.
TEACHABILITY: Because Dr. Achema wasa readily available among the people he represented, he was always there to be taught many of the things he needed to known. He quickly discovered and got drawn to Baba Wada Ejiga. He learnt a lot under Baba until the cruel death snatched him away on that fateful November 6th 1999.
Our Earliest Political Foundation
Alhaji Wada Ejiga was the founding Financial Secretary of the Igala Union, a political association which sponsored 4 candidates namely; Daniel Enefola (Idah), james Yacim (Bassa), Hashim Adaji (Ankpa) and Peter Tokula (Dekina) to the federal House of Representative on the ticket of the Northern Peoples congress in 1959 (51 year ago). We all call, him “baba”, the old young man who has refused to age. I pray that God’s perfect purpose be fulfilled in your life. Amen.
As a man with an enormous teachable heart, dr. Achema’s willingness and capacity to learn and consult with the appropriate strata of society was unequalled. He would gather all the information he needed from his club 582 group, lay them bare at their caucus meeting usually with Baba in attendance as a confidant and counselor for criticism and contributions. Little wonder 11 years after he departed from us, his memories and Legacies linger on.
The Need for Societal Renewal through Spiritual Revival
A few weeks before his death, Dr. Achema was petitioned by his own kith and kin over primary election matters. In his reply to the query from the Presidency on account of this petition, he quoted Philippians chapter 4 verses 8 in the Christians’ holy Book. “finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Dr. Achema further affirmed emphatically that the above Bible passage became his philosophy of life and guiding principle ever since he repented rededicated his life to the service of God and humanity. Because of my own burden and passion for societal renewal through religious reforms. I wish Achema were still here so I may partner renewal with him in my endeavour and zeal for spiritual revival. The surest and most enduring path to a better society. I believe beyond all reasonable doubt that so long we prefer to follow after speculations when we already have a Revelation, society will continue to sink deeper in the quagmire of evil, violence and general state of confusion.
Eleven years after Achema’s departure, we still seem to be unable to discover another servant leader with his character, charisma and courage. Where do we turn, and what do we do? I have ca suggestion;
The Urgent Need for Mutuality and Cohesion
It is not an offense to nurse and express an interest, but it is patently mischievous to attempt to push one’s interest through the back door. This is why I feel highly elated at the news that some elders are committed to commence, as a regular feature, “the people’ parliament or assembly” to henceforth, debate, criticize and contribute to the interests, opinions and views of other schools of thought. All pf us who are aspiring to one elective office or the other must be prepared and willing to present ourselves before should be encouraged to ask any question on their heart with a proviso that there will be zero tolerance for vulgar utterance or insulting language against any individual.
Our elders, officers/delegates of political parties and other stakeholders should jointly witness such sessions to help them form an informed assessment and judgment after comparing each aspirant’s words against his antecedent and pedigree. Since we cannot simply wish away thuggery and violence, this appears to be the best and most effective way of attracting our best and brightest minds into our present chaotic political process and thus restore some degree of sanity.
Any disdain or arrogance on the part of any individual aspirant or political party against the well of majority of the people shall be effectively redressed at the subsequent general lection. I believe this to be motive and purpose for government’s crafting of the multi-party system/. When shall we learn our lesson that sticking sheepishly to one party at all cost is not worth the cost? The time to take our political destiny in our own hands is now. This is why I will continue to command and thanks the organizers of this anniversary commemoration and the elders who have pledged their commitment to sustaining this innovation. While we await the discovery of another man of character, charisma and courage like Dr. Achema to provide the humility to honestly address the challenges confronting us as a people. This is the secret of the amazing success story of Europe and America. The weak must be allowed to have his say even if the powerful will eventually have his way.
Snowflakes are very fragile, but when they stick together, they can stop traffic. Let us use our massive number to unite and cohere in order to effectively make up for our financial weakness which the unpatriotic rich use to keep us in perpetual economic slavery.
Dr. Steven Makoji Achema must not die in vain!
Simon Omada presented this speech at the 11th anniversary of Dr Achema’s transition